Democrats nominate McClellan for president

Back in the North, meanwhile, President Lincoln's chances of winning the upcoming presidential election seemed to grow dimmer with each passing day. Taking advantage of widespread disgust and discontent with the war, the Democrats promised voters that they would put an end to the bloodshed if their candidate—former Union general George McClel-lan—was elected president. The party was dominated by antiwar Democrats known as "Copperheads," possibly because some members wore buttons made from copper coins with a picture of the goddess of liberty. They declared the war a failure and made it clear that it was willing to give up on efforts to restore the shattered Union in return for peace.

McClellan objected to some elements of his party's campaign platform (statement of policies and actions that will be taken). "The Union must be preserved at all hazards," he wrote in a letter accepting the Democratic nomination for president. "I

George Mcclellan
Former Union general George B. McClellan ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat in the 1864 presidential election. (Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.)

could not look in the face of my gallant comrades of the army and navy, who have survived so many bloody battles, and tell them that their labor and the sacrifice of so many of our slain and wounded brethren had been in vain." Despite such statements, however, most Northerners believed that a vote for McClellan in the upcoming election would be a vote for ending the war.

By August, Lincoln himself was certain that he would not be re-elected. At that time, neither Grant nor Sherman had succeeded in destroying their enemies, and both Petersburg and Atlanta remained in Confederate hands. Moreover, news from other regions of the country deepened the feeling that a final Union victory was as distant as ever. In Louisiana, Confederate forces smashed a Union bid to invade Texas. Over in northern Mississippi and southern Tennessee, Confederate cavalry raiders led by Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877) tormented Union forces throughout the summer. Further north, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, fourteen thousand Confederate troops under the command of Jubal Early (1816-1894) marched to within a dozen miles of Washington, D.C., before being turned back.

Certain that Northern disillusionment and sorrow had finally exhausted the nation's will to fight, Lincoln prepared for the November elections with a heavy heart. His dream of restoring the Union and ending slavery seemed doomed. But then, within the space of a few weeks, the military situation in the South changed in dramatic fashion.

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