Lincoln wins reelection

Sheridan's decisive victory over Early destroyed any hopes that the Confederacy might have had of regaining control of the Shenandoah Valley. Moreover, it provided further evidence to Northern voters that the Confederacy was finally falling apart after years of struggle and bloodshed. "Coming on the heels of Mobile Bay and Atlanta, Sheridan's conquest was a tonic that checked war weariness and created a new spirit of optimism [in the North]," wrote Bruce Catton in The Civil War. "The war was visibly being won, and although the price remained high, it was obvious that the last crisis had been passed. Sherman, Farragut, and Sheridan were winning Lincoln's election for him."

In November 1864, the Union held its national elections, and the people of the North returned Lincoln to office for a second term by a comfortable margin. He received half a million popular votes more than Mc-Clellan, and won 212 of the 232 available electoral votes. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Lincoln's reelection was the strong support he received from Union soldiers in the field. Nearly 80 percent of soldiers who voted cast their ballots for Lincoln, despite their deep war weariness and enduring affection for McClellan.

Lincoln's reelection demolished Confederate hopes that they might somehow achieve independence through a negotiated settlement. Moreover, it signaled a renewed Northern willingness to support Lincoln's war

^¿J The Sons of Liberty

The Sons of Liberty was a secret organization that developed in midwestern Union states during the Civil War. Members of this strange organization, which was also sometimes known as the Order of American Knights and the Knights of the Golden Circle, were dedicated to "states' rights" and fiercely opposed to the Republican Party. Its members claimed that the organization was devoted to legitimate causes such as promotion of civil rights and providing political support for antiwar politicians. Investigators into their activities, however, claimed that the group's activities were treasonous. They claimed that the organization's efforts to drain Northern support for the war effort sometimes strayed into active support for the Confederacy. In any event, the active membership of the Sons of Liberty remained small throughout the war, and the organization's plots almost always failed or fell apart in the planning stages.

The Sons of Liberty sometimes worked with Confederate spies based in Canada and extremist members of the Copperhead wing of the Democratic Party. Plotting together, these men devised a wide range of actions that were meant to create chaos in the North. These plots in cluded schemes to rob Northern banks, burn New York City, support anti-Lincoln newspapers, and capture a Union warship patrolling the Great Lakes.

Most of these plots collapsed, however. One major reason for their failure was the fact that everybody knew that the Sons of Liberty existed. As Northern police and military organizations mounted efforts to stop the organization, they discovered that it was easy to place spies within the disorganized group. When these spies learned of Sons of Liberty plots, they passed the information on to Northern law enforcement officials. As a result, the Sons of Liberty had to abandon many of their schemes before ever trying them.

Some people in the North harbored deep fears about the Sons of Liberty and similar secret organizations. In a few places, this fear was well-founded. In Missouri, for example, the Sons of Liberty allied itself with bands of Confederate guerrillas that terrorized the state. For the most part, however, the Sons of Liberty did little damage to the North, and President Abraham Lincoln never really viewed the group as a major threat.

policies, which remained focused on obtaining an unconditional Confederate surrender. "I am astonished at the extent and depth of [the North's] determination . . . to fight to the last," wrote a reporter for the London Daily News. "[The people of the North] are in earnest in a way the like of which the world never saw before, silently, calmly, but desperately in earnest."

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