Library of Congress


The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Washington During the Civil War

[Detail] The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865

Election of 1864

As the nation approached the presidential election of 1864, Lincoln was unsure of winning his party's nomination. Taft recorded on February 27 that Lincoln seemed to have the "'inside tract' but will find a good deal of opposition in the Republican party." He specifically mentioned the possibility of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase's replacing Lincoln as the Republican nominee. Reporting nearly a month later, Taft mentioned that Confederate leaders were hoping that "Peace Democrats" or an independent candidate would win the election and offer the South acceptable peace terms. He stated that Lincoln appeared to be the favorite of Republicans but speculated about a possible split in the party.

In May, the Army of the Potomac was involved in bloody fighting in the Wilderness Campaign. Taft reported that General Grant's forces, although suffering heavy casualties, were persistently attacking Confederate forces at Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor. Early reports of General William T. Sherman's successful military campaigns in Georgia were encouraging news for Lincoln's bid for reelection.

On June 7, the Republican Convention nominated Abraham Lincoln for reelection; War Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, nominated for vice-president, completed the Union Party ticket. On June 8, Taft reported that John C. Frémont, Republican candidate for president in the election of 1856, had been nominated by a convention meeting in Cleveland and was expected to also be nominated by the Democratic Party in its upcoming convention in Chicago. However, the Democratic convention adopted a peace platform and nominated General George McClellan:

…Genl Geo B McClellan was nominated for President of the U.S. by the Democratic Party at Chicago on the 30th August. The "Peace at any price" men and the rebel sympathisers generaly suport him. Altho I believe him to be a good Union man, and have the highest regard for him as a Patriot and man of talents, still I do not think he can be Elected. The character of many of his supporters will ruin his prospects.

From "The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865. Volume 3, October 3, 1864"

On October 11, Taft predicted Lincoln would easily win reelection. His next diary entry, December 1, confirms Lincoln's reelection; he and Johnson carried every non-slave-holding state except New Jersey.

  • Why was there such concern over the possibility of Lincoln losing the election of 1864?
  • Why would Republicans Salmon P. Chase and John Frémont have considered running against the incumbent Republican president?
  • What effect do you think the military campaigns in the summer of 1864 had on the outcome of the election?