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[Detail] Photographic Print of Tilton C. Reynolds, undated

Election of 1864

Tilton wrote a rather humorous letter to his younger brother on March 29, 1864, telling of a brawl he and three of his colleagues had in a bar over George McClellan's candidacy in the election of 1864:

…we had intended to take the 11 O clock train and go to Camp but the train was behind time and we got tired of waiting and So we went to the Frement house to have a little Sport.  After being in there a Short time there was a Citizen came in and McClellans picture being Stuck up in the Room I thought I would ask him what he thought of it.  He told me he thought him a Damnd good man and he would vote for him for the next president.  That made me mad and I went up to him deliberately and knocked him down.  After he got up he started out and as near as I can find out he got about 14 Bullys and came in there with them and they all piled on us 4. …They used Sling Shots and Billeys on us to perfection.  I got knocked down the first one.  I was talking to one fellow when I was struck with a Sling Shot at the But of the ear and down went Mr. Reynolds.  I got up again but was soon felled again.  I got up two or three times but was knocked down as fast as I could raise.  Jones and Sharp was Served in like manner.  To tell the truth we was all Badly whipped.  I had one eye Banged shut and my Ears cut up nasty.  I was kicked in the ribs until I vomited a quart of Clotted Blood.  But they could not make us Sing Enoug any how.  The Col Commanding Camp Copeland Said he would have the men arrested if he could find them.

From"Letter from Tilton C. Reynolds to Juliana Smith Reynolds, March 29, 1864" (the letter is actually to his brother but is cataloged as being to his mother)

  • What does the letter reveal about the fractious nature of politics in the presidential campaign of 1864?
  • Why do you think Tilton wrote of the brawl to his brother rather than describing it in one of his frequent letters to his mother?

As the election approached, President Lincoln expected defeat at the polls if news from the war fronts did not improve.  The Democratic Party nominated McClellan who, prior to the nomination, was considered a "War Democrat."  Facing a split in the convention between the war and peace factions of the party, McClellan softened his position on the war.  His running mate was an ally of the Copperheads—an anti-war faction—and the party platform called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. 

The following letters provided commentary on the election or events leading up to it:

Read the letters and then answer the questions that follow:

  • What planks of the Democratic platform did W.B. Sprague ridicule in his letter?
  • According to John Conser, why were the Confederate soldiers interested in the Democratic convention?
  • What accounted for McClellan's popularity?
  • What series of events in the war contributed to the belief that President Lincoln would be defeated in his bid for a second term? What turned the tide, allowing him to win reelection?