Bullets, Ballots, and Rhetoric: Confederate Policy for the United States Presidential Contest of 1864

Bullets, Ballots, and Rhetoric: Confederate Policy for the United States Presidential Contest of 1864

Bullets, Ballots, and Rhetoric: Confederate Policy for the United States Presidential Contest of 1864

Bullets, Ballots, and Rhetoric: Confederate Policy for the United States Presidential Contest of 1864

Synopsis

Aspirations to "whoop" the North notwithstanding, Confederates set their hopes for independence not on the belief that they could defeat the North but on the hope that their armies could stave off defeat long enough for the North to weary of war.

The South's single biggest opportunity to effect political change in the North was the presidential contest of 1864. If Lincoln's support foundered and the North elected a president with a more flexible vision of peace on the continent, the South might realize its dream of independence.

In Bullets, Ballots, and Rhetoric, Larry Nelson vividly brings to life the complex state of Northern politics during the election year of 1863. He recounts fluctuations in the value of the dollar, draft resistance and riots, protests against emancipation, political defeats suffered by the Republicans in the elections of 1862, and growing discontent in the border states and Midwest.

Nelson offers an insider's look at the administration of Jefferson Davis, as it looked for cracks in Northern unity and electoral opportunities to exploit. Bullets, Ballots, and Rhetoric is an engrossing account of a little-known facet of Civil War statecraft and politics.

Excerpt

Jefferson Davis's conduct of Southern affairs during his tenure as president of the Confederacy has long been a subject of inquiry and a source of controversy. General and specialized studies have assessed various aspects of Davis's Confederate career, but the present monograph is the only full-length treatment of the responses of the Davis administration to the challenges for Confederate policy generated by the United States presidential election of 1864. This study also contributes to understanding the conflicts within the Confederacy caused by a lack of confidence in the chief executive and by an absence of consensus among Southerners on Confederate war aims.

The Northern political situation during 1864 presented both external and internal challenges for the government of Jefferson Davis. the external problem was first of all a matter of assessing the potential of the election. From the beginning of the war, reports had reached the Confederacy of tension and malaise in the North: fluctuations in the value of greenbacks, draft resistance and riots, cries of outrage and protests against the emancipation policy, political defeats suffered by the Republicans in the elections of 1862, and growing alienation and discontent in the border states and old Northwest. Davis expected that the canvass of 1864 would be particularly trying for the North and might result in election of a candidate amenable to Confederate independence. Another aspect of the external challenge was to devise and implement a stratagem that would intensify Northern distress and promote the election of an acceptable candidate. Davis drew upon personal observations and the suggestions of advisers to draft a scheme that he and selected subordinates labored to implement during the presidential campaign and election.

The internal challenge the Federal election created for Davis was to cope with the expectations the election inevitably aroused among Confederates. Weary of the long war, many Southerners took solace in the evidence of Northern distress . . .

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