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