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

By Larry E. Nelson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Politicians on the Hustings: "Let fresh victories crown our arms . . ."

Following the Democratic convention, critical events moved rapidly. Atlanta fell on September 1, and within approximately one week McClellan announced his position on the Democratic platform, which was disheartening and confusing in the South. Belatedly recognizing the depth of Southern interest in the election, Davis made one of his rare speaking tours. He explained his stand on the election and labored to rally Confederates, but the president's action was proverbially too little, too late. The response of Southerners to his pleas clearly revealed that the internal challenge generated by the election was out of his control. The possibility of favorably influencing Northern sentiment was also very dim. Davis called for decisive victories, and the agents in Canada doggedly continued their efforts.

Confederates had long recognized that their hopes for influencing the election rested on the course of military events, especially on the battlefields in the vicinity of Richmond and Atlanta. The Richmond Examiner reminded its broad readership on August 31, 1864, "If Atlanta were to fall, or Petersburg, or if Sheridan should drive Early back to Lynchburg--or if any one of these events should befall, then all the Peace principles and peace Presidents of Chicago would be at the election next November where last year's snow is, and last night's moonshine." Unknown to most Confederates, the fate of Atlanta was sealed on the very day that the Examiner made this prophetic statement.

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