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

By Larry E. Nelson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Reelection of Lincoln and Defeat of the Confederacy:

"I . . . ask to what acts of mine you refer."

The protracted and turbulent presidential campaign came to an end on November 8, 1864, when voters finally went to the polling places and cast their votes. Davis's agents in Canada had hoped that this would be a day of violence and disruption, but the electorate went about its civic duty generally unmolested. When the returns reached the South, Confederates learned that Northerners had reelected Lincoln and had, thereby, reconfirmed their commitment to the war. The Confederacy would not achieve independence through Northern default. Southern despair deepened, and controversy related to the election continued while pressure increased for diplomatic feelers toward peace from the Confederacy. In desperation, Davis privately responded to public attacks on his conduct with respect to the election and adopted radical measures to revive the prospects of victory through military operations or foreign help, but the doom of the Confederacy was near.

During the days before the election, groups of Confederate soldiers slipped into the United States from Canada and traveled to Chicago and New York City with the intention of fomenting the violence Thompson and his colleagues had planned. Federal officials learned of the scheme and took countermeasures. Apprised of the plot, Colonel Benjamin Sweet, commandant of Camp Douglas near Chicago where some eight thousand Confederate prisoners of war were incarcerated, summoned reinforcements and engaged spies of his own who located the

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