United States presidential election, 1864

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United States presidential election, 1864

← 1860 November 8, 1864 1868 →

All 233 electoral votes of the Electoral College
117 electoral votes needed to win
Turnout 73.8%[1]
  Abraham Lincoln November 1863.jpg GeorgeMcClellan.png
Nominee Abraham Lincoln George B. McClellan
Party National Union Democratic
Home state Illinois New Jersey
Running mate Andrew Johnson George H. Pendleton
Electoral vote 212 21
States carried 22 (+2[2]) 3
Popular vote 2,218,388 1,812,807
Percentage 55.0% 45.0%

Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Lincoln/Johnson, blue denotes those won by McClellan/Pendleton, and brown denotes Confederate states; two Confederate states were controlled by the Union by 1864 and held elections (although their electors were not ultimately counted). Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

President before election

Abraham Lincoln

Elected President

Abraham Lincoln
National Union

The United States presidential election of 1864 was the 20th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 8, 1864. Incumbent president, Republican Abraham Lincoln, was running for re-election against Democratic candidate George B. McClellan, who ran as the "peace candidate" without personally believing in his party's platform.

Lincoln was re-elected president by a landslide in the Electoral College. Since the election of 1860, the Electoral College had expanded with the admission of Kansas, West Virginia, and Nevada as free-soil states. As the American Civil War was still raging, no electoral votes were counted from any of the eleven Southern states.[2] Lincoln won by more than 400,000 popular votes in part due to the Union's victory at the Battle of Atlanta.[3] Lincoln was the first president to be re-elected since Democrat Andrew Jackson in 1832. Lincoln was inaugurated for his second term on March 4, 1865, but he was assassinated on April 15, 1865, one month after his term began.


The Presidential election of 1864 took place during the American Civil War.[4]

A group of Republican dissidents calling themselves Radical Republicans, formed a party called the Radical Democracy Party and nominated John C. Frémont as their candidate for president. Frémont later withdrew and endorsed Lincoln. In the Border States, War Democrats joined with Republicans as the National Union Party, with Lincoln at the head of the ticket.[5] The National Union Party was a temporary name used to attract War Democrats and Border State Unionists who would not vote for the Republican Party. It faced off against the regular Democratic Party, including Peace Democrats.


The 1864 presidential election conventions of the parties are considered below in order of the party's popular vote.

National Union Party nomination

Lincoln and Johnson campaign poster

National Union candidates:

  • Abraham Lincoln, President from Illinois
  • Ulysses S. Grant, Commanding General from Illinois

National Union Party Presidential candidates gallery

National Union Party Vice-Presidential candidates gallery

The Temporary Split in the Republican Party

As the Civil War progressed, political opinions within the Republican Party began to diverge. Senators Charles Sumner and Henry Wilson of Massachusetts wanted the Republican Party to advocate constitutional amendments to prohibit slavery and to guarantee racial equality before the law. These bills were not yet supported by all northern Republicans.

Democratic leaders hoped that the radical Republicans would put forth a ticket in the election. The New York World was particularly interested in undermining the National Union Party and ran a series of articles predicting that the National Union Convention would be delayed until late in 1864 to allow Frémont time to collect delegates to win the nomination. Frémont supporters in New York City established a newspaper called the New Nation, which declared in one of its initial issues that the National Union Convention would be a "nonentity."

National Union Party

Before the election, some War Democrats joined the Republicans to form the National Union Party.[6] With the outcome of the Civil War still in doubt, some political leaders, including Salmon P. Chase, Benjamin Wade, and Horace Greeley, opposed Lincoln's renomination on the grounds that he could not win. Chase himself became the only candidate to actively contest Lincoln's re-nomination, but withdrew in March when a slew of Republican officials, including within the state of Ohio upon whom Chase's campaign depended, endorsed Lincoln's renomination. Lincoln was still popular with most members of the Republican Party, and the National Union Party nominated him for a second term as president at their convention in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 7–8, 1864.[7] The party platform:

...called for pursuit of the war until the Confederacy surrendered unconditionally; a constitutional amendment for the abolition of slavery; aid to disabled Union veterans; continued European neutrality; enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine; encouragement of immigration; and construction of a transcontinental railroad. It also praised the use of black troops and Lincoln's management of the war.[8]

Andrew Johnson, the former Senator from and current Military Governor of Tennessee, was named as Lincoln's running-mate. Others who were considered for the position, at one point or another, were former Senator Daniel Dickinson, Major General Benjamin Butler, Major General William Rosecrans, Joseph Holt, and former Treasury Secretary and Senator John Dix.

Democratic Party nomination

McClellan and Pendleton campaign poster

Democratic Presidential candidates:

  • George B. McClellan, General from New Jersey
  • Thomas H. Seymour, Former Governor of Connecticut

Democratic Party candidates gallery

Democratic Party Vice-Presidential candidates gallery

"How the War Commenced and How Near It Is Ended" published by the National Union Executive Committee.

The Democratic Party was bitterly split between War Democrats and Peace Democrats, who further divided among competing factions. Moderate Peace Democrats who supported the war against the Confederacy, such as Horatio Seymour, were preaching the wisdom of a negotiated peace. After the Battle of Gettysburg, when it was clear the South could no longer win the war, moderate Peace Democrats proposed a negotiated peace that would secure Union victory. They believed this was the best course of action, because an armistice could finish the war without devastating the South.[9] Radical Peace Democrats known as Copperheads, such as Thomas H. Seymour, declared the war to be a failure and favored an immediate end to hostilities without securing Union victory.[10]

George B. McClellan vied for the presidential nomination. Additionally, friends of Horatio Seymour insisted on placing his name before the convention, which was held in Chicago, Illinois, on August 29–31, 1864. But on the day before the organization of that body, Horatio Seymour announced positively that he would not be a candidate.

Since the Democrats were divided by issues of war and peace, they sought a strong candidate who could unify the party. The compromise was to nominate pro-war General George B. McClellan for president and anti-war Representative George H. Pendleton for vice-president. McClellan, a War Democrat, was nominated over the Copperhead Thomas H. Seymour. Pendleton, a close associate of the Copperhead Clement Vallandigham, balanced the ticket, since he was known for having strongly opposed the Union war effort.[11] The convention then adopted a peace platform[12] — a platform McClellan personally rejected.[13] McClellan supported the continuation of the war and restoration of the Union, but the party platform, written by Vallandigham, opposed this position.

Radical Democracy Party nomination

Frémont and Cochrane campaign poster

Republican candidates:

  • Abraham Lincoln, former representative from Illinois
  • William Seward, Senator from New York
  • Simon Cameron, Senator from Pennsylvania
  • Salmon P. Chase, Governor of Ohio
  • Edward Bates, former representative from Missouri
  • John McLean, Associate Justice from Ohio
  • Benjamin Wade, Senator from Ohio
  • William L. Dayton, former Senator from New Jersey

Radical Democracy Party candidates gallery

Radical Democracy Party Vice-Presidential candidates gallery

The Radical Democracy Convention assembled in Ohio with delegates arriving on May 29, 1864. The New York Times reported that the hall which the convention organizers had planned to use had been double-booked by an opera troupe. Almost all delegates were instructed to support Frémont, with a major exception being the New York delegation, which was composed of War Democrats who supported Ulysses S. Grant. Various estimates of the number of delegates were reported in the press; the New York Times reported 156 delegates, but the number generally reported elsewhere was 350 delegates. The delegates came from 15 states and the District of Columbia. They adopted the name "Radical Democracy Party."[14]

A supporter of Grant was appointed chairman. The platform was passed with little discussion, and a series of resolutions that bogged down the convention proceedings were voted down decisively. The convention nominated Frémont for president, and he accepted the nomination on June 4, 1864. In his letter, he stated that he would step aside if the National Union Convention would nominate someone other than Lincoln. John Cochrane was nominated for vice-president.[15]

General election

File:1864 US election poster.jpg
A National Union poster warns of a McClellan victory.
File:The Chicago Platform (1864), by Thomas Nast.png
An anti-McClellan poster from Harper's Weekly, drawn by Thomas Nast, showing rioters assaulting children, slave-catchers chasing runaway slaves, and a woman being sold at a slave auction.

The 1864 election was the first time since 1812 that a presidential election took place during a war.

For much of 1864, Lincoln himself believed he had little chance of being re-elected. Confederate forces had triumphed at the Battle of Mansfield, the Battle of the Crater, and the Battle of Cold Harbor. In addition, the war was continuing to take a very high toll in terms of casualties. The prospect of a long and bloody war started to make the idea of "peace at all cost" offered by the Copperheads look more desirable. Because of this, McClellan was thought to be a heavy favorite to win the election. Unfortunately for Lincoln, Frémont's campaign got off to a good start.

However, several political and military events made Lincoln's re-election inevitable. In the first place, the Democrats had to confront the severe internal strains within their party at the Democratic National Convention. The political compromises made at the Democratic National Convention were contradictory and made McClellan's campaign inconsistent and difficult.

Secondly, the Democratic National Convention influenced Frémont's campaign. Frémont was appalled at the Democratic platform, which he described as "union with slavery." After three weeks of discussions with Cochrane and his supporters, Frémont withdrew from the race in September 1864. In his statement, Frémont declared that winning the Civil War was too important to divide the Republican vote. Although he still felt that Lincoln was not going far enough, the defeat of McClellan was of the greatest necessity. General Cochrane, who was a War Democrat, agreed and withdrew with Frémont. Frémont also brokered a political deal in which Lincoln removed U.S. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair from office. McClellan's chances of victory faded after Frémont withdrew from the presidential race.

Results by county explicitly indicating the percentage of the winning candidate in each county. Shades of red are for Lincoln (National Union) and shades of blue are for McClellan (Democratic).

Lastly, with the fall of Atlanta on September 2, there no longer was any question that a Union military victory was inevitable and close at hand.

In the end, the Union Party mobilized the full strength of both the Republicans and the War Democrats under the its slogan "Don't change horses in the middle of a stream." It was energized as Lincoln made emancipation the central issue, and state Republican parties stressed the perfidy of the Copperheads.[16]


Only 25 states participated in the election, since 11 Southern states had declared secession from the Union and formed the Confederacy. Three new states participated for the first time: Kansas, West Virginia, and Nevada. The reconstructed portions of Tennessee and Louisiana chose presidential electors, although Congress did not count their votes.

McClellan won just three states: Kentucky, Delaware, and his home state of New Jersey.

Lincoln was highly popular with soldiers and they in turn recommended him to their family back home.[17][18] The following states allowed soldiers to cast ballots: California, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. Out of the 40,247 army votes cast, Lincoln received 30,503 (75.8%), McClellan 9,201 (22.9%), and Scattering 543 (1.3%). Only soldiers from Kentucky gave McClellan a majority of their votes and he carried the army vote in the state by a vote of 2,823 (70.3%) to 1,194 (29.7%).[19]

Of the 1,129 counties making returns, Lincoln won in 728 (64.48%) while McClellan carried 400 (35.43%). One county (0.09%) in Iowa split evenly between Lincoln and McClellan.

Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote(a) Electoral
vote(a), (b), (c)
Running mate
Count Pct Vice-presidential candidate Home state Elect. vote(a), (b), (c)
Abraham Lincoln (Incumbent) National Union Illinois 2,218,388 55.0% 212(b) Andrew Johnson Tennessee 212(b)
George Brinton McClellan Democratic New Jersey 1,812,807 45.0% 21 George Hunt Pendleton Ohio 21
Other 692 0.0% Other
Total 4,031,887 100% 233(b) 233(b)
Needed to win 117(b) 117(b)

Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. "1864 Presidential Election Results". Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved July 27, 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Source (Electoral Vote): "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 31, 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Popular vote
Electoral vote

(a) The states in rebellion did not participate in the election of 1864.
(b) The Electors from Tennessee and Louisiana were Rejected. Were they not rejected, Lincoln would have garnered 229 Electoral votes, there would have been a total of 250 possible electoral votes, and the requirement to win would have been raised to 126.
(c) One Elector from Nevada did not vote

Results by state

Source: Data from Walter Dean Burnham, Presidential ballots, 1836-1892 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1955) pp 247-57.

States won by Lincoln/Johnson
States won by McClellan/Pendleton

Abraham Lincoln

National Union
George B. McClellan

State Total
State electoral
# % electoral
# % electoral
California 5 62,053 58.6 5 43,837 41.4 - 105,890 100
Connecticut 6 44,673 51.4 6 42,285 48.6 - 86,958 100
Delaware 3 8,155 48.2 - 8,767 51.8 3 16,922 100
Illinois 16 189,512 54.4 16 158,724 45.6 - 348,236 100
Indiana 13 149,887 53.5 13 130,230 46.5 - 280,117 100
Iowa 8 83,858 63.1 8 49,089 36.9 - 132,947 100
Kansas 3 17,089 81.7 3 3,836 18.3 - 21,580 100
Kentucky 11 27,787 30.2 - 64,301 69.8 11 92,088 100
Maine 7 67,805 59.1 7 46,992 40.9 - 114,797 100
Maryland 7 40,153 55.1 7 32,739 44.9 - 72,892 100
Massachusetts 12 126,742 72.2 12 48,745 27.8 - 175,487 100
Michigan 8 91,133 55.1 8 74,146 44.9 - 165,279 100
Minnesota 4 25,031 59 4 17,376 41 - 42,407 100
Missouri 11 72,750 69.7 11 31,596 30.3 - 104,346 100
Nevada 2 9,826 59.8 2 6,594 40.2 - 16,420 100
New Hampshire 5 36,596 52.6 5 33,034 47.4 - 69,630 100
New Jersey 7 60,724 47.2 - 68,020 52.8 7 128,744 100
New York 33 368,735 50.5 33 361,986 49.5 - 730,721 100
Ohio 21 265,674 56.4 21 205,609 43.6 - 471,283 100
Oregon 3 9,888 53.9 3 8,457 46.1 - 18,345 100
Pennsylvania 26 296,292 51.6 26 277,443 48.4 - 573,735 100
Rhode Island 4 14,349 62.2 4 8,718 37.8 - 23,067 100
Vermont 5 42,419 76.1 5 13,321 23.9 - 55,750 100
West Virginia 5 23,799 68.2 5 11,078 31.8 - 34,877 100
Wisconsin 8 83,458 55.9 8 65,884 44.1 - 149,342 100
TOTALS: 233 2,218,388 55 212 1,812,807 45 21 4,031,887 100

Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. "1864 Presidential Election Results". Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved July 27, 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Source (Electoral Vote): "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 31, 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

States with close margins of victory

States in red were won by Republican Abraham Lincoln; states in blue were won by Democrat George B. McClellan.

Below are the states where the margin of victory was under 5%. These closely won states totaled 68 electoral votes:

  1. New York 0.92% (33 electoral votes)
  2. Connecticut 2.76% (6 electoral votes)
  3. Pennsylvania 3.51% (26 electoral votes)
  4. Delaware 3.62% (3 electoral votes)

See also


  1. "Voter Turnout in Presidential Elections". The American Presidency Project. UC Santa Barbara.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Elections were held in the Union-occupied military districts in the states of Louisiana and Tennessee but no electoral votes were counted from them. Including these two states increases Lincoln's states carried from 22 to 24 and the total participating states from 25 to 27. Donald, David Herbert; Baker, Jean Harvey; Holt, Michael F. (2001). The Civil War and Reconstruction. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 427.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Davis, William C. (1999). Lincoln's Men: How President Lincoln became Father to an Army and a Nation. Simon and Schuster. p. 211. ISBN 0-684-83337-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> The public entrusted Lincoln with another term in spite of widespread revulsion at the death toll in the Wilderness Campaign. Republicans had found success in gubernatorial races in Ohio and Pennsylvania by attracting the votes of furloughed soldiers. In order to copy the same success nationally, thirteen Union states allowed their citizens serving as soldiers in the field to cast ballots. Four additional Union states allowed "proxy" absentee voting. "By margins of three to one or better, the soldiers [lined up] behind Lincoln." In every state, those returning home influenced their friends and family. For an alternative account of army voting, see W. Dean Burnham, "Presidential Ballots: 1836–1892", pgs. 260–883. Out of the 40,247 Army votes cast in seven states, Lincoln carried six of them with 30,503 votes (75.8%).
  4. "Abraham Lincoln: The Campaign and Election of 1864". American President: A Reference Resource. University of Virginia. Retrieved June 30, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Martis, Kenneth C., "Atlas of the Political Parties in the United States Congress, 1789–1989" ISBN 0-02-920170-5 p. 117. Altogether they elected 9 Senators and 25 Representatives in Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
  6. World Book
  7. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents
  8. "HarpWeek | Elections | 1864 Overview". Elections.harpweek.com. Retrieved October 12, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. They Also Ran
  10. The American Pageant
  11. George Pendleton. Ohio History Central (May 23, 2013). Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  12. 1864 Democratic Platform
  13. "George B. McClellan". Ohio History Central. Retrieved March 6, 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "HarpWeek: Explore History, 1864: Lincoln v. McClellan". Retrieved May 31, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. US President – IR Convention Race – May 31, 1864. Our Campaigns (January 13, 2008). Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  16. Randall, J. G.; Current, Richard (1955). Lincoln the President: Last Full Measure. p. 307.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Phillip Shaw Paludan, The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (University Press of Kansas, 1994) pp 274–293
  18. Oscar O. Winther, "The Soldier Vote in the Election of 1864," New York History (1944) 25: 440–58
  19. Presidential Ballots: 1836–1892, W. Dean Burnham, pgs. 260–883

Further reading

External links