Poll Book from Southern Indiana Reveals Opposition to Lincoln’s Reelection in Border Areas
[ABRAHAM LINCOLN.] 1864 Presidential Poll Book for Town of Corydon, Harrison County, Indiana, November 8, 1864, Corydon, Indiana. 16 pp., 8.5ʺ x 14ʺ. Includes names of all voters. Very good.
During the midst of the Civil War, with nine states in open rebellion and two former Confederate states at least partially under military rule, the United States held its twentieth quadrennial presidential election. Although there was initially some opposition from more radical Republicans, incumbent Republican President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) became the nominee of the new National Union Party, a coalition of Republicans and War Democrats, at its convention in Baltimore. The party refused to re-nominate Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and instead nominated War Democrat Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) of Tennessee for the vice presidency.
The Democratic National Convention in Chicago nominated General George B. McClellan (1826-1885) of New Jersey and George H. Pendleton (1825-1889) of Ohio for its candidates. Both in their 30s, McClellan and Pendleton remain the youngest presidential ticket ever nominated. Peace Democrats, who considered the war a failure, pushed a peace platform through the Convention, though McClellan was opposed to it, and the contradictions harmed the Democratic campaign.
Former Republican presidential candidate John C. Frémont (1813-1890) of California received the nomination of the Radical Democracy Party, who believed that Lincoln was too moderate on racial equality. Frémont and his running mate John Cochrane (1813-1898) of New York were appalled by the Democratic platform and withdrew in September to avoid dividing the Republican vote and allowing McClellan to win.
The Lincoln administration’s conduct of the war, including emancipation, was the central issue in the election, and Democrats criticized the war as a failure and Lincoln as a tyrant who had violated the Constitution. Republicans emphasized the need for victory over the Confederacy and urged voters not to “change horses in the middle of a stream.” For much of the campaign, Lincoln was convinced he would not be reelected because the war was going badly. However, General William T. Sherman’s capture of Atlanta in September and General Philip Sheridan’s successes in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia gave hope that the war would soon end in victory.
On November 8, 1864, Lincoln won re-election with 55 percent of the popular vote to McClellan’s 45 percent. Lincoln carried all but three states, and received 212 electoral votes. McClellan carried only Delaware, Kentucky, and his home state of New Jersey, for a total of 21 electoral votes. Congress rejected votes from Tennessee and Louisiana, where Lincoln also won and would have gained another 17 electoral votes. Lincoln thus became the first president since Andrew Jackson to win re-election.
Southern Indiana was the scene of bitter political divisions during the Civil War. Republican Governor Oliver P. Morton, at odds with Indiana’s Democratic General Assembly, claimed that Democrats were in league with Copperheads and other disloyal elements, and planned to set up a Northwest Confederacy. At the time of the presidential election of 1864, Morton arranged to have many (Union sympathizing) soldiers brought home on leave to vote. In the election, Republicans carried the state by 20,000 votes, regained control of the General Assembly, and won eight of eleven seats in Congress.
Lincoln won Indiana’s 13 electoral votes with 53.6 percent of the popular vote, to McClellan’s 46.4 percent. In Harrison County, McClellan carried the Town of Corydon with 344 votes (58.4 percent) to Lincoln’s 245 votes (41.6 percent).
Corydon, Indiana was founded in 1808 as the county seat of Harrison County, and it is located just a few miles north of the Ohio River and 20 miles west of Louisville, Kentucky. Governor William Henry Harrison named the town after a young shepherd boy in the “Pastoral Elegy,” a hymn from the Old Missouri Harmony Songbook that a friend’s daughter sang for him when he visited the area. Corydon served as the capital of the Indiana Territory from 1813 to 1816. Delegates met there in June 1816 to consider statehood and draft the first state constitution. Corydon served as the capital of Indiana until 1825, when the capital moved to Indianapolis. In 1860, Harrison County had approximately 18,500 residents, and several hundred lived in Corydon. Corydon was the site of the only pitched battle fought in Indiana during the Civil War, when Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s cavalry crossed the Ohio River on his famous raid in July 1863. A heavily outnumbered home guard attempted to resist Morgan’s raiders but were quickly overwhelmed, and the town surrendered. Morgan demanded ransom money from each mill and shop owner not to burn their businesses.
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