Lincoln Anticipates His Own Defeat

August 22, 1864/2014
Volume 5, Issue 34 (202 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

Lincoln Anticipates His Own Defeat and Plans to Work with the President-Elect To Save the Union before Inauguration

Click on image to view letter.

Click on image to view letter.

August 23, 1864. Surveying attitudes and unrest in the North, Lincoln wrote a private note to himself: “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the President-elect as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.”


Phillip Shaw Paludun, “A People’s Contest”: The Union and Civil War 1861-1865, pp. 311-12, quoting Collected Works of Lincoln, vol. 7, 514.

As Election Approaches, Anti-Lincoln Rhetoric in the North Becomes Increasingly Extreme

“. . . Rhetoric could reach extremes. A few county Democratic meetings spoke of ‘resist[ing] to the death all attempts to draft any of our citizens into the army.’ A few editors spoke of a potential counterrevolution by the people should Lincoln and the Republicans persist in their ‘lawless’ course. Brick Pomeroy in Wisconsin breeched decency and legality in 1864 by declaring that ‘the man who votes for Lincoln is a traitor because Lincoln is a traitor and a murderer. And if he is elected to misgovern for another four years, we trust some bold hand will pierce his heart with a dagger point for the public good.’ Cheers for Jefferson Davis were heard when men gathered to protest the conflict. Poems and songs appeared in Democratic papers reciting Lincoln’s efforts to kill young soldiers in the interests of a mad partisanship. . . .

“. . . One official pointed a finger at the [Democratic] Chicago Times as ‘chief among these instigators of insurrection and treason, the foul and damnable reservoir which supplied the lesser sewers with political filth, falsehood and treason.'”


Phillip Shaw Paludan, “A People’s Contest”: The Union and Civil War 1861-1865, pp. 233-4.

Regimental Commander and His Successor Killed in Battle

Union soldier Daniel Chisholm recorded in his diary the deaths of two officers at the Battle of Ream’s Station, during the siege of Petersburg, on August 25, 1864. Similar stories were played out on both sides innumerable times during the war:

“We advanced over in a murderous fire. Just as we reached the skirmish line the rebels with two lines of battle emerged from the woods. We was then ordered back to the works, but we had lost twenty one killed and wounded in that half hour. Capt. Nolen [Garrett Nowlin, 116th Pennsylvania Volunteers] commanded the Regt, he went along the line and encouraged us to stand firm, and not to fire until he gave the word. As he spoke the last word a bullet from a sharpshooters rifle pierced his breast and he fell, his last and only words were to tell Capt Taggart Co I to take command. Capt Taggart was going along the lines repeating the same orders given by Capt Nolen when he was shot through the heart, he never spoke again. There fell two of as brave Captain as ever drew swords.”


Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod, My Brother’s Face, p. 124.

– Submitted by Vermont Humanities Council executive director Peter A. Gilbert.

Leave a comment

Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1864

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s