On November 8, 1864, Abraham Lincoln was reelected president, defeating Democrat George B. McClellan. Lincoln carried all but three states with 55 percent of the popular vote and 212 of 233 electoral votes. “I earnestly believe that the consequences of this day’s work will be to the lasting advantage, if not the very salvation, of the country,” Lincoln told supporters.
Historian Phillip Shaw Paludan writes, “Lincoln was re-elected by the largest margin of any president since Jackson. Indispensable in providing this margin were the votes of the soldiers. Lincoln got at least 75 percent of the soldier vote, and even McClellan’s old Army of the Potomac (albeit with many new faces since 1862) gave the general only 29 percent.”
– Submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Vermont Humanities Council Executive Director
Phillip Shaw Paludan, “A People’s Contest,” p. 312.
Custer Executes Confederate Prisoners, Confederates Retaliate
On November 11, 1864, Confederate Colonel John Singleton Mosby wrote United States General Philip Sheridan stating that “six of my men who had been captured by your forces were hung and shot in the streets of Front Royal [Virginia], by the order and in the immediate presence of Brigadier-General [George Armstrong] Custer. . . . A label affixed to the coat of one of the murdered men declared that ‘this would be the fate of Mosby and all his men.'”
Mosby then informed Sheridan that in retaliation, “seven of your men were, by my order, executed on the Valley pike, your highway of travel.” In the future, however, Mosby announced that “any prisoners falling into my hands will be treated with the kindness due to their condition, unless some new act of barbarity shall compel me reluctantly to adopt a course of policy repulsive to humanity.”
By late summer of 1864, Mosby commanded about 300 men who made up the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry. While Confederate leaders believed the battalion to be lawful combatants, most Union soldiers believed them to be no different from civilian guerrillas. While not commonplace, executions of this sort can be found on both sides throughout the war.
– Submitted by Dwight Pitcaithley, New Mexico State University
Sheehan-Dean, Aaron, ed. The Civil War: The Final Year of the War Told by Those Who Lived It. New York: The Library of America, 2014, 463-464.