President Lincoln Elected President

November 8, 1864

When all the votes are counted, President Lincoln receives 2,206,938 popular votes and 212 Electoral College votes. General George B. McClellan received 1,803,787 popular votes and 21 Electoral College votes.

Rainy, foggy night in Washington. “The House has been still and almost deserted today. Every body in Washington, not at home voting seems ashamed of it and stays away from the President,” writes presidential aide John Hay in his diary. “I was talking with him today. He said ‘It is a little singular that I who am not a vindictive man, should have always been before the people for election in canvasses marked for their bitterness: always but once: when I came to Congress it was a quiet time: but always besides that the contests in which I have been prominent have been marked with great rancor.”

Stanley Kimmel wrote in Mr. Lincoln’s Washington: “As returns began to indicate Lincoln’s reelection, enthusiastic Republican marched through the streets singing ‘Rally Round The Flag, boys, Rally Once Again.’ For hours they kept up a continual din in downtown Washington which reached a climax about half-past one o’clock in the morning of November 9 when some of them serenaded Lincoln at the White House. Appearing at one of the windows, the President said in part: ‘I am thank ful to God….” President Lincoln says:

Even before I had been informed by you that this compliment was paid me by loyal citizens of Pennsylvania friendly to me. I had inferred that you were of that portion of my countrymen who think that the best interests of the nation are to be subserved by the support of the present Administration. I do not pretend to say that you think so embrace all the patriotism and loyalty of the country. But I do believe, and I trust, without personal interest, that the welfare of the country does require that such support and indorsement be given. I earnestly believe that the consequences of this day’s work, if it be as you assure me and as now seems probable, will be to the last lasting advantage, if not to the very salvation, of the country. I cannot at this hour say what has been the result of the election; but, whatever it may be, I have no desire to modify this opinion–that all who have labored to-day in behalf of the Union organization, have wrought for the best interests of their country and the world, not only for the present, but for all future ages. I am thankful to God for this approval of the people. But while deeply grateful for this mark of their confidence in me, if I know my heart, my gratitude is free from any taint of personal triumph. It is no pleasure to me to triumph over any one; but I give thanks to the Almighty for this evidence of the people’s resolution to stand by free government and the rights of humanity.

Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana later wrote: “All the power and influence of the War Department, then something enormous from the vast expenditure and extensive relations of the war, was employed to secure the re-election of Mr. Lincoln. The political struggle was most intense, and the interest taken in it, both in the White House and in the War Department, was almost painful. After the arduous toil of the canvass, there as naturally a great suspense of feeling until the result of the voting should be ascertained. On November 8th, election day, I went over to the War Department about half past eight o’clock in the evening, and found the President and Mr. Stanton together in the Secretary’s office. General Eckert, who then had charge of the telegraph department of the War Office, was coming in constantly with telegrams containing election returns. Mr. Stanton would read them, and the President would look at them and comment upon them. Presently there came a lull in the returns, and Mr. Lincoln called me to a place by his side.

‘Dana,’ said he, ‘have you ever read any of the writings of Petroleum V. Nasby?’

‘No, sir,’ I said; ‘I have only looked at some of them, and they seemed to be quite funny.’

‘Well,’ said he, ‘let me read you a specimen’; and, pulling out a thin yellow-covered pamphlet from his breast pocket, he began to read aloud. Mr. Stanton viewed these proceedings with great impatience, as I could see, but Mr. Lincoln paid no attention to that. He would read a page or a story, pause to consider a new election telegram, and then open the book again and go ahead with a new passage. Finally, Mr. Chase came in, and presently somebody else, and then the reading was interrupted.

Mr. Stanton went to the door and beckoned me into the next room. I shall never forget the fire of his indignation at what seemed to him to be mere nonsense. The idea that when the safety of the republic was thus at issue, when the control of an empire was to be determined by a few figures brought in by the telegraph, the leader, the man most deeply concerned, not merely for himself but for his country, could turn aside to read such balderdash and to laugh at such frivolous jests was, to his mind, repugnant, even damnable. He could not understand, apparently, that it was by the relief which these jests afforded to the strain of mind, under which Lincoln had so long been living, and to the natural gloom of a melancholy and desponding temperament–this was Mr. Lincoln’s prevailing characteristic–that the safety and sanity of his intelligence were maintained and preserved.

Dana recalled: “Stanton motioned to me to come with him into General Eckert’s room, and when the door was shut he broke out in fury: ‘God damn it to hell,’ said he, was there ever such nonsense? Was there ever such inability to appreciate what is going on in an awful crisis? Here is the fate of this whole republic at stake, and here is the man around whom it all centers, on whom it all depends, turning aside from this monumental issue to read the God damned trash of a silly mountebank!”

“This fiery speech of the enraged Secretary was interrupted by General Eckert, who had another telegram which he showed to him, and with which we all went back into Mr. Stanton’s own office, in order that the President might see it Hardly had he begun to read it, however, when a new occasion of irritation arose. The messenger brought in a card and handed it to the President, who said at once, as he passed the card over to the Secretary, ‘Show him in!’ Stanton read it, and turning to me, exclaimed in a low voice: ‘God in heaven, it is Whitelaw Reid!’ I understood at once the point of this explosion. Mr. Reid, who was then the correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette and a great friend of Secretary Chase in Washington, was not liked by the Secretary of War. This dislike had gone so far that the doorkeepers at the War Department had received directions that Mr. Reid was not to be admitted. But when he sent his card in to the President, they could not refuse it. Mr. Reid came in and was greeted by Mr. Lincoln, but not by the Secretary. His purpose was merely to obtain from headquarters and from the highest authority the assurance that the election had certainly gone in favor of Lincoln; and after expressions of thanks and congratulations he withdraw. Just then Judge David C. Cartter came in with two or three other gentlemen, among Mr. Fox of the Navy Department, and the reading of Petroleum V. Nasby from the Confederate Cross Roads was not resumed.

Mrs. Lincoln remarked to her seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley: “”Now that we have won the position, I almost wish it were otherwise. Poor Mr. Lincoln is looking so broken-hearted, so completely worn out, I fear he will not get through the next four years.”

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary that he and the President Lincoln left for the War Department about 7 PM: Major “Eckert came in shaking the rain from his cloak, with trousers very disreputably muddy. We sternly demanded an explanation. He had slipped, he said, & tumbled prone, crossing the street. He had done it, watching a fellow-being ahead and chuckling at his uncertain footing. Which reminded the Tycoon, of course. The President said, ‘For such an awkward fellow, I am pretty sure-footed. It used to take a pretty dextrous man to throw me. I remember, the evening of the day in 1858, that decided the contest for the Senate between Mr Douglas and myself, was something like this, dark, rainy & gloomy. I had been reading the returns, and had ascertained that we had lost the Legislature and started to go home. The path had been worn hog-back & was slippery. My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other one out of the way, but I recovered myself & lit square, and I said to myself, ‘It’s a slip and not a fall.’

The President sent over the first fruits to Mrs. Lincoln. He said, ‘She is more anxious than I.’

We went into the Secretary’s room. Mr Wells and fox soon came in. They were especially happy over the election of Rice, regarding it as a great triumph for the Navy Department. Says Fox, ‘There are two fellows that have been especially malignant to us, and retribution has come upon them both, Hale and Winter Davis.’ ‘You have more of that feeling of personal resentment than I,’ said Lincoln. ‘Perhaps I may have too little of it, but I never thought it paid. A man has not time to spend half his life in quarrels. If any man ceases to attack me. I never remember the past against him. It has seemed to me recently that Winter Davis was growing more sensible to his own true interests and has ceased wasting his time by attacking me. I hope for his own good he has. He has been very malicious against me but has only injured himself by it. His conduct has been very strange to me. I came here, his friend, wishing to continue so. I had heard nothing but good of him; he was the cousin of my intimate friend Judge Davis. But he had scarcely been elected when I began to learn of his attacking me on all possible occasions. It is very much the same with Hickman. I was much disappointed that he failed to be my friend. But my greatest disappointment of all has been with Grimes. Before I cam here, I certainly expected to rely upon Grimes more than any other one man in the Senate. I like him very much. He is a great strong fellow. He is a valuable friend, a dangerous enemy. He carries too many guns not to be respected in any point of view. But he got wrong against me, I do not clearly know how, and has always been cool and almost hostile to me. I am glad he has always been the friend of the Navy and generally of the Administration.

Despatches kept coming in all the evening showing a splendid triumph in Indiana, showing steady, small gains all over Pennsylvania, enough to give a fair majority this time on the home vote. Guesses from New York and Albany which boiled down to about the estimated majority against us in the city, 35,000, and left the result in the State still doubtful.

A despatch from Butler was picked up & sent by Sanford, saying that the City had gone 35,000 McC. & the State 40,000. This looked impossible. The State had been carefully canvassed & such a result was impossible except in view of some monstrous and undreamed of frauds. After a while another came from Sanford correcting former one & giving upon the 40,000 in the State.

Sanford’s despatches all the evening continued most jubilant: especially when he announced the most startling majority of 80,000 in Massachusetts.

General Eaton came in and waited for news with us. I had not before known he was with us. His denunciations of Seymour were especially hearty and vigorous.

Towards midnight we had supper, provided by Eckert. The President went awkwardly and hospitably to work shovelling out the fried oysters. He was most agreeable and genial al the evening in fact. Fox was abusing the coffee for being so hot–saying quaintly, it kept hot all the way down to the bottom of the cup as a piece of ice staid cold till you finished eating it.

We got later in the evening a scattering despatch from the West, giving us Michigan, one from Fox promising Missouri certainly, but a loss of the first district from that miserable split of Knox & Johnson, one promising Delaware, and one, too good for ready credence, saying Raymond & Doge & Darling had been elected in New York City.

Capt Thomas came up with a bad about half-past two, and made some music. The President answered from the window with rather unusual dignity and effect & we came home.   I wrote the speech and sent it to Hanscum.”]

H. L. [Ward Hill Lamon] came to my room to talk over the Chief Justiceship; he goes in for Stanton & thinks, as I am inclined to think, that the President cannot afford to place an enemy in a position so momentous for good or evil.

He took a glass of whiskey and then, refusing my offer of a bed, went out &, rolling himself up in his cloak, lay down at the President’s door; passing the night in that attitude of touching and dumb fidelity, with a small arsenal of pistols & bowie knives around him. In the morning he went away leaving my blankets at my door, before I or the President were awake.

California journalist Noah Brooks writes: “Election day was dull, gloomy and rainy; and, as if by common consent, the White House was deserted, only two members [Welles and Bates] of the Cabinet attending the regular meeting of that body….The President took no pains to conceal his anxious interest in the result of the election then going on all over the country, but just before the hour for Cabinet meeting he said: ‘I am just enough of a politician to know that there was not much doubt about the result of the Baltimore Convention, but about this thing I am far from being certain; I wish I were certain.’ Very few Union men here would have been unwilling to be as certain of a great good for themselves as they were of Lincoln’s re-election.

The first gun came from Indiana, Indianapolis sending word about half-past six in the evening that a gain of fifteen hundred in that city had been made for Lincoln. At seven o’clock, accompanied only by a friend, the President went over the War Department to hear the telegraphic dispatches, as they brought in the returns, but it was nearly nine o’clock before anything definite came in, and then Baltimore sent up her splendid majority of ten thousand plus. The President only smiled good-naturel and said that was a fair beginning. Next Massachusetts send word that she was good for 75,000 majority (since much increased), and hard upon her came glorious old Pennsylvania, Forney telegraphing that the State was sure for Lincoln. ‘As goes Pennsylvania, so goes the Union, they say,’ remarked Father Abraham, and he looked solemn, as he seemed to see another term of office looming before him. There was a long lull, and nothing heard from New York, the chosen battle ground of the Democracy, about which all were so anxious. New Jersey broke the calm by announcing a gain of one Congressman for the Union, but with a fair prospect of the State going for McClellan; then the President had to tell a story about the successful New Jersey Union Congressman, Dr. Newell, a family friend of the Lincolns, which was interrupted by a dispatch from New York City, claiming the State by 10,000. ‘I don’t believe that,’ remarked the incredulous Chief Magistrate, and when Greeley telegraphed at midnight that we should have the state by about four thousand, he thought that more reasonable. So the night wore on, and by midnight we were sure of Pennsylvania, the New England States, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and it then appeared that we should have Delaware. Still no word came from Illinois, or Iowa, or any of the trans-Mississippi States, and the President was specially concerned to hear from his own State, which sent a dispatch from Chicago about one o’clock in the morning, claiming the State for Lincoln by 20,000 and Chicago by 2,500 majority. The wires worked badly on account of the storm, which increased, and nothing more was heard from the West until last night, the 10th, when the President received two days’ dispatches from Springfield, claiming the state by 17,000 and the Capital by 20 majority, Springfield having been heretofore Democratic. By midnight the few gentlemen in the office had had the pleasure of congratulating the President on his re-election. He took it very calmly – said that he was free to confess that he felt relieved of suspense, and was glad that the verdict of the people was so likely to be clear, full and unmistakable, for it them appeared that his majority in the electoral college would be immense. About two o’clock in the morning a messenger came over from the White House with the intelligence that a crowd of Pennsylvanians were serenading his empty chamber, whereupon he went home, and in answer to repeated calls came forward and made one of the happiest and noblest little speeches of his life…”

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Published in: on November 8, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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