The Civil War 150th Anniversary: A brief note about the 1862 elections

Aaagh! Politics!

No, please, don’t run away. I’m not going to go into them in depth, especially not during this election year of 2012. We’re all overloaded with politics right now. This is just to keep the timeline relevant, as I found out that in 1862, some states held their elections as early as October 14th and the process continued through to the first Tuesday in November.

So, actually, when you think about it, we’ve gotten off a little easy.

Governor Seymour of New York state, surrounded by his friends

Governor Seymour of New York state, surrounded by his friends. Understatement was not in fashion then. (Library of Congress – click to enlarge.)

The 1862 Elections

As soon as October 14th, early election returns started coming in, showing bad news for Lincoln. By the time the dust had cleared in early November, House Democrats had gained 22 seats and Republicans had lost 28 seats.

Of note, elections for the House of Representatives were held by popular vote. In the Senate, whose members were appointed by state legislatures, Republicans did gain a few seats to enhance their majority.

Per Dr. Wikipedia, the Republicans kept effective control of the House because of their alliance with the Union Party, though both Republicans and Unionist parties had lost seats in the elections.

That’s as far as I plan to go with the Congressional elections of 1862 here.

Getting Lincoln Reelected in 1864

I have been reading in Anders’ Henry Halleck’s War, one of the regular sources for the weekly timeline, how Lincoln catered to the northeastern abolitionists and businessmen whose mills were cotton-starved because of the war. They wanted, and he agreed to, an invasion of Texas to secure a cotton market. In addition, influential people in the northwest were clamoring for the opening of the Mississippi River, as they were tired of the extra expense involved in shipping their plentiful products to market and shipment overseas by way of the Great Lakes and railroads.

West Texas cotton field in 2007.

West Texas cotton field in 2007. (Calsidyrose)

Lincoln, according to Anders, selected two political generals whose records were less than impressive. To open up the Mississippi, and despite the current disposition of Union forces in the Western theater, he selected fellow Illinoisan General John A. McClernand to lead a campaign against Vicksburg. For the New England cheering team, Massachusetts political general General Nathaniel Banks was chosen by Lincoln to lead a mission, nominally to the Gulf but actually to invade and establish Union control over Texas and its rich cotton country.

All this is per Anders; I do not know much about it. An in-depth look at the political and economic aspects of the Civil War is beyond the scope of this timeline. However, this post is relevant, both because of the political intervention on the battlefield and because, at some point in the next week or two, we will see Grant’s old nemesis – Henry Halleck – put his career on the line to keep Grant going!

Categories: American Civil War

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