The Election of 1864: A Wartime Election
By the fall of 1864, the nation had been torn by civil war for more than three years. The 1864 presidential election, then, became a referendum on the Union war effort and was crucial to the future of the United States. The election pitted Democratic Party candidate Major General George B. McClellan against the incumbent and National Union Party candidate Abraham Lincoln. Due to the horrendous nature of the war, morale in the North was low and so was support for Lincoln. Many people, including Lincoln himself, thought that he would lose the election. Sherman's capture of Atlanta turned the tide, and months of harsh criticism and bitter campaigning ended on November 8, 1864, when Abraham Lincoln was reelected by a landslide majority.
The National Union Party Platform
In order to attract War Democrats, who refused to vote for a Republican candidate, the Republican Party renamed itself the National Union Party for the election of 1864. The party's platform focused on preserving the Union. The National Union Party believed that it was the duty of the United States government to put down the rebellion in the South and reunite the country. It called for the South's "unconditional surrender" as the only means of ending the war. The party's platform also called for the abolition of slavery.
The Democratic Party Platform
The Democratic Party ran on a "Peace Platform." The party
asserted that war had raged for nearly four years without a clear
victory and that hostilities between the North and South must
end. While it did not condone the rebellion, the party
demanded resolution of the conflict without further
bloodshed. The platform did not support