In mid-July of 1864, opposition to Lincoln’s oppressive regime made him see his reelection as improbable, despite offering prestigious governmental posts to newspaper opponents. Even Thurlow Week, recognized as a great political seer in New York, told Lincoln in early August 1864 “that his reelection was an impossibility.” Though Lincoln’s faction-ridden party was collapsing in the face of McClellan’s candidacy and wide support, the War Department’s manipulation of the soldier vote, and monitored election polls, resulted in Lincoln’s victory.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Havoc in 1864 New York City
“Francis P. Blair, Lincoln’s friend, support and father of Montgomery Blair, the postmaster general, went to New York City in the hope of waylaying [General George B.] McClellan’s [presidential] candidacy. [Publisher] James Gordon Bennett . . . advised Blair, “Tell him [Lincoln] to restore McClellan to the army and he will carry the election by default.”
The month of August 1864 was so depressing for the Republicans that the Democrats had good reason to dream of glory. [Former New York City Mayor] Fernando Wood . . . had said “that the national [Democratic Party] was unqualifiedly opposed to the further prosecution of the war of emancipation and extermination now being waged against the seceded States, and will continue to demand negotiation, reconciliation and peace.”
The more moderate August Belmont sounded no less harsh when he addressed the Chicago convention. “Four years of misrule,” he said, “by a sectional, fanatical and corrupt party have brought our country to the very verge of ruin.” Four more years of Lincoln would bring “utter disintegration of our whole political and social system amidst bloodshed and anarchy.”
Also in August the Confederates dealt a demoralizing blow to New York City. The Confederate steamer Tallahassee audaciously captured two Sandy Hook pilot boats off New York Harbor, bringing the war close to home. The rebel ship laid in wait for outbound vessels and in less than two weeks, according to official records, destroyed or damaged more than thirty ships. Some estimates ran as high as fifty-four ships destroyed, and insurance men shivered over the consequences.
John Taylor Wood, grandson of President Zachary Taylor and captain of the Tallahassee . . . longed to create havoc in New York. He knew which ships were in port from newspapers he had taken from captured ships, and he hoped to set fire to the ships in the harbor, blast the navy yard in Brooklyn, and then escape into Long Island Sound.
During these unpleasant days, [Lincoln] called for five hundred thousand more men for the army. [This] prompted John Mullaly to publish an article called “The Coming Draft” in his paper . . . which resulted in his arrest for counseling Governor Seymour and others to resist the draft. [Mullaly] . . . continued to express his belief that the South had the right to select its own government and that the North “in the endeavor to force her into a compulsory Union is violating the principle of universal suffrage, which we claim to be the foundation of our democratic system. By this right we shall continue to stand, for it is a right older and more valuable than the Union itself.”
(The Civil War and New York City, Ernest A. McKay, Syracuse University Press, 1990, excerpts pp. 269-270; 272-273)