Next Tuesday, November 4, is Election Day. I have exercised my right to vote in nearly every election since I was 18 and in college at Miami of Ohio, missing only a few years when I was unexpectedly on the road and could not cast an absentee ballot or when I was ill. As Americans, I believe it is our civic duty to have our voice heard in the government, and it is a privilege that some in this world do not share.
The presidential election of 1864 occurred during the heart of the Civil War. A string of late summer / autumn victories by the Union army cemented President Lincoln’s reelection over the former commander of the Army of the Potomac, George B. McClellan. Little Mac’s influence and popularity among the troops had waned, and Lincoln won a solid majority of the military vote, including that of the 24th Michigan of the famed Iron Brigade, a regiment that fought at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Here is an entry from the diary of an officer in the 24th Michigan, a regiment raised in the Detroit area that suffered extremely high losses in McPherson’s Woods on the first day at Gettysburg. Note that a Confederate deserter even tried to cast a vote in the election!!!
“Tuesday, November 8. Election Day.
An election in a Virginia Camp for candidates away off in Michigan was a novel affair. The day before was ominous with silence by the enemy and an outbreak was expected to disturb the voting, but all was quiet. The polls were opened at eight o’clock at Regimental Headquarters. Lieutenant-Colonel Edwards, Captain Witherspoon and Lieutenant Hendricks were made Inspectors, and Captain Dodsley and Adjutant Chamberlin were made Clerks of Election.
For President, the vote stood 177 for Lincoln and 49 for General McClellan. Ex-Lieutenant-Colonel W. W. Wight was present as Commissioner and carried the vote to Michigan. During the voting, a deserter came in from the enemy and said he wanted to vote for Lincoln. The vote of the old regiments of the Iron Brigade was 543 for Lincoln to 116 for McClellan.”