November 9, 1864 (Wednesday)
Election Day had passed, and all in the Northern armies breathed a sigh of relief. General George Meade took the time to write to his wife, telling her about the excitement of the day before. He began by giving her the returns. 19,000 votes were cast in total. 13,500 went for Lincoln, while 5,500 were for George McClellan.
But he also detailed the dramatic:
“During the day, much to my horror, one of the Republican agents reported the distribution of spurious or altered poll books, and charged certain Democratic agents as the parties guilty of the act. I had no other course to pursue than to arrest the parties complained against, until an investigation could be had.”
On this day, continued Meade, he examined the evidence, finding that the “poll books were brought here and distributed, having names of Republican electors misspelled and some omitted.” The Democratic agents claimed that the errors were of the innocent, typographical variety. Meade wasn’t so certain and called upon Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to suss it out.
This wasn’t the first time the Democrats had tried this. Some from New York had attempted such a scheme not long before. They were now in Washington before Abner Doubleday, who headed up a commission of investigation.
Meade believed them to be innocent enough, but in two day’s time, Stanton would order that the perpetrators be sent to Washington for trial.
As for Meade himself, he did not vote. Word would soon get back to Philadelphia, which would stir up a bit of controversy for the general. Just how this word got back to the city, Meade hadn’t a clue. He had declined to vote with one Republican agent, but hid from him the fact that he wasn’t voting at all. “It is probable,” Meade later mused, “that some zealous partisan has watched to see what I did. I cannot but be flattered that so much importance is attached to my action, particularly as nearly all other general officers, including Grant, did the same – that is, not vote.”
By the end of the day, Meade still had not learned the results of the election. Curiously enough, however, the Confederates would learn soon after – at least some of them. According to the Richmond Dispatch: “A well-known citizen of Fredericksburg, who entered the enemy’s lines below Richmond yesterday [November 10] under flag of truce, was informed by a Yankee officer that Lincoln’s re-election was, beyond a doubt, a fact accomplished. […] They said Lincoln had been re- elected, and that we might prepare ourselves for four more years of war. Few of our people will be disappointed by the result of this election, since it is only what we have all expected. Had Lincoln allowed himself to have been beaten, he must have been either a fool or a patriot, neither of which his warmest friend nor bitterest foe has ever suspected him of being.”
General Meade hoped that with the election now over, “measures will be taken to raise men to fill our ranks, and no time should be lost, as I don’t think we can count on more than a month of good weather. To-be-sure, we can and doubtless will stay here all winter; and being so near each other, may manage to keep fighting on. But I don’t think any operation involving any movement can be had after the beginning of December.”
Two days later, Meade would write, again to his wife: “Mr. Johnny Reb has been moving about today, as if he had taken it into his head to do something. I am sure I would be very grateful to Lee if he would try his hand at the offensive for while.”1
- Sources: Life and Letters by George Meade; Richmond Dispatch, November 11, 1864. [↩]