Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln - Cover
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Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln

Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War

296 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

ebook available

Civil War

  Hardcover / 9780807154571 / June 2014
The Union army's overwhelming vote for Abraham Lincoln's reelection in 1864 has led many Civil War scholars to conclude that the soldiers supported the Republican Party and its effort to abolish slavery. In Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln Jonathan W. White challenges this reigning paradigm in Civil War historiography, arguing instead that the soldier vote in the presidential election of 1864 is not a reliable index of the army's ideological motivation or political sentiment. Although 78 percent of the soldiers' votes were cast for Lincoln, White contends that this was not wholly due to a political or social conversion to the Republican Party. Rather, he argues, historians have ignored mitigating factors such as voter turnout, intimidation at the polls, and how soldiers voted in nonpresidential elections in 1864. While recognizing that many soldiers changed their views on slavery and emancipation during the war, White suggests that a considera-ble number still rejected the Republican platform, and that many who voted for Lincoln disagreed with his views on slavery. He likewise ex-plains that many northerners considered a vote for the Democratic ticket as treasonous and an admission of defeat. Using previously untapped court-martial records from the National Archives, as well as manuscript collections from across the country, White convincingly revises many commonly held assumptions about the Civil War era and provides a deeper understanding of the Union Army.

JONATHAN W. WHITE is assistant professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University and the author of Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War: The Trials of John Merryman.


Praise for Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln

“White’s fascinating book takes us behind the façade of those familiar images into the murky reality of politics conducted under very strained conditions. . . . White’s is the subtlest and most precise analysis I have read of how and why voters, in this case soldiers, made their choices in wartime. . . . The Civil War North seems a more complicated and more interesting place in White’s telling, and quite right, too.”—American Historical Review

“White has done what historians should strive to do by looking at what was merely implied and revealing facts instead of perpetuating pre­sumptions. . . . An interesting study that merges political and cultural spheres, producing a highly readable new facet of Civil War history.”—Journal of American History

“A thoughtful, interesting read, White’s reevaluation of the soldier vote of 1864 and the events that surrounded it is convincing. By encouraging historians to pay just as much attention to those who did not vote as to those who did, he suggests a new way of understanding the story.”—Civil War History

Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln is one of those all too infrequent Civil War studies that rise up unannounced to challenge emerging arenas of consensus in the literature. Because of this, White's book should be regarded as essential reading for historians and amateur scholars alike. A deeply original and award worthy effort (certainly a leading contender for placement on year end 'best of' lists), it is highly recommended.”—Civil War Books and Authors

“White’s detailed discussion of the fate of legislation allowing soldiers to vote is insightful and informative.”—Journal of Southern History

“White’s methodology and research demands admiration. I haven’t been this excited about a soldier study since Frances Clarke’s War Stories.”—Civil War Monitor (Kathryn Shively Meier’s selection for list of Best Civil War Book of 2014)

“Civil War books that purport to challenge orthodox views rarely enjoy the level of success that Jonathan W. White’s Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln achieves. . . . The overall thrust of the book’s many themes is incredibly powerful.”—Civil War Monitor (Andrew Wagenhoffer’s selection for list of Best Civil War Book of 2014)

“White’s book makes a number of interesting and provocative connections between the political situation in the Union army and future developments in civil rights and civil liberties. This fresh look at a topic that has received little attention in the past 150 years is well worth the time and attention of JAMP readers.”—Journal of America’s Military Past

“Jonathan W. White has written one of the more nuanced and compelling studies in existence of the political culture in the Union military. He challenges positions currently in the literature that Democratic soldiers wholeheartedly embraced emancipation and voted Republican in the 1864 election. In the process, he uncovers a surprising amount of meddling in elections and intimidation of soldiers by the Lincoln Administration. Featuring scrupulous research, transparent methodology, and forceful argument, this study is a must read for anyone interested in the impact of politics on the military in the Civil War.”—William Blair, Editor, Journal of the Civil War Era

“Jonathan W. White offers the best analysis, by far, of United States soldiers in the critical election of 1864. His meticulous handling of evidence and scrupulous attention to the context of the times yield a study that departs from the current scholarly orthodoxy and will force a major reconsideration of who voted, why they voted, and how their votes have been mischaracterized. It is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand Abraham Lincoln’s reelection to a second term.”—Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Union War

Video: Gary Gallagher discusses Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln

Civil War scholar Gary Gallagher praises Jonathan White's book in his lecture for the Virginia Historical Society. Remarks on Jonathan White begin at 57:07 (during the lecture's Q&A portion).

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