Browse Exhibits (2 total)

The Union at the Crossroads: the Election of 1864

 July 8 - December 19, 2014

Curated by Timothy D. Murray

The election of 1864 was one of the most critical in the history of the United States. With the country embroiled in Civil War, Abraham Lincoln hoped to become the first incumbent president to be re-elected since Andrew Jackson in 1832. But as the campaign commenced, even Lincoln himself was not confident he would win the election against his Democratic rival, the former commander of the Army of the Potomac, Gen. George McClellan. 

Despite Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg a year earlier, the war was not going well for the Union and the Confederate army was advancing toward Washington, D.C. Lincoln and his administration were also receiving harsh criticism for his stance on emancipation and slavery, as well as for his suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and other constitutional rights.

With a nation weary of war, the Democrat platform advocating immediate peace with the states in rebellion and, in essence, granting them their independence from the Union, had widespread appeal. Had McClellan and the Democrats prevailed in the election there would likely have been two separate nations with no guarantee of reconciliation between them.

But everything changed on Sept. 6, 1864, when Gen. William T. Sherman seized Atlanta and began his march to the sea. The war effort turned decidedly in the Union’s favor and even McClellan now sought military victory rather than negotiations. 

Two months later, Lincoln won the popular vote that eluded him in his first election. He won the Electoral College by 212 to 21 and the Republicans controlled three-fourths of Congress. A second term and the power to conclude the war were now in Lincoln’s hands.

"The Union at the Crossroads: The Presidential Election of 1864" presents a selection of materials documenting the campaign, the election, and its aftermath.

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Selections from the Richard H. Stewart Abraham Lincoln Collection

Photo of Richard H. Stweard Lincoln collection

Photograph of the Richard H. Stewart Collection

 “Selections from the Richard H. Stewart Abraham Lincoln Collection”  celebrates the June 2014 gift of the Richard H. Stewart Abraham Lincoln Collection from Mrs. Joan B. Stewart whose late husband, native Delawarean and University of Delaware alumnus Richard H. Stewart (1936-2013), was an avid student of history and a collector whose particular interest was the American Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.  The Richard H. Stewart Abraham Lincoln Collection includes a variety of books, documents, artwork, artifacts, and ephemera focusing on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War era dating between 1861 and 2009. Highlights of the collection include an original 1861 appointment signed by Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward, two Currier & Ives lithographs formerly owned by the renowned Lincoln collector Oliver R. Barrett, a set of Civil War-era handcuffs, two reproductions of the April 15, 1865, edition of The New York Herald, which provided one of the best-known accounts of Lincoln's assassination, ephemera and memorabilia, and a variety of books and other publications.  The exhibition will be on display from January 20 - June 14, 2015.

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