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New York state election, 1864

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 1864 New York state election was held on November 8, 1864, to elect the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Canal Commissioner and an Inspector of State Prisons, as well as all members of the New York State Assembly.

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Transcription

Good afternoon. Welcome to the -- I think it's the 14th of our 19th Winter Lectures here at Gettysburg National Military Park. For those who don't know me, I'm John Heiser, one of the historians here at the park. I've been here a million years [laughter]. But a long time. It's been a wonderful, wonderful career and a great place to work. The general theme in the Winter Lectures has been turning points to the Civil War, turning points in American history that lead to the Civil War and the aftermath. I think historians really like to look at any war as having a turning point. In the American Revolution, I think it was the Battle of Saratoga. At World War II, the Battle of Midway in the Pacific, D-Day in the Eastern European Theater, Stalingrad on the Russian front. Vietnam War, it was the Tet offensive. It's not just the military turning point but it's also the social and political turning points that make a difference in a war. And here we are at Gettysburg which is the -- We think [laughter], right? I've heard the same argument that Antietam may be the real turning point of the war. I've heard the same argument that the Battle of Bull Run is a turning point in the war. Gettysburg certainly is a turning point of the war, a major turning point of the war. It is the high watermark of the Confederacy because never again will Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia get so close to victory as they did here on this battlefield we are at today. I want to talk though about another event that I consider to be a real turning point of the Civil War which occurred a year after this battle. And that is in the Wilderness of Virginia, a small innocuous crossroads which you go by today, if you blink, you miss it. There's something in the event that happened there in 1864 that made a big difference in the way the war turned out with its final end at the Appomattox Court House. It has to relate with Ulysses S. Grant. Let's look back at Washington war time, in December of 1863, Union war aims are not succeeding very well. The Lincoln administration is at -- they're at a basically a stone wall. Despite the victories in 1863 at Vicksburg, Mississippi, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania -- that fall they've had countless disappointments, countless misery and nothing has succeeded. At the election of 1864, at the re-election that was going -- coming up, there's still a very strong feeling in the North against war aims that we're not succeeding, we're not doing anything. We're just losing men, material for no purpose at all. There is a real pursuit again with Lincoln about suing for peace, meeting with Confederate agents and suing for peace. That is not the ultimate war aim. That's not the aim of the United States government. It is to pursue the war, put down the rebellion completely. And that is Lincoln's war aim. And he has to have somebody who can at least lead that mission, get that same idea that he has. Ultimately, it's ultimate victory no matter what the cost is. So in that same vein, in December of 1863, the discussion comes up. They need to have a better leader running all of the armies. Elihu Washburn, who is the senator from Illinois, a Republic senator, introduced the bill in Congress to create the position of Lieutenant General. Lincoln approves of that. He thinks it's a great idea. We need to have somebody. But he has somebody in mind and that is Ulysses S. Grant. Everyone knows who -- in this room knows Ulysses S. Grant. You know the name. You've heard it before. Why is Lincoln so attracted to this one officer? Why is he so attracted to him? What is it about Ulysses S. Grant that makes him something special to Abraham Lincoln? Lincoln decided to choose Grant over many others for a number of reasons. And I think the best summation is in Lincoln's own words. Grant in all of his campaigns, from the very beginning of the war until December of 1863, has succeeded in his mission without complaining for more material, more guns, more men. He had taken the resources he had, used them for its fullest extent and was successful. In September of 1861, Grant had taken a small force from Cairo, Illinois down the river to Paducah, Kentucky to secure it from the Confederate threat, secured the city without firing a shot. If anything, that brought Grant to Lincoln's attention. This man could succeed without complaining about having more troops, not having enough -- not having enough men and material to do it. He just did it. Now Grant was now rising through the ranks. He's getting more attention in the west. He becomes a Major General. Battle of Shiloh occurs the following year of which he says we weren't surprised. We knew that it was coming. Well, ultimately in historical study, yes, the Battle of Shiloh was a surprise. Grant and Sherman were surprised there. But ultimately, they won the battle. They turned the tide just through their own determination. And actually, it was the determination and strength of their own men in that Army. But Grant was somebody who was used to winning and doing it in a dogged determined style. And that's what really attracted Lincoln to Grant and the quality he had as a leader. Many people who knew Grant and that includes politicians, friends and even those in the Army, often abandoned Grant for a number -- one reason or another. Either bad press, criticism in the papers, criticism from congressional leaders, politicians, whatever. But if anything, Lincoln stood by him until the entire way. As Absalom Markland who was a spokesman at the time said, "Other friends may have wavered in their friendship for General Grant, and even recommend his removal from command. But Abraham Lincoln was faithful to General Grant through evil and good report both." So who was Ulysses Simpson Grant? He was born in Ohio in 1822. His father, Jesse was a dry goods merchant, had a booming business that grew through time. And Grant had some of the best schools. He's had good schooling but he wanted to go to West Point. Got the appointment. Went to West Point. Graduated 1843, number 21 in a class of 39. He was not an exemplary student, not an outstanding student. Wasn't always perfect on the cadet, on the drill field as a cadet. But he was a good, studious general or officer, cadet rather. I'm confused myself. I'm jumping ahead of myself. He was a good cadet. And when he succeeds and gets out of service and becomes a second lieutenant of the Fourth Infantry, moves to St. Louis, he does a pretty good job as a young lieutenant in the Army. While in St. Louis, he meets his future wife, Julia Dent. Grant is quickly bored by Army service. There is not much excitement to it. But he does his duty resiliently until -- fortunately, there's a war, the war with Mexico. But instead of leading troops into the field, Grant is what, a quartermaster. That's his primary job in the war with Mexico. In the aftermath, he does experience -- because of attachments to headquarters, he does experience how armies operate. That experience was really useful to him in the future. But still now, it's going right back to the same old boredom of Army bases. So he gets married. They move to Sackets Harbor in New York, I believe, in an Army post there. Only there for a while before Grant then is re-assigned out west. Eventually winds up in California, away from his family. And it's that period of time, the two years that he is in California separated from his family that he has issues with depression. He has migraine headaches. And to resolve that, he medicates himself with alcohol. Really, he's no different in his drinking habits than most other officers in the United States Army at that time. Everybody drank. Everybody did. Grant was known to drink quite a bit, to excess and that unfortunately, became part of his memory of him. And it carried over especially with those who did not think very much of Ulysses S. Grant. But Grant got sick of the Army. Quit, resigned, moved to St. Louis. Bought a farm. Tried his hand at farming. He didn't like that. It didn't work very well. It was just really hard work being a farmer. Quit that. Went to the real estate business with a cousin of his wife. He didn't like that very much. He just could not collect the rents. He didn't like confronting people. Eventually by 1860, he was really running short of money, running short of funds to support his family. He accepted a job with his father in the dry goods business back in Ohio. But then the war breaks out. He volunteers for service and through connections with the State of Illinois, becomes a colonel of the 21st Illinois Infantry. But within two months, he is given the rank of Brigadier General of volunteers. So there's something about Grant that he is early quickly recognized by officers in the west as well as those in the War Department that this man has a certain talent at getting things accomplished or getting things done. And that carries over with Lincoln's recognition of Grant with the event at Paducah, Kentucky, September of 1861. By 1863, Grant has a number of great victories under his belt, most notably the seizure of Vicksburg, the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863. That secures the Mississippi River under new control. Now the Confederacy is completely surrounded. You have a Union blockade around the coast, control of the Mississippi River. It's Grant's success. And though people questioned Grant the entire time of all the battles around Mississippi and the siege of Mississippi, some demanding that he be relieved of duty and sent elsewhere, Lincoln sticks by him. And on July 5th, Lincoln himself writes that he would trust Grant to do anything because Grant once again does the job, gets the job done without demanding a lot of extra excess. That fall, when Rosecrans' Union Army fights the Battle of Chickamauga in Northern Georgia in September 1863 and is thrown back in Chattanooga, they get bottled up. It turns into a siege. Rosecrans' army is surrounded and Rosecrans himself is kind of standing there scratching his head, what do I do now? Grant is sent to Chattanooga, given command of the force on October 22nd. And within three weeks, supplies are now going back into Chattanooga. The Army is reinforced. And November 22nd to the 25th, the Army fights its way out of Chattanooga sending the Confederate Army back into Northern Georgia. That's a huge victory for Grant. And Grant himself quietly, resolutely gets the job done without complaining, demanding anything else. If anything, that's the type of person that Abraham Lincoln needs to lead all the Union Army and that's why he's a favorite. Physically, Grant is not an imposing person. There's nothing really about him that really stands out. He's very thin. He's 135 pounds. He's only five feet 10. Hardly has any expression on his face, even with his friends, he doesn't express a lot. Just laughs every now and then, chuckles every now and then. But he -- what's remarkable about him, Horace Porter was one of his staff officers, who writes a great memoir of service with Grant, says that he has a voice that is extremely clear. It's almost musical in tone. And even speaking at a normal tone, that voice carries across the crowded camp. It's really quite remarkable. So you think looking at Grant character-wise that he'd have the rough rumble type of low voice. But he didn't. He spoke really in a musical tone. His only strange habits is when he would sit, he often strokes his beard with his left hand but his right, he would maybe make a point, tap on the table or back to his leg, tabletop, back to his leg. That's how he made his points. Otherwise, he was a great listener. He listened to anything anybody said. And oftentimes, that may be the best quality of any leader, is listening to what other people have to say. But what else is up here that Porter has to say about him -- Grant had one small peculiarity to his face and Porter points this out kind of like Cromwell, Lincoln and many other great leaders. He had one small wart on his face that was on his right-hand side, just above his beard. That was the only bad quality to his looks. His square jaw, square face, really quite a handsome man but very slight and he always left with kind of a stooped attitude. He never stood up straight. Never walked in step with anybody. He just walked from one point to another. He just walked at his own pace. He's very unmilitary in a lot of ways. But Lincoln was absolutely sure he was the man. And when legislation was passed at the Senate creating the position of Lieutenant General, Abraham Lincoln sent a nomination right to Congress that Ulysses S. Grant would be his man to command all the Union Armies, all of them. So now Grant's world was going to change from Army commander to commander of all the Union Armies and his attitude was going to change. His strategy was going to have to change from one theater, the theater of Tennessee and Georgia to a huge theater of how to defeat the Confederacy. So Grant receives the order on November 30. He knows -- or March 30. He knows it's going to come sooner or later. There's words passed down to him from Washburn and his representatives. He's going to get the nomination and the rank of Lieutenant General to command all the Armies. He writes his friend William Tecumseh Sherman on March 2nd saying that he'll kind of reluctantly accept the rank. What he will not do is put his headquarters in Washington, DC. That is the condition that he will lobby with the president. I'll the rank but I will not stay here in Washington. If anything, Grant recognized the problem in the east is the political atmosphere and the political connections with the Army of the Potomac. He really thinks that's one reason the Army of the Potomac has had so many issues and so many problems is too much political interference. The west is completely different. They don't have that much political interference, apart from a few political officers out there that they have in the east. So Grant receives the order, goes to Washington and where he meets the president for the first time. He was reluctant to accept that rank, Lieutenant General. It was -- it was a completely different assignment from what he had done for the previous years of the war. And now he has to think like I said, something much broader, a huger, larger strategy of how to defeat the Confederacy, not just in the east or the west or the far west but the entire complex issue of how to do this. Grant is not really happy in a lot of ways but he doesn't mind taking on this duty because he feels responsible for that duty. He's an Army officer, tried and true. Despite the fact that he left the Army, he came back and became one of the best Army officers. Grant got his wish. He didn't have to make his headquarters in Washington, DC. And within a couple of days, he laid out a plan of how they were going to attack the Confederacy in 1864. Reluctantly, he had to accept political appointments. Halleck, Henry Halleck and Abraham Lincoln both said, "You have to accept General Nathaniel Banks and General Benjamin Butler as officers in command of armies." If anything, he still had William Tecumseh Sherman he could depend on. Grant depended on Sherman for a lot of things because the two thought so much alike. Banks and Butler were questionable because of their political threat, because of political attachments but also because they were just mediocre generals at best. But still, Grant thought of the prospects of how he was going to attack. And like he had done before, he's going to use every last resource he has, all the armies all at once to attack the Confederacy to throw them completely off balanced. In Louisiana, he would send Banks' Army of the [inaudible] Mississippi against the Confederacy forces there. In the center, William Tecumseh Sherman would strike towards Atlanta through Northern Georgia striking that arrow right at the heart of the Confederacy. In the east, Butler would take the Army of the James, threaten Richmond while the Army of Potomac then would strike towards Richmond going through Lee. Grant then shows, puts his headquarters with Meade. March 10th when he visited the Army of the Potomac and had his first interview with George Gordon Meade. He told me that time that my headquarters will be in the field with you. Grant came away from his visit with the Army of the Potomac impressed about how the quality of the Army, how well it was disciplined, how well it dressed. He also realized there were issues with the Army system itself. And there was so much infighting within the command system itself between corps commanders and division commanders, brigade commanders -- he thought the politics that were involved in this Army have got to stop. That's one reason he chose to be with the Army. The other reason was he realized that he was facing a brand-new enemy, not like he had faced in the western theater in Tennessee, in Georgia and Mississippi. Robert E. Lee is a completely new animal. Comparison of the two -- in some ways, they're very much alike. Both think on broader areas than just the placement of an army or a simple campaign. They think out -- what we would call today thinking outside of the box. Lee, if anybody, was thinking further beyond Northern Virginia as far as Confederate strategy was concerned. Now Grant is tasked with that as well. And both share the quality of determination to get the job done. The question is Grant wonders if Lee is as sly a fox as people say he is. Lee is willing to take chances. He used opportunities to take those chances. And he's done so countless times. The minute he took command of the Army of the Virginia, through the Gettysburg campaign until the end of 1863. Grant is -- let's say, he doesn't really throw caution to the wind. But he's more determined to get the job done. So the two of them in some ways are comparable to that. But it's quite a dichotomy you've got going on here between somebody who comes from completely different backgrounds. Where Lee has been a career officer all of his life, Grant in and out of the Army, bored with Army life, gets back into it but still can efficiently do the job. But the real strategy Lee realizes is he has to face Robert E. Lee in a completely different army. As Grant wrote later on, the advisory staff from the planning process, the force opposed to the Army of the Potomac was the strongest, the best-led and the best-appointed Army in Confederate service. Grant recognized that readily and rightly so. The Army of Northern Virginia was not like the wretched legions and I have to attribute this quote to a friend of mine, nobody historical, but it's very true. The armies in the west were very, very different than the Army of the Virginia in the east. It had to do with leadership. It had to do with organization. It had to do with morale and a general spirit of that army. And maybe being in Virginia defending the capital of the Confederacy had a lot to do with that. Because if you don't stop the Yankees in Virginia, very soon, they're going to be in the Carolinas or Georgia or Alabama or your home in Texas. So the men there knew there was a lot more on the line than many people realized. And the man who was going to lead them was Robert E. Lee. Completely different army. On the other hand, Lee is probably wondering about Grant because he -- Grant's really an unknown commodity to him. As far as Lee is concerned, George Gordon Meade is still the commander of the Army of the Potomac. But who is this Grant? What -- what makes him tick? What is his strategy? How does he run an army? How does he manage? The only thing Lee knows about Grant is from the Vicksburg campaign, victories in Tennessee, what he did at Chickamauga, victories from what he reads in the paper. He does get some really good strong advice though from officers who knew Grant long before the war. And one is James Longstreet who tells him that man will fight us every day of every hour until the end of the war. And Longstreet is clear, absolutely right. So while the Army of Northern Virginia is a different animal, Grant decides that he's got to take the task right to the Army. Tells Meade in his orders on April 9th, your objective is to drive towards Richmond but your primary objective is one thing. Robert E. Lee, Army of the Virginia -- you'll fight him wherever you find him and you will fight it out on that line if it takes all summer. That's what he tells Lincoln. That's what he tells Meade. You will fight Lee wherever we find him. You get a hold of him. Never let go of him. You're going to grapple with him. And so the situation, the terrain they had to fight over, this area here was to Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania County, south of the Rapidan-Rappahannock Rivers. This area is called the wilderness. Well-known at that time for being the wilderness because it's a pretty wild area. Very rural, very remote. For years, this is pre-colonial times, it had been logged out over and over and over again to feed to iron furnaces that populated the area. By the 1860s, those furnaces -- the iron ore has given out. So what has grown back is basically a thick tangled woodland, very wild, very hard to farm. No one's farming it. It's just basically wild woodland and young trees. There are areas with larger trees but that is also complicated with thick understories, thick undergrowth. It's a very, very dense area. Both armies are used to this. They fought there, the Battle of Chancellorsville May 2, 1863. So this is the area they're going to fight. Army of the Potomac is north of the Rapidan at Brandy Station. Army of Northern Virginia is south, centered around Orange Court House to the west. On May 4th, the campaign begins. The Army of the Potomac numbers approximately 122,000 officers and men as they cross the Rapidan River on May 4th. They're joined by the Ninth Army Corps led by Ambrose Burnside and a shout-out to John Hoptak, this big man with the Ninth Army Corps, very interested especially 48th Pennsylvania. So the Ninth Army Corps joins and reinforced the 122,000 officers and men. It's a huge army that crossed that river that day. It takes them all day and into the night. And even by nightfall, there's still troops that are waiting on the north side of the Rapidan to cross. Part of the Sixth Corps is still over there and a lot of the baggage are still over there. But the Army crosses and begins their campaign towards Richmond that day. Grant pauses with his staff accompanied by Meade and his headquarters staff. They spend that first night north of the -- what is the crossroads known as the Orange Plank Road and the Brock Road area. Excuse me, or the Turnpike that goes to Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Things are pretty quiet that night. Lee reacts by then getting his troops up, moving towards this threat. Now it's coming around his flank and drives towards Fredericksburg, stopping that night. But early next morning, he decides he's going to attack the Army of the Potomac in the wilderness. He only has, at this point, barely 50,000 men. He's outnumbered two-to-one. But he realized that if he catches the Army of the Potomac in the wilderness, catches them in the woods, the Union Army cannot bring its artillery to bear. He knows by that time the Union artillery as they've got more artillery than he does, of a better quality. If he can somehow put them out of the battle, he has a chance. And the wilderness is perfect because the area is so thickly wooded. It's only a few small clearings along the Turnpike nearby that artillery can be used but it limits how much artillery can be used in the fighting there. So Lee uses infantry and the cover of the woods to attack the Army of the Potomac. Has anybody here been to the Battlefield of the Wilderness? It's very different today than it was in 1864. I have to admit, even by the time that I was first there in the 1970s, it's changed quite a bit. But it's still -- it's pretty much a wild area. As the battle opens on May 5th, Army of the Potomac is now stretched out from the Orange Turnpike which runs through Orange, Virginia and then eventually to Fredericksburg and then along the Brock Road which runs just past the Spotsylvania Court House, about 10 miles south of there. Hancock's Second Corps is attacked by A.P. Hill's Corps. The battle develops along the Orange Turnpike with Richard Ewell's Second Corps attacking the Fifth Corps and eventually the Sixth Corps. The battle becomes a huge inferno. Fighting rages throughout the day. A lot of back and forth movement especially along the Orange Turnpike. This one area, Saunders Field -- this is where the battle first begins. This is where it develops and sees some of the most intense fighting back and forth. This is one of the few clear areas in the wilderness and what's characteristic, I think, of the fight in the Battle of the Wilderness is here with the limited use of artillery, there's a lot of infantry charges back and forth across this field. It's fighting around in the woods itself. But from there, as the core of the fight in the north part, it extends off into the thickest part of the woods, the densest part. It's hard for troops to maneuver it. I think this illustration by Keith Rocco was pretty good in that it illustrates the type of closed-in infantry fighting that occurred there around the edges of Saunders Field, not just on May 5th but the following day on May 6th as well. Some of the other characteristics of the Wilderness fighting was the density of the woods. Even though there were mature trees in there at the time, a lot of the understory cover, even with no leaves on it, covered approaches. So troops were stumbling into each other. And once the firing got started, the dense smoke really hung under those trees and troops could not see each other. There was a feeling, as one veteran wrote, of isolation fighting even though you were standing side-by-side, once the smoke rolled in, you could not see each other to each side of you. You could not see the enemy. It's this feeling of isolation there in the middle of the fighting of the Wilderness. This eyewitness sketch by Alfred Waud, it's pretty -- it's a great example of how close the battle lines could be but then suddenly, obscured from view by that dense smoke. Another view that Waud drew -- this is not more than a mile away from the Army of the Potomac headquarters where Grant was during the campaign. And again, it shows some of the density of fighting in the woods, how the woods were thick and it was very easy, if you left a gap, for the enemy to get through both ways. The Confederates did their best to charge, countercharge, were thrown back again and back and forth. It was such a confusing battle. Even the aftermath, as the officers tried to report what they did, there was no certain landmark to say we were at this particular spot at the time of the fighting. The reports from the Wilderness [inaudible] were quite confusing. That's what everybody did because the fighting was so confusing. What added to the horror of this battle, unlike any other was the fires. The dry underbrush, the dry understory quickly caught fire from shell bursts and burning powder. And unfortunately, so many of the wounded, unable to help themselves and crawl away from the field, either smothered or burned to death. Several accounts from veterans of both sides talked about the horror of that night of hearing the wounded crying for help in the woods as they slowly burned to death and could not be reached by their comrades and their friends. Those -- one Confederate from South Carolina believes that those cries of dying soldiers echoed him. He wrote that 40 years after the war. They still echoed in his ears that long afterwards. Again, about the isolationism. They were isolated in the Wilderness and this is maybe signatory of the type of fighting that occurred there. This scene by Winslow Homer was painted several years after the war when he was living in Maine. And the trees like that very typical type of forest you see in Maine, not Virginia, but one thing it does show is the type of isolation that these soldiers felt fighting in that thickly wooded area of the Wilderness. The confusion, the fighting went on for two days with no results. What was Grant doing this entire time? Well, May 5th, he spent most of the time around Meade's headquarters letting Meade direct the battle because Meade was commander of the Army of the Potomac. Grant had very little influence, maybe he made a few suggestions of where to move troops, where to bring in supplies and that's it. Unfortunately, during the day, he also had a terrible migraine set in. And it was so bad, he went to lay down at a nearby tent. Reporters who were hanging around the Army of the Potomac headquarters, one of the reporters saw this and wrote, "Well, Grant's drunk again, lying in the tent." That was one of the first dispatches that came out of the Army. Grant was drunk again, lying in a tent. And he actually was suffering from migraine headache. The next day, Grant was seen again walking around the headquarters and leaning against a tree wearing these gloves simply whittling throughout the day as the battle raged in more than a mile-and-a-half away. I think the most the signatory event that afternoon occurred around 6:00 o'clock when John Gordon saw a break in the Union line and led a counterattack north of the Orange Turnpike that actually threw back part of the Sixth Corps and part of the Fifth Corps. And then came tumbling back into Army headquarters area. Even staff officers kept riding back with these tales of, "Oh my gosh, we're being turned. Lee's done it again. He's going to come on behind us. He's going to roll us back." And one officer who was supposed to be a brigadier general rode up, his horse frothing and said, "I've seen this before. Lee is going to turn our flank. He's going to cut us off in the river." Uncharacteristically, Grant was very calm. He doesn't show much emotion. He turns to this officer and tells him, "Some of you always seem to think Lee is suddenly going to turn a double somersault and land on our rear on both flanks at the same time. Go back to your command and try to think what we are going to do ourselves instead of what Lee is going to do." That alone outburst says something about Grant's focus. I don't care what Lee is doing. I don't care what you think he's going to do. He's not a magician. He's a man. He's a general in charge of a small army and we can beat him, if you're willing to do so. Results of the Wilderness are not good for either army. Army of the Potomac loses between 15,000 to 18,000 officers and men two days of fighting there. May 7th, there's not a lot going on. It's pretty much the lines are stagnant. The men are willing to just lay behind their earthworks they've thrown up along the roads and through the woods and not do much fighting at all. Only just skirmishes taking a couple of potshots at each other, especially up in Saunders Field. What strategy do you do now? What do you do now? Grant and Meade confer that morning. And Grant points him in the direction of where you're going to go. Issues orders to Meade. Meade issues orders to his corps commanders. The corps commanders then passed their orders down. A little after 6:00 p.m. word passes the men are supposed to pack their belongings, get their knapsacks slung and be prepared to go. The Second Army Corps that's stationed along the Brock Road and over the South Road, leave for the Wilderness to Spotsylvania. The Fifth Army Corps packs their bags, fronting the road. The Sixth Corps by an hour later, packs their bags, puts their knapsacks on, marches towards Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg. And what are these men thinking? Well, the rumblings in the rank is Lee has done it again. We're going back across the river. We're going to lick our wounds but reinforce, rearm and come across the river once again. Lee has done it again. We've been beaten in the wilderness once again. The morale in the Army is at an all-time low. As the Fifth Corps tries to march down the Brock Road, they come to the intersection with the Orange Plank Road, with the other roads through the Wilderness area. And they march behind the Second Corps. The men are just sullenly laying against their earthworks. Pals are packing their knapsacks and blanket rolls. Adjusting their canteens and haversacks, watching the columns march by. As they come to that crossroad, they realized if they turned left to head to Chancellorsville, back to U.S. Ford, back across the river. Meanwhile, the men in the Sixth Corps marching towards the old Chancellorsville battleground, passing through it realized we're going to Fredericksburg. If we turn left, we're going to U.S. Ford. We're going right back to the Salem Church battlefield we're at a year before and from there defeated and go right across the river again. It's all over. Lee has done it again. I cannot describe it any better than Bruce Catton who wrote about this in his book Stillness at Appomattox what happened that night. The road was crowded. Nobody could see much. But as the men trudged along, it suddenly came to them this march was different. There was crowding at the edge of the road. Mounted aides ordering, "Give way to the right!" And a little cavalcade came riding by at an easy jingling trot. And there just recognizable was Grant, riding in the lead, his staff following him. The Army had known dramatic moments of inspiration in the past. Massed flags and many bugles and broad blue ranks spread out in the sunlight. Leadership bearing a drawn sword and riding a prancing horse. Now there was nothing more than a bent shadow in the night, a stoop-shouldered man who was saying nothing to anyone, methodically making his way to the head of the column. The tired column came alive and a wild cheer broke the night. Men tossed their caps in the darkness. They had their fill -- they've had their fill of desperate fighting. And this pitiless little man was leading them into nothing except more fighting. But at least, he was not leading them back in sullen acceptance of defeat. And somewhere, many miles ahead, there would be victory for those who lived to see it. As Grant approached Brock Road at the intersection, men of the Fifth Corps arrived there and they were ordered to go south. What would you do if you had been fighting an enemy for two years and you know you're going to retreat when suddenly somebody comes up and says, "No, we're not going to quit." How would you feel? Cheered. They cheered. And all of a sudden, you might as well have just given each man a cup of sugar because they were exhilarated. After fighting two days, exhaustion didn't mean a thing. One veteran wrote, "The exhaustion ran out of my body like fluid and we're all spirited. The drums picked up. Men cheered. Boys tossed their caps in the air because we knew now we were going to take Lee to task. We're going to defeat him. We're finally going to show him what we are made of. We were going to fight him. And that was thanks to Ulysses S. Grant." So there's a determination. There is a turning point right there, that little innocuous crossroads in the Wilderness. James McPherson in his book, Battle Cry of Freedom also referred to this particular event saying, "Grant had told Lincoln that whatever happens, there'll be no turning back." And no truer words were spoken. As one veteran said, "We're not skedaddling after all. Our spirits rose this moment. We marched free men and began to sing." Another man just said, "Thank God we're getting out of this gloomy wilderness." So everybody had a different attitude. On May 21st, the Army had been through a week-and-a-half of intense combat at Spotsylvania Court House. Again, Lee had been able to stop the Army of the Potomac for advance on Richmond. Fordham could not break the line. Grant again ordered a sliding motion around these positions there headed towards Richmond. On May 21st, he had a meeting of all the staff officers at the Massaponax Church which is still there in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. And a matter of fact, the original pews that these officers sat on is still in the church. There's a series of photographs taken by Timothy O'Sullivan in front of the peak of the church of the officers gathering out there. And in all three, Grant is seen writing a dispatch. He was up behind Meade talking, just pointing out something on a map. But one of the most particularly interesting parts of those images is this one right here. This is a blowup of Grant quietly sitting with all the chaos, smoking his cigar. And it's one of the few images ever taken of Grant holding a sword. He usually left his sword with the baggage. So it was interesting he even had a sword in his hand that day. We have to wonder what is he thinking. What is he thinking at that moment? Because after two weeks of heavy fighting that the Army of the Potomac has suffered almost 20,000 casualties -- more in this heavy fighting, more troops are coming in but now he still cannot get hold of Lee long enough to just beat him to a pulp. And now, he's got to keep moving, keep moving south. It goes right back to the adage of how -- what Grant thought. He'd been thwarted at Todd's Tavern between Spotsylvania Court House and the Wilderness because baggage wagons got in the way, blocked the road. The infantry couldn't get to Spotsylvania in time. The Confederates arrived first. And he even wrote later in 1885 in his memoirs that accident often decides the fate of battle. It's accidents that you will decide one way or the other whether you are the victor or you are defeated. He carries that philosophy, I think, throughout the war. At this time, is Grant mindful of the losses of the Army? Is he thinking about Sherman is doing in North Georgia? Is he thinking about what Butler is doing on the Peninsula outside of Richmond? Is he thinking about Nathaniel Banks in Louisiana? Is he thinking about the Red River Campaign? What is he thinking? And he's concentrating at this point on I've got to get a hold of Lee. I'm going to find Lee and never let go of him. We also have to wonder too, what is Lee thinking? What is Robert E. Lee thinking on May 21, 1864 as again, the Army of the Potomac is packing up their bags, slinging their knapsacks and trying to march around his flank again? What is Lee thinking of this guy? He can't figure this one out. He is not like all the others. He's not one to accept defeat and walk away from the battlefield with defeat on his shoulders, rebuild. He actually is the winner. When often people argue that the Battle of the Wilderness is a draw. Grant loses the Battle of the Wilderness. Not in Grant's mind. If anything, withdrawing and continuing the campaign towards Richmond finally again, getting a hold of him, and fighting Lee -- he is the victor. He takes victory out of that Battle of the Wilderness. And maybe that's why that is another turning point, a major turning point in the American Civil War. Grant never really wrote much about this and the importance of this particular event on May 7th. The way I look at it, the way others looked at it, he did not really write it until it's 1885 and unfortunately when he was dying, did he write his memoirs. For those of you who don't know a lot about the history of General Grant after the war, his fame bringing Lee to surrender at the Appomattox Court House, a president for two terms. After he went into business with an unscrupulous business partner in 1882, I believe it was, lost every last cent he had. Or in 1884, I believe, he lost every last cent he had. The family was destitute. He was offered at the time he was living in New York, he was offered by Century Magazine Publishers to write a few articles and for a little bit of a modest income, he wrote several articles for the Century Magazine which some of you might recognize as IT Battles and Leaders of the Civil War ^NO. It was at that time that a good friend of his, Mark Twain visited and said, "You should really write your memoirs. People want to know what you thought as General of the Army, as a victor for the Union during the Civil War." And Grant was kind of intrigued by this because he started to enjoy writing. It was quite a good hobby for him. He enjoyed writing his -- and he was a good writer. He wasn't bad off. If you've ever read Grant's memoirs and I have to admit, I have read most of it, not all of it. I read most of it. It's excellent. Just the way he writes, it takes you into the story exactly the way his mind is reading. So he begins to write. Unfortunately, that same month, he notices he has a lot of pain in his throat, at the back of his back -- oh, back of his shoulders. He goes to the doctor. He has inoperable throat cancer. Years of smoking cigars have finally taken their toll on General Grant. The diagnosis is not good. It's going to kill him eventually. So with a fervor, he then sits down and writes his memoirs. Feverishly, he works through November, January, February. He has his son, Fred, and a former Army clerk, Adam Badeau, I think, I forgot what his name was, to assist him. Badeau is a writer up to himself. He was also -- he had been a minister under Grant's presidential administration. He was a pretty good writer himself. And Badeau was editing the manuscript daily, giving Grant information. And in March, as Grant is really getting sick, he demands more money because there are rumors floating around the papers that Badeau was actually the ghostwriter for Grant's memoirs. Badeau wants to take advantage of that. He demands not just more money for his contract, he also wants part of the royalties from the publication of the book. Grant is writing this to save his family and to be treated this way, backstabbed this way is almost too much for the General. He immediately fires Badeau, has him thrown out of the house and his health then begins to rapidly decline. By mid-May, the third week of May, he could hardly -- he can't speak. He can hardly walk. He has constant pain throughout the day. He still has his migraine headaches. He is a physical wreck but he still feverishly sits and writes every day. Doctors finally recommend that he goes to this hotel in upstate New York. The air is a little bit better than New York City. He and his family pack and they go there. And there, he sits on the porch daily and writes. He works on his memoirs. At night, his son Fred looks up what he's written and makes a few minor editorial changes and then it goes into the pile for publication. He finally finishes his incredible memoir. Puts his pen down. Two days later, he passes away on July 23, 1885. Ulysses S. Grant is gone. They hoped to initially sell about 2000 copies. Sold over 30,000 copies in the first run. There was incredible demand for his memoirs. The family from the royalties made almost half-a-million dollars, saving the Grant family from financial wreck, financial ruin. Grant never lived to see it. But he did that as a contribution to his family. Not just a contribution to his family but also his memoirs was unique is that he dedicated his memoirs to remember the American soldier who fought in the American Civil War. He explained to his brother Fred, who asked him, "Why didn't you just dedicate it to the Union soldiers and sailors?" Grant explained, "I dedicate it to men of both sides, those we fought with and those we fought against to help with the healing of this nation." Because very much, the United States was still divided by sectional feelings as late as 1885. And Grant knew that and hoped that his memoirs at least would have some sense of healing the nation and bring the nation back together. And as he wrote, "The art of war is simple enough. You find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can and keep moving on. I think that basically signifies his philosophy and his strategy in 1864 as it ultimately leads in that long road to the Appomattox Court House. And it's the Army of the Potomac, the Army of James that followed him to the ultimate end and ultimate victory and also to peace in this country. So there's still a crossroads, Brock Road, Orange Plank Road today. You can drive right by it and not even know it's there. Not even know it's there. Not even realize the significance of what happened at that crossroad leading to May 7th. The spiritual thing it did to the men of the Army of the Potomac, not the officers -- I'm talking about the enlisted men, those who had been in the trenches, those who did all the dirty work, all the dirty fighting, what happened at that crossroads that night meant more to them than probably any other event of the war. Because finally, we've got a general who's going to lead to victory and lead us to the very end. In 2013, Chris Mackowski, he has a great blog called Emerging Civil War and he wrote about this. I have to admit that in 1976, when I first went to Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park as a young park ranger, I spent a lot of time in the wilderness because I was always fascinated with the Overland Campaign. I've read part of Grant's memoirs in college. I'd read several books. This was long before Gordon Ray and several others came along. What fascinated me about the Battle of the Wilderness and the aftermath is that one particular paragraph from Bruce Catton's Stillness at Appomattox, what particularly happened there. And I thought at that time, maybe this is a turning point, if not the turning point of the Civil War, at least here in the east. Chris Mackowski remarkably wrote a very interesting blog post in 2013 arguing almost the same point. And if you've ever read Emerging Civil War blog, it's excellent. If you haven't, look it up. Google it. It's really, really good. But Chris writes, "Had Grant turned back after coming to grief in the Wilderness, then the Wilderness would have been yet one more string, one more in the string of Union losses. It was Grant's determination to press the issue southward rather than retreat and resupply, refit and reinforce as with all previous Union commanders had done after a hard knock. That was the game changer. His intent was to shift the strategic objective of the war, focusing on the grim arithmetic. He's going to grind down Lee's army through attrition because there was no other way to do it." He adds, "Brock Road, Orange Plank Road intersection represents the war's real turning point because there was quite literally, in Grant's view, no turning back." Abraham Lincoln shared the same view. There was no turning back. As did the soldiers in the Army of the Potomac, for that matter, the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia. If you have any questions, I'd be glad to try and take them. I don't know everything. I can make stuff up [laughter] but thanks for coming this afternoon. I hope you enjoy your visit in Gettysburg National Military Park. [ Applause ]

Contents

History

Campaign poster featuring Union nominations, 1864
Campaign poster featuring Union nominations, 1864

The Union state convention - Republicans and War Democrats which supported the Union and Abraham Lincoln's policy during the American Civil War - met on September 7 at Syracuse, New York. A. H. Bailey was Temporary Chairman until the choice of DeWitt C. Littlejohn as Permanent Chairman. Reuben E. Fenton was nominated for governor after an informal vote (Fenton 237 ½, Lyman Tremain 69, John Adams Dix 35 ½). Thomas G. Alvord was nominated for lieutenant governor after an informal vote (Alvord 246, Waldo Hutchins 96 ½, Richard M. Blatchford 19, William H. Robertson 13, James A. Bell 12, Demas Strong 10). The incumbent Canal Commissioner Franklin A. Alberger was re-nominated without formalities. Ex-Prison Inspector David P. Forrest (in office 1860-1862) was nominated again after a large majority was felt halfway through an informal vote.[1]

The Democratic ("Copperheads") state convention met on September 14 and 15 at Albany, New York. Daniel Pratt was chosen Permanent Chairman. Gov. Horatio Seymour and Lt. Gov. David R. Floyd-Jones were re-nominated by acclamation. Jarvis Lord for Canal Commissioner, and David B. McNeil for Prison Inspector, also were nominated by acclamation.[2]

Result

The whole Union ticket was elected in a tight race with less than 8,000 votes majority out of about 730,000.

The incumbents Seymour and Floyd-Jones were defeated. The incumbent Alberger was re-elected.

76 Unionists and 52 Democrats were elected for the session of 1865 to the New York State Assembly.

1864 state election results
Office Union ticket Democratic ticket
Governor Reuben E. Fenton 369,557 Horatio Seymour 361,264
Lieutenant Governor Thomas G. Alvord 369,365 David R. Floyd-Jones 361,849
Canal Commissioner Franklin A. Alberger 369,367 Jarvis Lord 361,642
Inspector of State Prisons David P. Forrest 369,428 David B. McNeil 361,313

Notes

  1. ^ UNION STATE CONVENTION in NYT on September 8, 1864
  2. ^ DEMOCRATIC STATE CONVENTION in NYT on September 16, 1864

Sources

See also

New York gubernatorial elections

This page was last edited on 13 June 2018, at 19:11
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