1864, Lincoln vs. McClellan: How Allegheny County voted
A pivotal presidential contest in the thick of the Civil War, the election was hotly contested in Pittsburgh. Note the role of the ‘Wide Awakes,’ the Insurgent Youth of the time.
Cartoon of Abe Lincoln and Gen. George McClellan prior to 1864 election. Illustration in Harper’s Weekly, June 25, 1864.
By Len Barcousky
Nov 2, 2014 – While the editors at Pittsburgh’s Gazette and Post disagreed on almost every issue, the rival newspapers were united on one topic: the importance of the presidential election of 1864.
“The hour has come,” The Pittsburgh Daily Gazette told voters on Nov. 8, election day. “The decisive blow must be struck today.”
“The main issue … is no less than the preservation of our country and with it the preservation of our liberties,” The Daily Pittsburgh Post opined.
Despite worrisome results in congressional elections a month earlier that showed Republican gains, Democrats in southwestern Pennsylvania were counting on a win in the presidential contest.
The Post was the city’s pre-eminent Democratic newspaper, and its editor, James P. Barr expressed confidence.
Six days before the election “the Democracy of Washington, Beaver and Allegheny counties, with their wives, children and sweethearts, turned out en masse to vindicate the Union and the Constitution,” the Post reported Nov. 4. The mass meeting was held in Clinton, Findlay Township.
The march of Democratic supporters, led by Allegheny County delegations from Moon, Crescent, North Fayette and Findlay, “took three-quarters of an hour to pass,” the newspaper said. “The States were represented by a wagon filled with young girls, appropriately clad and adorned, drawn by 35 horses ridden by lads uniformly clothed …”
Why 35 horses and riders? The Union, until the admission of Nevada on Oct. 31, 1864, had 35 states.