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tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  November 28, 2014 10:10pm-11:01pm EST

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pill, then bill nye the science guy. and american history tv on c-span 3, saturday night before 9:00, george washington and benedict around and sunday afternoon at 4:00, between 1914 and 1930 from henry ford's film collection. find the schedule at and let us know about the programs you are watching. e-mail us at or tweet us. join the c-span conversation. like us on facebook and follow us on twitter. now, we continue the look at the 1864 presidential election between abeham lincoln and george mcclellan. it was marked by casualties and the end goal of emancipation. many believed lincoln would fail
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re-election. jennifer webber examines the political climate in the summer of 1864 and explains how lincoln won by a landslide. this is hosted by the lincoln group of d.c. it's about 50 minutes. good morning. i'm pleased to be here this morning and honored to be able to introduce our next speaker, jennifer webber. jennifer is an associate professor of history at the university of kansas where her specialty, no surprise, is the civil war. her first book was "copperheads" for those of you who may not have a copy at home. this, of course, is about the anti-war movement in the north. this was published by oxford university press in 2006 and actually has a forward by jennifer's mentor, james m. mcpherson. you can tell she comes from a quality line. her second book is actually
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geared toward children and this fact has won her a special place in the hearts of many of us in the lincoln group who view the importance of sharing the story of lincoln, his heir and the nation's history with our youngest americans. that story tells the battle of gettysburg and is called "summer's loveliest days." >> she's working on a book about the civil war area and the impact of inscription on the civil war north. she has coed itted a bach. she's lectured throughout the country on lincoln. i'm sure this morning you are going to enjoy her talk. we have heard copperheads referenced a lot this morning. this is the expert, having heard
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her talk on the subject several years ago, i know you are going to find this an interesting and useful subject. i turn it over to jennifer. [ applause ] good morning, thank you for coming out. i would like to thank the lincoln group for inviting me out today. it's a pleasure to be in d.c. today, i'm talking about the summer of 1864, the summer lincoln lost the election. 1864 did not start out as a particularly bad year for abraham lincoln. it actually started out reasonably well. the union armies were doing fairly well in the field, which was a key predictor of how the public was going to feel in the
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north. he did have some movement politically from freemont and freemont supporters, but he appeared to be in pretty good shape politically at the outset of the year. he helped himself considerably in march by appointing this man, grant, to take command of all the union armies. grant had become a hero in the west. he performed extremely well out there and lincoln decided to promote him to be the commander of all the armies. grant came back east to carry out that job. he was officially the commander of the army of the potomac, but he would leave his mark on that army and its doings for the rest
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of the war. in june, as we discussed, lincoln was nominated by what was now called the union party, the republican party changed the name for this one year. the union party to be its nominee for re-election as president of the united states. so, this all looks good. but, at the same time that lincoln was nominated by the union party, grant was engaged in the overland campaign in central virginia. now, this is really important. grant is a tenacious general, by any description. here we see this play out in spades because where previous
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commanders of the army of the potomac would lose to lee or would come to a draw with lee and retreat. grant continues to pursue lee. they do this dance, as you can see on this map down virginia. they meet. often grant doesn't do well. lee moves south, grant chases him. they clash over and over again. this was a bloody five or six weeks that take place between may and june of 1864. over the course of this relatively short period of time, grant takes 60,000 casualties. now casualties are killed, wounded and captured. i'm not talking 60,000 deaths.
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60,000 casualties is a lot. this does not go over well with the northern public. this is really ugly. this is some of the ugliest fighting of the civil war. that's saying something. for instance, the battle of the wilderness where a number of injured men are burned to death in a fire that is started by hot led ammunition in the underbrush. it's really gruesome. the battle of spotsylvania. the trenches fill with blood and men. blood and bodies.
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the northern public reads about this and is absolutely horrified about what is going on in their name in the field. here is a list of the casualties here, both union and confederate. going to have to get my glasses to read this. so, the union is about 35,000 and the confederate is about 33,000. this is -- it's just huge. grant had come in to this position in march. with the nickname of unconditional surrender grant. after this campaign, his nickname changes to grant the butcher. lincoln is also held responsible
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for this. there's an editor in wisconsin who won't call lincoln lincoln anymore. he won't call lincoln the president anymore. he only refers to lincoln as the widow maker or the orphan maker. that's the only way that he refers to lincoln. and what do we have to show for this horrendous blood letting? precious little. grant winds up in a siege in petersburg, south of richmond. he'll be in the siege for roughly the next nine months. things don't look that good for the other armies of the union forces either. in georgia, sherman is stuck outside atlanta in another siege. in louisiana, the army there is
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sitting on its hands in new orleans after trying to make a move up the red river. they are turned around. nathanial banks and his men go to new orleans and they are just there. they are not doing anything. you can imagine, then, how this looks to the northern public, which is war weary. it is sick of this. it doesn't -- many, many people in the north, even republicans don't want to continue this war anymore. they just want it to end. they blame lincoln for keeping it going because of his belief in emancipation. there's a widespread belief in the north, not founded on any sort of evidence, but a widespread belief that if the north would just give up
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emancipation as a term of surrender that the confederates would give up the fight and come back in the fold. that's not true. because jefferson davis has one war game and that is independence. lincoln has two. one is emancipation and the other is reunion. reunion and independence are directly at odds. neither man is going to give up his position. as long as these two men are in office, these two armies, broadly speaking are going to be at logger heads. the only way that this war is going to be decided is at the business end of a gun. there will be no negotiated
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peace with these men in office. this is a widespread opinion in the north that if you just gave up emancipation, the confederates would return. okay. forest greeley, the most prominent publisher, arguably, in the country, certainly the most prominent republican publisher at the time, he writes lincoln in july of 1864 with this plea that is emblemmatic of our experience. our bleeding bankrupt, almost dying country longs for peace, shutters at the prospect of fresh wholesale devastations and new rivers of human blood. that's pretty dramatic. but, his opinion represents many
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in the north. as i said, including republicans, which is quite interesting. greeley actually tries to get lincoln in on a scheme of his. he's been in discussions with a couple men in canada. they are confederate agents and have told greeley they are authorized to negotiate for peace. lincoln doesn't believe this. but, he sends his personal secretary up to niagara on the canada side with greeley to talk to these men about brokering some sort of a peace deal. it very quickly becomes apparent they have no authority whatsoever to be having this conversation. greeley comes back to new york with his tail between his legs. lincoln takes this opportunity to explain to the public that he
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has these two war aims. and that, unless the two aims are met, that he will continue to prosecute the war on the battlefield. he's hoping, in making this announcement, making this very clear, again, to smoke out jefferson davis and get davis to say, publicly, that his war aim is independence. davis doesn't really bite on this. lincoln's idea was that if davis would make this announcement, maybe the northern public would blame davis instead of lincoln as being the person who was blocking a path to peace. that, however, doesn't happen. instead, northerners become increasingly sour over the course of the summer.
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on august 22nd, and i normally don't pay, you know, a lot of attention to dates, but in this case, i think dates are fascinating because a lot happens here in a really, really short period of time. on august 22nd, henry raymond, who is the editor of "the new york times" and the chairman of the republican party writes a letter to lincoln telling lincoln he is going to lose the election. that he is going to be really lucky to carry two or three states and among the states he is going to lose is illinois. his own home state. he won't carry it. he suggests to lincoln that lincoln send a delegation south to meet with jefferson davis and
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to propose peace terms on the idea of reunion alone. now, i find this a really extraordinary moment. this is the chairman of the republican party, which had been founded only ten years earlier on the explicit platform of being anti-slavery. and here they have emancipation in the palm of their hand and this man, the chairman of the republican party is talking about letting it go. whether he's sincere or whether this is a rouse to get davis to tip his hand is unclear to me. but, lincoln thinks about this. in fact, he writes out a memo to
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send somebody south to meet with jefferson davis. and, as he often does, he puts it in one of the pigeon holes of his desk and sleeps on it overnight. he wakes up the next day and says that god would judge him for time in eternity if he betrayed his promise to the slaves. and so he doesn't. he doesn't send that memo, he doesn't send a delegation down south. this is a moral decision on lincoln's part. this is a decision where he decides he is going to be right rather than president. it's also a practical decision.
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by this time, about 200,000 african-americans are in the united states military forces, the army and navy. that's about 10%. 10%? i think. 20%. of the total force. it's a significant amount of the american men in the field. if lincoln goes back on this promise of emancipation, what is going to hold these men in the field? nothing. they are going to leave because they no longer have a promise of emancipation either for themselves or for their families. their motivation is gone. there's nothing to fight for if he removes emancipation. there's a really practical aspect of this as well. remember, the army has been having an extremely difficult time raising men, even with a draft for two years.
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so, the presence of african-americans in the military is crucial for the war effort. so, that memo goes away. what happens instead is that lincoln writes a memo to his cabinet and in it he lays out a sketch of what he intends to do between november and march. the four months that he will be a lame duck, he anticipates, the four months between the time that the democratic candidate will have been elected and the time he takes office. lincoln sketches out this plan. he takes this piece of paper and he folds it up and puts it in an envelope. he seals the envelope, takes it to a cabinet meeting and asks
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all his members to sign the envelope without telling them what the contents are. sign the envelope and promise to carry out the instructions inside. and they do. so now we are talking around august 24th, 25th. on august 29th, the democrats meet in chicago. what's been going on over the summer as things have not been going well for the union militarily is that there is growing anti-war movement. more and more people are joining the ranks of the copperheads, the anti-war democrats over this -- over the course of this summer.
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they are at the pinnacle of their influence. they have been talking against the war since its outset, some of them. they have been joined, the ranks have been joined over the course of the war, over issues like habeas corpus, emancipation and the draft. those alienate a lot of people who had been otherwise sitting on the fence and they join the anti-war movement. but, nothing like this summer has driven people into the ranks of the copperheads. they are so powerful at the time of this convention that the war democrats are really scrambling to try to hold them off. to try to maintain a more moderate position, but they have to do some things to hold the copperheads at bay to keep them from taking over the entire
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convention and running over the party as a whole. so, what the democrats do is they name george mcclellan, who they considered a war hero and they thought was incredibly appealing to union soldiers as their presidential nominee. their vice presidential nominee is george pendleton from ohio. he is a committed and well known copperhead. they also put this man on the platform committee. clem ent vallandigham was the most notorious copperhead. a congressman from ohio, from dayton, when the war broke out.
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he has been gerrymandered out of his seat in 1862. he had gone home in the spring of 1863 and started making a lot of speeches in which he attacked the administration for its actions during the war saying that what it had done was unconstitutional, that lincoln was a tirate and despate. they issued saying anybody who spoke out publicly against the administration would be tried as a traitor. free speech here, is a dead letter. they seized this as an opportunity. he's a smart guy, smart politician and he sees it as a chance to become a martyr for
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the cause and to go down for the cause. he goes back out, makes another speech, which he criticizes lincoln and the administration and at 2:00 the next morning, the soldiers are at his door. they bundle him up, give him just enough time to get dressed. they bundle him up, a small riot breaks out among his supporters. he's shipped off to cincinnati where he is tried not in a regular court, but by a military try tribunal and sentenced to a military prison. lincoln finds out the way everybody else finds out, by reading the papers.
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he is none too happy about this. it puts him in an extremely awkward position. republicans themselves are not very happy about this because they recognize this arrest for what it is, which is a gross infringement on free speech. it makes them look terrible. and so lincoln is left in a quandary of what to do. what do you do with this man? if you let him go, you undercut your general. if you leave him in prison, you make him a martyr, not that he's not enough of one already, but you make him more of one. so, he comes to a quintessential solution, which is pragmatic and amusing. that is, if you like the south so much, fine, we're going to banish you there.
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so, he is sprung from prison, taken down to tennessee. he's taken almost to a confederate picket line in the dead of night and told to walk this way. some picket encounters him. can you imagine being some private, an 18-year-old kid and here's this guy that stumbles out of the dark, he's got this speech he's rehearsed about how he's a political prisoner of abraham lincoln and wrote, what do you do with this guy? so he goes up the chain of command. he goes all the way to jefferson davis. he's taken to richmond, ultimately. he meets all these confederates along the way. they all tell him what they want
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is independence. what the copperheads have been talking about is an immediate end to the war, an immediate halt. they never really say what the terms are that they would be willing to agree to in a peace negotiation but they want an immediate end to the hostilities. when the confederates tell them they want independence, they do not want to reewe nate with the north the way the copperheads keep thinking they will. they pay no attention to them what so ever. what he does is essentially put his fingers in his ears and go, la, la, la, la, la. that's it. he discovers he doesn't really like the confederates. the confederates learn they don't really like him, either. after a month in the confederacy, they come to an
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agreement he will leave. so, he gets on a blockade runner that goes to the caribbean. hi picks up another ship there and goes up to canada and spends the next year or so in windsor, ontario, right across the detroit river from detroit. there is a union gun boat parked in the middle of the river as long as he is there with its guns trained on his front parlor. but, he's having a lot of meetings with confederate agents, with copperheads. he is up to probably all kinds of no good. but, he wants to come home. he runs for governor of ohio in 1863, from windsor. the copperheads think he's going to win. because the soldiers will vote
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for him en masse because he wants an end to the war. he is going to stop it. and release them from service. they completely misread the situation, not for the only time. they are crushed in the november elections where he's running for governor in 1863. the soldier boat goes 95% against him. fast forward seven months, he sneaks back into the united states in june of 1864. lincoln gets all these notifications about it. what do we do? do we arrest him? lincoln says just let him be. keep an eye on him. just let him be. so, he is in chicago for the
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convention. he is put on the platform committee. he puts a plank into the platform that calls the war a failure and demands an immediate cessation of hostilities. this is widely voted for. it has almost 100% support in the democratic convention that year. they love this idea. they think this idea is going to carry them to victory in november. they are really pretty sure they have got this thing sealed up. they also think it's not just this, but the fact that their candidate is this former general whose troops loved him. they don't realize that the troops don't love him anymore.
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they have sort of seen him now for what he is. who the troops love is lincoln. they have come to identify very, very strongly with lincoln. and they are writing these letters home saying if you don't vote for lincoln, i will disown you. i will never speak to you again and they mean it. if you vote for a democrat, i will come home and hang you from the nearest tree. i don't care that we have been friends since we were 5. i'm doing that. you need to honor my service by voting for this man. does the democratic platform acknowledge anything about the soldiers, their suffering, their service, anything? no. which they notice. and they are pet up about it. but, the democrats don't realize this.
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none of them. so they leave their convention on august 31st feeling fantastic. they are sure that they have this thing in the bag. they have no doubt that they are going to win this november election by a lot. it's going to be a landslide. people are so sick of this war, of lincoln, they hate the emancipation, they hate the draft. nothing works. we are going to win big. then you get this amazing turnarounds. it's one of the most extraordinary moments in political history because on september 1st -- 2nd that night, the confederate army slips out
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and sherman takes it. you have 180 in public opinion literally overnight. northerners get this news. all this negativity goes away. all the nay saying goes away. lincoln is their man. the union has won the war. what's left, the public thinks, is nothing more than a mop-up operation. sheridan goes through the valley. great. that supports their point of view. later on, sherman is going to move through georgia, wipe it out. fantastic. more evidence that they are right. this is just a clean-up operation, we have won. this is how lincoln goes into his re-election.
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sherman hasn't started his march yet. he does it the day after the election. northerners are buoyant after sherman takes atlanta. mcclellan understands that his own party, specifically the copperheads, have put a mill stone around his neck. he tries to disavow that infamous plank. he tries to put distance between himself and it. he tries to talk about his loyalty to his men and how he will do right by them, but nothing works. certainly not in the wake of atlanta. his efforts are pathetic and unconvincing and sway nobody. mcclellan cannot get around his
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own platform. so, instead, you see lincoln re-elected in a landslide. he wins by something like 10% points, if memory serves. and considerably more in the electoral vote. there you have it. the election that lincoln was supposed to lose. the day after, sherman leaves atlanta. nobody knows where he is going, but he's embarking on the march to the sea. lincoln's cabinet opens the memo. lincoln reads it. they have a great laugh. but, lincoln and his vision for the country and his vision for the war have been vindicated.
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and the template has been cast for how the war will end and under what circumstances. and that is the vision that, in fact, we see on april 9th. 1865. thank you. [ applause ] we have a very enthusiastic hand shooting up back there. [ inaudible question ] >> that is in august of 1864, he comes to washington, meets with lincoln and goes back to new york now believing it can succeed, lincoln can succeed. what did lincoln say during that visit to change his mind? >> i'm not sure.
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i don't have the impression that raymond felt very good about lincoln's chances up until -- i'm not sure. >> i want to understand it better. >> i don't. i don't know. i did not have the impression that he left washington feeling great. >> one comment on that question. it was not just a meeting with lincoln. raymond also met with the key cabinet members, particularly stanton, seward and wells and they all agreed that to retreat from the commitment to emancipation was going to be a disaster and some said our base, our radical base, they are going to sit on their hands.
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and said to raymond, look, we can do this. of course, the fortunes of war turned differently. i had a question, are you familiar with the meeting with frederick douglas and what he asked douglas to do? >> again, this is not an element of lincoln's schedule that i'm familiar with. i did hear about this recently. what -- what douglas, to the best of my memory was meeting with him about was one, to continue to support emancipation but also pushing for voting rights. >> in addition, again, this is a wonderful period. lincoln asked frederick douglas to organize an underground movement in the south, if he
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lost the election, that would get as many slaves to escape as possible from the south, if he lost the election. and to have that underground movement in place in case the election went the wrong way. it's an extraordinary colvert operation he was glad he didn't have to carry out. >> this is keeping with the emancipation proclamation itself designed to go at the soft underbelly of the confederacy, which was slavery. if you get -- the reason 80% of military aged white, southern men can be in the military is because you have this huge work force of 4 million people at home who can keep things going. half a million of them probably
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escaped somehow to liberty during the war, but that still leaves 3.5 million there working. so, yes, if you can get more of them to war effort for the confederates that much more. so that it is completely in keeping with lincoln's strategy of emancipation as a war measure. yes? [ inaudible ] -- democratic newspaper editors -- to support the peace plan. >> it depended -- it depended who they were. the copperhead press supported it hands down, through the whole -- through the whole campaign. and in fact, they predicted universally that mcclelland would win.
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they did not see a loss coming at all. they lived in a world of -- i would describe it as magical thinking. i don't know that they were delusional, quite, but magical thinking, i think, really describes their mindset. the war democrats, i think, are quicker to recognize that they have a big problem on their hands. they continue to support their man mcclellan because they will, but people who had initially been enthusiastic about this plank who were more moderate, who tended to be in the war democratic camp rather than the peace democrat camp moved back into the war democrat camp. they saw the writing on the wall and became, you know, more moderate again when the armies
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were winning. >> where in the north were the copperhead strongholds? >> so the question is where in the north were the copperhead strongholds? there are a couple ways to answer that. the first is there is a band in the lower midwest sort of along the ohio river, those states. so the southern parts of indiana, illinois and ohio where a lot of people had settled coming up from tennessee or kentucky. in iowa, along the rivers that come in off the mississippi, again, southern settlers in those areas.
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then you get the cities where immigrants settle. so new york has a lot. boston has a lot. hartford, connecticut has a lot. including the father-in-law of samuel colt, who is making a fortune off of gun sales at the time. so -- and also in places -- again, immigrant communities, people who don't support the war who really react against the draft, so the mountain areas of pennsylvania, for instance, like clearfield county, the federal forces can't even get in there to support the draft law because it's so dangerous. they're going to get shot if they try to go in there. so they're kind of dotted
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around, but predictably, what you can say is places where there is a big southern influence or a big immigrant influence. yes? >> after 1864 when we left the war, what consequences were there for the copperheads politically in the years that followed? >> so the question is what consequences were there for the copperheads politically after 1864? well, a lot of them remained politically active, but really seemed to suppress their activities during the war, kind of forget that that had happened. the democratic party was not -- it certainly was viable at points in the rest of the 19th century but not consistently
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until woodrow wilson came into the presidency in 1912. and i think that that's a lingering consequence of the war and that the democratic party, as the republicans said, had the smell of treason about their clothes. so i think that as long as that civil war generation was alive, the democrats were really hampered by this. yes? >> obviously the french and the british had some interest in how the war was going to turn out. was the diplomatic community in any way attempting to influence the election? >> no. >> no? >> not that i'm aware of, at least. you have elements of british society that support the
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confederates, at least in theory. you've got this correspondent from the london times who is in the united states and writing articles that are very sympathetic to the confederacy. he's writing with lee's army on occasion. so you get that, but in terms of, you know, these machinations to swing the war -- election outcome one way or another, not that i'm familiar with. i've seen nothing on that. >> why were immigrants -- why did they tend to be against the war? >> so i'm going to speak with a broad brush here. the question is, why were the immigrants opposed to the war? certainly you see a number of germans and a number of irish joining up, so keep in mind, broad brush here. but for a lot of them, particularly the people who had come in the late 1840s, this
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huge surge of immigration, of germans who are fleeing the revolution, in what is now germany, and the irish who are fleeing the potato famine, they come over in vast numbers. a lot of them are catholic. the germans speak a different language. and americans don't respond very well to this. we have a long history of not responding well to large influxes of immigrants. and this is an early instance of this. there is a nativist movement that comes about in response to that. there is a political party called the know nothings that is basically a nativist party.
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parts of that get merged into the republican party. also, you had a bunch of wigs who were involved in all these reform movements from the 1820s on to the time of the civil war, and in some cases, even beyond that. but some of those reform movements had seriously targeted the immigrants, and the immigrants wanted no part of it. so the temperance movement is going after them for drinking. everybody knows the irish and the germans, they like a drink. going after that cultural piece made the informants not welcome to the immigrants, or the idea that you want to do public education. great, what version of the bible are we going to be reading? the king james version, right, the protestant version.
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we don't want that, we're catholic. that's where you get parochial schools starting in large numbers in the united states. and where do the wigs go? these people are mostly wigs, the reformers. where do they go? well, they mostly go into the republican party. so you see a lot of immigrants looking at this as a republican war. they want nothing to do with the republican party. they're members of the democratic party. they don't like the way they've been treated by people who are now in the republican party, and they don't think this is their war. then there's the racial aspect of it that you see, particularly the irish, who are, let's say, working on the docks, who are afraid that if slaves are freed they're going to come up north and take their jobs.
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they're going to undercut them financially and take their jobs. and so there are multiple reasons for them not to be supporting this war effort or the republicans, and in many cases, though not all cases, they don't. anything else? okay. thank you. you're watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook on c-span history. abraham lincoln won reelection over mcclel lan in 1864 with 74% of the soldier book. some say lincoln's strong support from soldiers indicate


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