Lincoln Wins! (November 9, 1864)

President Abraham LIncoln (Library of Congress).

President Abraham LIncoln (Library of Congress).

Meade comments on the election, in which Abraham Lincoln handily beat George McClellan. The Army of the Potomac voted solidly for Lincoln. In the case of suspected voter fraud he describes, Meade had one Jeremiah McKibbin arrested for supposedly distributing incorrect ballots in the hopes of disqualifying Republican votes. This is what Meade reported to Edwin Stanton (as it appears in the Official Records):Yesterday I was informed by Mr. Bonham, Republican agent of the State of Pennsylvania, that altered poll-books had distributed in this army by Mr. Jeremiah McKibbin, Democratic agent of the State of Pennsylvania. I immediately directed the commanding officers of Pennsylvania regiments to put the soldiers and others on their guard, and ordered the provost-marshal to detain Mr. McKibbin for examination. During the day two individuals, named Miles and Carrigan, Democratic agents, were arrested in the Second Corps, charged with circulating these altered poll-books. The alterations consist in the improper spelling of names, and in the tally lists the omission of a name. I have placed the whole matter in the hands of the judge-advocate of this army, with directions to investigate the affair and report whether any fraud has been committed or was intended, and whether the evidence justified the detention and trial of the person above named. There is, however, great difficulty in settling these important questions from the ignorance in this army, particularly on my part, not only of the machinery of elections, but of the laws of Pennsylvania and their bearing on the case in point. In this point of view I desire the instruction of the department, and would respectfully suggest whether justice to all parties would not best be subserved by turning these persons, with all the evidence, over to the authorities of the State of Pennsylvania to have tried by the courts of that State the questions that may arise, or whether I shall send these individuals to the Department at Washington, to be third by the military commission now sitting in Washington and trying analogous cases relating to New York soldiers. This proposition in not made with a view to avoid any duty which properly devolves on me, but with an earnest desire to have a proper and through investigation made, which, under the circumstances, I fear cannot be made by a commission organized in this army.”

A McClellan campaign pin (Library of Congress).

A McClellan campaign pin (Library of Congress).

The election passed off very quietly yesterday. About nineteen thousand votes, of which thirteen thousand five hundred were for Lincoln, and five thousand five hundred for McClellan, giving Lincoln a majority in this army of about eight thousand votes. Of these, three thousand five hundred were the majority of the Pennsylvania soldiers. During the day, much to my horror, one of the Republican agents reported the distribution of spurious or altered poll books, and charged certain Democratic agents as the parties guilty of the act. I had no other course to pursue than to arrest the parties complained against, until an investigation could be had. To-day we have been examining the matter, and there appears to be no doubt that poll books were brought here and distributed, having names of Republican electors misspelled and some omitted. The Democrats declare it is only a typographical error, and does not vitiate the use of the books, whereas the Republicans charge that it is a grave and studied effort to cheat the soldiers of their vote. In this dilemma I have applied to the Secretary of War, and asked for authority to send the parties either to Pennsylvania, to be tried by the courts there, or to Washington, to be disposed of by the Department and Doubleday’s Commission, now trying the New York agent. This affair has bothered me very much. All these people are citizens of Philadelphia, and are said to be respectable. I had, however, but one course to pursue, and was compelled to notice the complaints presented to me. We have no news from the elections outside of the army, except that they passed off quietly with you and in New York; in the latter place, doubtless, owing to the presence and order of Major General Butler. Well, the election is over, with the result I expected, and now I hope no time will be lost in regulating the army.

I trust, now the election is over, measures will be taken to raise men to fill our ranks, and no time should be lost, as I don’t think we can count on more than a month of good weather. To-be-sure, we can and doubtless will stay here all winter; and being so near each other, may manage to keep fighting on. But I don’t think any operations involving any movement can be had after the beginning of December.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 239-40. Available via Google Books.

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