Republicans looked on the 1864 elections with foreboding. A drawn-out war that seemed never to end, mounting casualty rates, political losses due to Republican emancipation policy and war measures, and public doubts about Lincoln's leadership haunted the party. Lincoln survived party intrigues to remove him from the presidential ticket in 1864, and Republicans recast themselves as the National Union Party, and nominated Tennessee Democrat Andrew Johnson as vice president, to court a broad "Union" constituency. When the Democrats named General George McClellan as their candidate and ran him on a supposed "peace platform," Republicans had their cue. While the Democrats beat up Republicans on the issues of civil liberties and race, the Republicans charged the Democrats with selling out to the Confederacy and the giving up on the brave Union soldiers. Getting out the soldier vote proved crucial to Republican success. So, too, did timely victories in the field, especially Sherman taking Atlanta. But the Republican triumph at the polls and the Union one on the battlefield ended in gloom as Lincoln was assassinated soon after his inauguration and what to do about reconstructing the defeated South remained unanswered at his death.


The Democrats charged that Republicans had plunged the nation into an unwinnable war and suppressed the civil liberties of their political opponents. The Democrats' indictment included the Republican policy of emancipation as revolutionary and unconstitutional and degrading of white labor; a ruinous financial policy based on unsound paper money, and the sale of bonds that made the rich richer at the expense of the common man. Democrats warned that continued Republican rule meant continuous war, the degradation of the white race, financial ruin, oppressive taxation, and political tyranny.


As defenders of the Union, the Republican cause was advanced by a variety of support organizations, many of them popular front extensions of the Party. The Union League movement, private Republican clubs to support the war and Republican electoral efforts, began in Illinois in the spring of 1862 and spread rapidly through the North - organized in Philadelphia later that year. Similar was the Loyal National League, which sought to be a wider-based organization than the Union League clubs. The Loyal Publication Society published pro-Union pamphlets for national distribution. Women were deeply involved both as individuals and in groups, such as popular writer Gail Hamilton, and the Ladies Union Aid Society of St. Louis, publishers of Charles C. Drake's Union and Antislavery Speeches. And, in 1864, Jewish groups in Indiana, New York, and Pennsylvania formed the Jewish Union Republican Association.


Republicans as champions for the restoration of the Union rode on a wave of patriotic sentiment manifest even in a variety of commercial products and services, such as these Union collars and cuffs produced by the Lockwood Manufacturing Company - see the advertisement above. The assimilation of Unionism into the marketplace helped assure Republican victory.

"Presidential Cobblers and Wire-Pullers Measuring and Estimating Lincoln's Shoes," in New York Illustrated News, March 5, 1864.