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Last Best Hope of Earth

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John Fremont

The Election of 1864

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Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

The summer of 1864 was one of dismay for President Abraham Lincoln and his administration: throughout the Union, the appetite for war had rapidly shrunk; particularly as compared to the heady days of 1860 that ushered Lincoln into the White House. While some voters in the North saw the continued prosecution of the war as nothing more than an attempt to manifest Lincoln’s wish to abolish slavery—and therefore a war not worth fighting—others had naturally, in view of the mounting casualties, developed a fatigue for war and, if they had a choice in the matter, would have opted for a negotiated peace. If Lincoln were to lose the election—so the argument ran—then families could be reunited and the violence could come to an end. For Confederates, northern voter despair was precisely the ingredient that was needed in the giant pot that was political discourse in the Union, but it was not all that was needed: the rebels had dreamt of forcing a negotiated peace, and now, with the election in sight, they had hope that Lincoln would be voted out and the war could be brought to a favorable end. Continue reading “The Election of 1864”

The Battle of Belmont

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Painting of the Battle of Belmont.

When fighting erupted between Confederate and Union forces in Mississippi County, Missouri, few could have expected that one man, a newly-promoted Brigadier General, would emerge from obscurity and tragedy and begin his upward trajectory to the heights of American myth and legend. Nonetheless, at the end of the Battle of Belmont, that man—Ulysses S. Grant—had secured himself admiration from his commanders and established a brand of warfare that would later elevate him up the ranks and define the Union’s conduct of the war. Continue reading “The Battle of Belmont”

The Battle of Wilson’s Creek

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The Battle of Wilson’s Creek.

The First Battle of Bull Run, which was fought near Manassas, Virginia, inaugurated the Eastern Theater of the Civil War. Weeks later, the first major battle of the Western Theater would occur on the banks of a creek in Missouri: Wilson’s Creek. The battle resulted in another Confederate victory and the first death of a Union general in the war. It also served as foreshadowing to the Confederacy; showing it that the Union was going to make a vigorous effort to prevent any other states from joining the Confederacy. Continue reading “The Battle of Wilson’s Creek”

The Election of 1860

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The United States Capitol in 1860. Courtesy: Library of Congress

Every presidential election is consequential, but the Election of 1860 would play a significant role in whether the United States would remain one nation. The division of the North and South on the issue of slavery threatened to cause a secession of the South. The result of the election would determine whether that threat would materialize and cause a Second American Revolution. Continue reading “The Election of 1860”

The Evolving Political Parties of the 1850s

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Panoramic View of Washington, DC in 1856. Courtesy: E. Sachse & Co.

The Democratic Party and Whig Party were the dominant political parties from the early 1830s up until the mid-1850s. Both were institutions in national politics despite not having a coherent national organization by cobbling together a diverse group of states to win elections. While the Democrats had a more populist agenda, the Whigs were more focused on pursuing industrialization and development of the country. See David Potter, The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861, 226. While the Democratic Party would survive to the present day, the Whig Party would not survive the mid-1850s, not as a result of its own ineptness but because of the changing political landscape of that era. Continue reading “The Evolving Political Parties of the 1850s”

The Fight for California

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John Fremont. Photograph: Mathew Brady. Engraving: J.C. Bottre.

President James Polk, prior to the beginning of the Mexican-American War, had an idea for how to gain new territory for America. He was not going to limit the acquisitions solely to what could be gained with Mexico through military conflict south of Texas. He had his eyes on California and New Mexico, and he had a plan for how to get those two territories.

Continue reading “The Fight for California”

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