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1863 October 17: Why Vote the Union Ticket?

October 20, 2013

Why all the interest in the 1863 elections, when it was not a presidential election year?  In Wisconsin, the November 1863 elections were a chance for the Democrats—President Lincoln was a Republican—to win back the governorship and the legislature.  “They recognized that widespread antipathy to the war, the lukewarm reaction to emancipation, and dread of federal conscription affected their political future.”¹  Federal conscription, in particular, was unpopular.  Democrats denounced the draft as unfair to the poor (who could not buy their way out of it), unnecessary, and unconstitutional.

Democrats who basically agreed with how the Administration ran the war bolted from the party, calling themselves “War Democrats” (pro-war).  Hoping to draw at least some of the War Democrats into their folds, the Wisconsin Republicans called their state convention a “Union” convention.

The following pro-Union ticket appeal is from the October 17, 1863, issue of The Prescott Journal.

The Duty of Loyal Men.

There is little of no doubt of the success of the Union Ticket in this State.—The election of Judge LEWIS [James T. Lewis] and his associates on the ticket may be regarded as a foregone conclusion ;  but this fact in no wise releases any loyal man from the duty of earnestly working for their success.  It is important that the Union majority be so emphatic as to place the real position and sentiment of the State beyond all doubt.  Let Wisconsin respond to Ohio with triumphant voice.  The issue is the same here as there, though the Copperhead leaders have not so boldly avowed it.  On the one hand, is the party which upholds and strengthens the Government in its peril,—on the other, is the party which hampers and opposes it.  Let no true patriot hesitate on which side he will cast his vote and influence.

1.  Wisconsin in the Civil War: The Home Front and Battle Front, 1861-1865, by Frank L. Klement (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1997):77; available in the UWRF Library, E 537.9 .K54 1997.

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