Los Angeles and the Election of 1864

election-of-1864-lesson-plan-2I will return once more to the notion of wartime voting and the shifting nature of allegiances in Los Angeles City and County. You will recall from a previous post that voters, while predominantly Democratic in 1860 and 1861, were likely to shift between northern and southern wings of their party depending on circumstances.

Well, they shifted once again in 1864 – in a few surprising ways. The contest between George McClellan, former commander of the Army of the Potomac turned Peace Democrat and Abraham Lincoln, now under the banner of the Union Party – a coalition of Republicans and War Democrats – heated to a fever pitch during the summer and early fall of 1864 in Los Angeles county. Except this time, the region’s voters returned against the Democratic Party. In the end Lincoln took the county with 872 votes to McClellan’s 593.

Federal soldiers, many of whom had been stationed just outside the Los Angeles city limits to quell any secessionist spirit, can account for a number of these votes….and they probably pushed Lincoln into the winner’s column.

But the more interesting figures come from Los Angeles city. Here the numbers are nearly dead even – McClellan besting Lincoln by a mere 42 votes. This, I believe, suggests a perceptible shift in loyalty over the course of two years. After a hard summer of Union losses, by election day enough had gone in the Union’s favor to secure Lincoln’s re-election. And perhaps enough had happened from an Angeleno’s perspective to shift the tide toward Lincoln and Union victory. A thus we can begin to see the seeds of Los Angeles city favoring a Union nationalist sentiment…what I believe would only grow to greater strengths later in the nineteenth century.

With compliments,

Keith

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