A Union Officer’s Account of the 1864 Election

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On the morning of that [election] day, at roll-call, I told the men of my company that there would be no drill, and that at nine o’clock A.M. Opportunity to vote would be given all of them who were legal voters in New Hampshire. The law made the three ranking officers in each company judges of election. Having no lieutenant, I invited two sergeants to assist me. My tent was about six feet by seven, and sink into the ground twelve or fifteen inches for greater security against bullets that might come straying around at any time. It was noticed, however, that on that day the rebels were unusually quiet, firing scarcely a shot. A cigar box answered for a ballot box. The state furnished blanks for recording each voter?s name, together with that of the town he claimed to be his residence, and for whom he voted. In case, therefore, a man voted who had no right to do so, his vote could be thrown out. The polls having been declared open, and both Democratic and Republican votes placed upon the table, the men came up, were registered, voted, and retired. There was one man, a good specimen of the New Hampshire voter who goes to town-meeting and makes a day of it. He seemed in no hurry to vote, and I invited him to take a seat on a hard-bread box at the mouth of the tent. He had served almost three years; had been with the regiment in its every battle; had been slightly wounded several times?was, indeed, a good soldier. At last he said,?”Say, captain, what do you think of the election?” To my reply, “I guess it is all right,” he responded, “Well, what do you think of voting? I have always been a Democrat, and never voted anything but the Democratic ticket in my life.” “All right,” said I, “there are Democratic ballots?vote just as you please. If you can?t do so after having gone through what you have, we had better all go home. I shall vote for Lincoln, but do you vote just as you choose.” “Well,” said he, “I have been thinking about voting for Lincoln. I believe he is a pretty good man.” Then taking a Republican ballot in one hand and a Democratic ballot in the other, he rested his elbows on his knees and scanned the tickets in silence. Seeing his dilemma, I read aloud and as impressively as I could, the following lines of poetry printed on the back of the Republican ticket, while the listened attentively:

“What! hoist the white flag when our triumph is nigh!
What! crouch before treason-make freedom a lie!
What! spike all our guns when the foe is at bay,
With his flags and black banners fast dropping away!”

I added the response, “Not much!” and he, without saying a word, put the Lincoln ballot into the box, had his name recorded, and walked away. Company F voted solid for Lincoln, of free choiceand without undue influence. And it is gratifying to record the fact that the soldiers? election was likewise a fair one throughout the army.

From Lyman Jackson, History of the Sixth New Hampshire Regiment (Concord, NH: Republican Press Association, 1891), pp. 344-46.

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