Reelecting Lincoln: The Battle for the 1864 Presidency

By John C. Waugh

Crown Books, 1997
DaCapo Press, 2001
452 pages

A Main Selection of the History Book Club

This is the dramatic story of what may have been the most critical election campaign in American history. Taking place in the midst of the Civil War, the election of 1864 would dictate the very future of the nation. Would the country be unified or permanently divided? Would slavery continue to exist? Weaving rich anecdotal material into a fast-paced narrative, the book fixes this pivotal election in its historical context while evoking its vast human drama.The men and women who figured in this epic campaign — most notably Lincoln himself — emerge with all their strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies. Drawing on an extensive array of sources, including published and unpublished reminiscences, memoirs, autobiographies, letters, newspapers, and periodicals, it recreates that fateful year with all the immediacy of a political reporter covering a national presidential election today.

What Historians Think

“This excellent account of Lincoln’s reelection campaign reminds me of Bruce Catton: both were marvelous storytellers. Waugh insists that he will be satisfied if his readers find this book ‘fun to read’ and historians can say, ‘Yes and it’s true’ — expectations too modest for such a fine journalist turned historian.” 
— Grady McWhiney, author of Grant, Lee, Lincoln, and the Radicals

“It is about time a crack journalist took on one of the great news stories of the nineteenth century: the presidential election of 1864. Reelecting Lincoln takes an unforgettable era and the giants who bestrode it and brings them vividly to life. I strongly recommend it.” 
— Harold Holzer, author of Lincoln at Cooper Union

“Reelecting Lincoln tells the whopping tale of the most important election in American History…. This is a riveting book, written in a journalistic style that will make it hard to put down.” 
— Frank J. Williams, Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and Chairman of The Lincoln Forum

Reelecting Lincoln: The Battle for the 1864 Presidency is a blockbuster…. It will appeal to those who enjoy fast-moving and dramatic history…. Waugh knows politics and politicians, and his latest will be a benchmark against which reviewers will measure publications focusing on presidential elections and their background.” 
— Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service

“John C. Waugh sure-footedly conducts the reader through a thicket of contending issues and personalities. His comprehensive research and compelling narration transform politicians and generals into vibrant actors in a gripping national drama. Their complex interrelationships take center stage as the story hurtles toward election day.”
— Richard A. Baker, Historian, U. S. Senate

What Reviewers Say

“It’s an inherently dramatic story, and one that has been told before. But never quite so well as by John C. Waugh [who] brings to his task the keen eye for detail and scene-setting that one would expect from a career reporter.”
— The Wall Street Journal

“It is, as Waugh well knows—and well tells it—a terrific story.” 
— Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

“[Waugh] infuses much of the same suspense and interest into the 1864 campaign that Theodore White did in the Presidential campaign accounts of the 1960s.” 
— The Dallas Morning News

“[Reelecting Lincoln] recounts the 1864 election with great narrative skill. The story sweeps along with brilliant vignettes of all the players in the drama and one vivid scene after another. 
— The New York Times Book Review

“Reelecting Lincoln … is a masterful assessment of the most crucial election in American history and a story often overshadowed by the pivotal military campaign and battles of that year. For scholars, for avid readers, and for students of the war years this is a real treasure.” 
— Bugle Call

“”For a feel for the drama and the doubt of a year when the Union seemed poised on the edge of wreck, nobody need look further than Waugh. Reelecting Lincoln has all the razzle-dazzle of a good stump speech.” 
— Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader

“Waugh has taken a frequently overlooked event in the Civil War and found drama and importance in it…. His portrait of the 19th century rough-and-tumble politics is fascinating…. An entertaining and even moving work of popular history.”            
— Kirkus Reviews

“This is drama at its best. There are candidates, issues and consequences of the election playing out on the national stage, and even though we know ahead of time how it ends, the story is told anew with vivid clarity.” 
— Naples (Florida) Daily News