Author(s): David Alan Johnson
In the summer of 1864, Abraham Lincoln made this gloomy prediction about the outcome of the upcoming presidential election. The American Civil War had dragged on for over three years and the public blamed the president for the current stalemate against the Confederacy. Without a change in the fortunes of the war, Lincoln was thoroughly convinced that he had no chance of being elected for a second term, and that he would be defeated by the former Union general whom he had dismissed—now Democratic candidate George B. McClellan. In this vivid, engrossing account of a critical year in American history, historian David Alan Johnson examines the events of 1864, when the course of American history might have taken a radically different direction. It’s no exaggeration to say that if McClellan had won the election, everything would have been different: the Democrats planned to end the war immediately, grant the South its independence, and let the Confederacy keep its slaves. What were the crucial factors that in the end swung public sentiment in favor of Lincoln? Johnson focuses on the battlefield campaigns of Generals U. S. Grant and William T. Sherman. While Grant was waging a war of attrition against the rebel forces under General Robert E. Lee, Sherman was fighting a protracted battle in Georgia against Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. But then the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, replaced Johnston with John Bell Hood, a general who was aggressive to a fault. At the end of the day, Sherman inflicted heavy losses on Hood’s forces and finally conquered Atlanta. When Atlanta fell, the northern populace grew more confident about Lincoln’s war strategy and by November, he was re-elected by a majority of 400,000 votes. Johnson’s lively narrative, full of intriguing historical facts, brings to life an important series of episodes in our nation’s history. History and Civil War buffs will not want to put down this real-life page-turner.