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Lincoln – McClellan 1864 election sparked satire

Harper’s Weekly was one of the most influential publications of the mid-19th century, helping to report war news, world affairs, and the latest political dealings. Naturally, the much antipicated Election of 1864 garnered significant attention. Incumbent President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Abraham Lincoln, was challenged by one of his former generals, the ex-commander of the Army of the Potomac. Early on, it looked like “Little Mac” would best “Honest Abe,” but a string of military successes in the Western Theater swyed public opinion to Lincoln, and he readily carried the day to gain another term.

Pro-Lincoln supporters played up McClellan’s lack of height, as well as his lack of any political experience. Lincoln was fond of stroy-telling, and often used the introduction, “This reminds me of a little joke.” Here, McClellan’s candidacy becomes the little joke. The pundits were correct — Little Mac’s chances were indeed remote in the light of the success of the Federal armies.

Of course, McClellan’s supporters were not idle.
The Election of 1864 was among the first to make widespread use of political cartoons. For more on the satire of the Civil War cartoonists, see York’s very own Jim Lewin’s excellent book on the subject.