On Tuesday, August 23, 1864, Abraham Lincoln wrote a secret memorandum that began, “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected.” He then proceeded to sketch out a plan for cooperation with the next President-Elect in the event of his own defeat. Students in History 288 should be able to identify the leading military and political factors that led President Lincoln to cast his personal political situation in such bleak terms. What had gone wrong since Gettysburg and Vicksburg? Yet even with a firm grasp of context, the memo itself proves challenging to explain. James McPherson casts the so-called “blind memorandum” as a sign that Lincoln had “fully anticipated defeat in November,” but doesn’t succeed in explaining why he had his cabinet officers endorse the document “sight unseen,” nor why Lincoln made such a strange offer but undertook no more obvious changes in his policy or personnel during this anxious time. Why did Lincoln and the Unionist ultimately prevail in November 1864? What happened on the battlefields and across the homefront that changed the political dynamic?
Office: Denny 218
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