The 1864 presidential election pitted President Lincoln against a general he had removed from command.
The candidates couldn’t have been more different.
Gen. George B. McClellan was a Philadelphia patrician educated at West Point. Mr. Lincoln was a self-taught frontier lawyer. McClellan looked down on the president.
While McClellan was still working for Lincoln in Washington, Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward came to call one evening while McClellan was attending a military wedding. McClellan not only didn’t hurry home when he was told the commander-in-chief was waiting, but, when he did return home, he walked directly upstairs to bed without greeting the president or Seward.
Lincoln backers feared McClelland, if elected, might shut down the war effort and allow secession to stand.
McClellan won only three states though – Delaware, Kentucky and New Jersey.
Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Seldom in history was so much staked on a popular vote — I suppose never in history.”
McClelland was elected governor of New Jersey in 1878.
Sources: History of the Civil War by James Ford Rhodes and Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How they Changed America, 1789-1989 by Michael Beschloss