It’s 1860. Who do you vote for?

Posted on November 2, 2010 by


Not the exact date, but today is election day… and on election day 150 years ago, in 1860, a good deal was at stake. So, who do you vote for? Strike that… who would get your ancestors’ votes? Lincoln, Douglas, Breckinridge, or Bell… and why? Without looking, do you know their platforms? After all, a good number out there think they “know” why their ancestors went to war, some enlisting less than 6 months after this election. Let’s narrow it down to the South. Without looking, how many know the vote breakdown in the counties in which your ancestors lived? No need for exact numbers, just who came in first, second, and third. Who took the majority… and why? What local interests were reflected in the votes? Can you tell… do you care? If you are so enthusiastic about the history of your people in the Confederate army, and “know” what mattered to them when they went to war, shouldn’t you also be aware of what may have been on their minds when they voted for a candidate? What other factors may have influenced them just as they were about to vote? For example, were there ballot boxes or was it an open, oral vote?

So, based on the occupation and lifestyles of your ancestors, how would they have voted? If they were not yet old enough to vote, how would their fathers vote? There can really be no right or wrong answer, because odds are you won’t ever know the truth. This is merely an exercise in awareness; an attempt to think about those Southern ancestors just outside the scope of the war… on the brink, but perhaps, yet undecided on the idea of secession.

On one hand, you/we have your/our Southern ancestors, some who will, for one reason or another, end up as Confederate soldiers… but, “today”, they are civilians.

On the other hand, they had three candidates (Lincoln not being an option in the majority of counties in the South), with three distinct platforms. So, again, what platform(s) likely received the votes of your people?

If you’re going to suggest that you “know” why your people did what they did during the war, it’s useful to have some grasp on where they may have stood on things on this day, election day, 150 years ago.