With Ballots & Bullets: Partisanship & Violence in the American Civil War

Table of Contents

Status: on teaching leave to finish manuscript 2018-2019 academic year, press TBD.

With Ballots & Bullets reveals disquieting relationships between mass partisanship and violence in the epochal Civil War era. The book provides historical insights on the political influence of ordinary people in the loyal states, but it also speaks to the nature of partisan conflict across time. It challenges and affirms historical and political scholarship with evidence from America’s most costly and consequential conflict, a cataclysm that still resounds in our politics today. In themes & methods, it fits with Acharya, Blackwell, & Sen’s (2018) Deep Roots, Berinsky’s (2009) In Time of War, Faust’s (2008) This Republic of Suffering, & Costa & Kahn’s (2008) Heroes & Cowards.

The book contributes four key insights about mass partisan dynamics in the Civil War era, utilizing vast datasets that include 7 decades of county election returns, over 1 million individual geo-located Union soldier records, Census reports, Grand Army of the Republic post locations, and a representative sample of newspapers:

  1. Partisan Violence: partisanship & party leaders furthered (& hindered) the organized killing of opponents in rebellion via military participation in a fundamentally partisan war — partisan newspapers disproportionately mobilized enlistment; partisan areas differed in their voluntarism rates & had differential casualty rates among soldiers. Northern partisans also targeted each other with threats &, to a far lesser extent, violence.
  2. Partisan Persistence: partisan voters seemed impervious to unprecedented political & military events, & unfathomable national casualties — voting was stable before the war as Northern Whigs & Free Soilers became Republicans; voting was remarkably stable during the war. Voting was highly nationalized (Pres./Gov./House) before & after the war, but especially during the 1860s.
  3. Partisan Reasoning: As local casualties grew, partisan leaders & identities kept Republican places electorally loyal in wartime elections, even as local deaths sapped Republican votes elsewhere — accomplished by re-framing casualties & wartime events. 
  4. Partisan Memory: Partisanship influenced post-war memory & veteran activism in the Grand Army of the Republic, transforming soldiers & society back into partisan civilians again, closing the partisan violence circle. Startlingly, local war deaths shaped votes through 1912, with stable local partisan cultures changed by war. Local monumentation, state commemoration, and record-keeping also differed systematically by local partisanship & war experiences.

These powerful partisan dynamics–shaped by interactions between and among leaders & citizens–held in a new party system. Strong voting continuities and political habits carried over across eras and into war, and then persisted after its end. The Civil War remade the nation and its people. This book shows the violent, dynamic role of mass partisanship in that remaking.

Rough Chapter Drafts
Preface: “Godspeed…”
Ch. 1: An Introduction to Partisan Warfare

Ch. 2: The Roots of Partisan Violence
I. Mobilizing Partisan Warfare
Ch. 3: The Press Goes to War*
Ch. 4: Filling the Ranks
Ch. 5: Armies of Their Own
Ch. 6: Violent Partisanship in the North*
II. Ballots in a Partisan Civil War
Ch. 7: Election News during Wartime*
Ch. 8: National Casualties & Wartime Stability
Ch. 9: Weighing the Local Dead
Ch. 10: Atlanta & Other Civil War Election Myths
III. Legacies of Partisan Violence
Ch. 11: Ghosts of the Civil War
Ch. 12: A Grand Army of Republicans

Conclusion: Lessons from Partisan Warfare

* co-written with Elias Shammas & Timothy Klein
Newspaper Content Codebook

Final Chapter Plan
Ch. 1: An Introduction to Partisan Warfare
Ch. 2: Roots of Partisan Violence
Ch. 3: Party Messages in a Civil War*
Ch. 4: Filling the Ranks
Ch. 5: Partisan Stability during Wartime
Ch. 6: Weighing the Local Dead
Ch. 7: Ghosts of the Civil War
Ch. 8: Lessons from Partisan Warfare

Kalmoe, N. P. Legitimizing partisan violence: Evidence of political bias in state violence views from four experiments.

Kalmoe, N. P., & Mason, L. 2018. Lethal mass partisanship: Prevalence, correlates, & electoral contingencies.