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 about the political influence of ordinary people in loyal states, but it also speaks to the nature of partisan conflict across time. It challenges history and political science scholarship with evidence from America’s most costly and consequential conflict, a cataclysm that still resounds in our politics today. In themes & methods, the book fits well with Acharya, Blackwell, & Sen’s (2018) Deep Roots, Berinsky’s (2009) In Time of War, Faust’s (2008) This Republic of Suffering, and Costa & Kahn’s (2008) Heroes & Cowards.

The book contributes four key insights about mass partisanship 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 Persistence: partisanship made voters impervious to unprecedented political-military events and unfathomable national casualties — voting was shockingly stable during the war; voting was stable beforehand across party systems as Northern Whigs & Free Soilers became Republicans; voting & news were highly nationalized pre-war; & partisanship was stable in post-war votes.
  2. Partisan Violence: partisanship & partisan news contributed to the organized killing of opponents 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.
  3. Partisan Reasoning: As local casualties grew, ordinary partisanship & partisan news kept Republican places electorally loyal in wartime elections, even as local dead sapped Republican votes elsewhere. 
  4. Enduring Partisan War Effects: Startlingly, partisan reactions to local war deaths shaped postwar votes through 1912. Partisanship also influenced post-war memorialization and veteran activism in the Grand Army of the Republic in subsequent decades as the GAR transformed soldiers back into partisan activists, closing the circle of partisanship and violence.

These powerful partisan dynamics — shaped by interactions between and among leaders and citizens — held in a new party system. Strong electoral continuities and political habits carried over from the previous era into the war and then persisted after its end. The Civil War remade the nation and its people, and 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: Partisan Stability across Eras
Mobilizing Partisan Warfare
Ch. 3: The Press Goes to War
Ch. 4: Filling the Ranks
War & Death in Partisan Elections

Ch. 5: Wartime Elections in the Press
Ch. 6: “Every Drop of Blood” in Wartime Votes

Ch. 7: The Political Weight of Local Deaths
Ch. 8: Civil War Election Myths: Emancipation & Atlanta
Legacies of Partisan Violence
Ch. 9: Ghosts of the Civil War
Ch. 10: A Grand Army of Republicans

Conclusion: Lessons from Partisan Warfare

Pieces of the Puzzle (awaiting revision into chapters)

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.