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 Persistence: partisan voters were impervious to unprecedented political & military events, & unfathomable national casualties — voting was stable before the war as Northern Whigs & Free Soilers became Republicans; voting was shockingly stable during the war. Voting was highly nationalized (Pres./Gov./House) before & after the war, but especially during the 1860s.
  2. 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.
  3. Partisan Reasoning: As local casualties grew, partisan identities & leadership kept Republican places electorally loyal in wartime elections, even as the local dead sapped Republican votes elsewhere — accomplished by re-framing casualties & wartime events. 
  4. Partisan Memory: Partisanship influenced post-war memorialization & veteran activism in the Grand Army of the Republic org, 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. 

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
I. Partisan Stability & National Alignment
Ch. 2: Partisan Persistence across Political Eras
Ch. 3: National Casualties & Wartime Stability
Ch. 4: Emancipation, Atlanta, & Other Civil War Election Myths
II. Polarization in Wartime
Ch. 5: The Press Goes to War*
Ch. 6: Filling the Ranks
Ch. 7: Armies of Their Own
Ch. 8: Election News during Wartime*
Ch. 9: Weighing the Local Dead
III. Legacies of Partisan Violence
Ch. 10: Ghosts of the Civil War
Ch. 11: A Grand Army of Republicans

Ch. 12: Lessons from Partisan Warfare

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

Remaining Pieces of the Puzzle 

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.