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

Table of Contents

Status: skeleton draft of manuscript in May 2018, polished draft in Dec 2018, press TBD.

With Ballots & Bullets demonstrates the interactive role of mass partisanship and violence in epochal Civil War and post-war politics. It challenges scholarship from history and political science with evidence from America’s most costly and consequential conflict, which still echoes in politics today. In themes & methods, it is a mix of Berinsky’s (2009) In Time of War, Faust’s (2008) This Republic of Suffering, and Costa & Kahn’s (2008) Heroes & Cowards.

The book makes three key contributions about mass partisanship in the Civil War, utilizing vast datasets that include 6 decades of election returns, 1 million individual geo-located Union soldier records, the Census, Grand Army of the Republic posts, and a nationally representative sample of newspapers:

  1. Ordinary local partisanship made citizens electorally impervious to unprecedented political-military events and the national accumulation of unfathomable casualties. 
  2. Ordinary local partisanship drove participation in the organized killing of opposing partisans: enlistment, desertion, and greater likelihood of death in national service.
  3. Ordinary local partisanship led Republicans to redouble their devotion to party in the face of local casualties, while casualties sapped support from others in wartime elections. Startlingly, local deaths continued to shape postwar votes through 1912.

These powerful partisan dynamics, shaped in large part by political leaders, held despite a new party system that carried over political identities with strong electoral continuities from the previous era. I also analyze the partisan press to identify rhetoric mobilizing partisan warfare and efforts to frame the war, its dead, and the elections. And I show how pre-war politics shaped war memorialization and veteran activism in the Grand Army of the Republic organization in the decades that followed. The GAR changed soldiers back into partisan activists, closing the circle of partisanship and violence.

Rough Chapter Drafts

Introduction: Partisan Ballots & Bullets
Ch. 1: The Power of Partisanship
Ch. 2: Wartime Events & Electoral Consequences
Ch. 3: The Press Goes to War
Ch. 4: Filling the Ranks
Ch. 5: Wartime Elections in the Press
Ch. 6: “Every Drop of Blood” in Wartime Votes
Ch. 7: Ghosts of the Civil War
Ch. 8: A Grand Army of Republicans
Conclusions: Lessons from Partisan Warfare

Pieces of the Puzzle

Related: Nathan P. Kalmoe. Legitimizing partisan violence in public opinion: Historical and experimental evidence of bias in state violence views.