Thursday evening, on through the night, and into Friday morning was a huge time for Judge David Davis. He sent everything and every one he had to talk to delegates. Plans were laid and promises were made that were absolutely not endorsed by Lincoln (“Lincoln ain’t here!”). Out of all of these promises, only Simon Cameron’s cabinet post was a little sketchy.
The basic plan was to run a close second to Seward on the first ballot, putting distance between Salmon Chase and Edward Bates, while acknowledging the governors and favorite sons of other states. On the second ballot, Chase and Bates would be eliminated. Lincoln hoped to pick up what were, basically, all non-Seward votes. 233 was the magic number of votes necessary to win the nomination. This was hoped for on the third ballot.
Davis’s formidable team included Orville H. Browning, John Wentworth, Mark Delahay,
Norman Judd, and by now, Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, probably the most powerful newspaper in America at the time. Greeley had never quite finished his glass of Seward Kool-Aid. When he came to Chicago, he quickly decided for Lincoln.
Meanwhile, Ward Hill Lamon was in every bar in Chicago. He was looking for the loudest men and the prettiest women to meet him outside the Wigwam early Friday morning. There, hours ahead of Seward’s own paid supporters, they would be given a “signed pass” to enter the Wigwam, and preferred seating all over the convention hall. When Seward’s forces showed up at 9:00, there were few, if any, seats left. Thurlow Weed was beaten at his own game–heh, heh, heh.
Not to be outdone, Elmer Ellsworth and John Hay made the rounds of every militia armory in greater Chicago that same evening. Let Lamon round up the drunks and ne’er-do-wells! Ellsworth would bring the flower of Chicago manhood–and their brass bands!–to the streets surrounding the Wigwam to march and play for candidate Lincoln–Honest Abe, the Rail Splitter. Seward had brought only one band. Ellsworth would bring many more.
When Friday finally dawned, Davis and his lieutenants were exhausted, but hopeful. They spread out on the floor of the convention and continued to politick for Lincoln. The Wigwam was filled to the rafters with Lamon’s Lincoln supporters. They had been carefully coached to erupt into loud and prolonged cheering every time Lincoln’s name was mentioned (or when they saw the floor worker give the signal–).
Weed’s people were stuck outside, unable to enter at all due to the early arrival of Lamon’s crowd. The newly formed Wide Awake club joined Ellsworth’s marchers and brass bands. The Wide Awakes sprang up all over the north in support of Lincoln’s candidacy, and were uniformed and well organized. The noise outside the Wigwam was second only to the din inside. When Lincoln’s name was put into nomination, the “uproar was beyond description . . . a concentrated shriek that was positively awful” accompanied by foot stomping that made the Wigwam shake.
The end of this story is well known: Thanks to David Davis and his political influence, combined with the energy of the Young Turks under Lamon, Lincoln was elected to run as the Republican Presidential candidate on the third ballot, as planned.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Fire the Salute by Murat Halstead