It looked like the Civil War was going badly for the North in the spring of 1864. Grant was taking heavy casualties while advancing on Richmond slowly through a series of battles in what would be known as the Wilderness campaign. The death tolls were staggering, with families scanning the newspapers daily to see if their loved ones appeared on the casualty rolls. The war had been going on since spring of 1861, and the South, despite having lost key battles in 1863, did not look to be any closer to surrendering. Democrats under the leadership of former leader of the Army of the Potomac, George McClellan, ran under a promise of ending the war. The mood among many Northerners was that if the South desired its independence that badly, then it should be allowed to go in peace.
Sherman captured Atlanta during the election season of 1864. Not counting Richmond, Atlanta was the most prized city in the South. It's Tredegar Iron Works produced much of the South's cannons; it was also a major financial and rail center for the region. Lincoln was extremely happy. He declared a day of thanksgiving for the Union. The end of the war appeared in sight, and the Peace Democrats suddenly looked like defeatists. Lincoln thought that he would lose the election, but instead he won with a majority of the popular vote.