History Agrees with Trump: Mail-In Ballot Corruption Almost Cost Lincoln in the 1864 Election

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Democrats and the mainstream media like to counter President Donald Trump’s concerns about mail-in voting by pointing to Abraham Lincoln’s re-election of 1864 as an example of how the process can be trusted.

If it was good enough for Lincoln in the heart of the Civil War, some commentators argue, it should be good enough for Trump during COVID.

However, in a piece published Saturday by The Washington Post, writer Dustin Waters chronicled a mail-in voting scam that, if not uncovered, may well have changed the outcome of the 1864 presidential election in New York, the most populous state in the U.S. at that time.

The stakes in the election of 1864 were high, with supporters of the National Union Party, led by Lincoln, a Republican, intending to fight the war with the Confederacy to complete victory, securing the abolition of slavery in the entire reunited country.

Meanwhile, the anti-war Democrats known as the Copperheads, led by former Union Gen. George B. McClellan, were willing the end the war if the Southern states ceased fighting and returned to the union. Slavery would be allowed to continue where it already existed.

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According to Waters, Orville Wood, a merchant from Clinton County in northern New York and a Lincoln supporter, was sent to Baltimore to visit troops from his region and check on their mail-in votes.

Though a vote for Lincoln meant prolonging the war, an overwhelming 78 percent of Union soldiers would cast their ballot for him in the 1864 election, according to

“Wood arrived at Fort McHenry in Baltimore to visit with the 91st New York Regiment. There, an Army captain suggested that there had been some ‘checker playing’ when it came to the gathering of soldiers’ mail-in ballots. These suspicions of fraud were echoed when Wood visited wounded men at the Newton University Hospital. The rumors of wrongdoing led Wood to the office of Moses Ferry in Baltimore,” Waters writes.

Ferry had been handpicked by Democrat New York Gov. Horatio Seymour to oversee the voting of New York’s enlisted men.

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Wood feigned his support for McClellan prompting Ferry to take the businessman into his confidence.

Ferry told the New Yorker that the vote (apparently fake) for the 91st had already been tallied, with 400 for McClellan and 11 for Lincoln.

Wood later returned to Ferry’s office where he was instructed to start forging ballots for the 16th New York Cavalry, using a roster of names Wood had brought with him from home.

The Lincoln backer would go to uncover a conspiracy involving operations in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and extending to New York to deliver large numbers of falsified ballots for McClellan made up from rosters of “active enlisted men, wounded and dead soldiers, and officers who never existed,” according to Waters.

Wood reported it all to authorities, prompting Ferry to offer a full confession of his wrongdoing and reveal others involved in the scheme.

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Several arrests followed.

“The honest electors of the state of New York have escaped an extensive and fearful fraud, a fraud in keeping with the proclivities of the party in whose behalf it was initiated, but one that, if unexposed might have subverted the honest will of the people and left the state and the nation at the mercy of those who would make peace with rebellion and fellowship with traitors,” The New York Times reported.

“Thank God for the decree that assures us that crime cannot long go unknown and unpunished.”

But for Wood’s actions, the votes in question sound like they could have swung New York into McClellan’s “win” column.

Lincoln carried the Empire State by just 6,749 votes of the over 730,000 cast, i.e. less than 1 percent.

The 16th president, however, would win the election overall in the landslide: 212 Electoral College votes, to McClellan’s 21.

Meanwhile, back in the present era, just days after Trump pointed to a New Jersey election as an example of the type of fraud possible with universal mail-in voting, a judge last week threw out its results.

On Wednesday, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposela ruled a new election for the Paterson City Council seat must be held in November, citing fraud involving hundreds of ballots being stuffed in mailboxes.

The ruling came after Trump again raised his concerns about mail-in voter fraud during a media briefing from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, earlier this month.

For the umpteenth time, he first had to explain he is not opposed to absentee voting, where the voter has to request a ballot and by doing so verifies his or her location and status as a living person.

This is in contrast to a system where ballots are automatically mailed to every registered voter on the rolls:

“Again, absentee voting is great. You request — I’m an absentee voter because I requested, I got, and then I sent in my vote. So that works out very well. That’s what we’ve had,” Trump said.

“But now they want to send in millions and millions of ballots. And you see what’s happening. They’re being lost, they’re being discarded. They’re finding them in piles. It’s going to be a catastrophe.”

NBC News reported that more one in five mail-in ballots were rejected in New York City during the state primary in June.

As a result of the confusion, the winners in two congressional races were not declared until six weeks after the election, The New York Times reported, with doubts still lingering about who really won.

Separately, The Times published an article earlier this month by its state capital bureau chief headlined: “Why the Botched N.Y.C. Primary Has Become the November Nightmare.”

The Trump campaign has sued New Jersey and Nevada over their plans to implement mass mail-in voting.

The president is right: Universal mail-in voting invites fraud and undermines the integrity of the election.

Here’s hoping and praying that Trump wins in a landslide, and, for the sake of election integrity, there are people like Orville Wood uncovering wrongdoing along the way.

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Randy DeSoto has written more than 1,000 articles for The Western Journal since he joined the company in 2015. He is a graduate of West Point and Regent University School of Law. He is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths" and screenwriter of the political documentary "I Want Your Money."
Randy DeSoto is the senior staff writer for The Western Journal. He wrote and was the assistant producer of the documentary film "I Want Your Money" about the perils of Big Government, comparing the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Randy is the author of the book "We Hold These Truths," which addresses how leaders have appealed to beliefs found in the Declaration of Independence at defining moments in our nation's history. He has been published in several political sites and newspapers.

Randy graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in political science and Regent University School of Law with a juris doctorate.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Graduated dean's list from West Point
United States Military Academy at West Point, Regent University School of Law
Books Written
We Hold These Truths
Professional Memberships
Virginia and Pennsylvania state bars
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Entertainment, Faith