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Civil War Journal: Election Day, 1860

November 6, 2010
The Inter-Mountain

On Election Day preceding the Civil War, America was divided as never before. Four major candidates competed for the presidency. The result would determine the destiny of a nation torn apart on issues of slavery and states' rights.

On Nov. 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States of America. Southerners were stunned to learn that Lincoln, an abolitionist, would be president. Their response was secession and, ultimately, war.

Lincoln won the divisive race after having received only 39.8 percent of the popular vote. He competed against John C. Breckenridge and Stephen A. Douglas, both from the newly splintered Democratic Party, and John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party.

Lincoln, of Illinois and representing the Republican Party, achieved 180 electoral votes and carried the north. Breckenridge, of Kentucky, gained 72 electoral votes and carried the south. Bell, of Tennessee, won 39 electoral votes from border states. Douglas, also from Illinois, received only 12 electoral votes - all of Missouri's and three of New Jersey's - despite having the second largest popular vote.

No one in present day Randolph and neighboring counties of West Virginia cast a single vote for Lincoln.

His only supporters in what would become the 35th state resided in the Northern Panhandle.

Lincoln's victory was immediately telegraphed to the South Carolina Legislature in Columbia, which promptly scheduled a secession convention to take place Dec. 17.

(Editor's note: Civil War Journal is provided by the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation and Historic Beverly Preservation in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. For more information, visit



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