Challenging Students to Differentiate Between Election Returns and Results with a Memo and a Telegram from 1864

This post is by Lee Ann Potter, Director of Educational Outreach at the Library of Congress.

In the October 2014 issue of Social Education, the journal of the National Council for the Social Studies, our “Sources and Strategies” article focused on the presidential election of 1864.  We suggested that President Lincoln’s Blind Memo, and a telegram reporting Nevada election results might challenge students to think about the differences between election returns and election results.

Abraham Lincoln. Memorandum, August 23, 1864.

Abraham Lincoln. Memorandum, August 23, 1864.

Lincoln’s Blind Memo revealed his belief in mid-1864 that he had little chance of being reelected; the sample telegram from early November reflected the actual election returns:  Republican Lincoln defeated Democrat George B. McClellan by a large margin.

When the president delivered his annual address to Congress on December 6, 1864, he made reference to the election and emphasized its significance.  He reminded members, “At the last session of Congress a proposed amendment of the Constitution abolishing slavery throughout the United States, passed the Senate, but failed for lack of the requisite two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives.”  He challenged Congress to vote on the bill again and reminded them that “The most reliable indication of public purpose in this country is derived through our popular elections.”

Congress took his message to heart and on January 31, 1865, nearly two months before the newly elected members would be sworn in, the House called another vote on the amendment–this time it passed.  One result of the election of 1864 was the passage of the 13th Amendment.

If you’ve used these sources or others to discuss election returns and results with your students, to what extent did they help students understand the differences?

November in History with the Library of Congress

This post comes courtesy of Uhuru Flemming of the Library of Congress. Many teachers like to include mini-lessons or bell-ringers about “this day in history.” The Library of Congress offers two resources that recount what happened on a particular day using the Library’s collections of digitized primary sources: Jump Back in Time (introductory) and Today […]

Disability Awareness Month: Four Questions for Eric Eldritch of the Library of Congress

Last year we presented a blog post on Deaf Culture for Deaf Awareness Month. One of the co-authors was Eric Eldritch. In honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month, we asked Eric several questions about his work helping the Library of Congress promote an understanding of people with disabilities as citizens, contributors and employees in a diverse […]

Encouraging Student Interest in the Economic Context of the Constitution with Continental Currency

In the September 2014 issue of Social Education, the journal of the National Council for the Social Studies, our “Sources and Strategies” article focused on the economic challenges facing the young United States at the time of the Constitutional Convention. We suggested that continental currency might ignite student interest in the subject.

Educator Webinar: Tapping the Power of Teaching with Visual Images

On Tuesday, September 23, at 7 PM ET, education experts from the Library will offer a webinar that will engage participants in a model photograph analysis activity, facilitate a discussion about the power of teaching with visual images, and demonstrate how to find visual images from the Library of Congress.

Throughout the year, the Library will be hosting educator webinars every other Tuesday at 7:00 ET focusing on a variety of instructional strategies for using primary sources in instruction. The 2014 schedule and information about joining the webinar is now available from

The Civil Rights History Project: Primary Sources and Oral History

History is most fascinating when we feel connected to the people who lived in the past. One way to pique student interest is by using primary sources from the Library of Congress — letters, photographs, and oral histories — that document real people’s lives. The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress recently launched the Civil Rights History Project, a digitized collection of interviews with active participants in the Civil Rights movement and essays about the movement.