It is hard for modern Americans to believe that Abraham Lincoln, one of history’s most beloved Presidents, was nearly defeated in his reelection attempt in 1864. Yet by that summer, Lincoln himself feared he would lose.
Traveling to Baltimore in the fall of 1864, Orville Wood had no way of knowing he would soon uncover the most elaborate election conspiracy in America’s brief history.
Wood was a merchant from Clinton County in the most northeastern corner of New York. As a supporter of President Abraham Lincoln, he was tasked with visiting troops from his hometown to “look after the local ticket.”
Two of the Democratic Party agents, Moses Ferry and Edward Donahoe, were arrested in Baltimore by an Army Provost Marshal. Specifically, the two were charged with “conduct prejudicial to the welfare of the service, falsely impersonating and representing officers in the United States service”. They were accused of forging ballots of New York soldiers and changing votes to support Democratic candidates. Donahoe asked for an attorney while Ferry made a confession. He accused Donahoe of affixing the officer’s name to the ballots himself. Donahoe at first denied complicity, but later confessed to having signed blanks with the name of “C.S. Arthur, captain and aid-de-camp;”