War Democrats were American Democrats during the Civil War (1861–65) who supported the military policies and war goals of President Abraham Lincoln. After the attack on Ft. Sumter in April 1861, there was a massive outpouring of bipartisan support for the Union war effort across the North, with leading Democrats like Stephen A. Douglas announcing their fervent support. Lincoln controlled appointments to the rank of general and made generals of prominent war Democrats such as John A. Logan and Ben Butler. In the border states it was much more controversial to be a War Democrat, but Lincoln worked hard to secure their support. He appointed Senator Andrew Johnson military governor of Tennessee. Note that politicians who had been Democrats but joined the Republican party before 1861, such as Salmon P. Chase and Gideon Wells, were called Republicans, not "War Democrats."
When the Emancipation Proclamation was announced in September 1862, the war became highly controversial in the North and the peace faction (called "Peace Democrats") and Copperheads took control of the Democratic party. In the 1864 presidential election, War Democrats and the Republicans formed a fusion party, and nominated Lincoln, a Republican, for president and Andrew Johnson for vice president in what was called the "Union Party" ticket.
Many War Democrats switched and joined the Republican Party, while others remained Democrats and voted the Union ticket. Their opponents in the Democratic party included Peace Democrats who advocated a negotiated settlement with the Confederacy and Copperheads, Democrats who openly supported the Confederacy.
Prominent War Democrats included:
- Andrew Johnson, the U.S. senator and then military governor of Tennessee; elected Vice President in 1864 on the Union ticket with Lincoln. President from 1865–69, as an independent.
- John Brough, Governor of Ohio.
- Ben Butler, Congressman from Massachusetts; general
- John Adams Dix, of New York. Buchanan's Secretary of the Treasury, general
- Stephen A. Douglas, Senator from Illinois; Democratic Party's northern candidate in the presidential election of 1860; he died when the war was just a few weeks old.
- Ulysses S. Grant, storekeeper in Illinois; general
- Joseph Holt, Kentucky; Buchanan's Secretary of War; Lincoln's Judge-Advocate General of the Army
- John A. Logan, Congressman from Illinois; general
- George B. McClellan, railroad president; general; Democratic presidential nominee in 1864
- Joel Parker, Governor of New Jersey
- David Tod, Governor of Ohio
- Edwin M. Stanton, Ohio; James Buchanan's Attorney General; Lincoln's Secretary of War
- Silbey, Joel H. A Respectable Minority: The Democratic Party in the Civil War Era, 1860-1868 (1977)