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This was the first full day.
We started off with a two-hour session giving us an overview of Reconstruction. I was in the session with Andrew Slap of East Tennessee State University. He did a good job, giving us a standard by-the-book overview.
You can see some samples here:
The first question is, what is Reconstruction? There are a number of answers. It’s putting the Union back together, it’s reshaping the nation, it’s rebuilding the infrastructure destroyed during the war. Reconstruction actually started with Abraham Lincoln. His first plan was the famous 10% plan, giving a full pardon to those taking the oath of allegiance and allowing a new constitution when ten percent of the previously registered voters took the oath of allegiance.
Congress attempted to take control of Reconstruction with the Wade-Davis Bill, providing an iron-clad oath in which the individual swore they had never supported the confederacy, and allowing readmission when fifty percent took the oath. Lincoln pocket-vetoed the bill, but he indicated he will work with Republicans in Congress on Reconstruction.
After Lincoln’s assassination, Andrew Johnson became president. He followed Lincoln’s 10% plan, but as we saw, Lincoln was already moving away from that plan. He also demanded the states accept the 13th Amendment and approved amnesty for those taking a simple oath, except high-ranking confederates who had to apply to the President for a pardon. Texas and Mississippi refused to ratify the 13th Amendment and several states didn’t repudiate their ordinances of secession but instead repealed them. Former confederate states implemented black codes applying economic, social, political, and civil rights restrictions for African-Americans. A former confederate spoke for most when he said, “The ex-slave was not a free man; he was a free Negro.” Some black code provisions said any man who was fined for vagrancy and was unable to pay the fine could have his labor sold to the highest bidder. So we had the spectacle of more auctions of black men conducted by white men. New representatives sent to Congress included Alexander Stephens, four former confederate generals, eight former confederate colonels, and six former confederate cabinet members. In February 1867, James A. Garfield said, “They would not cooperate in rebuilding what they destroyed, [so] we must remove the rubbish and rebuild from the bottom. Whether they are willing or not, we must compel obedience to the Union and demand protection for its humblest citizen.”
In Congressional Reconstruction, Congress passed the Civil Rights Bill and the Freedman’s Bureau Bill, which Johnson vetoed and Congress passed over his veto. They also passed the 14th Amendment. They next passed Reconstruction Acts over the president’s veto setting up military districts with major generals in charge of each. Congress voted to give African-Americans the right to vote in the District of Columbia in 1866, which Johnson vetoed. In all, Johnson vetoed over two dozen bills and took steps to obstruct the execution of laws passed over his vetoes. Congress impeached Johnson, and after Johnson made an informal deal with the moderates to no longer obstruct bills, he’s acquitted.
For about a decade there is a flowering of African-American rights and multiracial governments that won’t exist in the South again for over a hundred years. In total, 1500 African-Americans held positions of political power. Fourteen served in the House of Representatives and two served in the US Senate.
Thaddeus Stevens died in 1868 and Charles Sumner died in 1874. There was a change of leadership of the Republicans and rifts developed in the party. At the same time there was terrorist violence in the South as southern whites resisted Reconstruction with that violence. Congress passed the Ku Klux Act in 1871, and President Grant declared martial law in several South Carolina counties. Southern whites used violence to overturn Reconstruction governments and to intimidate voters and suppress Republican votes. The election of 1876 was disputed, leading to the Compromise of 1877 and the end of Reconstruction.
I next sat in on “Claiming the Union: Citizenship in the Post-Civil War South” with Susanna Lee of North Carolina State University.
She told us allegiances during the war prompted new questions about boundaries after the war. To what extent would the nation adhere to the limits of race and gender? Former confederate men, who had been considered quintessential citizens, had torn the country apart, while black men and women, who were the best friends of the Union, had not been considered citizens at all.
You can see some samples here:
The Southern Claims Commission was set up in 1871 to provide monetary payments for property lost or destroyed by Union Army actions during the war. Southern citizens could only receive the compensation if they could prove they were loyal throughout the civil War. Considerations continued to be shaped by mastery, even after slavery was abolished. The commissioners were vigilant in restricting compensation to those who proved they had been loyal throughout the war. William Miller had to account for his vote on secession ratification in Virginia in May 1861. Miller insisted he opposed both slavery and secession but had concluded it wasn’t safe for him to sit out the election or to vote against secession. He said he always regretted voting for secession. The commissioners rejected Miller’s claim, regarding him as a timid man, saying he had no excuse because there was no terrorism in his neighborhood and timid men were complicit in secession.
Stephanie Shotard of Louisiana was another example. During this time, white women could cite male relatives for their proof of citizenship. Women’s citizenship followed that of their husbands. Shotard tried to distance herself from her secessionist husband. Instead, she freed herself of dependence on her husband by claiming dependence on another male, her Unionist uncle. The commissioners were receptive to this.
The system emphasized women’s dependence instead of independence. The commission often ruled against women with confederate husbands, with the general rule being a good Union woman was a woman married to a good Union man.
Jerry Brown was a former slave. Slaves had been considered property, the object of another citizen’s rights. The commissioners were skeptical that freed people had owned property when they made claims. Jerry had been a cook serving his confederate master for two-and-a-half years, arguing he had been coerced.
During this time, Abigail Cooper of Brandeis University gave a presentation on life in refugee camps. You can see that presentation here:
Next I saw Andrew Lang of Mississippi State University giving a presentation on the Military Occupation of the South. He started by reading Jourdan Anderson’s letter to his old master. Next he read a diary excerpt from a diehard confederate civilian, James Rumley, written in June of 1865 in which he lamented emancipation and the called the prospect of equality with free African-Americans “this revolting degradation.” [other samples of Rumley’s diary here and here] The questions asked are, was freedom a beginning or an end? How would freedom be enforced? There were divergent, contradictory trails after the war. One of these was African-American emancipation. The other was southern white resentment.
By November of 1865 800,000 of the approximately 1,000,000 Union volunteers were out of the army. Only 11,000 would remain in the ranks the following year. The army served two capacities during Reconstruction: they managed the relationship between the freed people and the planters, and they were charged with maintaining the peace.
Slavery had thrived in places the army had never touched, and it continued to wield its war powers to shatter slavery. Many Union troops looked at themselves as protectors of republican institutions such as the ballot box. Other volunteers grasped the necessity of occupation, but they questioned the military role in governance.
Alvin C. Voris [see here], for example, relished his role in Virginia; however, by late June he’s dejected by the white planters’ dedication to resurrecting the old social order. He quoted H. C. Forbes of the 7th Illinois Cavalry as saying, “To announce their [African-Americans] freedom is not to make them free.” However, I found the quote in this letter from Maj. Gen. Edward Hatch.
Be that as it may, the army was shrinking on a daily basis, but it had to play a role in Reconstruction, and that role was not shrinking.
In 1871, The Nation Magazine decried the Klan violence, but it also said the national government no longer had the duty to protect life and property once the states were restored to their previous status with respect to the Union. At the center of the problem is one word: Union. Does the Union mean anything anymore if the army is governing a state? It was seen as unconstitutional to continue to exercise war powers indefinitely. The KKK wasn’t the only white supremacist terrorist organization. In Louisiana there was the White League. 78% of the White League were confederate veterans.
During Reconstruction, 65% of the USCT troops were on occupation duty. At least 35% of the occupation troops were USCT. This was guaranteed to fuel southern white rage.
Concurrent with that session, Andrew Slap of the University of East Tennessee gave a presentation on Reconstruction in the North. You can see that here: http://www.c-span.org/video/?410243-2/reconstruction-north
That was followed by a panel discussion on the Return of the Confederate Veteran, which you can watch here:
At dinner, I participated in a discussion on “Peace With Honor,” which centered on the dedication of the Unity Monument at Bennett Place, site of Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender to William T. Sherman, located near present-day Durham, NC. The dedication speech was by Julian Carr, a confederate veteran, and while the monument itself is no lost cause monument, Carr’s dedication speech was filled with lost cause nonsense. It was a very enlightening discussion.
After dinner we returned to a panel discussion on “The Anatomy of the Lost Cause: Jubal Early & John B. Gordon.” You can view that discussion here: http://www.c-span.org/video/?410243-4/origins-lost-cause
We capped off the evening with Brooks Simpson giving an outstanding presentation on “Grant and the Continuing Civil War,” which you can view here: http://www.c-span.org/video/?410243-5/general-grant-continuing-civil-war
This was a terrific day with a lot of learning going on.