Reconstruction and Its Aftermath

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Reconstruction and Its Aftermath


Why It Matters

We had survived our worst war, but the end of the Civil War left Americans to deal with a set of pressing issues. The status of some 3.5 million former enslaved people had yet to be decided. Nor had the terms by which the former Confederate states would rejoin the union been decided. How Americans would handle these issues would shape the future of our country.

The Impact Today

Debate over the rightful power of the federal government and the states continues to this day. Americans continue to wrestle with the problem of providing civil rights and equal opportunity to all citizens.

The American Republic to 1877 Video The chapter 17 video, "Life After the War," tells the story of Reconstruction through the eyes of writers and artists of the period.

1867 • First Reconstruction Act passed

1868 • Meiji era begins in Japan

1870 • Fifteenth Amendment ratified

1871 • Bismarck unifies Germany

1874 • First major exhibit of impressionist art in Paris

1877 • Reconstruction ends



Study Organizer

Comparison Study Foldable Make this foldable to help you compare and contrast Reconstruction in the Northern and Southern states.

Step 1 Mark the midpoint of the side edge of a sheet of paper.

---Draw a mark at the midpoint.

Step 2 Turn the paper and fold the edges in to touch at the midpoint.

Step 3 Turn and label your foldable as shown.

Reading and Writing As you read the chapter, write facts that show how Reconstruction differed and was the same in the Northern states and Southern states. Write the Facts in the appropriate places inside your foldable.

Ruins of the North Eastern Depot, Charleston, South Carolina Southerners faced the task of rebuilding cities, industries, and farms devastated by war.

1882 • Beginning of British occupation of Egypt

1890 • Poll taxes and literacy test initiated in Mississippi

1896 • Plessy v. Ferguson rules segregation constitutional

1896 • Ethiopia defeats invading Italians


Chapter Overview

Visit and click on Chapter 17—Chapter Overviews to pre­view chapter information.



Reconstruction Plans

Guide to Reading

Main Idea

Differences over how Reconstruction should be carried out divided the government.

Key Terms

Reconstruction, amnesty, radical, freedmen

Reading Strategy

Taking Notes As you read the sec­tion, re-create the diagram below and describe each of the Reconstruction plans.

Read to Learn

• how the Reconstruction plans of Lincoln and the Radical Republicans differed.

• what President Johnson's Recon­struction plans were.

Section Theme

Groups and Institutions The South worked to rebuild its economy and its institutions.

Preview of Events

July 1864 Congress passes Wade-Davis Bill

March 1865 Freedmen's Bureau is established

April 9, 1865 Lee surrenders

April 14, 1865 President Lincoln is assassinated

AN American Story

About a month after President Lincoln began his second term of office, the Civil War ended and the soldiers returned to their homes. One Illinois veteran wrote upon reach­ing the family farm, "The morning after my arrival, September 29th, I [took off] my uni­form of first lieutenant, put on some of my father's old clothes, and proceeded to wage war on the standing corn. The feeling I had while engaged in this work was sort of [odd]. It almost seemed, sometimes, as if I had been away only a day or two, and had just taken up the farm work where I had left off."

Reconstruction Debate

The Civil War saved the Union but shook the nation to its roots. As Ameri­cans attempted to reunite their shattered nation, they faced many difficult ques­tions. For example, should the slaveholding Southerners be punished or forgiven? What rights should be granted to the freed African Americans? How could the war-torn nation be brought back together?


The war had left the South with enormous problems. Most of the major fighting had taken place in the South. Towns and cities were in ruin, plantations had been burned, and roads, bridges, and railroads destroyed.

More than 258,000 Confederate soldiers had died in the war, and illness and wounds weak­ened thousands more. Many Southern families faced the task of rebuilding their lives with few resources and without the help of adult males.

People in all parts of the nation agreed that the devastated Southern economy and society needed rebuilding. They disagreed bitterly, how­ever, over how to accomplish this. This period of rebuilding is called Reconstruction. This term also refers to the various plans for accomplishing the rebuilding.

Lincoln's Plan

President Lincoln offered the first plan for accepting the Southern states back into the Union. In December 1863, during the Civil War, the president announced what came to be known as the Ten Percent Plan. When 10 per­cent of the voters of a state took an oath of loy­alty to the Union, the state could form a new government and adopt a new constitution—a constitution banning slavery.

Lincoln wanted to encourage Southerners who supported the Union to take charge of the state governments. He believed that punishing the South would serve no useful purpose and would only delay healing the torn nation.

The president offered amnesty —a pardon—to all white Southerners, except Confederate leaders, who were willing to swear loyalty to the Union. Lincoln also supported granting the right to vote to African Americans who were educated or had served in the Union army. However, he would not force the Southern states to give rights held by white Americans to African Americans.

In 1864 three states that the Union army occu­pied—Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee—established governments under Lincoln's plan. These states then became caught in a struggle between the president and Congress when Con­gress refused to seat the states' representatives.

A Rival Plan

A group of Republicans in Congress consid­ered Lincoln's plan too mild. They argued that Congress, not the president, should control Reconstruction policy. Because these Republicans favored a tougher and more radical, or extreme, approach to Reconstruction, they were called Radical Republicans. A leading Radical Republi­can, Thaddeus Stevens, declared that Southern institutions "must be broken up and relaid, or all our blood and treasure have been spent in vain."

Controlled by the Radical Republicans, Con­gress voted to deny seats to representatives from any state reconstructed under Lincoln's plan. Then Congress began to create its own plan.

The Wade-Davis Bill

In July 1864, Congress passed the Wade-Davis Bill. The bill offered a plan much harsher than Lincoln's. First, a majority of white males in a state had to swear loyalty to the Union. Second, a state constitutional convention could be held,

History Through Art

The Return to Fredericksburg After the Battle by David English Henderson A Virginia family returns to its home in war-shattered Fredericks­burg. Why do you think the painting shows no men of military age?


but only white males who swore they had never taken up arms against the Union could vote for delegates to this convention. Former Confederates were also denied the right to hold public office. Finally, the con­vention had to adopt a new state constitu­tion that abolished slavery. Only then could a state be readmitted to the Union.

Lincoln refused to sign the bill into law. He wanted to encourage the formation of new state governments so that order could be restored quickly. Lincoln realized that he would have to compromise with the Radical Republicans.

The Freedmen's Bureau

More progress was made on the other great issue of Reconstruction—helping African Amer­icans freed from slavery. In March 1865, during the final weeks of the war, Congress and the president established a new government agency to help former enslaved persons, or freedmen. Called the Freedmen's Bureau, this agency was actually part of the war department.

In the years following the war, the Freed­men's Bureau played an important role in help­ing African Americans make the transition to freedom. The agency distributed food and clothing, and also provided medical services that lowered the death rate among freed men and women.

The Freedmen's Bureau achieved one of its greatest successes in the area of education. The bureau established schools, staffed mostly by teachers from the North. It also gave aid to new African American institutions of higher learning, such as Atlanta University, Howard University, and Fisk University.

The bureau helped freed people acquire land that had been abandoned by owners or seized by Union armies. It offered African Americans free transportation to the countryside where laborers were needed, and it helped them obtain fair wages. Although its main goal was to aid African Americans, the bureau also helped Southerners who had supported the Union.

Reading Check Examining Why did Lincoln offer his plan for Reconstruction before the Civil War was over?

Lincoln Assassinated!

A terrible event soon threw the debates over Reconstruction into confusion. On the evening of April 14, 1865, President and Mrs. Lincoln attended the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. It was just five days after the surrender of Lee's army and four years to the day after the fall of Fort Sumter.

As the Lincolns watched the play from a pri­vate box in the balcony, John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer, entered the box without anyone seeing him. Booth shot the president in the back of the head, then leaped to the stage and escaped during the chaos that fol­lowed the shooting. Aides carried the wounded president to the nearby house of William Petersen, a tailor. Lincoln died there a few hours later, without ever regaining consciousness.

After escaping from Ford's Theater, Booth fled on horseback to Virginia. Union troops tracked him down and on April 26 cornered him in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia. When Booth refused to surrender, he was shot to death.

Booth was part of a small group that plotted to kill high officials of the United States govern­ment. A military court convicted eight people of taking part in the plot. Four were hanged and the others imprisoned for life.

Picturing History

Actor John Wilkes Booth used this pistol to shoot Lin­coln at Ford's Theater. The "wanted" poster promises a large reward for help in cap­turing Booth. How was Booth finally captured?


News of Lincoln's assassination shocked the nation. African Americans mourned the death of the man who had helped them win their free­dom. Northern whites grieved for the leader who had saved the Union.

A New President

When Lincoln died, Vice President Andrew Johnson became president. Formerly a Demo­cratic senator from Tennessee, Johnson had been the only Southern senator to support the Union during the Civil War.

Soon after taking office, President Johnson revealed his plan for Reconstruction. He resented the slaveholders who had dominated the South and wished to punish them. As a result Radicals thought Johnson would create a harsh plan they could accept. Johnson, however, believed in giv­ing the states control over many decisions, and he had no desire to help African Americans.


Johnson announced his plan, which he pre­ferred to call "Restoration," in May of 1865. Under his plan, most Southerners would be granted amnesty once they swore an oath of loy­alty to the Union. High-ranking Confederate offi­cials and wealthy landowners, however, could bepardoned only by applying personally to the president. This provision was Johnson's attack on the wealthy leaders who he believed had tricked the people of the South into seceding.

Johnson also appointed governors to South­ern states and required them to hold elections for state constitutional conventions. Only whites who had sworn their loyalty and been pardoned would be allowed to vote. Johnson opposed granting all freed African Americans equal rights or letting them vote. He believed that each Southern state should decide what to do about freed people, saying, "White men alone must manage the South."

Before a state could reenter the Union, its con­stitutional convention had to denounce seces­sion and abolish slavery. States also had to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which Congress had passed in January 1865. This amendment abolished slavery in all parts of the United States. By the end of 1865, all the former Confederate states except Texas had formed new governments and were ready to rejoin the Union. President Johnson declared that "Restoration" was almost complete.

Reading Check Comparing How did President Johnson's plan for Reconstruction differ from that of the Radical Republicans?


Check for Understanding

1. Key Terms Use each of these terms in a sentence that will help explain its meaning: Reconstruction, amnesty, radical, freedmen.

2. Reviewing Facts What did the Thir­teenth Amendment provide?

Reviewing Themes

3. Groups and Institutions Why do you think both Lincoln and the Radi­cal Republicans excluded former Confederate officers from their Reconstruction plans?

Critical Thinking

4. Drawing Conclusions Do you think President Johnson's early ties to the South influenced his treatment of African Americans in his Reconstruction plans? Explain your answer.

5. Comparing Re-create the diagram below and compare Lincoln's Ten Percent Plan to the Radical Republicans' Wade-Davis Bill.

Analyzing Visuals

6. Picturing History Study the painting on page 501. What words would you use to describe the mood of the people?

Interdisciplinary Activity

Math Use the Statistical Abstract of the United States or another ref­erence book to find information on the percentages of African Ameri­can students enrolled in schools in 1860, 1870, and 1880. Use this information to create a bar graph.



Radicals in Control

Guide to Reading

Main Idea

Radical Republicans were able to put their version of Reconstruction into action.

Key Terms

black codes, override, impeach

Reading Strategy

Organizing Information As you read the section, re-create the diagram below and provide information about impeachment.

Read to Learn

• what some Southerners did to deprive freed people of their rights, and how Congress responded.

• what the main features of Radical Reconstruction were.

Section Theme

Civic Rights and Responsibilities Southern states created new govern­ments and elected new representatives.

Preview of Events

1865 First black codes passed

March 1867 Radical Reconstruction begins

November 1868 Ulysses S. Grant elected president

February 1870 Fifteenth Amendment extends voting rights

AN American Story

For three days in May 1866, white mobs in Memphis, Tennessee, burned African American churches, schools, and homes. Close to fifty people, nearly all of them African American, were killed in the rioting. Many Northerners saw the rampage as an attempt by whites to terrorize African Americans and keep them from exercising their new freedoms. This incident and similar riots in other Southern cities helped convince Radical Republicans that President Johnson's Reconstruction plans were not strong enough.

African Americans' Rights

During the fall of 1865, the Southern states created new governments that met the rules President Johnson laid down, and Southern voters elected new representatives to Congress. More than one dozen of these representatives has been high-ranking officials in the Confederacy—including the Confederacy's vice president, Alexander H. Stephens. When the newly elected Southern


representatives arrived in Washington, D.C., Congress refused to seat them. Many Republi­cans refused to readmit the Southern states on such easy terms and rejected Johnson's claim that Reconstruction was complete.

To many in the North, it seemed that Johnson's plan for Reconstruction was robbing the Union of its hard-won victory. In addition Northerners realized that the treatment of African Americans in Southern states was not improving.

Black Codes

In 1865 and early 1866, the new Southern state legislatures passed a series of laws called black codes. Key parts of these laws aimed to control freed men and women and to enable plantation owners to exploit African American workers.

Modeled on laws that had regulated free African Americans before the Civil War, the black codes of each Southern state trampled the rights of African Americans. Some laws allowed local officials to arrest and fine unemployed African Americans and make them work for white employers to pay off their fines. Other laws banned African Americans from owning or renting farms. One law allowed whites to take orphaned African American children as unpaid apprentices. To freed men and women and many Northerners, the black codes reestab­lished slavery in disguise.

Challenging the Black Codes

In early 1866 Congress extended the life of the Freedmen's Bureau and granted it new powers. The Freedmen's Bureau now had authority to set up special courts to prosecute individuals charged with violating the rights of African Americans. These courts provided African Americans with a form of justice where they could serve on juries.

Congress also passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866. This act granted full citizenship to African Americans and gave the federal government the power to intervene in state affairs to protect their rights. The law overturned the black codes. It also contradicted the 1857 Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court, which had ruled that African Americans were not citizens.

President Johnson vetoed both the Freedmen's Bureau bill and the Civil Rights Act, arguing that the federal government was overstepping its proper authority. He also said that the laws were unconstitutional because they were passed by a Congress that did not include representatives from all the states. By raising the issue of repre­sentation, Johnson indirectly threatened to veto any law passed by this Congress.

Republicans in Congress had enough votes to override or defeat, both vetoes, and the bills became law. As the split between Congress and the president grew, the possibility of their work­ing together faded. The Radical Republicans abandoned the idea of compromise and drafted a new Reconstruction plan—one led by Congress.


The Fourteenth Amendment

Congress wanted to ensure that African Americans would not lose the rights that the Civil Rights Act granted. Fearing it might be

History Through Art

His First Vote by Thomas Waterman Wood. Wood's oil painting emphasized the importance of the ballot to African American voters. How did African American males gain the right to vote?


challenged and overturned in court, Congress in June 1866 passed a new amendment to the Constitution.

The Fourteenth Amendment granted full cit­izenship to all individuals born in the United States. Because most African Americans in the United States had been born there, they became full citizens. The amendment also stated that no state could take away a citizen's life, liberty, and property "without due process of law," and that every citizen was entitled to "equal protection of the laws." States that prevented any adult male citizen from voting could lose part of their rep­resentation in Congress. (See pages 247-248 for the entire text of the Fourteenth Amendment.)

The amendment barred prominent former Con­federates from holding national or state office unless pardoned by a vote of two-thirds of Con­gress. The Fourteenth Amendment was interpreted as not including members of the Native American tribes. Not until 1924 did Congress make all Native Americans citizens of the United States.

Congress declared that Southern states had to ratify the amendment to be readmitted to the Union. Of the 11 Southern states, only Tennessee ratified the Fourteenth Amendment. The refusal of the other states to ratify the amendment delayed its adoption until 1868.

Republican Victory

The Fourteenth Amendment became a major issue in the congressional elections of 1866. John­son urged Northern and Southern state legisla­tures to reject it. He also campaigned vigorously against Republican candidates. Many Northern­ers were disturbed by the nastiness of Johnson's campaign. They also worried about violent clashes between whites and African Americans, such as the riots that erupted in Memphis, Ten­nessee, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Republicans won a decisive victory, increasing their majorities in both houses of Congress. The Republicans also gained control of the governments in every Northern state. The election gave Congress the signal to take Recon­struction into its own hands.

Reading Check Describing What does the Fourteenth Amendment provide?

Radical Reconstruction

The Republicans in Congress quickly took charge of Reconstruction. Most Radicals agreed with Congressman James Garfield of Ohio that

“we must compel obedience to the Union, and demand protection for its humblest citizen.”

President Johnson could do little to stop them because Congress could easily override his vetoes. Thus began a period known as Radical Reconstruction.

Reconstruction Act of 1867

On March 2, 1867, Congress passed the First Reconstruction Act. The act called for the cre­ation of new governments in the 10 Southern states that had not ratified the Fourteenth Amendment. Tennessee, which had ratified the amendment, kept its government, and the state was quickly readmitted to the Union.

The act divided the 10 Southern states into five military districts and placed each under the authority of a military commander until new governments were formed. The act also guaran­teed African American males the right to vote in state elections, and it prevented former Confed­erate leaders from holding political office.

To gain readmission to the Union, the states had to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and submit their new state constitutions to Congress for approval. A Second Reconstruction Act, passed a few weeks later, required the military commanders to begin registering voters and to prepare for new state constitutional conventions.

Readmission of States

Many white Southerners refused to take part in the elections for constitutional conventions and state governments. Thousands of newly registered African American voters did use their right to vote. In the elections, Republicans gained control of Southern state governments. By 1868, seven Southern states—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina—had established new governments and met the conditions for readmission to the Union. By 1870, Mississippi, Virginia, and Texas were restored to the Union.


---Refer to NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Military Reconstruction Districts, 1867 map on page 507 in your textbook.

Geography Skills

After taking control of Reconstruction, Congress divided the South into five districts under the command of military officers.

1. Region Which two states made up the largest district?

2. Analyzing Infarmation Why did no Union troops occupy Tennessee?

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