October 30, 2014 / by admin / American History / No Comments

The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America's Most Progressive Era

The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America's Most Progressive Era

Douglas R. Egerton

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 1608195732

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


By 1870, just five years after Confederate surrender and thirteen years after the Dred Scott decision ruled blacks ineligible for citizenship, Congressional action had ended slavery and given the vote to black men. That same year, Hiram Revels and Joseph Hayne Rainey became the first African-American U.S. senator and congressman respectively. In South Carolina, only twenty years after the death of arch-secessionist John C. Calhoun, a black man, Jasper J. Wright, took a seat on the state’s Supreme Court. Not even the most optimistic abolitionists had thought such milestones would occur in their lifetimes. The brief years of Reconstruction marked the United States’ most progressive moment prior to the civil rights movement.

Previous histories of Reconstruction have focused on Washington politics. But in this sweeping, prodigiously researched narrative, Douglas Egerton brings a much bigger, even more dramatic story into view, exploring state and local politics and tracing the struggles of some fifteen hundred African-American officeholders, in both the North and South, who fought entrenched white resistance. Tragically, their movement was met by ruthless violence--not just riotous mobs, but also targeted assassination. With stark evidence, Egerton shows that Reconstruction, often cast as a "failure" or a doomed experiment, was rolled back by murderous force. The Wars of Reconstruction is a major and provocative contribution to American history.

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1866; Albany Evening Journal, March 29, 1866; New Orleans Tribune, October 29, 1867. 18. Michael W. Fitzgerald, Splendid Failure: Postwar Reconstruction in the American South (Chicago, 2008), 158–59; New Orleans Tribune, July 7, 1867; James M. McPherson, Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution (New York, 1991), 19. 19. Fraser, Charleston, 285; New Orleans Tribune, October 29, 1867; New Orleans Weekly Louisianian, July 9, 1871. 20. Andrew L. Slap, The Doom of Reconstruction: The

Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment, 2–3, 276. 14. Higginson to James, November 24, 1862, in Higginson Papers, American Antiquarian Society; Sarah Parker Remond, The Negroes & Anglo-Africans as Freedmen and Soldiers (London, 1864), 6; James M. McPherson, ed., The Negro’s Civil War: How American Negroes Felt and Acted During the War for the Union (New York, 1965), 213; Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment, 34. White observers invariably recorded not merely the words spoken by black

147; Brooks D. Simpson, The Reconstruction Presidents (Lawrence, KS, 1998), 13; Albany Journal, March 25, 1867; Philadelphia Inquirer, March 26, 1867. 19. New York Herald, March 16, 1868; Albany Journal, February 23, March 21, and March 25, 1867; Glyndon Van Deusen, William Henry Seward (New York, 1967), 476; New Orleans Tribune, April 9, 1867. 20. W. W. Holden, Union Meeting in Raleigh (Raleigh, 1866), 7; Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, February 18, 1867; Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican,

masters, although it reduced the award to one hundred dollars.47 On the front lines, where common soldiers of both races were thrown together in ways unimaginable to all but the most progressive Republican in Washington, competence in battle eroded entrenched northern racism. “I have been one of those men, who never had much confidence in colored troops,” one soldier admitted, “but these doubts are now all removed, for they fought as bravely as any.” Respect for combat prowess did not

Johnson loyalist, announced that the “Radicals of Baltimore were engaged in treasonable and insurrectionary practices.” After conferring with the president, Swann also suggested that those state residents who had fought for the Confederacy and had been disenfranchised by state law as a result should be allowed to vote. The move, Republicans crowed, was “checkmated” by Judge Hugh L. Bond, who ruled that registrars would not allow them to do so, and that any whites who “resort[ed] to armed

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