The Ordeal of Reconstruction
I. The Problems of Peace
After the war, there were many questions over what to do with thefree Blacks, such as
how to reintegrate the Southern states into theUnion, what to do with Jefferson Davis,
and who would be in charge ofReconstruction?
The Southern way of life had been ruined, as crops and farms weredestroyed, the slaves
had been freed, the cities were burnt down, butstill, and many Southerners remained
II. Freedmen Define Freedom
At first, the freed Blacks faced a confusing situation, as many slave owners re-enslaved
their slaves after Union troops left.
Other planters resisted emancipation through legal means, citingthat
emancipation wasn’t valid until local or state courtsdeclared it.
Some slaves loyally stuck to their owners while others let outtheir pent-up bitterness by
pillaging their former masters’ land,property, and even whipping the old master.
Eventually, even resisting plantation owners had to give up theirslaves, and afterwards
tens of thousands of Blacks took to the roads tofind new work or look for lost loved ones.
The church became the focus of the Black community life in the years following the war.
Emancipation also meant education for Blacks, but despite all thegains
Blacks made, they still faced severe discrimination and wouldhave to wait a century
before truly attaining their rights.
III. The Freedman’s Bureau
In order to train the unskilled and unlettered freed Blacks, theFreedman’s Bureau was
set up on March 3, 1865. Union GeneralOliver O. Howard headed it.
The bureau taught about 200,000 Blacks how to read (its greatestsuccess), since most
former slaves wanted to narrow the literary gapbetween them and Whites; the bureau
also read the word of God.
However, it wasn’t as effective as it could have been, asevidenced by the further
discrimination of Blacks, and it expired in1872 after much criticism by racist Whites.
IV. Johnson: The Tailor President
Andrew Johnson came from very poor and humble beginnings, and heserved in
Congress for many years (he was the only Confederatecongressman not to leave
Congress when the rest of the South seceded).
He was feared for his reputation of having a short temper and beinga great fighter, was a
dogmatic champion of states’ rights andthe Constitution, and he was a Tennessean who
never earned the trust ofthe North and never regained the confidence of the South.
V. Presidential Reconstruction
Since Abraham Lincoln believed that the South had never legallywithdrawn from the
Union, restoration was to be relatively simple. Inhis plan for restoring the union, the
southern states could bereintegrated into the Union if and when they had only 10% of its