Abraham Lincoln (1861 – 1865): The 16th Retrospective
“Whatcha got ain’t nothin new. This country’s hard on people, you can’t stop what’s coming, it ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.” – Ellis, No Country for Old Men (2007)
As the leader of the newly formed Republican party, Abraham Lincoln was Conservative in the sense that he wanted to preserve and restore the union as it existed before secession. The events of the war pushed Lincoln to the left step by step which eventually became revolutionary. In other words, Lincoln was not born the great emancipator but became the great emancipator.
Slavery and Civil Rights
Abraham Lincoln opposed slavery throughout his life, and by freeing slaves during the American Civil War, he did more to improve the lives of Black Americans than any other president. Lincoln referred to slavery as a “monstrous injustice” and “a moral, social and political evil.” With characteristic eloquence, he wrote in 1864:
I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.”
Yet Lincoln did not originally intend to eliminate slavery. On August 21, 1858, in his famous debate with Stephen Douglas, Lincoln said:
I have no purpose directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.
It was only when Lincoln feared losing the Civil War that he freed slaves in the South. “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it,” wrote Lincoln in 1862. “What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.”
Nor did Lincoln support equal rights, as he made clear in a speech on September 18, 1858:
I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races …. I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
In a speech on October 15, 1858, Lincoln went even further:
We profess to have no taste for running and catching niggers — at least I profess no taste for that job at all. Why then do I yield support to a fugitive slave law? Because I do not understand that the Constitution, which guarantees that right, can be supported without it.
Lincoln’s answer to racial conflict was colonization. In a meeting with Black leaders on August 14, 1862, Lincoln tried to persuade his listeners to establish a colony of free black people in Central America. Speaking on behalf of white people, Lincoln said:
There is an unwillingness on the part of our people, harsh as it may be, for you free colored people to remain with us …. If intelligent colored men, such as are before me, would move in this matter, much might be accomplished. It is exceedingly important that we have men at the beginning capable of thinking as white men.
Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c. February 1817[a] – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, becoming famous for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. Accordingly, he was described by abolitionists in his time as a living counterexample to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Likewise, Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave.
Douglass also actively supported women’s suffrage, and held several public offices. Without his approval, Douglass became the first African-American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate and Vice Presidential nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket.
Douglass believed in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, as well as in the liberal values of the U.S. Constitution. When radical abolitionists, under the motto “No Union with Slaveholders”, criticized Douglass’ willingness to engage in dialogue with slave owners, he replied: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” Douglass authored three books that are still in circulation today.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is an 1845 memoir and treatise on abolition written by famous orator and former slave Frederick Douglass during his time in Lynn, Massachusetts.It is generally held to be the most famous of a number of narratives written by former slaves during the same period. In factual detail, the text describes the events of his life and is considered to be one of the most influential pieces of literature to fuel the abolitionist movement of the early 19th century in the United States.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass encompasses eleven chapters that recount Douglass’s life as a slave and his ambition to become a free man. It contains two introductions by well-known white abolitionists: a preface by William Lloyd Garrison, and a letter by Wendell Phillips, both arguing for the veracity of the account and the literacy of its author.
My Bondage and My Freedom (1855)
My Bondage and My Freedom is an autobiographical slave narrative written by Frederick Douglass and published in 1855. It is the second of three autobiographies written by Douglass, and is mainly an expansion of his first, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. The book depicts in greater detail his transition from bondage to liberty. Following this liberation, Douglass, went on to become a prominent abolitionist, speaker, author, and advocate for women’s rights. The book included an introduction by James McCune Smith, who Douglass called the “foremost black influence” of his life.
Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
Life and Times of Frederick Douglass is Frederick Douglass’ third autobiography, published in 1881, revised in 1892. Because of the emancipation of American slaves during and following the American Civil War, Douglass gave more details about his life as a slave and his escape from slavery in this volume than he could in his two previous autobiographies (which would have put him and his family in danger). It is the only one of Douglass’ autobiographies to discuss his life during and after the Civil War, including his encounters with American presidents such as Lincoln and Garfield, his account of the ill-fated “Freedman’s Bank”, and his service as the United States Marshall of the District of Columbia. Fredrick Douglass shed light on what life was like as a colored slave.
Detroit Race Riot of 1863
The Detroit race riot of 1863 occurred on March 6, 1863, in the city of Detroit, Michigan, during the American Civil War. At the time, the Detroit Free Press reported these events as “the bloodiest day that ever dawned upon Detroit.” It began due to unrest among the working class related to racism and the military draft, which was heightened after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln. Based in a free state, some recent immigrants and other workers resented being drafted for a war that they thought was waged for the benefit of slaves in the Southern United States, and they feared competition from black people.
At least two men were killed, one white and one black, and numerous others, mostly African Americans, were badly beaten and injured. In total, 35 buildings were destroyed by fire, with many others damaged, and black residents lost property and cash to the looting and stealing of the mob estimated at $15,000–20,000. More than 200 people, mostly black, were left homeless.
Although the Michigan Legislature recommended compensation, the Detroit City Council refused to approve it. As a result of the riot, the city of Detroit established a full-time police force, which was dominated by whites into the late 20th century.
New York City Draft Riots
The New York City draft riots (July 13–16, 1863), sometimes referred to as the Manhattan draft riots and known at the time as Draft Week, were violent disturbances in Lower Manhattan, widely regarded as the culmination of working-class discontent with new laws passed by Congress that year to draft men to fight in the ongoing American Civil War. The riots remain the largest civil and most racially charged urban disturbance in American history.
U.S. President Abraham Lincoln diverted several regiments of militia and volunteer troops after the Battle of Gettysburg to control the city. The rioters were overwhelmingly white working-class men who feared free black people competing for work and resented that wealthier men, who could afford to pay a $300 (equivalent to $6,200 in 2019) commutation fee to hire a substitute, were spared from the draft.
Initially intended to express anger at the draft, the protests turned into a race riot, with white rioters, many of them Irish immigrants, attacking black people, in violence throughout the city. The official death toll was listed at either 119 or 120 individuals. Conditions in the city were such that Major General John E. Wool, commander of the Department of the East, said on July 16 that, “Martial law ought to be proclaimed, but I have not a sufficient force to enforce it.”
The military did not reach the city until the second day of rioting, by which time the mobs had ransacked or destroyed numerous public buildings, two Protestant churches, the homes of various abolitionists or sympathizers, many black homes, and the Colored Orphan Asylum at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue, which was burned to the ground. The area’s demographics changed as a result of the riot. Many black residents left Manhattan permanently with many moving to Brooklyn. By 1865, the black population had fallen below 11,000 for the first time since 1820
- The Thirteenth Amendment (Amendment XIII) to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. The amendment was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the required 27 of the then 36 states on December 6, 1865, and proclaimed on December 18.
States Admitted To The Union
- West Virginia became the 35th state on June 20, 1863 from the 50 trans-Allegheny region counties in Virginia.
- Nevada became the 36th state on October 31, 1864 from the Nevada Territory
The Every Man
Lincoln’s son Willie died from typhoid in February of 1862. In order to grieve, the Lincolns decided to leave the White House and move to the soldiers home. They found themselves at peace with the soldiers there. They adapted the house as a summer home and Lincoln would be a commuter to the White House for a quarter of his presidency.
Lincoln drew young people, and particularly men to politics. He was called “Honest Abe” for his compulsion to seek the truth. He was also called “The Rail Splitter” which was more of a political marketing invention in the Jacksonian tradition alluding to his working class roots to appeal to the common man. Lincoln chose a cabinet of intellectual equals in the mold of JFK. Four of his secretaries were his political rivals. Lincoln was a judicious delegator of authority who reserved the final decision to be made by himself.
Preserving The Union
Lincoln’s election was disastrous for the South; however, his priority was only to save the union as it was before secession. If he could have done this without freeing any slaves or only freeing some slaves, he would have. While Lincoln was morally outraged by slavery, he thought like many others at the time, that the best strategy was to contain slavery and it would suffocate within itself.
The Battle of Fort Sumter (April 12–13, 1861) was the bombardment of Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina by the South Carolina militia (the Confederate Army did not yet exist), and the return gunfire and subsequent surrender by the United States Army, that started the American Civil War.
Following the declaration of secession by South Carolina on December 20, 1860, its authorities demanded that the U.S. Army abandon its facilities in Charleston Harbor. On December 26, Major Robert Anderson of the U.S. Army surreptitiously moved his small command from the vulnerable Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island to Fort Sumter, a substantial fortress built on an island controlling the entrance of Charleston Harbor. An attempt by U.S. President James Buchanan to reinforce and resupply Anderson using the unarmed merchant ship Star of the West failed when it was fired upon by shore batteries on January 9, 1861. South Carolina authorities then seized all Federal property in the Charleston area except for Fort Sumter.
During the early months of 1861, the situation around Fort Sumter increasingly began to resemble a siege. In March, Brigadier General P. G. T. Beauregard, the first general officer of the newly formed Confederate States Army, was placed in command of Confederate forces in Charleston. Beauregard energetically directed the strengthening of batteries around Charleston harbor aimed at Fort Sumter. Conditions in the fort deteriorated due to shortages of men, food, and supplies as the Union soldiers rushed to complete the installation of additional guns.
The resupply of Fort Sumter became the first crisis of the administration of the newly inaugurated U.S. President Abraham Lincoln following his victory in the election of November 6, 1860. He notified the Governor of South Carolina, Francis W. Pickens, that he was sending supply ships, which resulted in an ultimatum from the Confederate government for the immediate evacuation of Fort Sumter, which Major Anderson refused. Beginning at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, the Confederates bombarded the fort from artillery batteries surrounding the harbor. Although the Union garrison returned fire, they were significantly outgunned and, after 34 hours, Major Anderson agreed to evacuate. There were no deaths on either side as a direct result of this engagement, although a gun explosion during the surrender ceremonies on April 14 caused the death of two U.S. Army soldiers.
Following the battle, there was widespread support from both North and South for further military action. Anderson saved the torn and tattered U.S. flag at Sumter and displayed it in New York City. This inspired flag mania and patriotic fever at the time.
Lincoln’s immediate call for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion resulted in an additional four Southern states also declaring their secession and joining the Confederacy. Without Sumter, Lincoln may not have stirred up the union to a mood that was necessary to fight to restore it. The battle is usually recognized as the first battle of the American Civil War.
The United States Civil War (1861 – 1865) was fought between northern states loyal to the Union and southern states that had seceded to form the Confederate States of America. The principal cause of the war was whether the enslavement of black people in the southern states should continue.
After Abraham Lincoln won the November 1860 presidential election on an anti-slavery platform, an initial seven slave states declared their secession from the country to form the Confederacy. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, just over a month after Lincoln’s inauguration. An additional four slave states joined the Confederacy in the following two months. The Confederacy grew to control at least a majority of territory in those eleven states (out of the 34 U.S. states in February 1861), and it claimed the additional states of Kentucky and Missouri by assertions from native secessionists fleeing Union authority. These states were given full representation in the Confederate Congress throughout the Civil War. The two remaining slave states, Delaware and Maryland, were invited to join the Confederacy, but Delaware declined and nothing substantial developed in Maryland due to intervention by federal troops.
The Confederate states were never diplomatically recognized as a joint entity by the government of the United States, nor by that of any foreign country. The states that remained loyal to the U.S. were known as the Union. The Union and the Confederacy quickly raised volunteer and conscription armies that fought mostly in the South for four years. Intense combat left between 620,000 and 750,000 soldiers dead, along with an undetermined number of civilians. The Civil War remains the deadliest military conflict in American history, and accounted for more American military deaths than all other wars combined until the Vietnam War.
The war effectively ended on April 9, 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Appomattox Court House. Confederate generals throughout the Southern states followed suit, the last surrender on land occurring June 23. Much of the South’s infrastructure was destroyed, especially its railroads. The Confederacy collapsed, slavery was abolished, and four million enslaved Black people were freed. The war-torn nation then entered the Reconstruction era in a partially successful attempt to rebuild the country and grant civil rights to freed slaves.
The Civil War is one of the most studied and written about episodes in U.S. history, and remains the subject of cultural and historiographical debate. Of particular interest are the causes of the Civil War and the persisting myth of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. The American Civil War was among the earliest industrial wars. Railroads, the telegraph, steamships and iron-clad ships, and mass-produced weapons were employed extensively. The mobilization of civilian factories, mines, shipyards, banks, transportation, and food supplies all foreshadowed the impact of industrialization in World War I, World War II, and subsequent conflicts.
First Battle of Bull Run
Known in the north as the Battle of Bull Run and in the South as the Battle of Manassas, this battle, fought on July 21 1861 in Virginia was the first major battle of the Civil War. It was a Confederate victory. (A year later there was a second battle fought in the area known as the Second Battle of Bull Run or Second Manassas depending of the side describing it. The second Battle of Bull Run was fought in August 28-30 1862 and was also a defeat for Union forces though it was not as total as the first one.)
Battle of Shiloh
Fought on April 6-7 1862, the Battle of Shiloh was a defeat for Confederate forces in southwestern Tennessee. The results of the battle was the failure of Confederate forces to prevent Union forces from advancing into Mississippi River Valley.
Battle of Antietam
Known in the north as the Battle of Antietam and in the south as the Battle of Sharpsburg, this battle fought on September 17 1862 in Maryland was the bloodiest battle ever fought in the history of the United States with a loss of 22,717. The battle, fought between the forces of Confederate Robert E. Lee and Union General George McClellan ended in the withdrawal of Lee’s forces from the field so it is counted as a Union victory but the refusal of McClellan to pursue and destroy Lee’s army when he had the chance to do so are seen as a massive failure that allowed the war to continue. The immediate aftermath of the battle was enough of a victory to give President Lincoln the confidence to release the Emancipation Proclamation which declared an end to slavery in Confederate territory.
The Emancipation Proclamation, or Proclamation 95, was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862, during the Civil War. The Proclamation read:
That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
On January 1, 1863, the Proclamation changed the legal status under federal law of more than 3.5 million enslaved African Americans in the secessionist Confederate states from enslaved to free. As soon as a slave escaped the control of the Confederate government, either by running away across Union lines or through the advance of federal troops, the person was permanently free. Ultimately, the Union victory brought the proclamation into effect in all of the former Confederacy.
The proclamation was directed to all of the areas in rebellion and all segments of the executive branch (including the Army and Navy) of the United States. It proclaimed the freedom of enslaved people in the ten states in rebellion. Even though it excluded areas not in rebellion, it still applied to more than 3.5 million of the 4 million enslaved people in the country. Around 25,000 to 75,000 were immediately emancipated in those regions of the Confederacy where the US Army was already in place.
It could not be enforced in the areas still in rebellion, but as the Union army took control of Confederate regions, the Proclamation provided the legal framework for the liberation of more than three and a half million enslaved people in those regions. Prior to the Proclamation, in accordance with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, escaped enslaved persons were either returned to their masters or held in camps as contraband for later return.
The Emancipation Proclamation outraged white Southerners and their sympathizers, who saw it as the beginning of a race war. It energized abolitionists, and undermined those Europeans that wanted to intervene to help the Confederacy. It lifted the spirits of African Americans both free and enslaved; it led many to escape from their masters and get to Union lines to obtain their freedom, and to join the Union Army. The Emancipation Proclamation became a historic document because it “would redefine the Civil War, turning it from a struggle to preserve the Union to one focused on ending slavery, and set a decisive course for how the nation would be reshaped after that historic conflict.”
The Emancipation Proclamation was never challenged in court. To ensure the abolition of slavery in all of the U.S., Lincoln also insisted that Reconstruction plans for Southern states require abolition in new state laws (which occurred during the war in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana); Lincoln encouraged border states to adopt abolition (which occurred during the war in Maryland, Missouri, and West Virginia) and pushed for passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.
Congress passed the 13th Amendment by the necessary two-thirds vote on January 31, 1865, and it was ratified by the states on December 6, 1865. The amendment made chattel slavery and indentured servitude illegal. It allowed other forms of slavery to continue such as conscription and forced prison labor, the latter of which was specifically exempted under the amendment.
Battle of Vicksburg
The Battle of Vicksburg (May 18-July 4th 1863 ) was a major siege in the western theatre of operations that together with the Battle of Gettysburg (which was fought at the same time in the East) was considered a major turning point in the Civil War. The capture of Vicksburg ultimately led to the Confederacy being split into two, cutting off the western Confederate states of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas from the rest of the Confederacy.
Battle of Chancellorsville
Fought from April 20 – May 6 1863 the Battle of Chancellorsville was one of the major battle of the Civil War and was considered to be Robert E. Lee’s “perfect battle” because his decisions ultimately led to a Confederate victory. The aftermath of the battle was mixed however for the Confederates as southern General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was accidentally killed by friendly fire.
Battle of Gettysburg
Fought from July 1-3 1863, The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most famous battles of the Civil War and together with the Battle of Vicksburg (which was fought at the same time in the west) considered a turning point in the war itself. It marks the last attempt of the Confederates under General Robert E. Lee to invade the north and move the conflict out from the area of Virginia.
The Gettysburg Address is a speech that U.S. President Abraham Lincoln delivered during the American Civil War at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the afternoon of November 19, 1863, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg. It is one of the best-known speeches in American history.
Not even the day’s primary speech, Lincoln’s carefully crafted address came to be seen as one of the greatest and most influential statements of American national purpose. In just 271 words, beginning with the now iconic phrase “Four score and seven years ago,” referring to the signing of the Declaration of Independence 87 years earlier, Lincoln described the US as a nation “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and represented the Civil War as a test that would determine whether such a nation, the Union sundered by the secession crisis, could endure. He extolled the sacrifices of those who died at Gettysburg in defense of those principles, and exhorted his listeners to resolve:
that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Despite the prominent place of the speech in the history and popular culture of the United States, its exact wording is disputed. The five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln’s hand differ in a number of details, and also differ from contemporary newspaper reprints of the speech. Neither is it clear where stood the platform from which Lincoln delivered the address. Modern scholarship locates the speakers’ platform 40 yards (or more) away from the traditional site in Soldiers’ National Cemetery at the Soldiers’ National Monument, such that it stood entirely within the private, adjacent Evergreen Cemetery.
Battle of the Wilderness
Fought from May 5-7th 1864, the Battle of the Wilderness was the first time that the armies of Union General Ulysses Grant and Confederate General Robert E. Lee met in battle with both of them in charge at the same time. The battle was ultimately inconclusive and was only the beginning of a long series of bloody battles that would be fought between the two Generals.
Battle of Cold Harbor
Fought from May 31 to June 12 1864, the Battle of Cold Harbor was the last major victory by Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The battle was bloody and ended with massive Union casualties.
Battle of Atlanta
The Battle of Atlanta was fought on July 22 1864 though the city of Atlanta did not fall to Union forces until September 2nd. The fall of Atlanta marked the beginning of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea. It also had a major political effect in the Union election of 1864. In that campaign, Democrat George McClellan ran against Republican President Lincoln on a the platform of negotiating peace with the Confederacy. The capture of Atlanta gave Lincoln enough of a boost in the polls that he was able to be reelected, something that was in doubt before the fall of the city.
March to the Sea
The March to the Sea was the campaign of total war waged by General WIlliam Tecumseh Sherman following the capture and burning of Atlanta. From November 15 to December 21st 1864 Sherman and his forces marched through Georgia, destroying everything in their path to disrupt the southern economy and transportation networks. After the capture of Savannah, Sherman and his forces rested and then continued their march up the coast through the Carolina’s. His march in the Carolina’s ended when Sherman accepted the surrender of Confederate General Joseph Johnston on April 26 1865.
40 Acres and a Mule
Special Field Orders, No. 15 (series 1865) were military orders issued during the American Civil War, on January 16, 1865, by General William Tecumseh Sherman, commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi of the United States Army. They provided for the confiscation of 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) of land along the Atlantic coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida and the dividing of it into parcels of not more than 40 acres on which were to be settled approximately 18,000 formerly enslaved families and other black people then living in the area.
The orders were issued following Sherman’s March to the Sea. They were intended to address the immediate problem of dealing with the tens of thousands of black refugees who had joined Sherman’s march in search of protection and sustenance, and “to assure the harmony of action in the area of operations.” Critics allege that his intention was for the order to be a temporary measure to address an immediate problem, and not to grant permanent ownership of the land to the freedmen, although most of the recipients assumed otherwise.
General Sherman issued his orders four days after meeting with twenty local black ministers and lay leaders and with U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton in Savannah, Georgia. Brig. Gen. Rufus Saxton, an abolitionist from Massachusetts who had previously organized the recruitment of black soldiers for the Union Army, was put in charge of implementing the orders.
The orders had little concrete effect because President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation that returned the lands to southern owners who took a loyalty oath. Johnson granted amnesty to most former Confederates and allowed the rebel states to elect new governments. These governments, which often included ex-Confederate officials, soon enacted black codes, measures designed to control and repress the recently freed slave population.
General Saxton and his staff at the Charleston SC Freedmen Bureau’s office refused to carry out President Johnson’s wishes and denied all applications to have lands returned. In the end, Johnson and his allies removed General Saxton and his staff, but not before Congress was able to provide legislation to assist some families in keeping their lands.
Although mules are not mentioned in the orders, they were a main source for the expression “forty acres and a mule.” A historical marker commemorating the order is in Savannah, near the corner of Harris and Bull streets, in Madison Square.
Battle of Appomattox Courthouse
Fought on April 9 1865, the final battle between the forces of General Ulysses Grant and General Robert E Lee was the Battle of Appomattox Court House. Lee had spent the previous year defending Richmond but decided at this point to try and move south to link up with other Confederate forces. He was forced to retreat to Appomattox Court House by Union forces and in the end had no choice but to surrender. The documents signalling surrender were signed on April 9 and an official ceremony was held on April 12th disbanding the Army of Nothern Virginia that Lee had commanded. The effect of this was to end the war in Virginia and to trigger a wave of surrenders across remaining Confederate territory. The surrender at Appomattox Court House marked the end of the Civil War.
Grant was generous in his terms; he allowed for the surrendering Confederates to keep their sidearms and horses, imprisioned no one, and supplied Lee’s army with food rations. Furthermore Grant forbade his own forces from celebrating their victory over the Confederates.
Reelection of 1864 and Assassination
Americans were war weary by 1864 and wanted to see an end. Lincoln ran for reelection against George McClellan (who he appointed asa the first general of the union in 1861) in 1864 who ran on a platform that promised to negotiate the end of the war by repealing the Emancipation Proclamation, and agreeing to an armistice with the south by recognizing a southern confederacy. Lincoln refused to back away from his stance and looked to be on the verge of losing.
Two months before the election, the tide turned for Lincoln. Sherman burned Atlanta and began his march to the sea. The union gained momentum and so did Lincoln. He won 56% of the vote in the loyal states in 1864, despite the negativity and carnage. Four years to the day he was first elected, he took the oath on March 4th, 1865.
Visits to the front lines and living with wounded soldiers had brought Lincoln face to face with contriband slaves and average Americans. He laid out a roadmap for peace and construction of the nation with malice towards none and peace towards all in his 2nd term. He emphasized the necessity with coming to terms with the legacy of slavery for American History.
Lee surrendered to Grant in April 1865 and soon after in what would be his last speech, Abraham Lincoln showed no signs of vindictiveness as he called upon the nation to heal itself. He called for favorable terms for the south and granting the black man the right to vote. Lincoln would then be assassinated a couple of evenings later on April 14, 1865 by John Wilkes Booth.
Reconstruction (1865 – 1877)
Reconstruction ended the remnants of Confederate secession and abolished slavery, making newly freed slaves citizens with civil rights ostensibly guaranteed by three new constitutional amendments. Reconstruction also refers to the attempt to transform the 11 Southern, former Confederate states, as directed by Congress, and the role of the Union states in that transformation.
Three visions of Civil War memory appeared during Reconstruction:
- The Reconciliationist Vision, rooted in coping with the death and devastation the war had brought
- The White Supremacist Vision, which included racial segregation and the preservation of White political and cultural domination in the South
- The Emancipationist Vision, which sought full freedom, citizenship, male suffrage, and constitutional equality for African Americans
Following Lincoln’s assassination at the end of the Civil War, President. Johnson favored rapid measures to bring the South back into the Union, allowing the Southern states to determine the rights of former slaves. Lincoln’s last speeches show that he leaned toward supporting the suffrage of all freedmen, whereas Johnson and the Democratic Party strongly opposed this.
The Radical Republicans were a faction of American politicians within the Republican Party of the United States from around 1854 (before the American Civil War) until the end of Reconstruction in 1877. They called themselves “Radicals” because of their goal of immediate, complete, permanent eradication of slavery, without compromise. They were opposed during the War by the moderate Republicans (led by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln), and by the pro-slavery and anti-Reconstruction Democratic Party as well as liberals in the Northern United States during Reconstruction.
Radicals led efforts after the war to establish civil rights for former slaves and fully implement emancipation. After weaker measures in 1866 resulted in violence against former slaves in the rebel states, Radicals pushed the Fourteenth Amendment and statutory protections through Congress. They disfavored allowing ex-Confederate officers to retake political power in the Southern United States, and emphasized equality, civil rights and voting rights for the “freedmen”, i.e. people who had been enslaved by state slavery laws within the United States.
During the war, Radical Republicans opposed Lincoln’s efforts in 1864 to bring seceded Southern states back into the Union as quickly and easily as possible. The Radicals passed their own Reconstruction plan through Congress in 1864, but Lincoln vetoed it and was putting his own policies in effect as military commander-in-chief when he was assassinated in April 1865. Radicals pushed for the uncompensated abolition of slavery, while Lincoln wanted to pay slave owners who were loyal to the Union.
After the war, the Radicals demanded civil rights for freed slaves, including measures ensuring suffrage. They initiated the various Reconstruction Acts as well as the Fourteenth Amendment and limited political and voting rights for ex-Confederate civil officials and military officers.
The Wade–Davis Bill of 1864 (H.R. 244) was a bill “to guarantee to certain States whose governments have been usurped or overthrown a republican form of government,” proposed for the Reconstruction of the South. In opposition to President Abraham Lincoln’s more lenient ten percent plan, the bill made re-admittance to the Union for former Confederate states contingent on a majority in each ex-Confederate state to take the Ironclad Oath to the effect they had never in the past supported the Confederacy. The bill passed both houses of Congress on July 2, 1864, but was pocket vetoed by Lincoln and never took effect.
The Radical Republicans were outraged that Lincoln did not sign the bill. Lincoln wanted to mend the Union by carrying out the ten percent plan. He believed it would be too difficult to repair all of the ties within the Union if the Wade–Davis bill passed.
Ten Percent Plan
The Ten Percent Plan, formally the Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction (13 Stat. 737), was a United States presidential proclamation issued on December 8, 1863, by United States President Abraham Lincoln, during the American Civil War. By this point in the war (nearly three years in), the Union Army had pushed the Confederate Army out of several regions of the South, and some rebellious states were ready to have their governments rebuilt. Lincoln’s plan established a process through which this postwar reconstruction could come about.
A component of President Lincoln’s plans for the postwar reconstruction of the South, this proclamation decreed that a state in rebellion against the U.S. federal government could be reintegrated into the Union when 10% of the 1860 vote count from that state had taken an oath of allegiance to the U.S. and pledged to abide by Emancipation. Voters could then elect delegates to draft revised state constitutions and establish new state governments.
All Southerners except for high-ranking Confederate army officers and government officials would be granted a full pardon. Lincoln guaranteed Southerners that he would protect their private property, though not their slaves. By 1864, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas had established fully functioning Unionist governments.
This policy was meant to shorten the war by offering a moderate peace plan. It was also intended to further his emancipation policy by insisting that the new governments abolish slavery.
The Black Codes, sometimes called Black Laws, were laws governing the conduct of African Americans (free and freed blacks). In 1832, James Kent wrote:
…in most of the United States, there is a distinction in respect to political privileges, between free white persons and free coloured persons of African blood; and in no part of the country do the latter, in point of fact, participate equally with the whites, in the exercise of civil and political rights.”
Although Black Codes existed before the Civil War and many Northern states had them, it was the Southern U.S. states that codified such laws in everyday practice. The best known of them were passed in 1865 and 1866 by Southern states, after the American Civil War, in order to restrict African Americans’ freedom, and to compel them to work for low wages.
Since the colonial period, colonies and states had passed laws that discriminated against free Blacks. In the South, these were generally included in “slave codes”; the goal was to reduce the influence of free blacks (particularly after slave rebellions) because of their potential influence on slaves. Restrictions included prohibiting them from voting (although North Carolina had allowed this before 1831), bearing arms, gathering in groups for worship, and learning to read and write. The purpose of these laws was to preserve slavery in slave societies.
Before the war, Northern states that had prohibited slavery also enacted laws similar to the slave codes and the later Black Codes: Connecticut, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and New York enacted laws to discourage free blacks from residing in those states. They were denied equal political rights, including the right to vote, the right to attend public schools, and the right to equal treatment under the law. Some of the Northern states, those which had them, repealed such laws around the same time that the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished by constitutional amendment.
In the first two years after the Civil War, white-dominated Southern legislatures passed Black Codes modeled after the earlier slave codes. The name “Black Codes” was given by “negro leaders and the Republican organs”, according to historian John S. Reynolds, and were part of a larger pattern of whites trying to maintain political dominance by suppress the freedmen, newly emancipated African-Americans. The codes were particularly focused on controlling the movement and labor of freedmen, as slavery had been replaced by a free labor system.
Although freedmen had been emancipated, their lives were greatly restricted by the Black Codes. The defining feature of the Black Codes was broad vagrancy law, which allowed local authorities to arrest freedpeople for minor infractions and commit them to involuntary labor. This period was the start of the convict lease system, also described as “slavery by another name” by Douglas Blackmon in his 2008 book of this title.
Convict leasing was a system of forced penal labor which was historically practiced in the Southern United States and overwhelmingly involved African-American men. Recently, a form of the practice (which draws voluntary labor from the general prison population) has been instituted in western states. In the earlier forms of the practice, convict leasing provided prisoner labor to private parties, such as plantation owners and corporations (e.g. Tennessee Coal and Iron Company, Chattahoochee Brick Company). The lessee was responsible for feeding, clothing, and housing the prisoners.
The state of Louisiana leased out convicts as early as 1844, but the system expanded all through the South with the emancipation of slaves at the end of the American Civil War in 1865. It could be lucrative for the states: in 1898, some 73% of Alabama’s entire annual state revenue came from convict leasing.
While Northern states sometimes contracted for prison labor, the historian Alex Lichtenstein notes that “only in the South did the state entirely give up its control to the contractor; and only in the South did the physical “penitentiary” become virtually synonymous with the various private enterprises in which convicts labored.” Corruption, lack of accountability, and racial violence resulted in “one of the harshest and most exploitative labor systems known in American history.” African Americans, mostly adult males, due to “vigorous and selective enforcement of laws and discriminatory sentencing,” made up the vast majority—though not all—of the convicts leased.
The writer Douglas A. Blackmon described the system:
It was a form of bondage distinctly different from that of the antebellum South in that for most men, and the relatively few women drawn in, this slavery did not last a lifetime and did not automatically extend from one generation to the next. But it was nonetheless slavery – a system in which armies of free men, guilty of no crimes and entitled by law to freedom, were compelled to labor without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced to do the bidding of white masters through the regular application of extraordinary physical coercion.
U.S. Steel is among American companies who have acknowledged using African-American leased convict labor. The practice peaked around 1880, was formally outlawed by the last state (Alabama) in 1928, and persisted in various forms until it was abolished by President Franklin D. Roosevelt via Francis Biddle’s “Circular 3591” of December 12, 1941. Johnson’s Reconstruction policies prevailed until the congressional elections of 1866, which followed outbreaks of violence against Blacks in the South.
In the history of the United States, carpetbagger was a derogatory term applied by Southerners to opportunistic Northerners who came to the Southern states after the American Civil War, who were perceived to be exploiting the local populace for their own financial, political, and/or social gain. The term broadly included both individuals who sought to promote Republican politics (including the right of African Americans to vote and hold office), and individuals who saw business and political opportunities because of the chaotic state of the local economies following the war. In practice, the term carpetbagger was often applied to any Northerner who was present in the South during the Reconstruction Era (1863–1877). The term is closely associated with “scalawag”, a similarly pejorative word used to describe native White Southerners who supported the Republican Party-led Reconstruction.
White Southerners commonly denounced “carpetbaggers” collectively during the post-war years, fearing they would loot and plunder the defeated South and be politically allied with the Radical Republicans. Sixty men from the North, including educated free blacks and slaves who had escaped to the North and returned South after the war, were elected from the South as Republicans to Congress. The majority of Republican governors in the South during Reconstruction were from the North.
Historian Eric Foner argues:
… most carpetbaggers probably combine the desire for personal gain with a commitment to taking part in an effort “to substitute the civilization of freedom for that of slavery”. … Carpetbaggers generally supported measures aimed at democratizing and modernizing the South – civil rights legislation, aid to economic development, the establishment of public school systems.
Since the end of the Reconstruction era, the term has been used to denote people in analogous historical situations, often to describe people who move into a new area for purely economic or political reasons, despite not having ties to that place.
The term scalawag referred to white Southerners who supported Reconstruction policies and efforts after the conclusion of the American Civil War. As with the term carpetbagger, the word has a long history of use as a slur in Southern partisan debates. The opponents of the scalawags claimed they were disloyal to traditional values. The term is commonly used in historical studies as a descriptor of Southern white Republicans, although some historians have discarded the term due to its history of pejorative connotations.
In United States history, the Redeemers were a political coalition in the Southern United States during the Reconstruction Era that followed the Civil War. Redeemers were the Southern wing of the Democratic Party. They sought to regain their political power and enforce white supremacy. Their policy of Redemption was intended to oust the Radical Republicans, a coalition of freedmen, “carpetbaggers”, and “scalawags”. They generally were led by the rich former planters, businessmen, and professionals, and they dominated Southern politics in most areas from the 1870s to 1910.
Reconstruction governments were unpopular with many white Southerners, who were not willing to accept defeat and continued to try to prevent black political activity by any means. While the elite planter class often supported insurgencies, violence against freedmen and other Republicans was usually carried out by other whites; the secret Ku Klux Klan chapters developed in the first years after the war as one form of insurgency.
In the 1870s, paramilitary organizations, such as the White League in Louisiana and Red Shirts in Mississippi and North Carolina, undermined the Republicans, disrupting meetings and political gatherings. These paramilitary bands also used violence and threats of violence to undermine the Republican vote.
The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, usually referred to as simply the Freedmen’s Bureau, operated as a U.S. government agency from 1865 to 1872, after the American Civil War, to direct “provisions, clothing, and fuel … for the immediate and temporary shelter and supply of destitute and suffering refugees and freedmen and their wives and children”.
The Freedmen’s Bureau Bill, which established the Freedmen’s Bureau on March 3, 1865, as initiated by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, was intended to last for one year after the end of the Civil War. The Freedmen’s Bureau was an important agency of early Reconstruction, assisting freedmen in the South. The Bureau became a part of the United States Department of War, as it was the only agency with an existing organization that could be assigned to the South.
Headed by Union Army General Oliver O. Howard, the Bureau started operations in 1865. In its first year, its representatives found its tasks very difficult, partly because Southern legislatures passed laws for Black Codes that restricted movement, conditions of labor, and other civil rights of African Americans, nearly duplicating conditions of slavery. The Freedmen’s Bureau controlled a limited amount of arable land.
The Bureau’s powers were expanded to help African Americans find family members from whom they had become separated during the war. It arranged to teach them to read and write—skills considered critical by the freedmen themselves as well as by the government, and Bureau agents also served as legal advocates for African Americans in both local and national courts, mostly in cases dealing with family issues. The Bureau encouraged former major planters to rebuild their plantations and urged freed blacks to return to work for them, kept an eye on contracts between the newly-free laborers and planters, and pushed whites and blacks to work together in a free-labor market as employers and employees rather than as masters and slaves.
In 1866 Congress renewed the charter for the Bureau. U.S. President Andrew Johnson, a southern Democrat who had succeeded to the office following Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, vetoed the bill because he believed that it encroached on states’ rights, relied inappropriately on the military in peacetime, and would prevent freed slaves from becoming independent by offering too much assistance. By 1869 southern Democrats had deprived the Bureau of most of its funding, and as a result it had to cut much of its staff. By 1870 the Bureau had been weakened further due to the rise of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) violence across the South; KKK-members attacked both blacks and sympathetic white Republicans, including teachers. Northern Democrats opposed the Bureau’s work, painting it as a program that would make African Americans “lazy”.
In 1872 Congress abruptly abandoned the program, refusing to approve renewal-authorizing legislation. It did not inform Howard, whom U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant had transferred to Arizona to settle hostilities between the Apache and settlers. Grant’s Secretary of War William W. Belknap was hostile to Howard’s leadership and authority at the Bureau. Belknap aroused controversy among Republicans by his reassignment of Howard.
Everyone revered the founding fathers and the American democratic experiment which allowed them to enjoy political freedom and equal opportunity. Some refused to extend this right to all Americans, As Abraham Lincoln tried to save the republic, he transformed it and himself to the dismay of many Americans. Slavery was the greatest crisis the country had ever seen, but in spite of stern opposition, Lincoln stood by the notion that everyone had a right to live the American dream. What America is at its best is a reflection of the steps Lincoln took to preserve the union and eradicate slavery. Enjoying the opportunity to bitch while having one national spirit is the result of Lincoln’s achievements and it cost him his life.
- 1. Rufus Saxton argues that land should be set aside for Freedpeople · After slavery: Educator resources · Lowcountry digital history initiative. (n.d.). LDHI – Lowcountry Digital History Initiative · Lowcountry Digital History Initiative. https://ldhi.library.cofc.edu/exhibits/show/after_slavery_educator/unit_three_documents/document_one
- Abraham Lincoln. (n.d.). UnderstandingPrejudice.org. https://secure.understandingprejudice.org/draft/slavery/presinfo.php?president=16
- Appomattox Court House, Battle of. (2012, August 24). Wisconsin Historical Society. https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS1684
- Battle of Antietam. (n.d.). Welcome to Civil War on the Western Border | Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict, 1854-1865. https://civilwaronthewesternborder.org/timeline/battle-antietam
- Battle of Appomattox Court House timeline (April 9th, 1865). (n.d.). Civil War Timeline (1861-1865) – The Complete History of the American Civil War by Date, Event, Battles and People. https://www.civilwartimeline.net/battle-of-appomattox-court-house.php
- Battle of Chancellorsville. (n.d.). Welcome to Civil War on the Western Border | Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict, 1854-1865. https://civilwaronthewesternborder.org/timeline/battle-chancellorsville
- Battle history. (n.d.). Gettysburg PA |. https://www.gettysburgpa.gov/history/slideshows/battle-history
- The Battle of Shiloh. (n.d.). https://ahec.armywarcollege.edu/exhibits/CivilWarImagery/cheney_shiloh.cfm
- Battle of Shiloh. (n.d.). Official Tennessee Dept. of Tourism – Start Planning the Perfect Trip. https://www.tnvacation.com/civil-war/place/204/battle-of-shiloh/
- Battle of the wilderness. (2016, January 23). Friends of Wilderness Battlefield. https://www.fowb.org/index.php/battlefield/battle-of-the-wilderness/
- Biography and images of John Wilkes Booth, assassin of Abraham Lincoln. (n.d.). School of Law | University of Missouri – Kansas City. https://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/lincolnconspiracy/booth.html
- The burning of Atlanta, seared into America’s memory. (2014, August 31). Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. https://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/08/31/The-burning-of-Atlanta-seared-into-America-s-memory/stories/201408310090
- Cold harbor battle primary source work. (n.d.). The Virginia Center for Digital History at The University of Virginia. https://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/fellows/coldharborintro.html
- The death and funeral of Willie Lincoln. (n.d.). Abraham Lincoln Online — Your Source for Lincoln News and Information. https://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/education/williedeath.htm
- Did Lincoln deserve the nickname, honest ABE? | Lincoln’s writings. (n.d.). House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College. https://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/did-lincoln-deserve-the-nickname-honest-abe/
- Fort Sumter. (2016, October 10). South Carolina Encyclopedia. https://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/fort-sumter/
- Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. (n.d.). Museum of the City of San Francisco. https://www.sfmuseum.net/bio/sherman.html
- The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln. (n.d.). Abraham Lincoln Online — Your Source for Lincoln News and Information. https://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm
- (n.d.). History of the American Civil War!. https://www.civilwar.com/
- Karst, J., & NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. (2019, July 18). A Confederate general’s forgotten cause, Beauregard and unification: Our times. NOLA.com. https://www.nola.com/news/politics/article_0f6e008c-2b36-5a9f-bbc2-ed834f772ff7.html
- LibGuides: American history: The Civil War and reconstruction: Major battles and campaigns of the Civil War. (2020, November 24). LibGuides at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. https://guides.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/c.php?g=288398&p=4496547
- Lost cause myth. (n.d.). The Inclusive Historian’s Handbook. https://inclusivehistorian.com/lost-cause-myth/
- Manassas, first Battle of. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Virginia – A free, reliable, multimedia resource that tells the inclusive story of Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/manassas-first-battle-of/
- McClellan, George B. (1826–1885). (n.d.). Encyclopedia Virginia – A free, reliable, multimedia resource that tells the inclusive story of Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/mcclellan-george-b-1826-1885/
- The New York City draft riots of 1863. (n.d.). The University of Chicago Press. https://press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/317749.html&title=The+New+York+City+Draft+Riots+of+1863&desc=
- Photo asset | Francis W. Pickens | History of SC slide collection | Knowitall.org. (n.d.). Knowitall.org. https://www.knowitall.org/photo/francis-w-pickens-history-sc-slide-collection
- Preliminary emancipation proclamation: Online exhibit: New York State library. (2020, March 2). : New York State Library. https://www.nysl.nysed.gov/ep/
- Robert Anderson. (n.d.). Tulane University. https://www.tulane.edu/~sumter/Anderson.html
- Serwer, A. (2017, June 4). The myth of the kindly general Lee. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/the-myth-of-the-kindly-general-lee/529038/
- Star of the west. (n.d.). Tulane University. https://www.tulane.edu/~sumter/StarOfTheWest.html
- Stonewall Jackson at VMI. (n.d.). Virginia Military Institute. https://www.vmi.edu/museums-and-archives/vmi-museum/stonewall-jackson-at-vmi/
- U.S. Army Corps of engineers headquarters > about > history > army engineers in the Civil War > engineer biographies > George McClellan. (n.d.). Headquarters U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. https://www.usace.army.mil/About/History/Army-Engineers-in-the-Civil-War/Engineer-Biographies/George-McClellan/
- University of Texas at Arlington. (n.d.). Biographies: John Ellis wool | A continent divided: The U.S.-Mexico war. UTA Libraries. https://library.uta.edu/usmexicowar/item?bio_id=32
- Vicksburg during the Civil War (1862-1863): A campaign; A siege. (n.d.). Mississippi History Now. https://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/215/vicksburg-during-the-civil-war-1862-1863
- (n.d.). War in our backyards. https://battleofatlanta.ajc.com/
- (2014, September 11). The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/shermans-march-to-the-sea-a-military-triumph-left-a-bitter-legacy/2014/09/11/9f3f7826-3391-11e4-a723-fa3895a25d02_story.html
- What is a Railsplitter? (n.d.). Lincoln Memorial University Athletics. https://lmurailsplitters.com/sports/2018/3/8/what-is-a-railsplitter.aspx
Andrew Johnson (1865 – 1869) followed Abraham Lincoln.
James Buchanan (1857 – 1861) preceded Abraham Lincoln.
Zachary Taylor (1849 – 1850) assumed the Presidency after the Mexican War
Woodrow Wilson (1913 – 1921) would guide the United States through World War I.
Jimmy Carter (1977 – 1981) would be the only Democratic President for 25 years post Civil Rights.
George W. Bush (2000 – 2008) is the final President in our series.