If Lincoln Hadn’t Died...

Would the disastrous Reconstruction era have taken a different course?

What would have happened had Abraham Lincoln not been assassinated? Every time I lecture on Lincoln, the Civil War, or Reconstruction, someone in the audience is sure to pose this question—one, of course, perfectly natural to ask but equally impossible to answer. This has not, however, deterred historians from speculating about this “counterfactual” problem.

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General Longstreet And The Lost Cause

One of Lee’s greatest lieutenants is slowly winning his reputation back after losing it for daring to criticize his boss

What are we to make of James Longstreet, lieutenant general, Confederate States Army? Longstreet’s newest biographer subtitles his work “The Confederacy‘s Most Controversial Soldier.” Not the most controversial during those four years of war, surely.

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The New View Of Reconstruction

Whatever you were taught or thought you knew about the post-Civil War era is probably wrong in the light of recent study

IN THE PAST twenty years, no period of American history has been the subject of a more thoroughgoing réévaluation than Reconstruction—the violent, dramatic, and still controversial era following the Civil War. Race relations, politics, social life, and economic change during Reconstruction have all been reinterpreted in the light of changed attitudes toward the place of blacks within American society.Read more »

The Carpetbagger

A TALE OF RECONSTRUCTION
Of the turbulent career of Pinckney B. S. Pinchback, adventurer, operator, and first black governor of Louisiana. He reminds one powerfully, says the author, of the late Adam Clay ton Powell, Jr.

His name seems pure invention —Pinckney B. S. Pinchback. It sounds so much like pinchbeck , dictionary-defined as “counterfeit or spurious,” that one suspects a joke by political enemies. But the name was genuine, and so was the man, and so was the record. Louisiana voters elected him to important public office at least five times, and for thirty-five days in December of 1872 and January of 1873 he was the governor of Louisiana. And that was a landmark—the highest official position in a state ever achieved by an American black man.Read more »

Mississippi: The Past That Has Not Died

Both of the pictures shown, here—the ruined ante-bellum plantation, the defiant young Confederates under their battle flag—speak volumes about the turbulent state of Mississippi, for both are a little fraudulent. Windsor plantation was built only in 1861, when the state was new-rich in cotton; Mississippi was opened up too late to have a true “Old South” tradition. The young men are students at “Ole Miss,” jeering at the idea of allowing a lone Negro named James Meredith to enter this seat of learning in 1962.

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When Congress Tried To Rule

Was it, as Navy Secretary Welles believed, “a conspiracy to overthrow the government”?

When in the spring of 1868 the Senate of the United States declared Andrew Johnson “not guilty” of the high crimes and misdemeanors charged against him by the House, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens predicted that never again would a serious effort be made to impeach an American President. What the sharp-spoken warrior from Pennsylvania was saying, of course, was that the failure to remove Johnson had set a precedent that future generations would hesitate to challenge.

Why They Impeached Andrew Johnson

One of the saddest tales in American history tells how a well-intentioned President lost a dazzling opportunity

Reconstruction after the Civil War posed some of the most discouraging problems ever faced by American statesmen. The South was prostrate. Its defeated armies straggled homeward through a countryside desolated by war. Southern soil was untilled and exhausted; southern factories and railroads were worn out.Read more »