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Reconstruction After The Civil War

Reconstruction After the Civil War

In the waning days of the Civil War, when Union victory was merely a matter of time, President Lincoln began turning his thoughts to the process of readmitting the Confederate states to the national fold. Lincoln's plan for Reconstruction after the Civil War is known as the Ten Percent Plan, as he hoped that once ten percent of voters in a state took a new loyalty oath, the state could be returned.

However, Lincoln's assassination set up a fight between his successor, Andrew Johnson (a Democrat) and Congressional Republicans, also known as Radical Republicans. Johnson was largely inclined to follow what he believed were Lincoln's wishes for Reconstruction after the Civil War, but many Radical Republicans had other ideas. Many in Congress wanted to punish the South for its insurrection, and to ensure that the civil rights for African Americans were safeguarded.

The reality of Reconstruction became one of punishment:

  • Southern states were punished for leaving the Union
  • Southern leaders were punished for rebelling
  • Those being punished by the Federal government punished the former slaves for daring to take the equality they deserved

The practical work of Reconstruction after the Civil War largely fell to the Freedman's Bureau, led by Oliver O. Howard. While never actually promising 40 acres and a mule to former slaves, the Freedman's Bureau did establish numerous schools across the South for the education of former slaves. In the meantime, tensions in Washington over Reconstruction policy led to Johnson's impeachment, and while the President was not removed from office, his power was greatly weakened. Reconstruction officially ended in 1877, when the last federal troops were removed from the South, and Jim Crow reestablished control over the lives of millions of former slaves.

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