Saturday, October 27, 2012

More on Reconstruction...

A visitor to Charleston, South Carolina, described the city as one "of ruins, of deserted streets, of vacant houses, of widowed women, of deserted warehouses, of weed-wild gardens, of miles of grass-grown streets." Once admired for its broad avenues, shaded by beautiful trees and flanked by fine lawns and gardens, the city had become a wilderness of ruins.

Knoxville, Tennessee, had suffered as well. "Burnt houses and solitary chimneys over one whole quarter of the city, showed that the heart of East Tennessee loyalty had not been without its sufferings," reported newsman Whitelaw Reid. Atlanta was clearly stamped with the signs of Sherman justice, left with gaping windows and roofless houses, heaps of ruins on the principal corners and traces of unsparingdestruction everywhere.

Abraham Lincoln, while the war was still in progress, had turned his thoughts to the great problems of reconciliation and devised a plan that would restore the South to the Union with minimum humiliation and maximum speed. But there had already emerged inCongress a faction of radical Republicans, sometimes called Jacobins or Vindictives, who sought to defeat what they felt was too generous of a reconciliation program.

Motivated by a hatred of the South, by selfish political ambitions, and by crass economic interests, the radicals tried to make the process of reconstruction as humiliating, as difficult, and as prolonged as they possibly could. With Andrew Johnson’s succession to the Presidency upon Lincoln’s assassination, the old Jacksonian Unionist took advantage of the adjournment of Congress to put Lincoln’s mild plan of reconstruction into operation. 

On 29 May 1865, President Andrew Johnson issued a “Proclamation of Amnesty” to the majority who fought for the Confederacy. He excluded the benefits of amnesty to many Southern leaders including civil and diplomatic officers and agents, officers above the rank of colonel in the army and lieutenant in the navy and all who had been educated at either West Point or the Naval Academy. Two years later he issued another proclamation on 7 September 1867 that reduced the exceptions to brigadier generals in the army and captains in the navy. Finally on Christmas 1868 Johnson issued a proclamation for unconditional pardon, with the formality of any oath and without exception to all who in any way sided with the Confederacy. 

Via John K. McNeill SCV Camp #674
A Southern View of History
The War for Southern Independence

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