Reconstruction (1865–1877), which took place after the Civil War, was a long and difficult period in US history. The North and the South had just fought each other in the the country's bloodiest war, and there was a great deal of bitterness and vituperation. Slavery was finished, but the newly-freed...
Reconstruction (1865–1877), which took place after the Civil War, was a long and difficult period in US history. The North and the South had just fought each other in the the country's bloodiest war, and there was a great deal of bitterness and vituperation. Slavery was finished, but the newly-freed blacks faced daunting challenges. Would they be able to own land, support themselves, and vote? The defeated South expected servile obedience from its former slaves. There were ardent defenders of emancipated blacks in the North: the Radical Republicans. How should the leaders of the South be treated? Should they be executed for treason or welcomed back as citizens with all their rights? There were no easy answers to these questions.
The first phase of Reconstruction, from 1865 to 1877, was led by the presidents. Abraham Lincoln had capably led the North through the war, and he hoped to meld it back together. But his assassination ended his dream of national reconciliation. Vice President Andrew Johnson replaced him. Johnson was very lenient in his treatment of the South, so Radical Republicans challenged his leadership.
The fight between Johnson and the Radical Republicans led to the impeachment of the president in 1868. Johnson survived the impeachment vote in the Senate, but the presidency had lost the battle over Reconstruction. The Senate controlled the second phase of Reconstruction. Congressional Reconstruction Acts created military governors for the defeated South. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were passed to safeguards blacks' rights as citizens and voters.
A third "phase" of Reconstruction occurred in the 1870s. By that time, the nation had grown weary of the problems brought about by Reconstruction. The two leading Radical Republicans died by 1875. There was a corrupt bargain made to resolve the disputed presidential election of 1876, and the last troops from the North left the South.