Congressional Reconstruction is often referred to as Radical Reconstruction because it involved big bold plans. Presidential Reconstruction as envisioned by Lincoln and Johnson was meant to be lenient to the former Confederacy in order to encourage reunification and heal the wounds of the Civil War. Radical Republicans in Congress had another plan. They wanted the former rebellious states to be punished and for former slaves to be protected and empowered. In short, Radical Reconstruction was designed to completely remake the South.
Senator Benjamin Wade and Representative Henry Winter Davis proposed their plan in February 1864. The ensuing Wade-Davis Bill was designed to punish the defeated Confederates. This bill would require 50 percent of eligible voters in Southern states to swear loyalty to the Union before their states could be readmitted into the country, unlike the 10 percent proposed by President Lincoln. Unlike proposed Presidential Reconstruction, confiscated Confederate property would not be restored. Military governors were to be appointed throughout the South. This bill was stopped by Lincoln with a pocket veto. However. after Republicans gained a veto-proof majority in 1867, the Wade-Davis Bill became their guide for Reconstruction.
With the Reconstruction Act of 1867, Congress divided the former Confederacy into five zones of military occupation. The Southern states were required to ratify the 14th Amendment. The military remained in those states as long as they were needed to uphold voting rights and protections for former slaves (until the end of Reconstruction).
Radical Reconstructionists also created the Freedman's Bureau. While most Southerners were happy enough to continue exploiting the black population, Radical Reconstructionists used this government agency to protect former slaves. Food and legal assistance were provided, as were educational programs. In this way, Radical Reconstruction attempted to empower former slaves to become active and influential members of their society.
There was extensive, vigorous, deeply racist resistance from white Southerners. Many formed groups such as the Ku Klux Klan to terrorize and intimidate former slaves and anyone who helped them. They frequently murdered black politicians and voters in an attempt to keep them subjugated.
Under Radical Reconstruction, the US Army continued to occupy southern land to protect the newly freed population. There were several episodes in which the army came into direct violent conflict with white supremacy groups. In this way, Congressional Reconstruction was a radical plan because it involved providing rights, resources, and opportunities for formerly enslaved people even to the point of deploying the National Guard.