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Reconstruction and the New South

Course Code
Dr.Liamvan Beek

of 9
HIS271YReconstruction and the New SouthNovember 24th 2010
As the civil war progressed, the purpose of the war began to change
Articulated in terms of wanting to preserve union against rebellion
In the south, the war was about protecting their way of life
Casualties were high
Principles behind reconstruction: fix the divisions in society, reorder the south,
increase the standard of living for African Americans
Did the Civil War resolve national divisions?
Memory and Identity
In commemoration day, we can see many different interests at play
Memorial day, first known as Decoration Day
First occurred in 1866, Waterloo, NY, historians debate, it may have been 1865
General John A. Logan declared that May 30th would be known as Memorial Day
He hoped that this occasion would be one where veterans would organize ceremonies
to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the war
While memorial day was celebrated in both the north and south, each area put
emphasis on different things
Northern commemorations emphasized a desire for national unity, optimism and
hope about the future, democracy and diversity, and emancipation was often a
central story
Southern commemorations came in the context of defeat, tended to celebrate
memorial day on different days, emphasized the struggle of reconstruction, played
off of an emerging narrative of the lost cause
The lost cause emerged as a way to rationalize the southern war experience,
justifying southern secession, argued that the war wasnt about protecting slavery
but their way of life, suggested that slavery had been used by northerners and
HIS271YReconstruction and the New SouthNovember 24th 2010
abolitionists to provoke war, that slaves had been content in that system, and that
sectionalism was the result of deep sectional differences
The lost cause myth stated that the confederate soldiers werent defeated but
Argued that secession had been lawful, not a rebellion
As Americans got further away from the actual events of the war, the ceremonies
began to change
Its celebration in the 1870s and 80s reflected a greater desire for unity between the
North and South
In other words, the differences between the two celebrations began to subside, and
new themes emerged
Themes of a shared sacrifice in both the north and south, a common mourning, de-
emphasis on the issues of emancipation and secession
Arlington National Cemetery, in Robert E. Lees estate
Becomes one of the first national cemeteries
1868 was the first memorial service there
Early divisions were eventually replaced with a sense of togetherness in the
commemorative sphere
The problem with all of this? Where are the African Americans in all of this?
Black soldiers who fought for the Union cause were placed with their white
counterparts in Arlington
Scholars generally agree that African Americans, although they vied for positions in
the commemorative process, were often left out
The 54th Massachusetts coloured Regiment was the first black regiment in America,
it was to act as a model
Known for their heroic attempts
Shaw, the white general of the 54th, was buried with his black soldiers, symbol
The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial
HIS271YReconstruction and the New SouthNovember 24th 2010
Hoped that it would be a memorial to man, race, and cause
the kind of debates taking place in the commemorative world mirrored the debates
taking place in the real world
Building the New South
The southern economy and landscape had been destroyed
3.5 million slaves had been freed
Faced with the prospect of establishing rights of citizenship and the legal/economic
rights they had been denied under slavery
The central question became, how do we achieve this?
Attempts to reorder southern society began even before the war ended
The Freedmens Bureau was established in the north as a way of stabilizing the
black population, helping them with attaining land, money, and support
Had only been envisioned as a temporary measure
Much of their time was spent protecting African Americans in the south from
continued white dominance
Although the contract was extended, they were limited in their ability to help
Conservative republicans, moderate, and radical
Each group had a different idea about what reconstruction should look like
Conservatives called for abolition but had very few ideas about how to readmit the
Radicals had strong feelings on the matter, argued southern whites should be
disenfranchised, their land should be confiscated and distributed to African
Moderates agreed that white southerners should be punished and that African
Americans needed more rights, but differed in the ways in which this would be
So, would reconstruction be conservative or radical?
Lincoln advocated for a more moderate way