AP U.S. History, 2008-09
Study Questions for Unit 7: The Civil War & Reconstruction, 1861-1877
Once secession began, why did efforts at compromise fail to save the Union?
At the beginning of the war, what were the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two sides? What were their war strategies?
Why did the first two years of the war go so badly for the Union? By the end of 1862, what had the Union achieved diplomatically and on the battlefield? Why was 1863 such a crucial year? What were the important events?
How would you characterize the war after Gettysburg? Why was Lincoln convinced that he couldn't win the 1864 presidential election? How do you explain the outcome? In the final analysis, why did the Union win the war? Could it have turned out differently?
What do you make of Lincoln's restrictions on civil liberties during the war? Were they justified?
What were the difficulties that the nation faced as the president and Congress set out to create and implement a Reconstruction policy? Why were Congressional Republicans dissatisfied with Johnson's policies? How did Congressional Reconstruction differ from the president's plan? To what extent did it embody the ideas and demands of the Radical Republicans?
Why did Congressional Reconstruction ultimately fail to create a society marked by racial equality and economic opportunity for African-Americans?
The Failure of Compromise (Text, Chapter 15, 287-92)
What was the extent of Lincoln’s political experience before assuming the presidency in 1861? What strengths did Lincoln bring to the office? According to the textbook, what two things had to happen before the secession crisis could be transformed into a civil war? How did South Carolina justify its secession from the Union in December 1860? Who were the “cooperationists”? In addition to South Carolina, which states had seceded by the beginning of February (i.e., before Lincoln took office)? Why didn’t the states of the Upper South secede at that time? Why was the Confederate constitution so moderate, even “conservative”? What does its moderation suggest about the thinking of most secessionists? What was the Crittenden plan? Why did Lincoln reject it? In your view, was Lincoln justified in refusing to compromise on the issue of slavery in the territories? Once compromise proved impossible (in part because of Lincoln’s stance), what became Lincoln’s strategy? What finally precipitated the outbreak of hostilities between the Union and the Confederacy? What finally persuaded the states of Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina to secede from the Union? What methods were used to ensure loyalty to the Union in border slave states such as Kentucky and Maryland?
Adjusting to Total War (Text, Chapter 15, 292-99)
At the beginning of the war, what advantages did the North have? What advantages did the South have? What strategy did the South develop? Why did it take more time for the North to develop its strategy? What was the “On to Richmond” strategy? What was the “anaconda policy”? How did Lincoln combine elements of both approaches? Why was that wise? Why was the North more successful than the South in mobilizing its home front? In what areas was the Southern economy especially deficient? Why did both sides have to resort to inflating the currency to finance war expenses? Why was the resulting inflation more severe in the South than the North? In what sense was Lincoln a more effective leader than Jefferson Davis? To what extent were Davis’ problems a result of special conditions in the South—i.e., the states’ rights tradition, the lack of a two-party system, the poor transportation network, etc.? In the years 1861-62, how successful was the North in the eastern theater of the war? In the western theater? In the naval campaign? Why was the Southern attempt to secure British diplomatic recognition ultimately unsuccessful? What factors contributed to the British decision not to intervene?
"Southern Resentment Against England" and "A Northerner Lambastes Britain," American Spirit, Vol. I, 450-53
How does the Southern editorial explain England's refusal to recognize the Confederacy? Why were Southerners so convinced that the majority of the English public favors the South? According to the Northerner George T. Strong, why has England not recognized the Confederacy? What motivates English policy?
Emancipation, Gettysburg, and the Assault on Civil Liberties (Text, Chapter 15, 300-03)
Why was Lincoln slow to transform the northern cause from maintaining the Union to freeing the slaves? What factors finally persuaded him to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862 and the final Proclamation in January 1863? Why did the Proclamation of 1863 not immediately free a single slave? What impact did the Proclamation ultimately have upon the Southern economy? Given how cautious he had been, why did Lincoln go beyond issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, encouraging loyal state governments in Southern areas to abolish slavery and eventually (in 1864) seeking a constitutional amendment outlawing slavery? Why was the North unable to capitalize on the growing social and economic chaos in the South? What factors contributed to low morale in the North? What did the New York draft riots of July 1863 suggest about the North’s commitment to Union war aims? Who were the Copperheads?
The Slow Road to Union Victory (Text, Chapter 15, 303-08)
Why is the year 1863—and specifically, July 4th, 1863--often cited by historians as the turning-point in the war? Why did Jefferson Davis decide to invade the Northeast? In what sense did the North, at Gettysburg, have battlefield advantages that, in past battles, had belonged to the South? Why was Lincoln less than fully satisfied with the northern victory at Gettysburg? What was Grant’s “multipronged offensive” to finish off the South in 1864-65? Why did Grant’s tactics have the unfortunate effect of reducing morale—just before the presidential election of 1864? Why did Lincoln not enjoy the wholehearted support of the Republican party in 1864? What alternative policies did candidate George McClellan and the Democrats offer in 1864? What event helped Lincoln overcome his disadvantages and win the election? How did the war finally end? What impact did the war have upon constitutional ideas? What impact did it have upon the role of government in the economy?
Abraham Lincoln, "The Gettysburg Address" and "Second Inaugural Address," The American Reader, 149-53
How does Lincoln, speaking at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery, represent the Union war effort? Is it significant that he alludes to the Declaration of Independence ("all men are created equal") at the beginning?
In the Second Inaugural Address, how does Lincoln make sense of the war that appeared to be drawing to a close? What had changed between his First Inaugural Address and his Second?
Conflicting Views on Reconstruction: Johnson v. Congress (Text, Chapter 16, 310-17)
How does the life and career of Robert Smalls reflect the successes and failures of Reconstruction? In general, how did the “minimalist” approach to Reconstruction—favored by, among others, Andrew Johnson—differ from the more thoroughgoing form of Reconstruction favored by many Republicans in Congress? What were the details of Lincoln’s “10 per cent plan” of December 1863? What was the thinking behind it? Why did many Republicans in Congress oppose it? What were the details of the Wade-Davis bill of July 1864? Based on his veto of the bill and other evidence, how do you think Lincoln would have proceeded during Reconstruction had he survived? How did Johnson’s life and career shape his approach to race issues and other aspects of Reconstruction? Why was Johnson initially popular with Congressional Republicans—especially the more radical ones? What were the details of Johnson’s Reconstruction plan? Why did Congressional Republicans become disenchanted with the execution of the plan? Why were the so-called “Black Codes” especially unpopular? How did Johnson himself make matters worse?
How did the Congressional Republicans respond? What were the areas of principle in which Johnson and the Congress differed? Why did Johnson’s veto of the Freedmen’s Bureau bill and the Civil Rights bill alienate the more moderate Republicans? What did Congress’s overriding of his veto of the Civil Rights bill signify? What was the National Union movement? What were the details of the Fourteenth Amendment? Why did Johnson oppose it? How did his “swing around the circle” during the 1866 congressional elections worsen the confrontation with the Republicans in Congress? What kind of Reconstruction plan did Congressional Republicans create, after they gained solid control of both houses in the 1866 elections? Why is it historically inaccurate to refer to the Reconstruction Acts of 1867-68 as “radical”? Why were the true Radical Republicans—men such as Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner—dissatisfied with the Acts? How did Johnson obstruct the Congressional Reconstruction plan? How did the conflict between the president and Congress quickly metamorphose into a constitutional conflict over the separation of powers? In Johnson’s impeachment trial, how did the president’s attorneys defend him? How did prosecutors portray Johnson’s behavior? What impact did Johnson’s trial and acquittal have upon Reconstruction?
"Mississippi Black Code (1865)," American History Online http://longman.awl.com/history/
What rights do freedmen enjoy in Mississippi? How are their rights restricted? Regarding the "contracts for labor" sections, what appears to be the intention of the Mississippi Black Code?
"The Fourteenth Amendment (1868)," American History Online http://longman.awl.com/history/
Can you summarize each of the first four sections of the Fourteenth Amendment? What fundamental change to the Constitution does this amendment introduce?
Reconstruction in the South (Text, Chapter 16, 317-22)
In the Reconstruction-era South, what were the conflicting goals of southern whites, blacks, and Northerners? What factors interfered with the rebuilding of the plantation economy in the South? Why was large-scale land reform not carried out? What implications did this failure have for the freedmen? Why was the contract labor system eventually replaced by sharecropping? What were the advantages of sharecropping for both landlord and tenant? Why did it ultimately reduce the tenant to a position of economic dependence? Why did military rule—imposed by Congress in 1867—fail to protect blacks against physical intimidation? What three social groups made up the southern Republican party? What were the accomplishments of the Republican state governments? To what extent did these regimes deserve their reputation for corruption and inefficiency? How did Democratic opponents of the southern Republicans portray these state governments?
"Initiation Oath of the Knights of the White Camelia," Constructing the American Past, Vol. I, 270-72
According to the oath, what do those who are being initiated promise to do? What is the purpose of this organization? Why (according to the oath) is it needed? What "evidence" does the oath use to support white supremacy?
Grant, “Redemption,” and the End of Reconstruction (Text, Chapter 16, 322-29)
Why was currency an issue in the presidential election of 1868? Why did it continue to be an issue in the 1870s? What was the purpose of the Fifteenth Amendment? What impact did it have upon the women’s rights movement? What role did the Ku Klux Klan play in undermining Congressional Reconstruction? How successful were the “Force Acts” (1870-71) in reducing Klan violence and shoring up support for the Republican state governments? How did the Democratic-Conservatives appeal to white voters, especially small farmers, who had become disenchanted with the political process? To what extent was the northern electorate responsible for the failure of Congressional Reconstruction? How did the rumors of scandal surrounding the Grant administration contribute to this failure? In what sense was Grant responsible for the scandals? What was the Compromise of 1877? What two basic principles were shared by all of the “Redeemers,” the men who came to power in the South after the end of Congressional Reconstruction? What impact did the Redeemer regimes of the late 1870s and 1880s have upon poor whites? What impact did they have upon blacks? In what sense was it a “good thing” that by the late 1880s, Northerners and Southerners had apparently achieved a reconciliation?
"The Cartoonist's View of Reconstruction" and "The South Redeemed," American Record, Vol. I, 337-46
What view of Reconstruction is reflected in Thomas Nast's cartoons? What does the map tell you about race relations before and after the Civil War?