American Civil War Reconstruction

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American Civil War

Civil War Reconstruction

Much of the Southern United States was destroyed during the Civil war. Farms and plantations were burned down and their crops destroyed. Also, many people had Confederate money which was now worthless and the local governments were in disarray. The South needed to be rebuilt. 

The rebuilding of the South after the Civil War is called the Reconstruction. The Reconstruction lasted from 1865 to 1877. The purpose of the Reconstruction was to help the South become a part of the Union again. Federal troops occupied much of the South during the Reconstruction to insure that laws were followed and that another uprising did not occur. 

A street in Charleston, SC after the war

To Punish the South or Not 

Many people wanted the South to be punished for trying to leave the Union. Other people, however, wanted to forgive the South and let the healing of the nation begin. 

Lincoln's Plan for Reconstruction 

Abraham Lincoln wanted to be lenient to the South and make it easy for southern states to rejoin the Union. He said that any southerner who took an oath to the Union would be given a pardon. He also said that if 10% of the voters in a state supported the Union, then a state could be readmitted. Under Lincoln's plan, any state that was readmitted must make slavery illegal as part of their constitution. 

President Johnson 

President Lincoln was assassinated at the end of the Civil War, however, and never had the chance to implement his Reconstruction plan. When Andrew Johnson became president, he was from the South and wanted to be even more lenient to the Confederate States than Lincoln. Congress, however, disagreed and began to pass harsher laws for the Southern states. 

Black Codes 

In an effort to get around laws passed by Congress, many southern states began to pass Black Codes. These were laws that prevented black people from voting, going to school, owning land, and even getting jobs. These laws caused a lot of conflict between the North and the South as they tried to reunite after the Civil War. 

New Amendments to the Constitution 

To help with the Reconstruction and to protect the rights of all people, three amendments were added to the US Constitution:

  • 13th Amendment - Outlawed slavery

  • 14th Amendment - Said that black people were citizens of the United States and that all people were protected equally by the law.

  • 15th Amendment - Gave all people the right to vote regardless of race.

Rejoining the Union 

New governments were formed in the South starting in 1865. The first state to be readmitted to the Union was Tennessee in 1866. The last state was Georgia in 1870. As part of being readmitted to the Union, states had to ratify the new amendments to the Constitution. 

Help from the Union 

The Union did a lot to help the South during the Reconstruction. They rebuilt roads, got farms running again, and built schools for poor and black children. Eventually the economy in the South began to recover. 


Some northerners moved to the South during the Reconstruction to try and make money off of the rebuilding. They were often called carpetbaggers because they sometimes carried their belongings in luggage called carpetbags. The Southerners didn't like that the Northerners were moving in and trying to get rich off of their troubles. 

The End of the Reconstruction 

The Reconstruction officially ended under the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877. He removed the federal troops from the South and the state governments took over. Unfortunately, many of the changes to equal rights were immediately reversed. 

Interesting Facts about the Reconstruction

  • White Southerners who joined the Republican Party and helped with the Reconstruction were called scalawags.

  • The Reconstruction Act of 1867 divided the South into five military districts ran by the army.

  • President Andrew Johnson granted pardons to many Confederate leaders. He also vetoed a number of Reconstruction laws passed by Congress. He vetoed so many laws his nickname became the "Veto President".

  • In order to fight against the Black Codes, the federal government set up Freedman's Bureaus to help black people and to set up schools that black children could attend.

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