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The Civil War should be thought of as a time of grief and regret, not as a time of romance and pride. During the course of the Civil War, it lasted from 1861-1965, four gruesome years, approximately fifty large battles, fifty-thousand smaller battles, and six-hundred and twenty-thousand deaths. After this crucial moment in history, America needed to be rebuilt. Reconstruction was the process of trying to rebuild the union and multiple people played significant roles in the efforts to try to “patch up” the union.
With many different opinions and a union to save, America had to think quick. With the efforts of Lincoln, Congress, and Johnson to restore the union and allow slaves to have rights, there was bound to be trouble.
Leading up to the Civil War, multitudinous occurrences took place to cause this unfortunate event that affected the lives of virtually everyone in the United States. In 1857, the supreme court case of Dred Scott versus Sanford was a case about a Virginia slave who attempted to sue his owner in exchange for his freedom.
Being that the state court could not make a decision, the case was brought to the supreme court, in which they ultimately decided that slaves were a piece of property and slaves did not retain any rights or acknowledgements of them being a human being. Dred Scott had lost more than just his case, he had lost his hope of having any rights belonging to his name or any other slaves. This case had began to open the doors for a civil war as it had threatened to change the political rules that had prevented a civil war in the past.
Another important factor that had influenced a civil war was John Brown’s Raid of 1859. John Brown was a firm anti-slavery believer who felt the need to take matters into his own hands. Organizing a handful of white anti-slavery people and freed slaves, John Brown and his rebels traveled to Harpers Ferry, Virginia where they would then stage their rebellion (2).
Although John Brown was forced to surrender as he was surrounded by soldiers under account of Colonel Robert E. Lee. John Brown was eventually charged with treason and was sentenced to execution. This helped to impact the Civil War because John Brown became a reason to fight for this abolitionist cause (2). One of the more effective events that is known specifically for the Civil War cause was the election of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s election caused acrimonious and fear to many southerners, as Lincoln and his party were firm non-slavery believers. This brought so much fear to southerners, they felt the need to secede from the Union shortly after Lincoln’s election. South Carolina being the first to lead the many states that would secede from the Union and become independent nations, brought about that the Union was falling apart one state at a time. The event that was remembered most as the tipping point for the start of the Civil War was the Battle of Sumter which occurred in South Carolina. This occurred because of the secession of South Carolina and Lincoln sent troops to “foreign territory.”(2) This was a battle that caused the official start of the most gruesome war of all time, the Civil War.
After multiple bloody battles between the Confederates and the Union, the Union eventually won. The north had retained more resources than the south; the north’s economy was not based on their environment. The south had relied on plantations and slaves to do their work, whereas the north had railroads which could transport their supplies faster than on foot. The Union won the war because they did not rely on their environment. Following the war, there needed to be a rebuilding of the nation. Many had plans for the reconstructing of the nation before the war was over in 1863; Lincoln, Johnson, and Congress. Lincoln always believed that the civil war wasn’t a war, but simply “states in rebellion.” He would always say “we’re not fighting an enemy.”(1)
Lincoln’s plan for reconstructing the nation consisted of ending slavery, but also maintaining the union. His idea was the ten percent plan that stated “ten percent of those who had cast ballots in the election of 1860 would take an oath of allegiance to the Union and accept emancipation.”(2) Congress, however had a different plan. Declining Lincoln’s ten percent plan, Congress’ plan for reconstruction was the Wade-Davis Bill. The Wade-Davis Bill was passed by congress in 1864 and stated that a military general will be assigned to each Confederate state and after half of the eligible voters pledge allegiance to the Union, then they will be allowed back into the Union. This will repeal secession and abolish slavery (2). Along with pledging allegiance, a southerner would have to take an “ironclad” oath; states that they had never supported the Confederacy and their beliefs. Then they be allowed to vote. Congress is basically saying with this act that “the Confederacy states are not traders.”(1) Lincoln vetoed Congress’ plan as it did not have any mention of black suffrage (2).
After Lincoln’s assassination, his vice president, Andrew Johnson becomes president. Johnson did not share any of the beliefs that Lincoln did for reconstruction and leading the nation. He even made it seem that he cared about slavery, but does not show it as he doesn’t fight for the freedmen’s right. Johnson’s plan for reconstruction is amnesties and oaths (1). In order for the Confederacy to be a part of the Union again they must receive amnesties from Johnson himself, and take an oath to never go against the Union again. “Johnson must personally pardon people after the Civil War and they will not have their rights back until they do.”(2) He ignores the black codes that are occuring in the south. Black codes are forced labor among freedmen as they would have little to no money to support themself. This causes an overall forced migration as freedmen begin looking for their families (1). Johnson also goes against Lincoln’s beliefs as he does not disqualify Confederate civil and military officers (2). Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 which was to allow blacks to become citizens, as well as making it the first major law to be passed after a presidential veto (2).
Along with the Civil Rights Act of 1866, Congress passed the Freedmen’s Bureau Act over Johnson’s veto additionally. The Freedmen’s Bureau Act was enacted to aid former slaves through getting on their feet. In order to make sure former slaves will always obtain these rights, Congress creates the fourteenth amendment, stating that “any persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the nation.” (2) Johnson attempts to veto all of these laws. Congress begins to see that the Union is not being repaired, but yet more torn apart through Johnson’s presidency. Congress decides to start the process to impeach Johnson, but failed and Johnson lived out the rest of his presidency being hated by the majority of the Union (2). A political cartoon that showed Johnson’s overpowering, is titled “Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction and how it works.” This shows Johnson as an African American Civil War veteran that shows slave auctions, whites attacking freedmen, snakes wrapped around African Americans, and Johnson just watches it happen.
To conclude, the many reconstruction efforts helped to created America into what it is today, offering every citizen equal amount of rights and opportunities. Efforts to end slavery failed as Johnson as a new president couldn’t keep white supremacists in line, as they kept bending their way around the law. In summary, the events that lead up to reconstruction, and the reconstruction efforts formed America into a great country.
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