Confederate Military History, Volume 12
WARNING! This is not what you were taught in school. It has a definite Southern bias. It is not politically correct! Nor should it be. It was written shortly after the war by Southerners about Southerners.
What is known as the reconstruction of the seceded States is a very sad epoch to recall, and no American who loves his country likes to bring back its harsh memories. Yet it is a matter of history and it needs be recorded in order that the part which the North and the South played during that period should be fully understood. It began under President Lincoln before the close of the war, and was carried on by President Johnson after the assassination of President Lincoln, during the years 1865 and 1866. Afterward there was a second phase of reconstruction, or "destruction," known as the congressional plan, which undid all that had been done by Presidents Lincoln and Johnson. This latter period was the greatest trial that the South had to bear, not excepting the terrible ordeal of war. To understand properly the surroundings, it is necessary to enumerate briefly the events which occurred early in 1865, and the directions given by President Johnson to the military officers of the United States. First, I would mention the death of Mr. Lincoln himself, which was regarded as the greatest calamity that could have happened to the people of the South. The arrest and imprisonment of President Davis and many of the Confederate soldiers and statesmen have been already related. The treatment of Mr. Davis was very harsh indeed, complicity in the assassination of Mr. Lincoln being cruelly imputed to him, and a large reward offered for his capture. He was placed in prison and shackled with irons in the strongest fortress in the Union, and a military guard placed over him day and night. Every town, village and district was occupied rapidly by the Union troops as the Confederate resistance melted away, and all civil government was ignored. The governors of most of the seceded States attempted to call their legislatures together to conform to the results of the war and take steps for their restoration to the Union. They did this, believing that the American principle of government–the sovereignty and indestructibility of the States–would be respected and that these prompt proceedings would be favored as the constitutional plan of restoration. They did this also believing it absolutely necessary to preserve civil government, and to show by legislative enactment complete submission to the results of the war in repealing their ordinances of secession and in accepting the freedom of the negro.
The order issued by General Wilson, of the United States army in Georgia, when the legislature was called to meet, was to this effect: "Neither the legislature nor any other political body will be permitted to assemble under the call of the rebel State authorities." The spirit of this order was carried out in all the seceded States. Existing civil government was ignored everywhere, and military rule inaugurated in municipal and local communities. The only government allowed was that of the local military officers, or under their supervision.
This harsh action of the United States authorities, civil and military, immediately following the collapse of the Confederate government, caused all prominent actors in the war to feel insecure. They did not know what to expect. It was not known how general the arrests and imprisonments would be, and many leading men, civil and military, escaped to foreign lands, and for the time expatriated themselves. Gen. Jubal Early, with others, escaped to Cuba. Generals Loring, Graves, and a few other officers went to Egypt and took service under the khedive. Hons. Robert Toombs, J. C. Breckinridge and many others went to Europe. Gov. Isham G. Harris, Gens. J. Bankhead Magruder, Hindman and Price went to Mexico; in fact, prominent citizens and soldiers everywhere felt great apprehension as to the course of the government, even with their paroles. It was even contemplated by President Johnson and his advisers to arrest and imprison Gen. Robert E. Lee, who had surrendered his army to General Grant and had been paroled. General Grant, however, entered a vigorous protest against such action, and insisted that men who had surrendered with arms in their hands were entitled to the usual laws recognized by all civilized nations, and that their paroles should be respected. This action on his part, and the advice of Gen. Robert E. Lee and the leading statesmen, officers, and soldiers of all the lately seceded States, caused it to be thought best for all to remain in their respective States and share whatever fate was in store for the South. The feeling of expatriation was greatly allayed when such prominent men advised against it.
|This originally appeared in "The Confederate Military History" as one long portion with the major headings as bolded items. To make it easier to read on the internet I elected to call each major heading a "Part" and have them located on separate pages. To enjoy the full benefit of the writing you should go straight from one part to another.|