Blacks In The Military During The Reconstruction Era

In general, Reconstruction referred to a point in U.S. history that immediately followed the Civil War. During this time conditions were set by the federal government that allowed Southern states that were considered rebellious to rejoin the union. The actual starting point is up for debate, but prominent scholars argued Reconstruction really began during the war.

Abraham Lincoln in 1862, tried to re-establish governments by appointing provisional military governors within the Southern states that were recaptured by the Union Army. One of the main conditions for re-admitting these states is that in 1860, ten percent of the population that voted took an allegiance to the Union.

Initially the Presidential plan omitted provisions for economic or social reconstruction, civil rights, or even the Radicals who were Congressmen in the Republican Party were critical of the leniency Lincoln showed. Radicals were determined to make sure that newly freed slaves were given protection and rights as Americans. Lincoln was assonated in April of 1865. Andrew Johnson became President and alienated Congress with his policies on Reconstruction. He favored pro-Union Southern leaders and white supremacy within the South. He aided these leaders once war was declared.

With the support of Johnson, Southerners made an attempt to restore slavery in name and substance. Johnson battled to maintain control of Reconstruction in 1866. Congress won. It was Northern voters who maintained over two-thirds of the Congressional seats that gave way to a smashing victory. This enabled Congress to have control over Reconstruction and to override the voters that Johnson himself tried to impose.

In 1867, Congress passed Reconstruction Acts and divided the Confederate states. This didn’t apply to Tennessee because they had been re-admitted to the Union. The divided Confederate states were then sectioned into five military districts. The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution that granted political rights and freedom to slaves was required to be accepted by those states.

Each of the Southern states had to implement the requirements in their own constitutions and African Americans were then empowered to vote. Congress failed in securing land for African Americans which allowed economical control to remain with white leaders. The Freedmen’s Bureau had the authority to administrate new laws that would help African Americans attain political, educational, civil, and economic rights.

Generally Republican in character, these newly created governments of states were then governed by coalitions of Northerners who had moved to the south, African Americans, and Southerners who allied with them. Although they were an uneasy coalition, significant legislation pertaining to civil rights were passed in many states. Reorganization occurred in courts, public school systems were established, and judicial procedures saw improvement. Even though segregation existed, it was still flexible.