| Chap. 1 | Chap.
2 | Chap. 3 | Chap.
4 | Chap. 5 | Chap.
6 | Chap. 7 | Chap.
8 | Chap. 9
FOUR: THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION
for Chapter 4
WOMAN DEFENDS SECESSION
OF THE UNION AND THE CONFEDERACY, 1861
THE NEW YORK
DRAFT RIOT, AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT
LIBERATORS: NORTHERN TROOPS IN THE SOUTH
IN THE CONFEDERACY
WITH SHERMAN'S ARMY
SUPPORTER DESCRIBES THE FALL OF RICHMOND
THE FALL OF
RICHMOND: A BLACK SOLDIER'S PERSPECTIVE
REMEMBERS THE DAY OF JUBLIO
BIRTH OF AN AFRICAN AMERICAN HOLIDAY
THE POST WAR
SOUTH‑A DEFEATED PLANTER LOOKS BACK
ME SOME OF THE CHILDREN'S HAIR"
JOHNSON MEETS BLACK LEADERS
AMENDMENTS: OREGON'S RESPONSE
RIGHTS: OTHER VIEWS FROM THE FAR WEST
CELEBRATE THEIR NEW RIGHTS
DEMANDS BLACK SUFFRAGE
OF EX‑CONFEDERATE STATES
UNDER BLACK GOVERNMENT
A DEBATE OVER
JUSTIFIES RECONSTRUCTION VIOLENCE
for Week 4
New York City Draft Riot, 1863
Robert E. Lee
Ulysses S. Grant
Emancipation Proclamation, 1862
Battle of Vicksburg
Battle of Gettysburg
Sherman's March to the Sea
Appomattox Court House
Radical Republican leaders:
Senator Charles Sumner‑Massachusetts
Congressman Thaddeus Stevens‑Pennsylvania
Mississippi Vagrancy Act, 1866
Ku Klux Klan
Sunday School League
Compromise of 1877
"Birth of A Nation"
Civil War was second only to World War II as the bloodiest military
contest in which Americans have been engaged. Nearly 365,000
men, women and children were killed between 1861 and 1865 compared
to the 405,000 American deaths in World War II. However
because the population of the U.S. in 1860 was 31 million and
in 1940 it was 132 million, the Civil War's impact on the nation
was far greater. The vignettes below describe the carnage
that became so typical of Civil War battles. The first
is a description of the 1862 Battle of Antietam by future Supreme
Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and the second is Walt Whitman's
description of the Battle of Chancellorsville (Va.) in 1863.
On coming near the brow of the hill, we met a party carrying
picks and spades. "How many?" "Only
one." The dead were nearly all buried, then, in this
region of the field of strife. We stopped the wagon, and,
getting out, began to look around us. Hard by was a large
pile of muskets, scores, if not hundreds, which had been picked
up, and were guarded for the Government. A long ridge
of fresh gravel rose before us. A board stuck up in front
of it bore this inscription, the first part of which was, I
believe, not correct: "The Rebel General Anderson
and 80 Rebels are buried in this hole."
Other smaller ridges were marked with the number of dead lying
under them. The whole ground was strewn with fragments
of clothing, haversacks, canteens, cap boxes, bullets, cartridges,
scraps of paper, portions of bread and meat. I saw two
solders' caps that looked as though their owners had been shot
through the head. In several places I noticed dark red
patches where a pool of blood had curdled and caked, as some
poor fellow poured his life out on the sod.
The night was very pleasant, at times the moon shining out full
and clear, all Nature so calm in itself, the early summer grass
so rich, and the foliage of the trees‑‑yet there
the battle raging, and many good fellows lying helpless, and
every minute amid the rattle of muskets and cannon the red life‑blood
oozing out from heads or trunks or limbs upon that green and
dew‑cool grass. Patches of the woods take fire,
and several of the wounded, unable to move, are consumed‑‑quite
large spaces are swept over, burning the dead also. Then
the camps of the wounded. There they lie, from 200 to
300 poor fellows‑‑the groans and screams, the odor
of blood, mixed with the fresh scent of the night, the grass,
the trees‑‑that slaughter‑house! One
man is shot by a shell, both in the arm and leg‑‑both
are amputated‑‑there lie the rejected members.
Some have their legs blown off‑‑some bullets through
the breast‑‑some indescribably horrid wounds in
the face or head, all mutilated, sickening, torn, gouged out‑‑some
Stephan Thernstrom, A History of the American People,
Vol. I, (New York, 1989), pp. 389, 395.
election in 1860 moved the nation toward division. In
the following letter from Edward Barnell Heyward, a South Carolina
planter to his friend, James A. Lord in Connecticut, Southern
fears of a Republican administration are explained. This
letter was written one month before South Carolina seceded from
...it might interest you to hear how I am living and what my
occupations may be, and also to hear from a State which just
now by her political position is somewhat the object of attraction
in this country. In January next we shall take leave of
the Union and shall construct with our Sister Cotton States
a government for ourselves. Whether the other Slave States
will join seem very uncertain at least for the present.
The condition of affairs at the North since the election of
an Abolitionist for President makes it necessary for us to get
away as quickly as possible. We have on hand about three
million Bales of Cotton and plenty to eat & clothe ourselves
with, and what is most important our working population have
masters to take care of them and will not feel any pressure
such as will soon come upon the operatives in the manufacturing
States at the North. Of course we shall declare free trade
with the whole world and having no manufactures to protect we
shall bring about such a competition with the manufactures of
this Country and those of Europe that the profits in such business
at the North will be seriously reduced. In the Country
here the planters are all quiet and our crops going to market
as usual. If there is no money in the banks we can go
without it till England and France and perhaps the North send
the gold for the cotton which they must have or go all to ruin.
I have about 130 Bales of Cotton on my plantation to sell, and
about 3000 bshls of corn and one hundred Hogs now fattening
for the negroes to eat and their winter clothes I will get in
a few days. I have plenty of Beef & mutton to feed
my family upon and I think I and all around me could stand hard
times better than some of the rich abolitionists of your part
of the World. If you were a rich man Jim I should advise
you to quit the North &and come here and live in quiet,
but you have nothing to loose by the Revolution that I suppose
must ensue upon the present overthrow of our beautiful government.
The Northern men must rouse themselves and shake off the Tyrants
who now rule over them, or they will soon be numbered among
the Nations which have over them, or them will soon be numbered
among the Nations which have been! You live among a manufacturing
people and you know better than I what the conditions of things
would be in case the operatives were all dismissed, or put on
starvation prices for the next year. If times get very
hot you had better come on here, & try farming where there
is a distinction between a white man and a black one, which
is not found in Connecticut.
Do write me as before, care of Messrs. Wm. C. Bee and Co., Charleston,
S.C. soon and tell me what is going on at home and about at
the North. When next I write I shall belong to another
government for which I shall be thankful...
most Affectionately, E.B. Heyward
Stanley I Kutler, Looking for
The People's History,
Vol. I, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979), p. 399.
SECESSION CRISIS, 1860‑1861
Date of Secession
December 20, 1860
January 9, 1861
January 10, 1861
January 11, 1861
January 19, 1861
January 26, 1861
February 1, 1861
Confederate Government Organized in
February 4, 1861
Confederate Bombardment of Federal
Garrison at Fort Sumter, South Carolina
April 12, 1861
April 17, 1861
May 6, 1861
May 20, 1861
June 8, 1861
WOMAN DEFENDS SECESSION
Sparks Keitt, a South Carolinian whose husband had participated
in the state convention which voted to secede, wrote her Philadelphia
friend, Mrs. Frederick Brown, on March 4, 1861, explaining why
the Southern states left the Union.
You must believe me when I say we did not break up the Union
you so much love nor bring about the crisis you so much deplore.
'Tis true we have refused to accept Lincoln for a president.
What of that? Did you think the people of the South, the
Lords Proprietors of the Land, would let this low fellow rule
for them? No! His vulgar facetiousness may suit
the race of clock makers and wooden nutmeg vendors‑‑even
Wall Street brokers may accept him, since they do not protest‑‑but
never will he receive the homage of southern gentlemen.
See the disgusting spectacle now presented to the world by the
Federal government. The President Elect of the American
people, on his triumphal march to the Capitol, exhibits himself
at railway depots, bandies jokes with the populaces, kissed
bold women from promiscuous crowds, jests with [prize] fighters....
Oh, shame, shame. Should we submit to such degradation?
Who are these Black Republicans? A motley throng of...infidels,
free lovers, interspersed by Bloomer women, fugitive slaves,
and amalgamists. What are...the doctrines they teach?
Equity and justice? Peace and Good Will toward men?
No, but the Jesuitical dogma of the expediency of crime when
a doubtful good may come. Such crimes as murder, arson,
perjury, and theft find ready absolution if the record be accompanied
by a stolen slave, and have the red seal of southern blood...
With a rancor and hatred worthy of a foreign foe, the Republicans
prepare for a war of extermination. Yes, extermination,
for they know as well as we do that thus only can they conquer
us. See their bloody programme. The dykes [sic]
of the Mississippi must be cut, and the minds of our happy slaves
poisoned of thought of murder and conflagration. How can
you counsel submission to such a people? We loved the
Union; but our lives, homes, and kindred are dear to us and
cannot be sacrificed to a Memory....Yes, war let it be if war
they desire. And the Stars and Stripes will shame their
ancient glories when the "Southern Cross" takes the
field. And if the fate of Carthagenia be ours, we women,
like those of old, will cut our hair for bowstrings to plague
the enemy as long as possible.
You still hope for reunion. A vain hope unless our conditions
be accepted. Here they are: Hang all your...Garrisons,
Greeleys, and Ward Beechers, incarcerate your Garret Smiths,
unite your Sumners and Sewards to ebony spouses and send them
as resident ministers...to Timbuctoo and Ashantee [African kingdoms].
Purge the halls of Congress and the White House...of their presence,
and attach the death penalty to all future agitation of the
slavery question. When these things are done, then, and
not till then, will we consider the question of reunion.
Our relations have been so pleasant it would pain me to see
them altered, but I must candidly say that I can make no distinction
between at‑cost‑of war Union Lovers and ultra Black
Republicans. The matter of our continued friendship must
now be decided by you.
Stanley I. Kutler, Looking for
The People's History,
Vol. I, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979), pp. 403‑406.
OF THE UNION AND THE CONFEDERACY, 1861
Number of States
Real and Personal Property
Value of Production (annual)
* 40% were slaves, 3,500,000
Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln
on September 22, 1862, had a profound effect on the Union, the
Confederacy, and of course, black Americans. Part of the
document appears below.
President of the United States of America
Whereas, the twenty‑second day of September, in the year
of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty two, a proclamation
was signed by the President of the United States, containing,
among other things, the following, to wit:
That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one
thousand eight hundred and sixty‑three, all persons held
as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the
persons whereof shall then whereof shall then be in rebellion
against the United States, shall be then, henceforward, and
forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States,
including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize
and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act
or acts to suppress such person, or any of them, in any efforts
they may make for their actual freedom...
And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I
do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within
said designated States and parts of States are and hence-forward
shall be free, and that the executive government of the United
States, including the military and naval authorities thereof,
will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.
And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to
abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense;
and I recommend to them that in all cases when allowed they
labor faithfully for reasonable wages.
And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable
condition, will be received into the armed services of the United
States to garrison forts, position, stations, and other places
and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of
justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity,
I invoke the considerate judgment and mankind and the gracious
favor of Almighty God...
John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr. From Slavery to
Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, (New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1988), pp. 532-533.
NEW YORK DRAFT RIOT, AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT
July, 1863 a predominately Irish mob rioted against the newly
enacted federal draft and vented their fury particularly on
New York City blacks. Dr. John Torrey in the following
account describes the riot.
July 13th, 1863
We have had great riots in New York to‑day & they
are still in progress. They were reported to us at the
Assay office about noon, but I thought they were exaggerated...
In 49 st. they [the rioters] were numerous, & made, as I
was passing near the College, an attack upon one of a row of
new houses in our street. The rioters were induced to
go away by one or two Catholic priests, who made pacific speeches
to them. I found Jane & Maggie [his black servants]
a little alarmed, but not frightened. The mob had been
in the College Grounds, & came to our house‑‑wishing
to know if a republican lived there, & what the College
building was used for. They were going to burn Pres. King's
house, as he was rich, & a decided republican. They
barely desisted when addressed by the Catholic priest.
The furious bareheaded & coatless men assembled under our
windows & shouted aloud for Jeff Davis!
...Toward the evening the mob, furious as demons, went yelling
over to the Colored‑Orphan Asylum in 5th Avenue a little
below where we live‑‑& rolling a barrel of kerosine
in lit, the whole structure was soon in a blaze, & is now
a smoking ruin. What has become of the 300 poor innocent
orphans I could not learn. They must have had some warning
of what the rioters intended; & I trust the children were
removed in time to escape a cruel death. Before this fire
was extinguished, or rather burned out, for the wicked wretches
who caused it would not permit the engines to be used, the northern
sky was brilliantly illuminated, probably by the burning of
the Aged Colored‑woman's Home in 65th St.‑‑or
the Harlem R. Road Bridge‑‑both of which places
were threatened by the rioters...
A friend who rode with me had seen a poor Negro hung an hour
or two before. The man had, in a frenzy, shoot an Irish
fireman, and they immediately strung up the unhappy African...
The worst mobs are on the 1st & 2nd and 7th Avenues..
Many have been killed. They are very hostile to the Negroes,
& and scarcely one of them is to be seen. A person
who called at our house this afternoon saw three of them hanging
Thieves are going about in gangs, calling at houses, & demanding
money‑-threatening the torch if denied... A friend (Mr.
Gibbons) who visits us almost every week, & is known to
be an abolitionist, had his house smashed up yesterday...
Bracey and others, The Afro‑Americans: Selected
Documents, (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1972), pp. 230‑233.
LIBERATORS: NORTHERN TROOPS IN THE SOUTH
the preceding vignettes on the New York Draft Riot indicates,
not all Northerners embraced the idea that they were fighting
to liberate the slaves. The following account by historian
Leon Litwack describes the attitudes of some Northern soldiers
toward the blacks they encountered in the South.
The typical Yankee was at best a reluctant liberator, and the
attitudes and behavior he evinced did not always encourage the
slaves to think of themselves as free men and women. Although
Union propagandists and abolitionists might exult in how a war
for the Union had been transformed into a crusade for freedom,
many northern soldiers donned the crusader's armor with strong
misgivings or outright disgust. "I don't think enough
of the Nigger to go and fight for them," an Ohio private
wrote. "I would rather fight them." Few
Northerners, after all, had chosen to wage this kind of war.
"Our government has broken faith with us," a Union
deserter told his captors. "We enlisted to fight
for the Union, and not to liberate the G-d d-d niggers."
Rather than view emancipation as a way to end the war, some
Yankee soldiers thought it would only prolong the conflict.
Now that the very survival of the southern labor system was
at stake, not to mention the proper subordination of black people,
the prospect of a negotiated peace seemed even more remote,
and southern whites could be expected to fight with even greater
intensity and conviction.
That most Union soldiers should have failed to share the abolitionist
commitment is hardly surprising. What mattered was how
they manifested their feelings when they came into direct contact
with the slaves. The evidence suggests one of the more
tragic chapters in the history of this generally brutalizing
and demoralizing war. The normal frustrations of military
life and the usually sordid record of invading armies, when
combined with long-held and deeply felt attitudes toward black
people, were more than sufficient to turn some Union soldiers
into the very "debils" the slaves had been warned
by their masters to expect. Not only did the invaders
tend to view the Negro as a primary cause of the war but even
more importantly as an inferior being with few if any legitimate
human emotions-at least none that had to be considered with
any degree of sensitivity. Here, then, was a logical and
convenient object on which disgruntled and war-weary Yankees
could vent their frustrations and hatreds. "As I
was going along this afternoon," a young Massachusetts
officer wrote from New Orleans, "a little black baby that
could just walk got under my feet and it look so much like a
big worm that I wanted to step on it and crush it, the nasty,
greasy little vermin was the best that could be said of it."
And if anything, additional exposure to blacks appeared to strengthen
rather than allay racial antipathies. "My repugnance
to them increases with the acquaintance," a New England
officer remarked. "Republican as I am, keep me clear
of the darkey in any relation."
To debauch black women, some Yankees apparently concluded, was
to partake of a widely practiced and well-accepted southern
pastime. The evidence was to be seen everywhere.
Besides, Yankees tended to share the popular racist notion of
black women as naturally promiscuous and dissolute. "Singular,
but true," a Massachusetts soldier and amateur phrenologist
observed, "the heads of the women indicate great animal
passions." Although some Union officers made no secret
of their slave concubines, sharing their quarters with them,
a black soldier noted that they usually mingled with "deluded
freedwomen" only under the cover of darkness, while they
openly consorted with white women during the day. The
frequency with which common soldiers mixed with black women
prompted some regimental commanders to order the ejection of
such women from the camp because their presence had become "demoralizing."
"I won't be unfaithful to you with a Negro wench,"
a Pennsylvania soldier assured his wife, "though it is
the case with many soldiers. Yes, men who have wives at
home get entangled with these black things." Marriages
between Yankees and blacks were rare, but when they did occur
southern whites made the most of them.
Two of the Brownfields' former negroes have married Yankees--one,
a light colored mustee, and property left her by some white
men whose mistress she had been-she says she passed herself
off for a Spaniard and Mercier Green violated the sanctity of
Grace Church by performing the ceremony--the other, a man, went
north and married a Jewess--the idea is too revolting.
Not surprisingly, Union soldiers often shared the outrage of
local whites at such liaisons. In November 1865, a black
newspaper in Charleston reported that an Illinois soldier had
been tarred and feathered by his own comrades for having married
a black woman. "He was probably a Southern man by
birth and education," the newspaper said of the victim,
"and Hoosiers and Suckers don't take readily to Southern
Whatever the reputation of black women for promiscuity, sexual
submissions frequently had to be obtained by force. "While
on picket guard I witnessed misdeeds that made me ashamed of
America," a soldier wrote from South Carolina; he had recently
observed a group of his comrades rape a nine-year-old black
girl. Not only did some Union soldiers sexually assault
any woman they found in a slave cabin but they had no compunctions
about committing the act in the presence of her family.
"The father and grandfather dared offer no resistance,"
two witnesses reported from Virginia. In some such instances,
the husband or children of the intended victim had to be forcibly
restrained from coming to her assistance. Beyond the exploitation
of sexual assault, black women could be subjected to further
brutality and sadism, as was most graphically illustrated in
an incident involving some Connecticut soldiers stationed in
Virginia. After seizing two "niger wenches,"
they "turned them upon their heads, & put tobacco,
chips, stocks, lighted cigars & and sand into their behinds."
Without explanation, some Union soldiers in Hanover County Virginia,
stopped five young black women and cut their arms, legs, and
backs with razors. "Dis was new to us," one
of the victims recalled, "cause Mr. Tinsley [her master]
didn' ever beat or hurt us." Most Union soldiers
would have found these practices reprehensible. But they
occurred with sufficient frequency to induce a northern journalist
in South Carolina to write that Union troops had engaged in
"some of the vilest and meanest exhibitions of human depravity"
he had ever witnessed. If such incidents were rare, moreover,
the racial ideology that encouraged them had widespread acceptance,
even among those who deplored the excesses.
Leon Litwack, Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of
Slavery, (New York, 1979) pp. 127-128, 129-130.
TIMES IN THE CONFEDERACY
Jones, a clerk in the Confederate War Department, kept a diary
which in 1863 details the privations of the people of Richmond
during the Civil War. Her entry describes the rampant
inflation which affected most Confederate cities by 1863.
The second account, an Georgia girl's entry in her journal following
Sherman's March to the Sea, reflects the intense hatred the
war generated between Southerners and Northerners.
February 11th.‑‑Some idea may be formed of the scarcity
of food in this city from the fact that, while my youngest daughter
was in the kitchen today, a young rat came out of its hole and
seemed to beg for something to eat; she held out some bread,
which it ate from her hand, and seemed grateful. Several
others soon appeared and were as tame as kittens. Perhaps
we shall have to eat them!
February 18‑‑One or two of the regiments of General
Lee's army were in the city last night. The men were pale
and haggard. They have but a quarter of a pound of meat
per day. But meat has been ordered from Atlanta.
I hope it is abundant there.
All the necessaries of life in the city are still going up higher
in price. Butter, three dollars per pound; beef, one dollar;
bacon, a dollar and a quarter; sausage meat, one dollar; and
even liver is selling at fifty cents per pound.
If all the words of hatred in every language under heaven were
lumped together into one huge epithet of detestation, they could
not tell how I hate Yankees...
Now that they have invaded our country and killed so many of
our men and desecrated so many homes, I can't believe that when
Christ said, 'Love your enemies,' He meant Yankees.
Of course I don't want their souls to be lost, for that would
be wicked, but as they are not being punished in this world,
I don't see how else they are going to get their deserts.
Richard Current, American History: A Survey, (New York:
Knopf, 1961), pp. 397, 399.
SOLDIER WITH SHERMAN'S ARMY
William T. Sherman's famous March Through Georgia introduced
the Confederacy to the concept of "total war."
His military objective was not to destroy an opposing army as
much as the South's morale and resolve to continue the war.
Here is a part of a letter from W.F. Saylor, a Union soldier
from Wisconsin, describing the March.
In the field near Savannah Geo.
Dec. 18th, 1864
At 10 a.m. Monday the 14th [Nov.] we started on the march towards
Atlanta, having previously set fire to our comfortable winter
quarters. The main road was blocked up with teams so we
were obliged to go round by an old ford road making us 5 miles
extra travel... The whole army intended for this Campaign was
now in and around the City and ready to start the next morning.
It comprised 73,000 Infantry, 5500 cavelry [sic], and 70 pieces
of Artillery, making nearly 80,000 men under the command of
Major. Gen. W.T. Sherman.
Tuesday morning Nov. 15th. The Army moved out on four
different roads. The right wing towards Macon, the left
wing towards Augusta. A small force was left behind to
burn the city [Atlanta] after the troops got out. And
they did their work well, burning everything but a few private
dwellings and the Churches. The proud city of Atlanta
is now a heap of Ashes, without inhabitants or public communication.
Nov. 22 Left Camp at 10 a.m. The Weather is now cold and
cloudy, with a few flakes of snow. We travel fast and
get to Camp in Milledgeville the Capitol of Geo. at 5 p.m. having
traveled 10 miles... This is a very pretty place and contains
some beautiful buildings. The Legislature had been in
session but on hearing of our approach they adjourned and fled
in confusion... We burned the State Prison and arsenal and other
public buildings and pillaged an plundered the town generally.
It was an awful looking place when we got through.
Nov 28...found Ex‑Gov. Johnston's house about 5 to 7 miles
from the road we were on. The Ex Gov of course had gone,
but had left some of his old darkies. The foragers got
lots of stuff to eat here but not finding the usual amount of
finery in the house they suspected that it was hid some where.
The Officer in charge persuaded an aged darkey by threatening
to hang him (rather persuasive argument) to tell him where the
stuff was. The Ex Gov took up a bed of cabbages in his
garden then dug holes and deposited his goods in boxes and barrels
in said holes, and then set the cabbages out nicely again.
But it wouldn't work. The boys unearthed the stuff.
Dec. 10th...You can form no idea of the amount of property destroyed
by us on this raid. All the Roads in the state are torn
up and the whole tract of country over which we passed is little
better than wilderness. I can't...think of what the people
that are left there are to live on. We have all their
Cattle, Horses, Mules, Sheep, Hogs, Sweet Potatoes and Molasses
and nearly everything else. We burnt all the Cotton we
men which was millions of pounds... A tornado 60 miles
in width from Chattanooga to this place 290 miles could not
have done half the damage we did.
Stanley I Kutler, Looking for
The People's History,
Vol. I, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979), pp. 430‑432.
SUPPORTER DESCRIBES THE FALL OF RICHMOND
April 1865 units of the Union Army entered Richmond, Virginia,
the capital of the Confederacy and thus signaled the collapse
of the rebellion. Mrs. Burton Harrison, in this account
from a letter to her relatives, describes the episode.
Street, Richmond, April 4, 1865
Precious Mother and Brother:
I write you this jointly, because I can have no idea where Clarence
is. Can't you imagine with what a heavy heart I begin
it? The last two days have added long years to my life
I have cried until no more tears will come, and my heart throbs
to bursting night and day...All through the evening the air
was full of farewells as if to the dead. Hardly anybody
went to bed. We walked through the streets like lost spirits
till nearly daybreak...With the din of the enemy's wagon trains,
bands, trampling horses....and cannon ever in my ears, I can
hardly write coherently.
...Looking down from the upper end of [Capitol Square] we saw
a huge wall of fire blocking out the horizon. In a few
hours no trace was left of Main, Cary, and Canal Streets...except
tottering walls and smoldering ruins. The War Department
was sending up jets of flame. Along the middle of the
streets smoldered a long pile...of papers torn from the different
departments' archives of our beloved Government, from which
soldiers in blue were picking out letters and documents that
caught their fancy...General Lee's house had a [Union] guard
camped in the front yard.
We went on to the head‑quarters of the Yankee General
in charge of Richmond, that day of doom, and I must say were
treated with perfect courtesy and consideration. We saw
many people we knew on the same errand as ourselves. We
heard stately Mrs.______ and the_____'s were there to ask for
food, as their families were starving. Thank God, we have
not fallen to that! Certainly, her face looked like a
tragic mask carved out of stone.
A courteous young lieutenant was sent to pilot us out of the
confusion... Already the town wore the aspect of one in
the Middle Ages smitten by pestilence. The streets filled
with smoke and flying fire were empty of the respectable class
of inhabitants, the doors and shutters of every house tight
The ending of the first day of occupation was truly horrible.
Some negroes of the lowest grade, their heads turned by the
prospect of wealth and equality, together with a mob of miserable
poor whites, drank themselves mad with liquor scooped from the
gutters. Reinforced, it was said, by convicts escaped
from the penitentiary, they tore through the streets, carrying
loot from the burnt district. For some days after,
the kitchen and cabins of the better class of darkies displayed
handsome oil paintings and mirrors, rare books and barrels of
sugar and whiskey... Thanks to our trim Yankee guard in
the basement, we felt safe enough, but the experience was not
Through all of this strain of anguish ran like a gleam of gold
the mad vain hope that Lee would yet make a stand somewhere‑‑that
Lee's dear soldiers would give us back our liberty.
Stanley I Kutler, Looking for
The People's History,
Vol. I, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979), pp. 438‑441.
OF RICHMOND: A BLACK SOLDIER'S PERSPECTIVE
J. Hill, orderly for Col. W. B. Wooster, commander of the 29th
Connecticut Colored Infantry Regiment, describes the capture
of the Confederate capital in April 1865, and the brief visit
there by President Abraham Lincoln in his book A Sketch of
the 29th Regiment of Connecticut Colored Troops. Part
of the description is reprinted below.
All was quiet here until the 1st of April, when all was in readiness,
and the order was given to strike tents and move on to Richmond.
During Sunday night the brigade was out in line of battle, and
at three o'clock in the morning the rebels blew up three gun
boats and commenced vacating their works in our front.
At 5 A.M the troops commenced to advance on the rebel works--the
29th taking the advance, the 9th U.S.C.[olored] troops next.
Soon refugees from the rebels came in by hundreds. Col.
W. B. Wooster passed them about, and made them go
before the regiment and dig up the torpedoes that were left
in the ground to prevent the progress of the Union Army.
They were very numerous, but to the surprise of officers and
men, none of the army were injured by them.
On our march to Richmond, we captured 500 pieces of artillery,
some of the largest kind, 6,000 small arms, and the prisoners
I was not able to number. The road was strewed with all
kinds of obstacles, and men were lying all along the distance
of seven miles. The main body of the army went up the
New Market road. The 29th skirmished all the way, and
arrived in the city at 7 A.M., and were the first infantry that
entered the city; they went at double quick most of the way.
When Col. Wooster came to Main St. he pointed his sword at the
capitol, and said "Double quick, march," and the company
charged through the main street to the capitol and halted in
the square until the rest of the regiment came up.
Very soon after the arrival of the white troops the colored
troops were moved on the outskirts of the city, and as fast
as the white troops came in the colored troops were ordered
out, until we occupied the advance. The white troops remained
in the city as guards. We remained on the outpost.
[On April] 3d President Lincoln visited the city. No triumphal
march of a conqueror could have equalled in moral sublimity
the humble manner in which he entered Richmond. I was
standing on the bank of the James river viewing the scene of
desolation when a boat, pulled by twelve sailors, came up the
stream. It contained President Lincoln and his son...
In some way the colored people on the bank of the river ascertained
that the tall man wearing the black hat was President Lincoln.
There was a sudden shout and clapping of hands. I was
very much amused at the plight of one officer who had in charge
fifty colored men to put to work on the ruined buildings; he
found himself alone, for they left work and crowded to see the
President. As he approached I said to a woman, "Madam,
there is the man that made you free." She exclaimed,
"Is that President Lincoln?" My reply was in
She gazed at him with clasped hands and said, "Glory to
God. Give Him praise for his goodness," and she shouted
till her voice failed her.
J. Hill, A Sketch of the 29th Regiment
(Baltimore, 1867), pp. 25-27.
HAYWOOD REMEMBERS THE DAY OF JUBLIO
Haywood, born a slave in Raleigh, North Carolina, gained his
freedom in San Antonio, Texas, in the summer of 1865 when word
finally reached Texas. In this interview Haywood recalls the
day of emancipation.
Soldiers, all of a sudden, was everywhere--coming in bunches,
crossing and walking and riding. Everyone was a-singing.
We was all walking on golden clouds. Hallelujah!
Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Although I may be poor,
I'll never be a slave‑‑
Shouting the battle cry of freedom.
Everybody went wild. We felt like heroes, and nobody had
made us that way but ourselves. We was free. Just
like that, we was free. It didn't seem to make the whites
mad, either. They went right on giving us food just the
same. Nobody took our homes away, but right off colored
folks started on the move. They seemed to want to get
closer to freedom, so they'd know what it was‑‑like
it was a place or a city. Me and my father stuck, close
as a lean tick to a sick kitten. The Gudlows started us
out on a ranch. My father, he'd round up cattle‑‑unbranded
cattle‑‑for the whites. They was cattle that
they belonged to, all right; they had gone to find water 'long
the San Antonio River and the Guadalupe. Then the whites
gave me and my father some cattle for our own. My father
had his own brand ‑ 7 B)‑‑and we had a herd
to start out with of seventy.
We knowed freedom was on us, but we didn't know what was to
come with it. We thought we was going to get rich like
the white folks. We thought we was going to be richer
than the white folks, 'cause we was stronger and knowed how
to work, and the whites didn't, and they didn't have us to work
for them any more. But it didn't turn out that way.
We soon found out that freedom could make folks proud, but it
didn't make 'em rich.
Did you ever stop to think that thinking don't do any good when
you do it too late? Well, that's how it was with us.
If every mother's son of a black had thrown 'way his hoe and
took up a gun to fight for his own freedom along with the Yankees,
the war'd been over before it began. But we didn't do
it. We couldn't help stick to our masters. We couldn't
no more shot 'em than we could fly. My father and me used
to talk 'bout it. We decided we was too soft and freedom
wasn't going to be much to our good even if we had a education.
D. Marcus and David Burner, America
Firsthand: From Reconstruction to the Present
(New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989), p. 11.
BIRTH OF AN AFRICAN AMERICAN HOLIDAY
a brief article for the Eugene Register Guard I described the
origins of the Juneteenth holiday. Part of that article
is reprinted below.
Freedom came in many guises to the four million African Americans
who had been enslaved at the beginning of the Civil War.
Some fortunate black women and men were emancipated as early
as 1861 onward when Union forces captured outlying areas of
the Confederacy such as the Sea Islands of South Carolina, the
Tidewater area of Virginia (Hampton and Norfolk) or New Orleans
all before January 1863. Other black slaves emancipated
themselves by exploiting the disruption of war to run away to
freedom, which in some instances was as close as the nearest
Union Army camp. President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation
Proclamation liberated all blacks residing in territory captured
from the Confederates after January 1, 1863. These slaves
did not have to run for their freedom, they merely had to wait
for Federal troops to arrive.
Emancipation for the majority of African Americans, however,
came only in 1865 when Confederate commander Robert E. Lee surrendered
his army to Federal forces....at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.
With that surrender the....rebellion was over. News of
Lee's surrender spread quickly through the former slave states
east of the Mississippi River. Texas, however was another
matter. Isolated from both Union and Confederate forces,
Texas during the Civil War, had become a place of refuge for
slaveholders seeking to insure that their "property"
would not hear of freedom. Through April, May, and part
of June, 1865, they did not. Finally on June 19, 1865,
freedom officially arrived when Federal troops landed at Galveston,
Texas. Word of emancipation gradually spread over the
state despite the efforts of some slaveholders to maintain slavery.
But African Americans would not be denied the liberty that had
eluded them so long. When the news came entire plantations
were deserted. Many blacks brought from Arkansas, Louisiana
and Missouri during the War, returned home while Texas freedpersons
headed for Galveston, Houston and other cities where Federal
troops were stationed. Although news of emancipation came
at different times during that Texas summer of 1865, local blacks
gradually settled on June 19 (Juneteenth) as their day of celebration.
Beginning in 1866 they held parades, picnics, barbecues, and
gave speeches in remembrance of their liberation. By 1900
the festivities had grown to include baseball games, horse races,
railroad excursions, and formal balls. By that time Juneteenth
had officially become Texas Emancipation Day and was sponsored
by black churches and civic organizations. Indeed, Juneteenth
had become so respectable that white politicians including various
Texas governors addressed the largest gatherings (which sometimes
included upwards of 5,000 people) in Houston and Dallas.
Juneteenth had surpassed the Fourth of July as the biggest holiday
of the year for Texas African Americans.
With the migration of African Americans from Texas to the West
Coast particularly during World War II, Juneteenth simultaneously
declined in Texas and grew in the emerging black communities
of Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, and San Diego.
And some communities east of Texas such as Washington, D.C.,
and Birmingham, Alabama, began celebrations as well. But
by the 1970s many blacks, including those in Texas, had forgotten
the holiday's origins and its significance in African American
Quintard Taylor, "The Juneteenth Celebration, 1865-1992,"
Eugene Register-Guard, June 8, 1992, pp. 1D, 4D.
POST WAR SOUTH‑A DEFEATED PLANTER LOOKS BACK
Edward Barnell Heyward, the South Carolina planter wrote his
Northern friend, James A. Lord explaining why the South would
declare its independence and offering reasons for its success
if the Northern states attempted to block the secession.
In 1866 Heyward again wrote his friend but now historical events
mandated a far different letter.
22 Jan y
Your letter of date July 1865, has just reached me and you will
be relieved by my answer, to find, that I am still alive, and
extremely glad to hear from you.
I have...thought that you had been among those who had joined
the Army, and had given your life, for the cause, in which your
nation seems to much pride itself, at this time; but I do not
suppose so by your letter.
I am quite well, & have my family around me. During
the war, I found time to get married again, and now have a most
lovely woman, & baby eighteen months old at my elbow.
My daughter died during the war, and my Son is now a tall fellow
who would astonish you by his size.
Our losses have been frightful, and we have, now, scarcely a
support. My Father had five plantations on the coast,
and all the buildings were burnt, and the negroes, now left
to themselves, are roaming in a starving condition. Our
farm near Charleston was abandoned to the negroes, leaving provisions,
mules & stock. All is now lost, and the negroes, left
to themselves, have made nothing, and seek a little food, about
the city. Our Residence in the city, was sacked, and all
the valuable furniture stolen and the houses well riddled by
shell & shot. Our handsome Residence in the country was
burnt. The Enemy passed over all our property on the coast
in the march from Savannah to Charleston, the whole country,
down there, is now a howling wilderness... We live twenty
miles from Columbia [the state capital]. Some of my relatives
were there, during the occupation by Sherman, and suffered the
terrible anxieties & losses of that dreadful event.
I served in the Army, my brother died in the Army, and every
family has lost members. No one can know how reduced we
are, particularly the refined & educated.
My Father and I, owned near seven hundred negroes and they are
all now wandering about like lost sheep, with no one to care
for them... They very naturally, poor things, think that
freedom means doing nothing, and this they are determined to
do. They look to the government, to take care of them,
and it will be many years, before this once productive country
will be able to support itself. The former kind treatment
of the slaves, and their docile and generous temper, makes them
now disposed to be quiet & obedient: but the determination
of your Northern people to give them a place in the councils
of the Country and make they the equal of the white man, will
at last, bear its fruit, and we may then expect, them, to rise
against the whites, and in the end, be exterminated themselves.
As soon as able, I shall quit the Country, and leave others
to stand the storm... I feel now I have no country, I obey like
a subject, but I cannot love such a government. Perhaps
the next letter, you get from me, will be from England.
Stanley I Kutler, Looking for
The People's History,
Vol. I, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979), pp. 463‑465.
ME SOME OF THE CHILDREN'S HAIR"
before the Civil War Laura Spicer and her children were sold
from their husband and father. They wanted to reunite
after emancipation but her husband had remarried. The
husband, who remains anonymous except to Laura, wrote a letter
describing the pain of their separation and yet wishing Laura
would find another husband to care for the family. The
letter is reprinted below.
I would much rather you would get married to some good man,
for every time I gits a letter from you it tears me all to pieces.
The reason why I have not written you before, in a long time,
is because your letters disturbed me so very much. You
know I love my children. I treats them good as a Father
can treat his children; and I do a good deal of it for you.
I am sorry to hear that Lewellyn, my poor little son, have had
such bad health. I would come and see you but I know you
could not bear it. I want to see and I don't want to see
you. I love you just as well as I did the last day I saw
you, and it will not do for you and I to meet. I am married,
and my wife have two children, and if you and I meets it would
make a very dissatisfied family.
Send me some of the children's hair in a separate paper with
their names on the paper. Will you please git married,
as long as I am married. My dear, you know the Lord knows
both of our hearts. You know it never was our wishes to
be separated from each other, and it never was our fault. Oh,
I can see you so plain, at any-time, I had rather anything to
had happened to me most than ever to have been parted from you
and the children. As I am, I do not know which I love
best, you or Anna. If I was to die, today or tomorrow,
I do not think I would die satisfied till you tell me you will
try and marry some good, smart man that will take care of you
and the children; and do it because you love me; and not because
I think more of the wife I have got then I do of you.
The woman is not born that feels as near to me as you do.
You feel this day like myself. Tell them they must remember
they have a good father and one that cares for them and one
that thinks about them every day-My very heart did ache when
reading your very kind and interesting letter. Laura I
do not think I have change any at all since I saw you last.-I
think of you and my children every day of my life.
Laura I do love you the same. My love to you never have
failed. Laura, truly, I have got another wife, and I am
very sorry, that I am. You feels and seems to me as much
like my dear loving wife, as you ever did Laura. You know
my treatment to a wife and you know how I am about my children.
You know I am one man that do love my children....
Herbert Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom 1750-1925
(New York, 1926) pp. 6-7.
the account below historian Jacqueline Jones describes the attitudes
of both Northerners and Southerners to what they described as
the particular insolence of black women.
Defenders of the notion of early Victorian (white) womanhood
could not help but be struck by black women who openly challenged
conventional standards of female submissiveness. Freedwomen
were described as "growling," "impertinent,"
"impudent," "vulgar" persons who "spoke
up bold as brass" and. with their "loud and boisterous
talking," demanded fair treatment for "we people [left]
way back." In the process of ridiculing these women,
northerners often indirectly revealed their ambivalent attitudes
toward black men. Apparently an aggressive woman existed
outside the realm of "natural," male-female relationships;
her own truculence must be counterbalanced by the weakness of
her husband, brother, or father. But ironically in such
cases, male relatives were often perceived to be much more "reasonable"
(that is, prone to accept the white man's point of view) than
their vehement womenfolk.
For example, John De Forest [Freedman's Bureau officer] later
recounted the respective reactions of an elderly couple who
had used up in supplies any profit they might have earned from
a full year's labor. The man remained "puzzled, incredulous,
stubborn," and insisted there must be some mistake.
His wife was not about to accept the situation so politely:
"trembling with indignant suspicion [she] looked on grimly
or broke out in fits of passion... 'Don' you give down to it,
Peter,' she exhorted. 'It ain't no how ris'ible that we
should 'a' worked all the year and git nothing' to go upon.'"
De Forest, who elsewhere complained of black "female loaferism"
prevalent in the area, showed a curious lack of sympathy for
this hardworking woman. In other cases, Yankee planters,
professed abolitionists, responded to the demands put forth
by delegations of female field hands with contempt for their
Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women,
Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present, (New York,
1985), pp. 70-71.
JOHNSON MEETS BLACK LEADERS
February 7, 1866, Frederick Douglass, George Downing and other
black leaders met with President Andrew Johnson at the White
House. This, the first meeting between an American president
and black political spokesmen, showed the wide disparity between
the President's views on voting rights for the ex‑slaves
and those of the assembled black activists. Part of the exchange
is reprinted below.
Mr. Fred. Douglass advanced and addressed the President, saying:
Mr. President, we are not here to enlighten you, sir, as to
as the Chief Magistrate of this Republic, but to show our respect,
and to present in brief the claims of our race to your favorable
consideration. In the order of Divine Providence you are
placed in a position where you have the power to save or destroy
us, to bless or blast us‑‑I mean our whole race.
Your noble and humane predecessor placed in our hands the sword
to assist in saving the nation, and we do hope that you, his
able successor, will favorably regard the placing in our hands
the ballot with which to save ourselves.
We shall submit no argument on that point. The fact that
we are the subjects of Government, and subject to taxation,
subject to volunteer in the service of the country, subject
to being drafted, subject to bear the burdens of the State,
makes it not improper that should ask to share in the privileges
of this condition.
I have no speech to make on this occasion. I simply submit
these observations as a limited expression of the views and
feelings of the delegation with which I have come.
Response of the President:
In reply to some of your inquiries, not to make a speech about
this thing, for it is always best to talk plainly and distinctly
about such matters, I will say that if I have not given evidence
in my course that I am a friend of humanity, and to that portion
of it which constitutes the colored population, I can give no
evidence here... All that I possessed, life, liberty,
and property, have been put up in connection with that question,
when I had every inducement held out to take the other course...
If I know myself, and the feelings of my own heart, they have
been for the colored man...
I am free to say to you that I do not like to be arraigned by
someone who can get up handsomely‑rounded periods and
deal in rhetoric, and talk about abstract ideas of liberty,
who never perilled life, liberty, or property. This kind
of theoretical, hollow, unpractical friendship amounts to but
very little. While I say that I am a friend of the colored
man, I do not want to adopt a policy [of voting rights for negroes]
that I believe will end in a contest between the races, which
if persisted in will result in the extermination of one or the
other. God forbid that I should be engaged in such a work!
Leslie H. Fishel and Benjamin Quarles, The Negro American:
A Documentary History, (Glenview, Ill., 1967), p. 135.
13 ‑ Slavery Abolished
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment
for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,
shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate
amendment was proposed to the State Legislatures by the 37th
Congress on February 1, 1865, and was ratified December 18,
1865. It was rejected by Delaware and Kentucky; was conditionally
ratified by Alabama and Mississippi; and Texas took no action.
14 ‑ Citizenship Rights Not To Be Abridged
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject
to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States
and of the State wherein they reside.
state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the
privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor
shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property
without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its
jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
amendment was proposed to the State Legislatures by the 39th
Congress on June 16, 1866, and was ratified July 23, 1868.
The amendment was supported by 23 Northern states. It
was rejected by Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and 10 ex‑Confederate
states. California took no action. It was later
ratified by the 10 ex‑Confederate states.
15 ‑ Equal Voting Rights
The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall
not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State
on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
The Congress shall have power to enforce the provisions of this
Article by appropriate legislation.
amendment was proposed to the State Legislatures by the 40th
Congress on February 27, 1869, and was ratified on March 30,
1870. It was supported by 30 states; it was rejected by
California, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Oregon. It
was not acted on by Tennessee. New York rescinded its ratification
on January 5, 1870. New Jersey rejected the amendment
in 1870, but ratified it in 1871.
AMENDMENTS: OREGON'S RESPONSE
the following vignette historian Elizabeth McLagan describes
the Oregon legislature's response to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth
Amendments to the U. S. Constitution.
During the Civil War the [Oregon] legislature passed the last
anti-black state laws, with the exception of the ban on intermarriage
passed in 1866. Between 1866 and 1872, the legislature
was required to consider ratification of the Fourteenth and
Fifteenth Amendments, which gave citizenship to black people
and the right to vote to black men. It was clear, however,
that these amendments were unpopular with most Oregonians....
The Oregon Statesman, in an editorial published [in 1865],
predicted that giving the vote to blacks would have a revolutionary
influence on society.... Full suffrage would result in a "war
of the races," the editorial concluded.
If we make the African a citizen, we cannot deny the same right
to the Indian or the Mongolian (the Chinese, Japanese and other
Asians). Then how long would we have peace and prosperity
when four races separate, distinct and antagonistic should be
at the polls and contend for the control of government?
The 1866 legislature, still controlled by the [Republicans]
but with a strong minority of Democrats, considered and ratified
the Fourteenth Amendment, although the vote was close... The
Democrats made two attempts to withdraw ratification but...these
This legislature also passed another law prohibiting intermarriage.
It was directed not only against white/black marriages, but
against anyone with "one-fourth or more Negro, Chinese
or [Hawaiian] blood, or any person having more than one half
Indian blood. It passed with little debate the combined
vote was 47 in favor, 8 opposed and 3 absent. The penalty
for disobeying the law was a prison sentence of not less than
three months, or up to one year in jail. Any person authorized
to conduct marriages who broke the law by marrying two people
illegally was subject to the same penalty, with an additional
$1,000 fine. This law was not repealed until 1951.
The legislator's reluctance to endorse the Fourteenth Amendment
was the subject of debate in the local press as well.
In 1867, the Eugene Weekly Democratic Review printed
a vicious attack on black people.
...gaping, bullet pated, thick lipped, wooly headed, animal-jawed
crowd of niggers, the dregs of broken up plantations, idle and
vicious blacks, released from wholesome restraints of task masters
and overseers... Greasy, dirty, lousy, they drowsily look down
upon the assembled wisdom of a dissevered Union. Sleepily
listen to legislators who have given them their freedom and
now propose to invest them with the highest privileges of American
Because of its rabid pro-South rhetoric, this paper had been
suppressed during the Civil War.
In 1868, another attempt was made to repeal ratification of
the Fourteenth Amendment, declared to be ratified nationally
only six weeks previously. This time the repeal passed
in both chambers by a combined vote of 39 to 27. This
session also recalled Oregon Senators George H. Williams and
Henry W. Corbett, criticized for their support of Reconstruction.
Williams was also active in the campaign to impeach President
Andrew Johnson, who had become the hero of the Democratic Party
for his opposition to Reconstruction. The legislature
was not deluded into thinking that its actions would make any
difference; the Oregonian predicted that if copies of
the resolutions ever reached Congress they would probably be
used to light someone's cigar...
The Fifteenth Amendment was proposed, ratified and declared
in force by Congress between Oregon's 1868 and 1870 legislative
sessions.... The legislative session of 1870...declared the
Fifteenth Amendment was "an infringement on popular rights
and a direct falsification of the pledges made to the state
of Oregon by the federal government." The Fifteenth
Amendment was finally ratified by the centennial legislature
Although Oregon refused to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment, a
state Supreme Court decision rendered in 1870 affirmed the right
of black men to vote. The case involved the election of
a county commissioner in Wasco County, and C.H. Yates and W.S.
Ford, two black men who had voted... That same year the Oregonian,
which five years earlier had opposed the Fifteen Amendment,
ran an editorial which admitted:
There are but a few colored men in Oregon, and their political
influence cannot be great. But these here are, as a rule,
quiet, industrious and intelligent citizens. We cannot
doubt they will exercise intelligently the franchise with which
they are newly invested.
Resistance to accepting the black vote...was overcome not by
a change in attitude, but because Oregonians realized that federal
civil rights legislation had to be acknowledged, if not endorsed.
By 1870, change was inevitable, so Oregonians acquiesced.
Blacks were granted civil rights under the terms imposed by
the federal government, without the endorsement of the state
legislature. Oregon's black population was small and posed
little threat to the established order. The period of enacting
racist legislation had ended, but it would be many years before
the legislature would begin to take an interest in passing laws
that would allow black people to enjoy equal rights as citizens
of the state.
Elizabeth McLagan, A Peculiar
A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940
(Portland, 1980), pp. 68-74.
VOTING RIGHTS: OTHER VIEWS FROM THE FAR WEST
an 1870 editorial the Olympia
(Washington Territory) Commercial
its position on black voting by publishing a long letter on
the subject from one of its local readers. The paper's
position is reprinted below. The second vignette from
the English-language Honolulu Friend indicates that the
debate over black voting rights extended beyond the boundaries
of the United States when in 1865 the newspaper urged that suffrage
be granted to the newly freed slaves.
Although the Fifteenth Amendment does not particularly affect
us in this Territory, as the colored folks have been voters
among us for sometime already, yet it will be a matter of much
importance in both Oregon and California. The following
from an exchange contains much truth and will prove of interest
to many of our readers:
"The number of colored men whose right to vote will be
established by the Fifteenth Amendment is estimated at 850,000.
Of these 790,000 are in the South, 41,000 in the states of New
York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana; 7,500 in
New England, and 8,500 in the remaining Western States.
These statistics we find in the [Baltimore] Sun, and assume
that they are approximately accurate.
These 850,000 black men may perhaps hold the balance of power
between the two political parties in the next presidential election
and for a long time to come. If the Democratic party persists
in its long‑time inveterate hostility to the negro, some
of the closely‑divided states will in all probability
be insured to the Republicans by the negro vote. Among
these states we may mention Connecticut, New York, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Ohio. But will the Democratic
party be so stupid as to drive these new voters en masse into
the Republican fold? We doubt it. On the contrary,
we expect to see that party making special efforts to win these
voters‑‑enough of them, at least, to divide their
strength. But, if the Republicans are true to themselves
and their principles, they will have a decided advantage over
their opponents in this struggle‑‑at least, so far
as the more intelligent of the negroes are concerned.
The negroes know, of course, that they owe their enfranchisement
to the Republican party, while they have every reason for regarding
the other party with aversion and distrust. But they cannot
all be expected to take the highest view of their obligations
as citizens; and many of them, will, no doubt, be ready to fall
into the snares which unscrupulous Democrats will be sure to
lay in their path. The Republicans, moreover, are by no
means all saints, nor all entirely exempt from the spirit of
estate. Mean men in this party, as in the other, will,
no doubt, continue to behave shabbily toward the new‑made
voters, thus helping the Democrats to "divide that they
may conquer." It will be a happy day for the country
when the people shall no more care to inquire whether a voter
or a candidate for office is white or black than whether he
is tall or short."
In glancing over the files of the American papers, the most
prominent question of discussion appears to be the status of
the negro. Shall he, or shall he not be admitted to all
the civil and political rights of the white inhabitants?
This is the question. Of course there is a great difference
of opinion upon the subject. Such men as Chief Justice
Chase, Senator Sumner, and a host of leading men of the Republican
party, take the ground that the negro should now be permitted
to vote and enjoy all the privileges of the white population.
In our opinion these men occupy the only consistent and correct
ground. The negro has nobly fought for the country, and
now not to allow him all the rights and privileges enjoyed by
his fellow soldiers would be wrong. A loyal negro, true
to his country and the flag, is surely as good a citizen as
a rebel, although he [the rebel] may have recently take
the oath of allegiance. We hope Americans will start aright
this time. Give the colored man a fair start, and let
him try for himself. We believe most fully in the doctrine
that all men should enjoy equal civil and political rights.
The tendency is towards that point in all lands. Revolutions
go not backward.
The (Olympia, Washington Territory) Commercial Age, March
26, 1870; The Honolulu Friend, reprinted in the San
Francisco Elevator, October 13, 1865, p. 1.
CITIZENS CELEBRATE THEIR NEW RIGHTS
Montana's African Americans, like their counterparts throughout
the United States acclaimed the passage of the Fourteenth and
Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. In 1870 they
wrote the local newspaper, the Helena Daily Herald, announcing
their celebration. The vignette suggests that Reconstruction
mean a new birth of freedom for African American outside the
South as well as in the Reconstruction states.
TO THE EDITOR:
We, the colored citizens of Helena, feeling desirous of showing
our high appreciation of those God-like gifts granted to us
by and through the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution
of the United States, and knowing, as we do, that those rights
which have been withheld from us, are now submerged and numbered
with the things of the past, now thank God, is written and heralded
to the wide world that we are free men and citizens of the United
States--shorn of all those stigmatizing qualifications which
have made us beasts. To-day, thank God, and the Congress
of the United States, that we, the colored people of the United
States, possess all those rights which God, in His infinite
wisdom, conveyed and gave unto us.
Now, we, the citizens of Helena, in the Territory of Montana,
in mass assembled, on the 14th of April, A.D. 1870, do, by these
presents, declare our intentions of celebrating the ratification
of the 15th Amendment, on this 15th day of April, by the firing
of thirty-two guns, from the hill and to the south of the city.
J.R. JOHNSON, Secretary
Helena Daily Herald, April 15, 1870.
after the Civil War ex‑slaveholders generated a series
of laws to regulate the behavior of the newly freed slaves.
While these codes recognized the end of slavery, most of these
laws nevertheless created repressive conditions that were strikingly
similar to slavery. Reprinted below are some of the 1866
black codes for a Louisiana parish.
Sec. 1: Be it ordained by the police jury of the parish of St.
Landry, That no negro shall be allowed to pass within the limits
of said parish without special permit in writing from his employer.
Whoever shall violate this provision shall pay a fine of two
dollars and fifty cents, or in default thereof shall be forced
to work four days on the public road, or suffer corporal punishment
as provided hereinafter.
Sec. 2: Every negro who shall be found absent from the residence
of his employer after ten o'clock at night, without a written
permit from his employer, shall pay a fine...
Sec. 3: No negro shall be permitted to rent or keep a house
within said parish. Any negro violating this provision
shall be immediately ejected and compelled to find an employer...
Sec. 4: Every negro is required to be in the regular service
of some white person, or former owner, who shall be held responsible
for the conduct of said negro.
Sec. 5: No public meetings or congregations of negroes shall
be allowed within said parish after sunset, but such public
meetings and congregations may be held between the hours of
sunrise and sunset, by special permission in writing of the
captain of patrol, within whose beat such meetings shall take
place. This prohibition, however, is not to prevent negroes
from attending the usual church services, conducted by white
ministers and priests...
Sec. 6: No negro shall be permitted to preach, exhort, or otherwise
declaim to congregations of colored people, without a special
permission in writing from the president of the police jury...
Sec. 7: No negro who is not in the military service shall be
allowed to carry firearms, or any kind of weapons, within the
parish without special written permission of his employers,
approved and indorsed by the nearest and most convenient chief
Sec. 8: No negro shall sell, barter, or exchange any articles
of merchandise or traffic within said parish without the special
written permission of his employer, specifying the article of
sale, barter or traffic.
Sec. 9: Any negro found drunk, within the said parish shall
pay a fine of five dollars, or in default thereof work five
days on the public road, or suffer corporal punishment as hereinafter
Howard H. Quint, Milton Cantor and Dean Albertson, Main Problems
in American History, (Chicago: The Dorsey Press, 1987) p.
STEVENS DEMANDS BLACK SUFFRAGE
Representative Thaddeus Stevens was one of the leaders of the
Radical Republicans in the Post Civil War Congress. In
1867 Stevens makes an impassioned plea for black suffrage before
the House of Representatives.
There are several good reasons for the passage of this bill
[for reconstructing the South]. In the first place, it
is just. I am now confining my argument to Negro suffrage
in the rebel states. Have not loyal blacks quite as good
a right to choose rulers and make laws as rebel whites?
In the second place, it is a necessity in order to protect the
loyal white men in the seceded states. The white Union
men are in a great minority in each of those states. With
them the blacks would act in a body; and it is believed that
in each of said states, except one, the two united would form
a majority, control the states and protect themselves.
Now they are the victims of daily murder. They must suffer
constant persecution, or be exiled...
Another good reason is, it would insure the ascendancy of the
Union [Republican] Party. "Do you avow the party purpose?"
exclaims some horror‑stricken demagogue. I do.
For I believe, on my conscience, that on the continued ascendancy
of that party depends the safety of this great nation. If impartial
suffrage is excluded in the rebel states, then every one of
them is sure to send a solid rebel representative delegation
to Congress, and cast a solid rebel electoral vote. They,
with their kindred Copperheads of the North, would always elect
the President and control Congress. Whole Slavery sat
upon her defiant throne, and insulted and intimidated the trembling
North... Now, you must divide them between loyalists,
without regard to color, and disloyalists, or you will be the
perpetual vassals of the free‑trade, irritated, revengeful
For these, among other reasons, I am for Negro suffrage in every
rebel state. If it be just, it should not be denied; if
it be necessary, it should be adopted; if it be a punishment
to traitors, they deserve it.
Thomas A. Bailey & David M. Kennedy, The American Spirit,
Vol. II, Lexington, Mass: D. C. Heath and Company, 1984), pp.
OF EX‑CONFEDERATE STATES 1876
Date of Readmission
July 24, 1866
October 4, 1869
June 22, 1868
November 10, 1869
June 25, 1868
January 2, 1877
June 25, 1868
January 2, 1877
June 25, 1868
November 3, 1870
June 25, 1868
November 28, 1876
November 16, 1874
January 26, 1870
October 5, 1869
February 23, 1870
January 4, 1876
March 30, 1870
January 14, 1873
July 15, 1870
November 1, 1871
*Tennessee was readmitted to the Union before the other
Ex‑Confederate States were divided into military
Black % of state population
Black % of Legislature
CAROLINA UNDER BLACK GOVERNMENT
S. Pike, a Maine Republican and former abolitionist, toured
South Carolina in 1873 and wrote a highly critical account of
Reconstruction in that state. Here is part of his description
of the state legislature.
Yesterday, about 4 p.m., the assembled wisdom of the State....issued
forth from the State House. About three‑quarters
of the crowd belonged to the African race. They were of
every hue, from the light octoroon to the deep black.
They were such a body of men as might pour our of a market house
at random in any Southern state...
"My God, look at this!" was the unbidden ejaculation
of a low‑country planter, clad in homespun, as he leaned
over the rail inside the House, gazing excitedly upon the body
in session. "This is the first time I have been here.
I thought I knew what we were doing when we consented to emancipation.
I knew the negro...but I never though it would come to this.
Let me go."
In the place of this old aristocratic society stands the rude
form of the most ignorant democracy that mankind ever saw, invested
with the functions of government... It is barbarism overwhelming
civilization by physical force. It is the slave rioting
in the halls of his master, and putting that master under his
...The body is almost literally a Black Parliament, and it is
the only one on the face of the earth which is representative
of a white constituency and the professed exponent of an advanced
type of modern civilization...The Speaker is black, the Clerk
is black...the chairman of the Ways and Means is black, and
the chaplain is coal‑black.
One of the things that first strike a casual observer in this
negro assembly is the fluency of debate...When an appropriation
bill is up to raise money to catch and punish the Ku‑klux,
they know exactly what it means. So, too, with educational
measures. The free school comes right home to them...
Sambo can talk on these topics and their endless ramifications,
day in and day out.
The negro is imitative in the extreme. He can copy like
a parrot or a monkey... He believes he can do any thing,
and never loses a chance to try... He is more vivacious
than the white, and, being more volatile and good‑natured,
he is correspondingly more irrepressible... He answers
completely to the description of a stupid speaker in Parliament,
given by Lord Derby on one occasion. It was said of him
that he did not know what he was going to say when he got up;
he did not know what he was saying while he was speaking, and
he did not know what he had said when he sat down.
Will South Carolina be Africanized? That depends.
The pickaninnies die off from want of care. Some blacks
are coming in from North Carolina and Virginia, but others are
going off farther South. The white young men who were
growing into manhood did not seem inclined to leave their homes
and migrate to foreign parts... The old slave‑holders
still hold their lands. The negroes were poor and unable to
buy, even if the land‑owners would sell. The whites
seem likely to hold their own while the blacks fall off.
Richard N. Current and John A. Garraty, ed., Words that Made
American History Since The Civil War, (Boston: Little, Brown
and Co., 1965), pp. 57‑61.
DEBATE OVER PUBLIC SCHOOLS
the 1960s most historians of Reconstruction assumed that black
politicians made virtually no contribution to the post Civil
War debates surrounding land redistribution and the public school
system. The historical record clearly shows otherwise.
In the following account from the Proceedings
of the Constitutional Convention of South
Carolina in 1868,
we see the spirited discussion among black politicians over
compulsory education. Here is part of the debate.
R. C. DE LARGE:
I am not well acquainted with all the clauses in the constitution
of Massachusetts, and speak only from my historic knowledge
of that people. This section proposes to open these schools
to all persons, irrespective of color, to open every seminary
of learning to all. Heartily do I endorse the object,
but the manner in which it is to be enforced meets my most earnest
disapproval. I do not propose to enact in this report
a section that may be used by our enemies to appeal to the worst
passions of a class of people in this State. The schools
may be opened to all, under proper provisions in the Constitution,
but to declare that parents "shall" send their children
to them whether they are willing or not is, in my judgment,
going to a step beyond the bounds of prudence. Is there
any logic or reason in inserting in the Constitution a provision
which cannot be enforced? What do we intend to give the
legislature power to do? In one breath you propose to
protect minor children, and in the next to punish their parents
by fine and imprisonment if they do not send their children
to school. For these reasons I am opposed to the section,
and urge that the word "compulsory" shall be stricken
A. J. RANSIER:
I am sorry to differ with my colleague from Charleston on this
question. I contend that in proportion to the education
of the people so is their progress in civilization. Believing
this, I believe that the Committee have properly provided for
the compulsory education of all the children in this State between
the ages named in the section.
I recognize the importance of this measure. there is a
seeming objection to the word "compulsory," but I
do not think it of grave importance. My friend does not
like it, because he says it is contrary to the spirit of republicanism.
To be free, however, is not to enjoy unlimited license, or my
friend himself might desire to enslave again his fellow men.
Now I propose to support this section fully, and believe that
the more it is considered in all its bearings upon the welfare
of our people, the greater will be the desire that every parent
shall, by some means, be compelled to educate his children and
fit them for the responsibilities of life. As to the particular
mode of enforcing attendance at school, we leave that an open
question. At present we are only asserting the general
principle, and the Legislature will provide for its application.
Upon the success of republicanism depends the progress which
our people are destined to make. If parents are disposed
to clog this progress by neglecting the education of their children,
for one, I will not aid and abet them. Hence, this, in
my opinion, is an exceedingly wise provision, and I am content
to trust to the Legislature to carry out the measures to which
it necessarily leads.
Vice and degradation go hand in hand with ignorance. Civilization
and enlightenment follow fast upon the footsteps of the schoolmaster;
and if education must be enforced to secure these grand results,
I say let the compulsory process go on.
R. C. DE LARGE:
Can the gentleman demonstrate how the Legislature is to enforce
the education of children without punishment of their parents
by fine or imprisonment.
A. J. RANSIER:
When that question arises in the Legislature, I hope we shall
answer that question. If there is any one thing to which
we may attribute the sufferings endured by this people, it is
the gross ignorance of the masses. While we propose to
avoid all difficulties which may be fraught with evil to the
community, we shall, nevertheless, insist upon our right to
provide for the exercise of the great moral agencies which education
always brings to bear upon public opinion. had there been
such a provision as this in the Constitution of South Carolina
heretofore, there is no doubt that many of the evils which at
present exist would have been avoided, and the people would
have been advanced to a higher stage of civilization and morals,
and we would not have been called upon to mourn the loss of
the flower of the youth of our country. In conclusion,
I favor this section as it stands. I do not think it will
militate against the cause of republicanism, but, on the contrary,
be of benefit both to it and to the people whom we represent.
Feeling that everything depends on the education of the rising
generation, I shall give this measure my vote, and use all my
exertions to secure its adoption into this Constitution.
B. F. RANDOLPH:
In favoring, as I do, compulsory attendance at school, I cannot
for the life of me see in what manner republicanism is at stake.
It seems to have been the fashion on this floor to question
a man's republicanism because he chooses to differ with others
on general principles. Now this is a question which does
not concern republicanism at all. It is simply a matter
of justice which is due to a people, and it might be just
as consistently urged that it is contrary to republican principles
to organize the militia, as to urge that this provision is anti-republican
because it compels parents to see to the education of their
B. O. DUNCAN:
Does the gentleman propose to educate children at the point
of the bayonet, through the militia?
B. F. RANDOLPH:
If necessary, we may call out the militia to enforce the law.
Now, the gentlemen on the other side have given no reasons why
the word "compulsory" should be stricken out.
R. C. DE LARGE:
Can you name any State where the provisions exists in its Constitution?
B. F. RANDOLPH:
It exists in Massachusetts.
R. C. DE LARGE:
That is not so.
F. L. CARDOZO:
This system has been tested in Germany, and I defy the gentlemen
from Charleston to deny the fact. It has also been tested
in several States of the Union, and I defy the gentleman to
show that is has not been a success. It becomes the duty
of the opposition if they want this section stricken from the
report, to show that where it has been applied it has failed
to produce the result desired.
J. J. WRIGHT:
Will you inform us what State in the Union compels parents to
send their children to school?
B. F. RANDOLPH:
The State of New Hampshire is one. It may be asked what
is the object of law? It is not only for the purpose of
restraining men from doing wrong, but for the protection of
all citizens of a State, and the promotion of the general welfare.
Blackstone lays it down as one of the objects, the furthering,
as far as it can consistently be done of the general welfare
of the people. It is one of the objects of law, as far
as practicable, not to restrain wrong by punishing man for violating
the right, but also one of its grand objects to build up civilization,
and this is the grand object of this provision in the report
of the Committee on Education. It proposes to further
civilization and I look upon it as one of the most important
results which will follow the defeat of the rebel armies, the
establishment among the people who have long been deprived of
the privilege of education, a law which will compel parents
to send their children to school.
Proceedings of the Constitutional
Convention of South
(Charleston, 1868), pp. 686-94, 705-08. Reprinted in Thomas
R. Frazier, Afro-American History: Primary Sources
(Chicago, 1988)pp. 138-142.
JUSTIFIES RECONSTRUCTION VIOLENCE
Carolina Senator Benjamin R. Tillman participated in anti‑black
violence in the 1870s. Years later, in a 1907 speech on
the floor of Senate, he explained why the violence was necessary.
It was in 1876, thirty years ago, and the people of South Carolina
had been living under Negro rule for eight years. There
was a condition bordering upon anarchy. Misrule, robbery,
and murder were holding high carnival...Life ceased to be worth
having on the terms under which we were living, and in desperation
we determined to take the government away from the Negroes.
We reorganized the Democratic Party [of South Carolina] with
one plank, and only one plank, namely, that "this is a
white man's country, and white men must govern it."
Under that banner we went to battle.
We had 8,000 Negro militia organized by carpetbaggers...
They used to drum up and down the roads with their fifes and
their gleaming bayonets, equipped with new Springfield rifles
and dressed in the regulation uniform. It was lawful,
I suppose, but these Negro soldiers‑‑or this Negro
militia, for they were never soldiers‑‑growing more
and more bold, let drop talk among themselves where the white
children might hear... This is what they said: "The
President [Grant] is our friend. The North is with us.
We intend to kill all the white men, take the land, marry the
white women, and then these white children will wait on us."
Clashes came. The Negro militia grew unbearable and more
and more insolent. I am not speaking of what I have read;
I am speaking of what I know, of what I saw. There were
two militia companies in my township and a regiment in my county.
We had clashes with these Negro militiamen. The Hamburg
riot was one clash, in which seven Negroes and one white man
were killed. A month later we had the Ellerton riot, in
which no one ever knew how many Negroes were killed, but there
were [at least] forty or fifty or a hundred. It was a
fight between barbarism and civilization, between the African
and the Caucasian, for mastery.
It was then that "we shot them"; it was then that
"we killed them"; it was then that "we stuffed
ballot boxes." After the [federal] troops came and
told us, "You must stop this rioting," we had decided
to take the government away from men so debased as were the
[President] Grant sent troops to maintain the carpetbag government
in power and to protect the Negroes in the right to vote.
He merely obeyed the law... Then it was that "we
stuffed ballot boxes," because desperate diseases require
desperate remedies, and having resolved to take the state away,
we hesitated at nothing...
I want to say now that we have not shot any Negroes in South
Carolina on account of politics since 1876. We have not
found it necessary. Eighteen hundred and seventy‑six
happened to be the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration
of Independence, and the action of the white men of South Carolina
in taking the state away from the Negroes we regard as a second
declaration of independence by the Caucasian from African barbarism.
Thomas A. Bailey & David M. Kennedy, The American Spirit,
Vol. II, Lexington, Mass: D. C. Heath and Company, 1984), pp.