Thebattle over the institution of slavery ended with the Civil War in 1865.However, the ideological battle over slavery still persisted through theReconstruction period and beyond.
Normally the victor of the battle would winthe peace and implement a new rule over the conquered subjects. However, itseems the reversal happened after the Civil War. This paper will argue that eventhough the ex-Confederate South surrendered to the Union, they won the peacethrough terrorizing African Americans, lack of stable Republican support forreconstruction, and reconstructing the history of the Civil War through “TheLost Cause”.
Ex-Confederate Southerners helpedbring an end to Northern Reconstruction by terrorizing African Americans. Withtheir newfound freedom, African Americans did not waste anytime in gettinginvolved in politics and establishing themselves within their new communities.They saw freedom as more then not being a servant but also to be a citizen ofthe United States.1Being a citizen meant equal opportunity and political representation and equalrights within American society.2However, even though they strove to be independent citizens practicing theirentitled rights, they received opposition from white Southerners who did notapprove of racial equality and of assimilating African Americans into whitesociety. African Americans were harassed, beaten, and shot at (among otherabuses) and their homes, churches, and schools were burned down as whitesupremacists rioted through black settlements.
3White Southerners did this to resist the encroachment of black political powerand to reestablish white supremacy. 4White Southerners were angry about losing their control over African Americansand so they committed acts of violence such as “assault, mutilating, andmurder” in order to subvert black political power and the power of theRepublican Party.5This way the white Southern Democrats could discourage black people fromexercising their political right to vote and also weaken the support for Republicans(black and white) in the South. Since the civil and political rights of AfricanAmericans were not being promoted and respected, reconstruction in the Southwas not successful. The white Southern Democrats also resisted RepublicanReconstruction by weakening the Republican representation in the South.
The ex-Confederate Southerners also wonthe peace through weakening and dissolving Republican political presence in theSouth. The ex-Confederate South was forced, through reconstruction and militia policiesestablished by the federal government, to make new state constitutions thatrecognized African Americans as free citizens, prove their loyalty to theUnion, and end the institution of slavery.6 White Southern Democrats did not like massiveNorthern Republican intrusion brought on by Reconstruction, which establishedmany new positions in the South due to the huge support of its new members insociety, African Americans.7Although Republicans and African Americans were able to have a huge impact onreconstructing the South, particularly in promoting African American politicaland civil rights, white Southern Democrats were determined to resist RadicalReconstruction and prevent the Republican Party from being “a legitimate forcewithin the South.
“8Through organizations such as the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), the election ofRepublican candidates was threatened. The KKK made the Republican Party lookweak by challenging “its authority and ability to govern.”9The Republicans had less success in elections as the Reconstruction periodprogressed due to the terror enacted by white Southerners on African Americans.This also meant that the Democratic Party received more opportunities to electtheir white supremacy men into political offices. The Democratic Party in theSouth further weakened and destabilized the Republican Party by bribing itsmembers.10Eventually, due to other nationalistic issues concerning the economy, theRepublicans would abandon Reconstruction and go back to the North.11The fact that Republicans slowly retreated from Reconstruction in the Southmeant that Democrats were reemerging as politically dominant in the South andthat African Americans lost most of their support and protection of their civiland political rights.
The ex-Confederate Southerners worked on changing thenarrative of the war as they came back into power and ended Reconstruction.The ex-Confederates Southerners won thepeace of the war through their ability to narrate the history of the Civil Waras “The Lost Cause”. The Lost Cause was an attempt to rewrite the history ofthe defeated Confederacy in way that euphemized and celebrated Confederateefforts. The Lost Cause proposed that the Confederacy did not lose but wasrather outnumbered by Union troops and resources; that general Lee was anAmerican hero; that slavery was never important to the South’s way of life;that slaves were happy in their position of servitude.12These stories were accepted by both the North and South and were spread throughmany different mediums.
Many novels, movies, monuments, memorials, and academictextbooks have elements of the Lost Cause ingrained in them. The UnitedDaughters of the Confederacy were a major influence in spreading the ideologyof the Lost Cause through history textbooks and many memorials.13The spread of this false narrative has shaped presently the way in which theCivil War is viewed. The Lost Cause depicts the Civil War was a white mans warand that African Americans had nothing to do with it.14The South was able to shape the memory and history of the Civil War, despitethat they lost, and that has created issues in studying the history of theCivil War today.
The Southern ex-Confederates were able towin the peace of the war by committing violence against African Americans,causing the Republicans to leave the South and abandon Reconstruction, andwriting their own narrative of how they wanted future generations to rememberthe war. The ideology of slavery survived through the weak enforcement ofreconstruction acts and protection of Southern African American civil andpolitical rights. The South was able to rewrite the history and memory of thecivil war, which allows for the idea of white supremacy and discrimination toexist in society today. 1 Hannah Rosen,”Introduction,” in Terror in the Heart ofFreedom: Citizenship, Sexual Violence, and the Meaning of Race in thePostemancipation South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,2009), 2.
2 Ibid., 2.3 Ibid., 3.4 Ibid., 7.
5 Chapter 13: “EndingReconstruction” in Major Problems,ed. Perman and Taylor, 454.6 Rachel Shelden, “ThePolitics of Reconstruction,” Nov. 7, 2017.7 Chapter 13: “Ending Reconstruction” in Major Problems, ed.
Perman and Taylor,451. 8 Ibid., 453.9 Ibid., 456. 10 Ibid.
, 458.11 Ibid., 458. 12 Ibid.13 Rachel Shelden, “TheLong Life of the Civil War and Reconstruction,” Nov. 11, 2017.
14 Ta-Nashisi Coates, “WhyDo So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?” TheAtlantic, February 2012.