battle over the institution of slavery ended with the Civil War in 1865.
However, the ideological battle over slavery still persisted through the
Reconstruction period and beyond. Normally the victor of the battle would win
the peace and implement a new rule over the conquered subjects. However, it
seems the reversal happened after the Civil War. This paper will argue that even
though the ex-Confederate South surrendered to the Union, they won the peace
through terrorizing African Americans, lack of stable Republican support for
reconstruction, and reconstructing the history of the Civil War through “The
Ex-Confederate Southerners helped
bring an end to Northern Reconstruction by terrorizing African Americans. With
their newfound freedom, African Americans did not waste anytime in getting
involved 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 of
the United States.1
Being a citizen meant equal opportunity and political representation and equal
rights within American society.2
However, even though they strove to be independent citizens practicing their
entitled rights, they received opposition from white Southerners who did not
approve of racial equality and of assimilating African Americans into white
society. African Americans were harassed, beaten, and shot at (among other
abuses) and their homes, churches, and schools were burned down as white
supremacists rioted through black settlements.3
White Southerners did this to resist the encroachment of black political power
and to reestablish white supremacy. 4
White Southerners were angry about losing their control over African Americans
and so they committed acts of violence such as “assault, mutilating, and
murder” in order to subvert black political power and the power of the
This way the white Southern Democrats could discourage black people from
exercising 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 African
Americans were not being promoted and respected, reconstruction in the South
was not successful. The white Southern Democrats also resisted Republican
Reconstruction by weakening the Republican representation in the South.
The ex-Confederate Southerners also won
the peace through weakening and dissolving Republican political presence in the
South. The ex-Confederate South was forced, through reconstruction and militia policies
established by the federal government, to make new state constitutions that
recognized African Americans as free citizens, prove their loyalty to the
Union, and end the institution of slavery.6 White Southern Democrats did not like massive
Northern Republican intrusion brought on by Reconstruction, which established
many new positions in the South due to the huge support of its new members in
society, African Americans.7
Although Republicans and African Americans were able to have a huge impact on
reconstructing the South, particularly in promoting African American political
and civil rights, white Southern Democrats were determined to resist Radical
Reconstruction and prevent the Republican Party from being “a legitimate force
within the South.”8
Through organizations such as the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), the election of
Republican candidates was threatened. The KKK made the Republican Party look
weak by challenging “its authority and ability to govern.”9
The Republicans had less success in elections as the Reconstruction period
progressed due to the terror enacted by white Southerners on African Americans.
This also meant that the Democratic Party received more opportunities to elect
their white supremacy men into political offices. The Democratic Party in the
South further weakened and destabilized the Republican Party by bribing its
Eventually, due to other nationalistic issues concerning the economy, the
Republicans would abandon Reconstruction and go back to the North.11
The fact that Republicans slowly retreated from Reconstruction in the South
meant that Democrats were reemerging as politically dominant in the South and
that African Americans lost most of their support and protection of their civil
and political rights. The ex-Confederate Southerners worked on changing the
narrative of the war as they came back into power and ended Reconstruction.
The ex-Confederates Southerners won the
peace of the war through their ability to narrate the history of the Civil War
as “The Lost Cause”. The Lost Cause was an attempt to rewrite the history of
the defeated Confederacy in way that euphemized and celebrated Confederate
efforts. The Lost Cause proposed that the Confederacy did not lose but was
rather outnumbered by Union troops and resources; that general Lee was an
American hero; that slavery was never important to the South’s way of life;
that slaves were happy in their position of servitude.12
These stories were accepted by both the North and South and were spread through
many different mediums. Many novels, movies, monuments, memorials, and academic
textbooks have elements of the Lost Cause ingrained in them. The United
Daughters of the Confederacy were a major influence in spreading the ideology
of the Lost Cause through history textbooks and many memorials.13
The spread of this false narrative has shaped presently the way in which the
Civil War is viewed. The Lost Cause depicts the Civil War was a white mans war
and that African Americans had nothing to do with it.14
The South was able to shape the memory and history of the Civil War, despite
that they lost, and that has created issues in studying the history of the
Civil War today.
The Southern ex-Confederates were able to
win the peace of the war by committing violence against African Americans,
causing the Republicans to leave the South and abandon Reconstruction, and
writing their own narrative of how they wanted future generations to remember
the war. The ideology of slavery survived through the weak enforcement of
reconstruction acts and protection of Southern African American civil and
political rights. The South was able to rewrite the history and memory of the
civil war, which allows for the idea of white supremacy and discrimination to
exist in society today.
1 Hannah Rosen,
“Introduction,” in Terror in the Heart of
Freedom: Citizenship, Sexual Violence, and the Meaning of Race in the
Postemancipation South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
2 Ibid., 2.
3 Ibid., 3.
4 Ibid., 7.
5 Chapter 13: “Ending
Reconstruction” in Major Problems,
ed. Perman and Taylor, 454.
6 Rachel Shelden, “The
Politics of Reconstruction,” Nov. 7, 2017.
7 Chapter 13: “Ending Reconstruction” in Major Problems, ed. Perman and Taylor,
8 Ibid., 453.
9 Ibid., 456.
10 Ibid., 458.
11 Ibid., 458.
13 Rachel Shelden, “The
Long Life of the Civil War and Reconstruction,” Nov. 11, 2017.
14 Ta-Nashisi Coates, “Why
Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?” The
Atlantic, February 2012.