By winning the Civil War, the North achieved the two main things it had fought for—the Southern states remained part of the Union, and slavery was abolished throughout the land. But the end of the war also raised many difficult new questions.
^^ People to Know
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) Union general who commanded all Federal troops, 1864-65; led Union armies at Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Petersburg; eighteenth president of the United States, 1869-77
Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893) nineteenth president of the United States, 1877-81
Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) seventeenth president of the United States, 1865-69
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) sixteenth president of the United States, 1861-65
For example, Northern lawmakers had to decide whether to punish the leaders of the Confederate rebellion. Some people in the North wanted the Confederate leaders to face harsh punishment for committing treason (betraying the United States). They believed that the Confederates should go to prison, give up their property, and be prohibited from voting or holding public office. These feelings intensified after Lincoln was assassinated. Other people in the North just wanted things to return to normal as soon as possible. They worried that punishing Confederate leaders would only stir up additional anger and resentment in the South.
Northern leaders also had to decide how and when the Southern states should be readmitted to the Union. Some people wanted the North to establish strict conditions for the states to meet before they could rejoin the Union. They felt that this was the only way to ensure the states' loyalty and to protect the rights of former slaves and Union supporters in the South. Other people thought that the North had already achieved its main goals, and believed that the federal government should not interfere with the states' internal issues. These people wanted the Southern states to be readmitted as quickly as possible.
One of the most pressing issues to arise at the end of the Civil War involved race relations. This was particularly true in the South, because slavery was the only sort of black-white relationship that many Southerners had ever known. Under slavery, black people were considered inferior and were forced to work for whites. When slavery was suddenly eliminated, Southerners had to develop a new labor system to take its place. Many former slaves were no longer willing to submit to white rule and wanted equal rights. At the same time, many Southern whites expressed anger and fear about the changes taking place in their society. Some white people took their feelings out on blacks through violence.
"For most practical purposes slavery ended with the war. But emancipation [the freeing of slaves] raised new problems that were fully as great," Allen W. Trelease wrote in his book Re construction: The Great Experiment. "If the Negro freedman was no longer a slave, was he to be a full-fledged citizen with rights and privileges equal to those of any other citizen, or a dependent element in the population, free but not equal? This question was destined to torment the American people for generations to come."
Another problem that arose at the end of the Civil War concerned repairing the physical damage to the nation's cities, ports, railroad lines, bridges, and roads. Since most major battles took place in the South, the Southern states bore most of the physical damage of the war. Some cities— including Richmond, Virginia; Atlanta, Georgia; and Columbia, South Carolina—were devastated. Half of the railroad lines in the South had been destroyed, several ports were damaged, and many people had lost their homes. In fact, nearly every house, barn, and fence had been torn down or burned in parts of Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina. The federal and state governments had to provide food for hungry people and money to rebuild structures.
The South's main advantage was that its economy had depended on agriculture, and a great deal of land was still available for farming. Most of the physical damage to property was repaired within a few years. In addition, the new state governments in the South undertook many building projects after the war in order to provide people with jobs. As a result, the South actually ended up with more factories, railroads, businesses, and public facilities than it had before the war.
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