THE SOUTH REJOINS THE UNION (Illustration) American History Awesome Radio - Narrated Stories Civil Rights Government Law and Politics Slaves and Slave Owners Social Studies Nineteenth Century Life American Presidents African American History

Alfred Waud's drawing, entitled “Mustered Out,” depicts a scene which occurred in Little Rock on the 20th of April, 1865.  Published in the May 19, 1866 issue of Harper's Weekly, the drawing (Chinese white on green paper) “captures [according to the Library of Congress curators] the exuberance of the Little Rock, Arkansas, African American community as the U. S. Colored Troops returned home at the end of the Civil War. The victorious soldiers are joyously greeted by women and children.”  Online via Library of Congress. Click on the image for a better view.


Reconstruction of the south became America's first priority after the Civil War was over. Different folks had different ideas how that would work. Agendas die hard even in defeat, however, and reconstruction was a bitter time.

After the Confederacy lost the war, federal laws passed by Congress once again had full force and effect in the South. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, effective eight months after the war, freed all slaves. It was the first reconstruction law. Union troops stayed in the South to enforce reconstruction until 1877.

Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, came within one vote of losing his job over reconstruction. While Congress was in lengthy recess during the summer of 1865, Johnson got on with his own plan. He wanted to move quickly to reintegrate the South.

News traveled slowly in those days and, when Congress was finally back in session, legislators were shocked that reconstruction had moved so far ahead without their input. The stage was set for a major battle with the President.

As fast as Congress passed laws regarding the South, Johnson exercised his right to veto such legislation. Perhaps everyone had forgotten the words Lincoln wrote in his Second Inaugural Address:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds...

No one can doubt, had Lincoln lived, his first priority would have been to "bind up the nation's wounds" with "malice toward none." With Lincoln out of the picture, however, the fight was on.

After battling with President Johnson for so many months, the House of Representatives voted Articles of Impeachment against him.  Johnson stood trial in the Senate, where he won the case by a single vote.

By the early 1880s, reconstruction of the South was essentially complete, but life was about to get much worse for African Americans.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Aug 01, 2005

Updated Last Revision: May 03, 2019

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"THE SOUTH REJOINS THE UNION" AwesomeStories.com. Aug 01, 2005. Feb 17, 2020.
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