After Lincoln: How the North Won the Civil War and Lost the Peace

A. J. Langguth

Language: English

Pages: 432

ISBN: 1451617321

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A brilliant evocation of the post-Civil War era by the acclaimed author of Patriots and Union 1812. After Lincoln tells the story of the Reconstruction, which set back black Americans and isolated the South for a century.

With Lincoln’s assassination, his “team of rivals,” in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s phrase, was left adrift. President Andrew Johnson, a former slave owner from Tennessee, was challenged by Northern Congressmen, Radical Republicans led by Thaddeus Stephens and Charles Sumner, who wanted to punish the defeated South. When Johnson’s policies placated the rebels at the expense of the black freed men, radicals in the House impeached him for trying to fire Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Johnson was saved from removal by one vote in the Senate trial, presided over by Salmon Chase. Even William Seward, Lincoln’s closest ally in his cabinet, seemed to waver.

By the 1868 election, united Republicans nominated Ulysses Grant, Lincoln's winning Union general. The night of his victory, Grant lamented to his wife, “I’m afraid I’m elected.” His attempts to reconcile Southerners with the Union and to quash the rising Ku Klux Klan were undercut by post-war greed and corruption during his two terms.

Reconstruction died unofficially in 1887 when Republican Rutherford Hayes joined with the Democrats in a deal that removed the last federal troops from South Carolina and Louisiana. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill with protections first proposed in 1872 by the Radical Senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner.

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with the Senate by shipping off Sumner to London as Motley’s replacement. But when he called on the senator at home, he found Sumner sunk in despair: His expenses were ruinous, Sumner complained. His house was making him a pauper, and the publishing of his collected works required fifteen hundred dollars a year. “You can’t understand my situation,” Sumner said sadly. “Your family relations are all pleasant. Why, many and many a night when I go to bed I almost wish that I may never awaken.” But

his successor. Republican leaders themselves granted that their white candidates in the South seldom reflected the business or professional background of their constituents. Coming from the North made them vulnerable to the charge of being carpetbaggers. Since few of them, black or white, had an independent political base like Pinchback’s, they depended on federal patronage, and to survive, they sometimes alienated voters by inflating their government salaries. •  •  • But Pinchback’s

Democrats’ revolt in Louisiana, Grant sent General Sheridan to the scene with three gunboats and five thousand troops. When they surrounded the statehouse, white resistance evaporated. Sheridan asked Grant for authorization to arrest leaders of the White League and try them by courts-martial. When his proposal was leaked to the press, not only did the South erupt in fury, but Northerners joined in protesting the infringement on the Constitution. Grant sent Sheridan back an encouraging telegram

either whites or blacks. As the election neared, a mild movement arose to nominate Sumner for the presidency. But black leaders, including Frederick Douglass, worried that Sumner’s candidacy would ensure a Democratic victory. Their apprehension turned out to be needless, since Sumner did not run. From his enforced retirement, Andrew Johnson spoke for much of the nation: “The idea of the Democracy supporting Charles Sumner is too utterly preposterous to talk about.” •  •  • Brooding over his

Act had destroyed any traces of friendship. Now Sumner claimed that there was nothing Butler touched “that he does not disfigure.” The accusation was especially pointed since it could be taken as referring to the defect in Butler’s lip that distorted his speech. Sumner went on to add that Butler “cannot open his mouth, but out there flies a blunder.” Butler was not in the chamber as Sumner mocked the way he had boasted about South Carolina’s venerable traditions. “He cannot surely have forgotten

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