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Redemption by Nicholas Lemann: Importance of Reconstruction to American History

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Redemption by Nicholas Lemann

Redemption by Nicholas Lemann

Questions to Ponder

As you read the history of Post Reconstruction, feel free to think about the following questions and include your responses in the comment section:

  1. Did you know that these things and events were happening immediately after the Civil War?
  2. Do you think the Civil War really ended? Why or why not?
  3. What else could have been done to strengthen liberty of all people in the States?
  4. How does this make you feel about the power of government laws?
  5. What do you think the major theme of Reconstruction?


Redemption: Prologue and Introduction

It starts with a story in Louisiana during the Easter of April, 1873. The specific date was the 13th of April. Negroes controlled a village for three weeks, and Confederate veterancs came to help the whites. Things worse than death occurred in this short time. Blacks were mutilated and tortured.

Politics was a matter of life and death in 1873. Colfax was a small town that had good land and a lot of potential for money. There was an election in '71 where two people won. Republican slave William Ward won for the blacks, and Democratic Confederate Chris Nash won for the whites. Chris Nash killed many negroes in the year 1871. Ward took over the courthouse at night and angered the whites.

In white accounts, the negroes rampaged through the Grant Parish by stealing, threatening, despoiling plantations, and putting whites at gunpoint. A popular story was that blacks came with a mob and burned a white guys house. According to the white man, the white man slept, saw a vision, and escaped just in time.

From the end of the war to 1875, 2,141 negroes were killed and 2,115 were injured.

On April 1st, 1873, James Hadnot led around a dozen guys into Colfax with pistols with the intent to take Colfax back by force. On April 5th, Ward and whites met to talk about a truce, but it didn't happen. Boggy Bayou was the most substantial skirmish. Many died and people were calling for "Blood Blood!"

A week into April, 400-500 blacks were at Colfax. Blacks made no attempts of attacks on the whites. Nash called for reinforcements via steamboat, but they only received a cannon.

On the morning of Easter Sunday, Nash gave his people the ability to return home, and 25 did. Nash tried to make blacks surrender, but they refused. Nash attacked from three sides, and Negroes were losing the battle. The blacks defended the courthouse well, but fire was set by a black man. Whites got a black prisoner to burn it.

Whites slaughtered the blacks, but stories made it seem like whites were not savages. It said that blacks were savages. Whites were absolute savages. A quote from the book of the whites talking to him includes "wanna see dead niggers..."

Whites told blacks that they take prisoners to another city, yet they killed them from behind instead. The Deklyre was the Metro Police, and they saw Colfax for what it was. After the horrible event, 73 people died. 71 were black, and 2 were white. It is not hard to see how the stories were exaggerated.

The Enforcement Act of 1870: this was a result of the massacure. In addition, one result was a trial. This trial was effective because it was the first time that all the testimony was from a colored man.

The White League was formed, and it was political in its aims. It wanted Republicans out of the government, and it was considered the "military arm for the Democratic Party". President Grant denounced the whites of Louisiana for this crime. White southerners were finally happy because they won something.

The above is the end of the Prologue.

Chapter 1: Adelbert and Blanche

Adelbert Ames is a man who had a very good life. He went to West Point, served in the Civil War, and was a commander in 16 battles. During that time he was shot in the thigh; this made him have to get into a temporary wheelchair. He fought for the Confederacy, reached the level of Brigadier General, and received the Medal of Honor. However, despite the fact that he was in the Confederacy, he still felt that it was a sin to kill a “nigger”. Ames accomplished a lot, but he still felt like his life was empty.

President Johnson allowed the Black Codes (Mississippi Codes), so Mississippi was not re-admitted as a state for a while.

During this time, Ames was the governor of the area. When he became governor, he started to notice the whites’ threats and killings. They became more violent and frequent as it came closer to election time.

The new Mississippi Republican legislature had 2 senators. One was black Hiram Revels, and the other was Adelbert Ames. During this time, the beautiful Blanch Butler was a regular attendee at Washington, and she was described as “elegant”. Ames was a Republican, and after watching her go to the Washington meetings for a short while, he decided that he wanted Blanch Butler for marriage.

Adelbert and Blanch eventually got married, but their honeymoon was delayed for extenuating circumstances. Basically, politics in Mississippi was most of the problem. Blanch REALLY did not like Mississippi. This posed a serious problem. She wasn’t a big fan of blacks’ rights either. Adelbert was on the more conservative side, but he was governor of Mississippi so he was in a predicament. In addition, the black votes are what kept Adelbert in office. They consisted of most of his votes.

On the other side, governor Alcorn was a man who wanted to bring in people to the Republican party who did not like blacks. He slowly started taking apart the pro-negro party. 30 African American schools and 67 African Americans were burned and killed under Alcorn. However, Alcorn started looking to become Senator of Mississippi.

Ames, who actually lived in another state, knew that he had to get a house in Mississippi and run for Governor in order to secure his future Senate seat. During this time he had a son, whom he named Butler, which was his father’s esteemed name.

Adelbert did not know what to do with his life; he was not fully committed to Mississippi or politics. Blanch was even more interested in politics than Adelbert was, but she did NOT like Mississippi. Governor Alcorn opposed federal enforcement of Negroe rights, and because of the Alcorn/Adelbert rivalry, blacks formed Republican organizations.

Where Negroes were gaining in organizing and voting, they were losing in alternative jobs to plantation employment (sharecropping).

Blacks wanted to vote for Ames, so Ames started getting more enthusiastic about speeches and what not. His speeches started lasting upwards of 3-4 hours. Even the passion in his voice began to become more and more intense with each new speech.

President Grant won Mississippi because of the Negroe votes. Ames, now getting more involved in his political career, began looking for a house; he ended up buying a very large house in Mississippi so that he could be closer to his work. Ames eventually found it to be his duty and job to protect Negroe rights.

During this time, Blanch had another baby. Blanch had traveled to Mississippi to live with Adelbert in their new Mississippi home, but Blanch really did not like the house or the state, so she went back to Massachusetts. They kept n touch by writing letters to each other. It took a couple months for each letter to get there though, so they just had to write many letters before they could actually write a response letter.

Ames was doing very well politically and he had lots of support from whites and almost all blacks. Long story short, Ames won the election for governor, despite the fact that Alcorn was trying to delay the election a year. Now, Ames had been a Brigadier General, and he was a Senator and a Governor.

Chapter 2: Vicksburg Troubles

Jackson, Mississippi, was a a vey grand, independent city. The house in Jackson was not all that Blanch expected though, which is why she moved back to Massachusetts. Governor Ames had plans for reforming the public education system, as well as a program for making slaves landowners.

The prosperous whites in Mississippi believed that racial inequality was the natural order of things and that public education would destroy it. “Reform” was supposedly coming up, ad in meant that the gold standard, free trade, civil service free from patronage, limited government, low taxes, and many other systems and programs were underway.

Reformers did not like Benjamin Butler (Butler-ism), who emphasized the idea of big government. Benjamin Butler was Blanch’s father, and he was a very important man.

Lucius Quintus Lamar was a US Congressman, a Confederate General, and an adamant force against black rights. To put into perspective his influence and importance, he gave a eulogy at Charles Sumtner’s funeral. Lamar was a Southern diehard and a national statesman. Therefore, he was a threat to Ames!

Vicksburg was troubled because of the literal fighting for control. Mid-July was the anniversary when Vicksburg was captured by Grant and the Union forces, as well as the anniversary of when the splitting of the Confederacy.

“Democracy” was being nullified by the whites of Vicksburg. A mob amassed and controlled the city. Re-election was on August 5th, and the Democrats had a sweeping victory.

President Grant refused to send troops to the South to help his re-election, and this led to racial dispute in other states. As well, Ames had lost the willpower to fight for Mississippi.

In short, the radicals of Mississippi were well financed terrorists, very organized, and they led people to unseat the Republican party. The White League, which was an extremely racist organization against black rights, fought to get a government out, but Grant now came to the decision whether or not to bring in the troops.

It was a controversial decision that Grant wavered on, but he finally decided to send in the army. President Grant sent in Major Merrill to suppress the uprising. Major Merrill reported back to Grant that there was no hope of local enforcement.

Grants decision to send troops a few days before the election really hurt the Republican’s chances of winning. It looked as though the Union victory from the Civil War was already coming apart.

Overthrow of Reconstruction was now beginning to seem plausible. Blacks were constantly scared. Over throwers in the armed mob went to the courthouse.

Ames could accept the overthrow, but if he did it would encourage “White Liners” all over the state to do the same thing to their local governments. So Crosby returned to Vicksburg. On December 7th, there was a battle.

A supposed group of 400 negroes formed, and Miller led whites to attack. The blacks tried to go home, but the whites massacred them. Whites went to Negroe houses and assassinated blacks such as the Banks family, and Federal Troops were finally sent to Vicksburg.

This time the federal troops were led by General Sheridan. They replaced the Democrats with Republicans. Sheridan wanted the White League leaders arrested somehow, and his letter to the president expressed much disapproval in the situation at Mississippi.

President Grant supported troops and Sheridan's letter because is was the best thing to do. He really did NOT like military involvement in domestic affairs. Sheridan’s letter basically argued that the freedom of a race was at stake.

In the meantime, Congressman Lamar, who was against Reconstruction in America, argued that the violence against Blacks in the South was very much exaggerated and that he wanted a “discontinuance of federal supervision” in the South.

Keep Reading...

Redemption by Nicholas Lemann: Importance of Reconstruction to American History: Part 2 of 2


American Reconstruction, Redemption, Nicholas Lemann, Reconstruction after the Civil War, Adelbert Ames, Reconstruction, Racism, Black Codes, 1865, President Grant, Blanch Butler, Colfax Massacure, lynchings, Reconstruction in America

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