NARRATOR: April 11th, 1865, two days after the end of the Civil War. In the White House, President Abraham Lincoln agonized over his first speech since the defeat of the South. The jubilant crowd outside expected a celebration of the Union victory. Instead, the president warned that "Reconstruction," as he called it, would be "fraught with great difficulty."
EDWARD AYERS, HISTORIAN: The war has spiraled far beyond the worst imaginings of anyone. Over six hundred thousand people had died in the last four years. The largest slave system in the modern world is in shambles and no one knows what is going to replace it. People just can't imagine how they're going to put the country back together again.
DAVID BLIGHT, HISTORIAN: It is a revolutionary, chaotic situation, and the responsibility now was to come up with a plan to restore this society. But you also had to do it with this deep and abiding division over race.
NARRATOR: Three days later, the statesman who led the Union through the Civil War was assassinated. Suddenly, the extraordinary challenge of reconstructing the nation was in the hands of ordinary men and women. A Yankee officer would venture to the most violent corner of Louisiana to try to impose order. A plantation mistress whose slaves were now free would struggle to reclaim her place in the world. A fiery black minister would mount a pitched battle with white landowners. And a new President would force a dramatic showdown with Congress.
ERIC FONER, HISTORIAN: An old order, an old social order has been destroyed; and everything is up for grabs.
CLARENCE WALKER, HISTORIAN: The violence in the South was a way to reestablish white Supremacy. This was a war of terror.
NARRATOR: After four bloody years of Civil War, Americans, North and South would continue to fight over the meaning of freedom, the meaning of citizenship, and the survival of the nation itself.
READING, Kate Stone: The life we are living now is a miserable, frightened one -- living in constant dread of great danger, not knowing what form it may take, and utterly helpless to protect ourselves.
NARRATOR: Kate Stone was 21-years-old when the Civil War came to her doorstep. In the winter of 1862, Union troops overran Milliken's Bend, only a few miles from Brokenburn, the family's plantation in Louisiana. Stone watched as bluecoats scoured the countryside for food and supplies and ransacked plantations.
AYERS: Before the Civil War, the South would have been among the five richest societies in the world. To the eyes of the South, this is almost this biblical attack. It's like a plague being brought down on the white South. Their sense of self has been shattered just as their property has. Those are the memories that white southerners hold close to them as examples that their enemy were not really honorable men.
NARRATOR: With her father dead and her brothers away fighting for the Confederacy, managing Brokenburn fell to Kate Stone and her mother. The plantation was 1260 acres, with 150 slaves.
DREW GILPIN FAUST, HISTORIAN: Owning 150 slaves meant that they were in the absolute upper echelons of Southern society and Southern wealth. And so she is both a young privileged woman, but she finds herself, essentially, on the battlefield. And sees Yankee troops frequently, runs from Yankee troops.
NARRATOR: Many of her wealthy neighbors abandoned their homes. The Stones clung to their plantation, and determined to wait it out. As frightening to Kate as the federal troops were the black men and women now claiming their freedom.
READING, Kate Stone: Mr. Hardison's Negroes came out today... Six men with their children and clothes walked off in broad daylight after a terrible row, using the most abusive language to Mrs. Hardison.... The other negroes declare they are free, and will leave as soon as they are ready.
NELL PAINTER, HISTORIAN: It was a tremendous shock for many in the planter class to discover, first of all, that the people who worked for them were not happy to work for them, and secondly, sometimes the people who had worked for them were really angry at them.
FAUST: Kate expresses a lot of fear throughout the war, and it's most often fear of armed slaves. "What are they going to do to me, given what we have done to them?"
NARRATOR: Mother and daughter watched as their world was upended, until they could watch no more.
FAUST: This kind of lack of order, lack of control, was the most frightening thing to the Stones, and they thought they had to get away.
READING, Kate Stone: With much difficulty we got everything ready for the start at midnight ... the night was cloudy and dark with occasional claps of thunder, but we had to go then or never.
NARRATOR: From Louisiana, the Stones fled three hundred miles by horseback and boat to Tyler, Texas. There, they joined other wealthy planters, who had also escaped to wait out the war.
READING, Kate Stone: God will aid us in our righteous cause...the people will ... fight till the last foe expires, to conquer or die.
Sherman and Ministers
NARRATOR: Less than two yeas later, General William Tecumseh Sherman scorched a path of destruction across Georgia that ended with the capture of Savannah. In December 1864, Sherman offered the port city to President Lincoln as a Christmas gift. Union victory was near. The general took for his headquarters the mansion of one of the city's wealthiest cotton merchants. He celebrated with his officers, feasting on native oysters and turtle soup. On the outskirts of the city, thousands of emancipated slaves were gathered. They had followed Sherman's army to Savannah, doubling the city's population.
WALKER: In the Book of Revelations it is written that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. And this is interpreted as that moment where God, in his omnipotence, has now come to deliver his people from bondage.
NARRATOR: "It came so sudden on 'em, they wasn't prepared for it," recalled one liberated slave. "Just think of whole droves of people, that had hardly ever left the plantation, turned loose all at once with nothing in the world but the clothes on their back." Lincoln 's Emancipation Proclamation had freed slaves across the South. But Washington still had no clear plan for what to do once African Americans were free. On January 11th, President Lincoln sent his Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton to Savannah. Stanton instructed General Sherman to set up a meeting with some of the city's black ministers. He wanted to hear how the freedmen imagined their future in the South. That evening, twenty black men entered the grand parlor as guests of Stanton and Sherman. Sixteen were former slaves. They chose Reverend Garrison Frazier who'd purchased his freedom nine years earlier, to be their spokesmen. For the first time, Federal officials conferred with freed slaves about the future of African Americans in the South.
BLIGHT: The exchange that occurs between Sherman, Stanton, and the Union generals, and Reverend Frazier, is one of the extraordinary moments of the Civil War and the ending of the Civil War, because they asked Frazier not just, "What should we do with all these refugees?" They asked him questions about what the war meant. They asked him questions about what the Emancipation Proclamation had meant. They asked him what the presence of black troops in the Union army meant. And, in many ways, you'll find no better definition of the meaning of the Civil War in the kinds of answers that Garrison Frazier gives that day in Savannah.
READING, Garrison Frazier: The freedom, as I understand it, promised by the [Emancipation] Proclamation is taking us from under the yoke of bondage, and placing us where we could reap the fruit of our own labor.
WALKER: To be a slave, as one of these ministers pointed out to General Sherman, was to be someone who had no control over his life's decisions. And now these people feel the need to express their abilities, their choices.
READING, Garrison Frazier: The way we can best take care of ourselves is to have land...and we can soon maintain ourselves and have something to spare. We want to be placed on land until we are able to buy it and make it our own.
BLIGHT: This was a man, who'd never left, probably, coastal Georgia in his life, but he understood the Declaration of Independence, he understood the Emancipation Proclamation. And beyond that, he said, in effect: You should give us our rights, and you should protect our rights, and then you should leave us alone and let us be citizens."
NARRATOR: Four days later, anxious to get thousands of freed slaves off his hands, and Washington off his back, General Sherman issued Special Field Order 15. It was only a temporary order, but it became one of the most controversial of the Civil War. Plantations in the rice country had been abandoned by white planters during the war. Four hundred thousand of these acres would be given over to African American for settlement. The huge land tract included the Sea Islands and parts of the Georgia and South Carolina coast.
FONER: Forty acres of land will be given out to each family. Plus, Sherman says, the Army's got tons of mules, which we don't really need. They're broken down from our long march. If any one wants a mule they can have one of these mules. This is the origin of that famous phrase, "forty acres and a mule."
BLIGHT: Here was a real revolution, a revolution in the land, on the land, a chance to-to be their own freeholders.
NARRATOR: For four million African Americans in the South, news of "forty acres and a mule" spread as fast as the contagion of freedom itself. Many saw this as proof that emancipation would finally give black men and women a true stake in the land they had toiled on for centuries.
Kate Stone/END OF WAR
READING, Kate Stone: Our forces are victorious...Great Peace rumors are afloat, and General Lee has certainly given Grant's army a good drubbing...We hear that general Sherman is dead.
NARRATOR: Through the winter and spring of 1865, Kate Stone and her mother remained in Texas, clinging to every desperate rumor of Rebel victory. In April, they learned the true state of things. In Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, Lee had surrendered his army. The Confederate rebellion had been crushed.
READING, Kate Stone: "Conquered," "Submission," "Subjugation" are words that burn into my heart. The degradation seems more than we can bear.
FAUST: I think those words had particular relevance in a white Southern society that was fixated on honor. Honor and glory, independence, were at the core of the white South's understanding of itself, and particularly the understanding that male Southerners had of what it meant to be men, what it meant to have manhood. Because who is conquered, subjugated? That's a slave.
AYERS: The white South can only imagine that they must have invoked God's wrath in some way. Maybe God is punishing us. But surely he does not mean for black people to be their equal. Maybe slavery was meant to end. But surely God didn't mean for black people to stand alongside whites.
FAUST: There's a story of a slave who ran away from his master, joined the Union army and came back into the South and seized his own master's plantation with his regiment. And he sees his former master and he says "Bottom rail on top this time, Massah. Bottom rail's on top now."
INTRODUCTION TO JOHNSON
NARRATOR: In his first speech after the Union victory, Lincoln alluded to the enormous challenges reconstruction would bring. He even suggested that some black men in the South might get the vote. His words infuriated many, including a Confederate sympathizer who assassinated the president three days later. With Lincoln gone, the question of how to put the country back together again took on even greater urgency. Northerners were exhausted by four years of war. Most had hoped Lincoln would reconcile North and South and get the states get back to normal relations as soon as possible. But there was no consensus on how to achieve this. Just as uncertain was the future of millions of black men and women freed into a society where many whites, North and South, questioned the idea of any rights for former slaves.
TED TUNNELL, HISTORIAN: The notion of civil rights for blacks was revolutionary. Nineteenth century American's whole notion of what it meant to be an American was all wrapped up in whiteness. An American was a person with white skin.
BLIGHT: Here you have the great questions of Reconstruction immediately are what people faced: who will rule in the South, who will rule in federal government, and will the dimensions of black freedom be?
NARRATOR: All eyes looked to Washington. Former Confederates held their breath, and steeled themselves for the worst.
AYERS: The South doesn't know what to expect. Will there be punishment for leaders? Will there be land confiscated? Will there be an occupying army? And a lot of people imagined that these traitors, these people who had tried to destroy the United States, should be executed, should be imprisoned.
NARRATOR: No one was sure what to expect from the new president. Andrew Johnson was from Tennessee, but he had fiercely opposed the Confederate secession and was the only southern senator who refused to give up his seat in Congress.
AYERS: Andrew Johnson embodies a lot of the hopes that Abraham Lincoln has that the Union can be put back together easily. But Andrew Johnson had been an outspoken enemy of the big planters, who he blamed for causing secession.
FONER: In Tennessee politics, he saw himself as a spokesman for the poor whites. He owned a slave or two, but he was not a member of the plantation aristocracy. In fact, he resented them very much.
NARRATOR: In his first speech after taking office, Johnson warned that traitors had to be punished. But Johnson shared the white South's desire to keep blacks subordinate. Frederick Douglass, the renowned black leader, got his own impression of Johnson when the two met for the first time at Lincoln's second inaugural.
TUNNELL: The very first expression that came over Johnson's face was one of scorn and derision. And Douglass concluded that that expression was the true index of his heart. Douglass turned to a companion and said, "Whatever else this man may be, he is no friend of our race."
NARRATOR: Even as Lee surrendered to Grant, scores of newly emancipated men and women were arriving at St. Catherine's in the Sea Islands of Georgia. Under Sherman's Field Order 15, these abandoned lands would be theirs. Leading them was 53-year-old Tunis G. Campbell, from New Jersey. For years, Campbell had worked tirelessly as an abolitionist, a preacher, an educator, and political organizer. With the help of Secretary of War Stanton, Campbell got himself appointed superintendent for the Union occupied islands in Georgia.
FONER: There were a lot of people in 1865 who were trying to tell blacks what freedom is, and tell them what they ought to be doing. Campbell reflects the impulse, "We should really determine ourselves what we're doing." Independence from white control -- that's critical to their definition of what freedom is. It just happens that on St. Catherine's Island you can create such a thing. The whites have all fled. Sherman has given out land. So the opportunity to create an independent black community exists.
NARRATOR: "We left with rations and a few families and at Hilton Head got more," Campbell wrote, "and Savannah loaded us as deep as we could swim." These deserted lands had been at the heart of the South's rice-growing empire.
RUSSELL DUNCAN, HISTORIAN: As Campbell arrived to the island and they put the gangplank down, the island was overgrown. It's been looted by Union naval forces. The sea grass is high. There are rattlesnakes. There are alligators. He can see the slave cabins. They're also in great disrepair. Immediately upon arriving and assessing the situation there, he writes to the American Missionary Association asking for seed, asking for plows, sweet potatoes to supplement the diet, marriage licenses for the people. And he calls a meeting of the people to explain to them: "This is our home." Uh, "Beginning next week, I will divide up the land into forty acres for each of you."
NARRATOR: By June, the settlers had crops in the ground. "I have corn, watermelons, citron, onions, radishes and squash," wrote Campbell. "But the rebels have destroyed the sweet potatoes. Do not fail to send them. Send eight No. 11 plows, six cultivators -- get the improved ones."
BLIGHT: Tunis Campbell sees the South as a kind of new political frontier. He sees himself as a kind of political pioneer, to go to that place where this new regime of black political liberty and civil liberty might flourish.
NARRATOR: Campbell arrived at St. Catherine's with his own blueprint for a government. There would be a Congress with eight men in the Senate and twenty in the house of Representatives. A Supreme Court, and Campbell himself as President. He even established a 275-man militia. "Order," said Campbell, "is Heaven's first law."
DUNCAN: So you've got this tiny little island, twelve miles long, three miles wide, and a government set up to-to resemble the United States government with a Supreme Court at the top. It's wonderful, beautiful, experiment in-in democracy; and-and people took to it very well. They liked the idea of having the power to select their leaders and remove them.
NARRATOR: But at St. Catherine's, no one was going to remove Tunis Campbell.
MARSHALL TWITCHELL ARRIVES
NARRATOR: That same fall, nine black soldiers and their white captain climbed aboard a sternwheeler in New Orleans, and headed up river. The captain, Marshall Twitchell, was a career soldier from Vermont who had led black troops during the war. He had fought at Antietam, Fredericksburg, the Wilderness, and just about every other major battle in the East.
TUNNELL: Twitchell is one of those Union veterans who enlist in the first year of the war and stays the duration. He's wounded several times. He gets a Minie ball right in his face. It cuts a grove around his face and exits behind his ear. He'll have the scar for the rest of his life.
NARRATOR: The war was over, and Twitchell was restless. In New Orleans, he got himself a commission in the Freedmen's Bureau. In the chaotic post-war South, the job of the Freedmen's Bureau agent was to smooth the transition from slavery to freedom. The Bureau built schools for the former slaves and fed and clothed war refugees, black and white. Twitchell was posted to Bienville Parish, in northern Louisiana, a place he knew nothing about.
TUNNELL: Here he is on a sternwheeler, heading up the Red River. This region had never been conquered. So he's entering the last part of the Confederacy to surrender. It is dangerous, exotic. It's isolated. And he doesn't know it but he is entering what is probably the most violent place in America. It's no coincidence that Harriet Beecher Stowe chose to put the final, brutal ending of Uncle Tom's Cabin, where Uncle Tom is beaten to death by Simon Legree, it's no coincidence that she puts it on the upper Red River. It's a violent region.
NARRATOR: "I was without telegraphy, railway or water connections," remembered Twitchell. "If I'd known beforehand what my position was to be, I should have remained with my regiment." At the courthouse in Sparta, the county seat, Captain Twitchell set up office as the sole Freedmen's Bureau agent for the parish. He soon discovered his new neighbors were as hardened to battle as he was.
JAMES G. MARSTON, III, DESCENDANT OF PLANTER: My great-grandfather had, uh, two brothers killed in the war, and another wounded. And -- and I'm named after one of 'em. There wasn't a family here that didn't lose someone to the war. But in our little area, these veterans were never defeated and that is a lot of the feeling here. The war just ended and -- and so everybody went home. And up into the midst of this came Twitchell.
TUNNELL : The people of the area are wary. They don't quite know what to expect, but they quickly discover that this Freedman's Bureau agent is somebody that they're going to have to deal with.
NARRATOR: Agents like Twitchell had military authority to settle labor disputes and conflicts between former slaves and masters.
TUNNELL: Planters certainly resented this intrusion into so sensitive an area. They wanted direct control over black labor. They didn't want some Yankee Freedman's Bureau agent there questioning their behavior, actually sitting them down and having them testify in an open hearing. And for the freedmen, here was somebody that they could go to if they were mistreated. He can't fundamentally change the economic lives of these people. All he can do is try to be a mediator; to give them some degree of justice.
NARRATOR: Twitchell would soon learn that for a Yankee officer all alone in northwest Louisiana, even a degree of federal justice might be too much.
JOHNSON'S LENIENT PLAN
NARRATOR: For the first forty-eight days of Andrew Johnson's presidency Southerners waited anxiously to hear what he would demand before allowing them back into the Union. On May 29, 1865, Johnson announced his plan for what would be called "Presidential Reconstruction."
BLIGHT: There was good evidence in 1865 that a lot of white Southerners, the leadership even of the Confederacy, would have accepted relatively harsh policies at that moment. But very soon it became clear that Andrew Johnson wanted a rapid, lenient restoration of the Union with as little alteration of the Constitution and the creation of black civil and political rights as possible.
NARRATOR: Johnson would issue blanket pardons for most former Confederates. The Rebel states would be encouraged to form new governments quickly. Washington would not interfere. The president's leniency surprised many in the North. Southerners responded with relief.
FONER: Johnson actually sets only the most minimal requirements. All they have to do is admit, "We lost the Civil War. The Civil War is over. Slavery and secession are dead." Other than that, there are no requirements.
NARRATOR: Johnson was harder on the planter aristocracy. He insisted that wealthy planters and Confederate leaders write him personally and beg for clemency.
FONER: This basically eliminates the planter class from leadership of Southern politics. If you're not pardoned, you can't vote, you can't hold office, and you can't get your property back if it's been seized by the federal government.
NARRATOR: Andrew Johnson had no sympathy for wealthy planters. He had risen from poverty and identified with poor white southerners, who, before the war, had far outnumbered the slave owners. Now, he was anxious to protect poor whites from what they saw as a new threat.
WALKER: Poor whites have to face the fact that now that black people are free means that they have to compete with this new element for livelihood, for social position, and political power ultimately.
FONER: Johnson's aim is to bring the white South and the white North back together. African Americans just do not play a role in Johnson's vision of the postwar South, other than to go back to work and be landless and rightless plantation laborers.
NARRATOR: Johnson's contempt for the freedmen infuriated many in Washington, and none more than Thaddeus Stevens. The congressman from Pennsylvania had been a fierce abolitionist long before the war. Within the Republican Party he led a small, vocal faction known as the Radicals.
FONER: These were principled men. Before the war they had been the strongest Republicans opposing the expansion of slavery. During the Civil War they had been the first ones to call for arming of black troops, for issuing an Emancipation Proclamation. Long before there was any conceivable political benefit to be gained from supporting the rights of black people, they were doing it.
BLIGHT : The Radical Republicans had a vision of what Reconstruction should be. They believed it should be longer in duration. They believed the Southern states had left the union and destroyed their status as states. They had to be reinvented. To Thaddeus Stevens, Reconstruction meant not only safeguarding and preserving the essential results of the Civil War, but in his vision it meant remaking the South. It meant the increase of democracy in terms of representation. It meant the spread of the right of suffrage.
NARRATOR: The Radicals' hard-line marginalized them within their own party. Most Republicans feared the Radicals' position on black rights would drive away white voters in the North.
WALKER: It is the radical wing which is the most sympathetic to black people. The Party in general was committed to a limited program of civil rights, protection of property, education, etc. But the party is not in any way committed to any sort of radical restructuring of Southern society.
NARRATOR: Johnson's reconstruction plan could not be challenged until Congress convened in December. That summer, Radical leaders could only watch as scores of planters descended on Washington pleading to be pardoned. Whose petition would be denied or granted was uncertain. Still, former Confederates were hopeful. "White men alone," President Johnson told one senator, "must manage the South."
NARRATOR: On St. Catherine's Island, Tunis Campbell's township was flourishing. Three hundred and sixty-nine settlers occupied fifty-four slave dwellings, left from the old days. They grew fruits and vegetables of all kinds. But what they wanted were schools. "There is one sin that slavery committed against me that I will never forgive," remembered one man. "It robbed me of my education."
WALKER: Before the Civil War, maybe no more than ten, fifteen percent of the black population of the South was literate. To learn how to read was a revolutionary act. They understood that it was necessary if they were to take their place as freed people within the Union, that they have the rudiments of education to survive.
NARRATOR: After the war, freedmen who had secretly educated themselves quickly opened schools in warehouses, on barges, even in old slave markets. And the Freedmen's Bureau and Northern missionaries built thousands more throughout the South. At St. Catherine's, Campbell used his own savings to bring teachers down from the North. Then he called on his wife, Harriet, in New York.
DUNCAN: He writes a letter to Harriet, says, "Bring the sons down. We're going to establish the schools. We're on an island of our own. There are no white people here and we're going to lift up children. Bring all the primers you have, and please join us." This is the first time he's seen his wife and sons in about two years.
NARRATOR: Harriet and Tunis taught side by side with Northern teachers. Campbell reported that eighty children and adults on St Catherine's and sixty on nearby Sapelo Island were enrolled in schools. More than a thousand students attended Campbell's makeshift academies.
DUNCAN: The adults are being taught at night. They need to deal with white people more as equals. And to do that, they have to be literate.
NARRATOR: White planters watching from the mainland resented the schools and the entire settlement, not just because the land had been seized from one of their own, but because of Campbell's ambition and independence.
WALKER: People like Campbell were viewed as black people "out of their place." He can think for himself in ways that whites find hard to believe that a black person can think. This means, then, that history has somehow spun out of control.
NARRATOR: By June 1865, Jacob Waldburg, the white planter who had owned St. Catherine's, was back in Georgia. He demanded that Campbell get off his land.
DUNCAN: The planters are holding up deeds to the islands that are two hundred years old, or one hundred fifty years old. They said, "No, wait a minute. This is a nation of laws, and see, my great-granddaddy had this deed. And yours comes from a possessory title given to you in time of war for abandoned lands? How does that affect my promise of property rights under the Constitution of the United States?"
NARRATOR: Waldburg got his answer: St. Catherine's Congress passed a law forbidding any white person from setting foot on the island. Campbell's militia stood ready to enforce it.
KATE STONE RETURNS HOME
READING, Kate Stone: At home again, but so many changes.... It does not seem the same place... the bare, echoing rooms, the neglect and defacement of all.... gardens, orchard and fences are mostly swept away... Nothing is left but to endure.
NARRATOR: When Kate Stone and her mother returned to their Louisiana home after the war, they were nearly bankrupt. There was no credit to be had. Of the one hundred fifty slaves they had owned, only a few remained at Brokenburn. The Stones had safeguarded the family silver before their escape. Now it was a reminder of the wealth and position the family had lost. What the women mourned most were the men who had sacrificed themselves for the Southern cause.
FAUST: Many white southerners find themselves facing as Kate Stone does, a defeat that has taken the lives of her brothers and her uncle and so many of the people she's known. When, um, Kate's oldest brother, who is not killed in the war comes back, he hardly speaks, she says, for many months. This was a civilization in which three out of four men of military age served. Many of them were in the war for years on end. How would we not expect that that experience and defeat and slaughter and tragedy would have left them in some sense wounded.
AYERS: All these hundreds of thousands of Confederate soldiers are going back home, uncertain of what they're going to find, and uncertain of what they're going to do. As they look around and see the freed black people refusing to do just what white men tell them to do, and trying to create freedom for their families, everything looks to them as an insult and as a threat. White southerners say, "We gotta make it clear who's boss. We gotta make clear that we're in control of all this."
WAR IN D.C/ O.O. HOWARD
NARRATOR: In Washington, President Johnson shared white southerner's concerns over growing black independence in the South.
WALKER: Johnson is seeing a black population who have abandoned the plantations. People who are demanding that they be treated in a decent fashion. And Johnson believes they should return to their former places of work and above all should accept their subordination to white power and authority.
AYERS: Andrew Johnson believes if there's going to be a reconciliation between North and South, that it's going to be a reconciliation of white northerners and white southerners. And if black people have to be set aside, fine.
NARRATOR: The President abandoned his strict policy toward the planters. By fall of 1865, he was pardoning so many that special clerks had to be hired to keep up with the paperwork.
FONER: Johnson thinks that only the planters can really keep these African Americans under control, so very quickly he begins to bring the wealthy planters back into his Reconstruction policy, in order to really impose subordination on the former slaves.
DUNCAN: The planters only want to be pardoned so that they could get their land back. And so Andrew Johnson complies with their wishes, pardoning fifteen to twenty thousand planters, hundreds of them being pardoned every day. When these planters then are pardoned, they return to their islands and to their acreages all over the South, and they want the people who are then living there, removed.
NARRATOR: The President ordered that Confederate lands seized by Union troops during the war be returned to the planters, including land confiscated under General Sherman's Field Order 15.
O.O. Howard/ Tunis's Exit
NARRATOR: In Georgia, the assistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau refused to give planters back their land. Johnson fired him and replaced him with someone who would. In Washington, the head of the Bureau, General O.O. Howard, sympathized with the freedmen and resisted the president's decree for as long as he could. Finally in October, Howard set out for the black settlement at Edisto Island, off the coast of South Carolina. His orders from President Johnson were to "effect an agreement mutually satisfactory to the freedmen and the land owners." Behind the bureaucratic language Johnson's directive was clear.
FONER: General Howard has to tell these former slaves that the land that they thought had been given to them by the Federal Government now is going to be given back to the former owners. And if they want to remain there, they're going to have to sign labor contracts to work as laborers on these plantations. These people believe they have a right to this land. To them this is a violation, a deep betrayal of the promises that the government made to them. They are not willing to just take this lying down.
READING, General Howard: I'd endeavored to explain the wishes of the President, and with one voice they cried, "No! No!" In the noise and confusion, a sweet-voiced Negro woman began the hymn, "Nobody knows the trouble I [feel] -- Nobody knows but Jesus."
NARRATOR: Many had been following events in Washington and insisted they would wait and see what Congress had to say. Others petitioned Howard in writing. Wrote one man: "You ask us to forgive the landowners of our island...the man who tied me to a tree and gave me thirty-nine lashes, who stripped and flogged my mother and my sister and will not let me stay in his empty hut, except I will do his planting and be satisfied with his price -- that man I cannot well forgive." In January 1866, a large contingent of black soldiers arrived at St. Catherine's with orders to restore the land to Jacob Waldburg. Campbell's militia had kept whites off the island but this was something different.
DUNCAN: Tunis Campell believed that people have to take things into their own hands, sometimes. But African American freedmen are not go into fire on African American soldiers. No.
NARRATOR: The experiment in independence at St. Catherine's was over. A determined Tunis Campbell headed for the Georgia mainland.
TWITCHELL/ LABOR CONTRACTS
NARRATOR: In Louisiana, black farmers had leased over ten thousand acres from the Freedmen's Bureau, believing they would soon own them outright. Marshall Twitchell and other Freedmen's Bureau agents delivered a different message: No matter what they'd heard, no forty acres and a mule was coming from this government.
TUNNELL: This is what Presidential Reconstruction is coming to mean. It's telling the freedmen that the government is not going to pamper you. The government is not going to give you any land. You have a hard row ahead of you. Get used to it.
NARRATOR: "Freedom from slavery," Twitchell informed black laborers, "is not freedom from work." His words reflected worries shared by whites North and South: that freed African Americans would not work, and would refuse to go back to the cotton fields.
FONER: What would then happen to the cotton crop of the South? Northern industry needs that cotton. It's still the largest export of the United States. To earn foreign money you need to export cotton. Northerners were not willing to let blacks stop growing cotton.
TUNNELL: Freedmen, I think, probably would have chosen to duck out of the cotton economy all together. You can't eat cotton. For freedmen, becoming an independent landowner is-is a dream. That's their version of the American Dream. But that kind of independence for freedmen, southern planters don't want, the Freedmen's Bureau doesn't want it. Many Northerners in Congress don't want it.
NARRATOR: Across Louisiana, white planters now sat down to draw up labor contracts with the men they used to own.
AYERS: No matter what color your skin is, no matter what your status before the war had been, it's a new order for everybody. No matter what happens politically, you've got to figure out how you're going to feed yourself and your family. That's the back beat. That's the rhythm on which everything else depends.
WALKER: The freed people understand that they're going have to work, but they do not want someone riding around on a horse with a whip curled on his shoulder, as the overseer had done during slavery. And they also do not want to work for low wages.
FAUST: For many white Southerners, negotiating with slaves seemed unimaginable. Because in the very notion of negotiation is an assumption of some kind of equality. And for many white Southerners, they don't have anything to pay them with, because they themselves are on the verge of desperation.
NARRATOR: "There is now nothing between me and the nigger but the dollar, the almighty dollar," said one South Carolina planter, " and I shall make out of him the most I can at the least expense."
TUNNELL: They want submissive, obedient employees. I think in their heart of hearts they want a system that is as close to slavery as possible.
VIOLENCE / BLACK CODES
NARRATOR: Black laborers who insisted on better wages and working conditions were regularly met with threats and violence. Vigilantes lynched whole families, and used the bullwhip on men and women as they had in slavery days. In 1865, more than two thousand black men women and children were reported murdered in Louisiana alone.
WALKER: The violence in the South was a way to reestablish white supremacy.
TUNNELL: These gangs of whites pick out the guy who's trying to save his money, who's trying to get ahead. The man who is an inspiration to other black people in the community -- he's the one that gets murdered. It amounts to systematic culling of alpha males from the black community.
NARRATOR: The southern legal system became an instrument of intimidation. Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Florida passed laws that virtually prohibited freedmen from any work except as field hands. The laws were called "Black Codes." The aim was slavery without the chain.
BLIGHT: The Black Codes were laws passed to control and restrict and constrain the lives of the freed people, essentially rendering them bondsmen again under law.
NARRATOR: Some states made it illegal for freedmen to handle weapons and restricted them from buying or renting land. Black children could be seized from poor families and forced to work in the fields. If a black man had no job, he could be jailed and auctioned to a planter for his labor.
FONER: They make a travesty of the freedom that African Americans have acquired. They are so far from any notion of fairness or freedom that even northerners, who are not egalitarians, say these laws are unacceptable. And so northern Republicans are faced with a dilemma. They don't want to have a big fight with the president, but to accept the idea that Johnson's policy is a success, and accept the Black Codes, they feel means giving up the victory in the Civil War.
NARRATOR: To Louisiana's black veterans, one freedman offered this advice: "I would say to every colored soldier -- bring your gun home."
TWITCHELL AND ADELE
NARRATOR: By early 1866, Marshall Twitchell was feeling pressure from the locals who resented his authority. Soon another distraction made his life even more complicated. Adele Coleman was just 20-years-old. She was spirited, intelligent, and much admired by local bachelors. Adele and Marshall became daily companions. But their romance was troubled from the start. Scandalized by their daughter's suitor, Adele's parents forbade her to see the Yankee officer. When she tried to continue the affair in secret, Adele's brother Gus, a Confederate veteran, set out to hunt Twitchell down. One evening, a stranger came calling on Twitchell, unannounced.
TUNNELL: Marshall goes walking outside. He's ready to blow this person away. And then when the person speaks, he hears Adele's voice. It is Adele in disguise. She has come to warn him that her brother Gus is out gunning for him. He, of course, is not going to let her ride home alone. The trip takes two and a half to three hours. It takes Marshall and Adele, this particular night, all night. Adele comes marching in with the morning sun and the Coleman household just goes berserk, ballistic. Twitchell has gotten himself into the position whether he fully realizes it or not, he's either going to marry her or they're going to kill him.
NARRATOR: Not everyone in northern Louisiana believed marriage was the honorable solution.
MARSTON: A southern girl, following the Civil War, there were no men, there were no men to marry. But, for goodness sake, they couldn't marry a Yankee. And Adele Coleman did. But, a lot members of her own family didn't like the fact that she had married a northerner, and especially one in the position of power that he was in.
NARRATOR: Six months after their wedding, Marshall and Adele settled on a 420-acre plantation overlooking Lake Bistineau. It was as much an alliance as it was a marriage.
TUNNELL: It opens up possibilities for the Colemans; it opens up possibilities for him. Here is, in a sense, the opportunity to become wealthy much quicker than he had ever anticipated. The Colemans teach Marshall Twitchell about growing cotton and he teaches them about Yankee business enterprise.
MARSTON: Everybody in the South was broke. And I think that he came to enrich himself. And if that helped somebody then fine, and if it hurt somebody, that's the spoils of war.
39th Congress/ "Rebel Strut:"
NARRATOR: In December 1865, the Thirty-Ninth Congress, the first since the end of the Civil War, convened in Washington. More than sixty former Confederates prepared to take their seats, including four generals, four colonels and six confederate cabinet officers, even Alexander H. Stephens, the former vice president of the Confederacy, expecting as one observer put it, "to govern the country he had been trying to destroy."
BLIGHT: If the South was going to "rise again" so to speak, control it's own political life, control the freed people, indeed if the ex-Confederates themselves were going to be allowed back into leadership at the national level, then to so many white northerners it seemed like the war would have been fought in vain.
NARRATOR: On the opening day, the Clerk of the House refused to announce the names of the Southern delegates in his roll call. The former Confederates were denied their elected seats and sent packing. The fight for control of Reconstruction had begun.
BLIGHT: In many ways, Congress was a poisoned atmosphere in the debates over the Reconstruction policy. There were raw war memories being played out. There were visceral hatreds being played out on the floor of Congress between Republicans and Democrats. These debates are between men who have experienced this war, who have fought this war. They are fighting, literally, about the meaning of that conflict they have just fought.
NARRATOR: Northern Democrats sided with Johnson, and railed against Republicans across the aisle. Washington must get out of the way, they insisted, and let southerners run their own affairs.
AYERS: The Democrats had always identified themselves as the party of the white man. They very explicitly said, "We are here to protect the rights of white men North and South, and how do we do that? We hold the Union together." For that reason the Democrats saw themselves as trying to put the North and South together as quickly as possible during the Civil War and as soon as it's over, trying to knit North and South together at the expense of black men.
BLIGHT: At one point in the debates Thaddeus Stevens stood up, and answering his Democratic colleagues says, "Do not, I pray, admit those who have slaughtered half a million of our countrymen, until their clothes are dried and until they are re-clad. I do not wish to it side by side with men whose garments smell of the blood of my kindred." It was Stevens's way of saying, "We're going to keep the South out of the Union, as long as we can, and we're not going to allow anybody back in here who was responsible for making the war."
NARRATOR: A Congressional committee on Reconstruction concluded that southern governments were unable to keep law and order, or stem violence against African Americans. Allowing southern states unchecked power so soon after the war, the committee said, was "madness and lunacy." Moderate Republicans had hoped to persuade Johnson to provide minimal protections for blacks in the south. Now even they were growing impatient with the president's policies. In March 1866, both houses of Congress passed a landmark Civil Rights Bill that protected the rights of American citizens without regard to race. Republicans warned Johnson not to veto the bill if he hoped for any continued cooperation with Congress. Two weeks later, Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Bill.
WALKER: Johnson is opposed to the granting of those kinds of protections to black people. This had not been done for the white immigrants who had come to America why then are you doing it for these black people?
NARRATOR: Moderate republicans were outraged.
FONER: Johnson was stubborn, self-righteous, rigid in thinking. He was really the worst person possible to become President accidentally, at a time when flexibility, vision and creative leadership were really what was required.
BLIGHT: Moderate Republicans were forced into the Radical camp because they had to oppose Andrew Johnson. Johnson's plan of Reconstruction was so lenient, in utter contempt of black liberty that it was simply unacceptable.
NARRATOR: A united Republican party overrode Johnson's veto. America had its first Civil Rights Act. But many in Congress argued that the act was not enough -- that safeguarding civil rights required changes to the Constitution itself. Republican leaders proposed a new amendment.
FONER: The Fourteenth Amendment becomes the crux of the political battle in 1866, and basically what they put into the Constitution is a new definition of American nationality and citizenship, making African Americans, for the first time, full citizens of the United States. This is the origin of the concept of civil rights in American society, rights which obtain to you as a citizen, which cannot be rescinded because of your race.
BLIGHT: This is a titanic debate about just what the authority of the Federal Government is going to be. There were plenty of Americans who argued the federal government had no right to declare black people citizens.
FONER: The Democrats are constantly putting forward racist arguments: You are eradicating a line between black and white which has existed forever. To Republicans, what's at stake here, really, is the definition of freedom. If a person can be discriminated against in every walk of life because of their race, has slavery really been abolished?
NARRATOR: Congress overwhelmingly passed the Fourteenth Amendment, but it had to be ratified by three fourths of the states. The President denounced the amendment, and accused the Republicans of treason.
WALKER: Johnson is opposed to an expansion of Federal power. For him, constitutional authority resides at the state level, not at the national level. And Johnson believes that the Republicans are engaged in an enormous usurpation of state authority.
NARRATOR: The lines were drawn.
NEW ORLEANS RIOT
NARRATOR: Since the end of the war, black political conventions had been taking place across the South. The central issue was black suffrage. "We simply ask that we be recognized as men," declared the South Carolina Convention of Colored People, "that the same laws which govern over white men shall govern black men." "We stood by the government when it wanted help," a delegate from Mississippi wrote President Johnson, "Now will it stand by us?" In New Orleans, hundreds of black men declared they were ready to fight for the right to vote. Militant whites in the city vowed to stamp out black agitators and Radical Republicans. President Johnson dismissed the growing signs of trouble. At midday on July 30th 1866, New Orleans exploded. At the state convention, a mob attacked white Radical Republican delegates and their black supporters. The Republicans were chased out of the convention hall and shot down. Black men were murdered in the streets. By the time federal troops restored order, thirty-four blacks and three white Radicals had been killed.
AYERS: And the Radicals say, "We told you. We told you that unless you stamp out this serpent of white power in the South, unless you kill it, it's going to rise up again."
"SWING AROUND THE CIRCLE"/ RADICAL RECONSTRUCTION
NARRATOR: The growing violence in the South turned the mid-term elections of 1866 into a referendum on Presidential Reconstruction. With Union war hero Ulysses S. Grant at his side, Johnson barnstormed the Northeast and the Midwest. Dubbed "The Swing Around the Circle," the speaking tour was an unprecedented effort to sell his policies to northern voters. It was a disaster. At the podium, the president traded insults with hostile crowds. And blamed the slaughter in New Orleans on Congress.
BLIGHT : He called the leadership of the Republican party traitors. He even referred to himself as a Jesus figure, being crucified on the cross of Radical Reconstruction, which to many northerners was just a kind of pathetic political rhetoric.
WALKER: Many northerners felt that black people should receive minimal constitutional protections. And it is the South's intransigence, and the policy that President Johnson pursues by encouraging the South to reconstitute itself, that drives many northerners away from his position.
NARRATOR: The Atlantic Monthly called the president "egotistic to the point of mental disease.... Insincere as well as stubborn, cunning as well as unreasonable, vain as well as ill-tempered." That fall, Republicans won three-fourths of the seats in both houses of Congress, enough to override any Johnson veto. In only eighteen months, the Radicals had gone from a fringe minority to the center of Republican leadership. Now it was their turn to define the course of Reconstruction. Thaddeus Stevens was 75-years-old, so frail that he had to be carried into the Senate by admirers. In a voice his colleagues could barely hear, the tireless Stevens made a final plea for federal intervention in the southern states.
READING, Thaddeus Stevens: Congress has been sitting here, and while the South has been bleeding at every pore, Congress has done nothing to protect the loyal people there -- white or black -- either in their persons, in their liberty, or in their property."
NARRATOR: In March 1867, both houses of Congress again rejected a veto by President Johnson, and passed the Radicals' Reconstruction plan. The former Confederate states were divided into five military districts, each commanded by a General with power to enforce law and administer justice. New southern governments would be created. They would have to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment. And -- black men would have the right to vote.
FONER: This really was a remarkable leap in the dark for world history. It was the first large scale experiment in interracial democracy that had existed anywhere.
NARRATOR: When Tunis Campbell learned of the Radicals' bold plan, he immediately decided to run for office. Marshall Twitchell also went into politics, as a delegate to Louisiana's Constitutional Convention. It was like nothing he'd ever seen. More than half the delegates were black. Within a year, Andrew Johnson would be impeached by the Senate for high crimes and misdemeanors. His presidency would survive, by a single vote.
Kate Stone/Big Drunk
NARRATOR: When Radical Reconstruction passed there were still thirty-eight thousand federal troops stationed in the South. In Kate Stone's Louisiana, more than half the regiments were black.
AYERS: Women like Kate Stone look at this and see embodied in black soldiers their greatest fear. These black men, many of whom had been slaves only eighteen months earlier, they wear that uniform as if it's their right, as if they're Americans, too.
FAUST: For white southerners, this is not just politics, it's about your very core being. Congress is going to do certain things, but there's almost a kind of guerilla warfare of the domestic, of the local, of people just refusing to let society change.
WALKER: From the point of view of the white South, the Civil War was a tragic mistake. They had only defended what they understood to be their constitutional rights; it was not that they had disrupted the Union, engaged in an act of treason. They felt the North was a vicious aggressor, committed to a perversion, which was black equality. This sense of grievance and sense of injustice only grew. That this was something not to be accepted.
NARRATOR: In North Carolina, the last legislature elected solely by the white vote adjourned. The legislators marked the occasion with a whisky punch party. Before long the state capitol was in a drunken uproar. With the ballot in black hands, many whites expected to give up their seats to former slaves. "We have lost all hope of escaping the vengeance of the Northern people, wrote one senator, "and all are preparing for the worst."
TUNNELL: What Reconstruction does by suddenly enfranchising blacks, it communicates the message that all of a sudden these people who have been part of the background scenery, who've been stage props, they're going to come onto center stage and be actors. And that is deeply disturbing to white Southerners and to many people in the North.
NARRATOR: Across the South, black newspapers exhorted every black man to seize the moment. "He owes it to the martyrs who have fallen to procure his rights," declared a Georgia newspaper. "He owes it to his God, who has wrought his freedom. Let the Republicans of the North know the strength and character of the colored vote in the South. Vote. Vote in spite of every threat." To freedmen, the ballot was sacred proof they were bondsmen no longer, but citizens at last.
|page created on 12.19.03|
Reconstruction: The Second Civil War
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