US History/Reconstruction

Start of Reconstruction

A railyard in Atlanta, Georgia in 1866. Following the Civil War, the south was devastated.

Congress passed the first Reconstruction Act on 2nd March, 1867. The South was now divided into five military districts, each under a major general. New elections were to be held in each state with freed male slaves being allowed to vote. The act also included an amendment that offered readmission to the Southern states after they had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment and guaranteed adult male suffrage. President Andrew Johnson immediately vetoed the bill but Congress re-passed the bill the same day.

Andrew Johnson consulted General Ulysses S. Grant before selecting the generals to administer the military districts. Eventually he appointed John Schofield (Virginia), Daniel Sickles (the Carolinas), John Pope (Georgia, Alabama and Florida), Edward Ord (Arkansas and Mississippi) and Philip Sheridan (Louisiana and Texas).

During the American Civil War, in which the nation decided how to handle the return of the seceded states and the status of the Freedmen (the newly freed slaves).[what] Most scholars have accepted 1865-1877 as the boundaries for Reconstruction.

The era itself was controversial and pitted various segments of American society against one another. Differing conceptions on how to restore the former Confederate States into the Union collided with diverse opinions concerning the status of African-Americans.

The meaning of freedom itself was at stake in this crucial time period. The nascent Republican Party was divided between the mainstream which wanted a modicum of protection for blacks, and the Radicals, who wanted a thorough reorganization of Southern society. Conservative elements of this time period (in particular the Democrats) believed that the old order that governed relations between the states and between blacks and whites should remain intact.

The bulk of African-Americans desired equal civil and political rights, protection of their person, and in many cases a redistribution of land and the break-up of the plantation system. These diverse perspectives enabled the period from 1865 to 1877 to be, in many ways, a grand experiment in interracial democracy, but the period was also dominated by tense political relations and a preponderant violence across the South.



Reconstruction, in United States history, refers both to the period after the Civil War when the states of the breakaway Confederate States of America were reintegrated into the United States of America, and to the process by which this was accomplished.

For victory in the American Civil War to be achieved, Northern moderate Republicans and Radical Republicans concurred that the Confederacy and its system of slavery had to be destroyed, and the possibility of either being revived had to be eliminated. Controversy focused on how to achieve those goals, and who would decide when they were achieved. The Radical Republicans held that reaching those goals was essential to the destruction of the Slave Power, and necessary to guaranteeing perpetual unity of the states, as well as a solution to the many problems of Freedmen.

United States Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, a Radical Republican, held that Congress should abolish slavery along with the Confederacy, extend civil and political rights to blacks, and educate black and white students together.

The "moderates" claimed early success in achieving the goals by assurances that the former Confederates had renounced secession and abolished slavery. Most moderates, like Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, wanted suffrage for black army veterans but not other African Americans. Southern political leaders renounced secession and gave up slavery, but were angered in 1867 when their state governments were ousted by federal military forces, and replaced by Radical Republican governments made up of Freedmen, Carpetbaggers and Scalawags.

Their primary instrument was the Black Codes (1865). These restricted the rights of Blacks and limited economic and educational opportunities. For example, there was very little, if any, employment available in the south. The Yankees may have won the war to end slavery, however the reconstruction did not benefit the African Americans who searched for employment.

The Problem of Reconstruction

Wealth per capita in the United States in 1872. The South was devastated.

Reconstruction was the effort of rebuilding the South based on free labor instead of slave labor. The issue to Northern politicians was how it would be done. At the end of the Civil War, Congress proposed the Thirteenth Amendment, which sought to prohibit slavery. A state was not to gain re-admittance into the Union until it ratified the Amendment, but some states such as Mississippi were admitted despite failing to ratify. The Amendment became a part of the Constitution in December 6,1865.

During this time many Northerners moved to the South to start new lives. Sometimes carrying their belongings in briefcases made of carpet, they were known by Confederate Southerners as "carpetbaggers." Confederate Southerners also had a derogatory name for southern whites who sided with the Republicans. They called them scalawags. The period just after the war also saw the rise of black codes, which restricted the basic human rights of freed slaves. Some of the more common codes seen were: race was dependent on blood, which meant if you had any amount of black blood in your body, you were considered black, freedmen could not get together unless accompanied by a white person, public restrooms and other facilities were segregated.[1]

This time in history was really volatile. Many racially motivated riots broke out all over the country. The hostilities the south held toward the north and the African Americans grew stronger and stronger.

Ku Klux Klan

KKK in Mississippi

Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is the name of several past and present organizations in the United States that have advocated white supremacy, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, racism, homophobia, anti-Communism and nativism. These organizations have often used terrorism, violence, and acts of intimidation, such as cross burning and lynching, to oppress African Americans and other social or ethnic groups.

The first branch of the Ku Klux Klan was established in Pulaski, Tennessee, in May, 1866. A year later, a general organization of local Klans was established in Nashville in April, 1867. Most of the leaders were former members of the Confederate Army and the first Grand Wizard was Nathan Forrest, an outstanding general during the American Civil War. During the next two years Klansmen wearing masks, white cardboard hats and draped in white sheets, tortured and killed black Americans and sympathetic whites. Immigrants, who they blamed for the election of Radical Republicans, were also targets of their hatred. Between 1868 and 1870, the Ku Klux Klan played an important role in restoring white rule in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia.

The Klan's first incarnation was in 1866. Founded by veterans of the Confederate Army, its main purpose was to resist Reconstruction. It focused as much on intimidating "carpetbaggers" and "scalawags" as on putting down the freed slaves. The KKK quickly adopted violent methods. A rapid reaction set in. The Klan's leadership disowned violence as Southern elites saw the Klan as an excuse for federal troops to continue their activities in the South. The organization declined from 1868 to 1870 and was destroyed in the early 1870s by President Ulysses S. Grant's vigorous action under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act).

At the end of the American Civil War, members of Congress attempted to destroy the white power structure of the Rebel states. The Freeman’s Bureau was established by Congress on March 3rd, 1865. The bureau was designed to protect the interests of former slaves. This included helping them to find new employment and to improve educational and health facilities. In the year that followed, the bureau spent $17,000,000 establishing 4,000 schools, 100 hospitals and providing homes and food for former slaves.

Violence against African Americans started on the first days of Reconstruction and became more organized significant after 1867. Members of The Klan looked to frustrate Reconstruction. They also, tried to keep freedom in subjection. Terrorism dominated some counties and regions so, nighttime harassment, whippings, beatings, rapes, and murders became more common. The Klan's main purpose was political, even though, they tormented blacks who stood up for their rights. Active Republicans were the target of lawless night riders. When freedmen that worked for a South Carolina scalawag started to vote, terrorists went to the plantation and, in the words of a victim, "whipped every ... [black] man they could lay their hands on."

Lincoln and Reconstruction

A drawing of African Americans voting for the first time. Jim Crow laws would later be developed to deprive African Americans of their civil liberties once again.

Lincoln firmly believed that the southern states had never actually seceded, because, constitutionally, they cannot. He hoped that the 11 states that seceded could be "readmitted" by meeting some tests of political loyalty. Lincoln began thinking about re-admittance early on. In his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which was issued in 1863, Lincoln established a simple process, hoping that Unionists would rise to political power rather than secessionalists. This plan would have granted presidential pardons to all southerners (save the political leaders at the time) who took an oath of future allegiance to the Union. Under Lincoln's plan, a state could be established as legitimate as soon as 10 percent of the voting population in the 1860 general election took this oath and a government was set up accepting the emancipation of the slaves.

Rejecting Lincoln's Presidential reconstruction plan, radical Republicans in congress arguing that it was too lenient, passed the Wade-Davis bill in 1864, which proposed far more demanding terms. It required 50 percent of the voters to take the loyalty oath and allowed only those who could swear that they had never supported the confederacy to run for office or hold federal employment. Lincoln rejected this plan and pocket-vetoed the bill. In March 1865, Congress created a new agency, the Freedman's Bureau. This agency provided food, shelter, medical aid, help to find employment, education, and other needs for blacks and poor whites. The Freedman's Bureau was the largest scale federal aid relief plan at this time. It was the first large scale governmental welfare program.

Artwork depicting the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. This horrific event led to Andrew Johnson assuming the Presidency, which would radically change the course of southern reconstruction.

In 1864, his Vice Presidential running mate was the only Southern Senator to remain loyal to the Union - Andrew Johnson from Tennessee. After Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, and Johnson became President, the latter proved to be an obstacle to the Radical Republicans in Congress, who attempted to completely overhaul the Southern government and economy, which would have caused further tensions.

In May, 1865, Johnson made his own proclamation, one that was very similar to Lincoln's. Offering amnesty to almost all Confederates who took an oath of allegiance to the Union, Johnson also reversed General Sherman's decision to set aside land for the express use of freed slaves. Not long after Johnson took office, all of the ex-Confederate states were able to be readmitted under President Johnson's plan. In 1866, Johnson vetoed two important bills, one that bolstered the protection that the Freedmen's Bureau gave to blacks and a civil rights bill that gave full citizenship to blacks.

After realizing that if all of the Republicans, moderate and radical alike, united, they could overcome Johnson's vetoes, they soon passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment. This amendment declared citizenship for all persons born in the United States and required the states to respect the rights of all US citizens. The Civil Rights Act outlawed the black codes that had been prevalent throughout the South.

Over Johnson's vetoes, Congress passed three Reconstruction acts in 1867. They divided the southern states into five military districts under the control of the Union army. The military commander in charge of each district was to ensure that the state fulfilled the requirements of Reconstruction by ratifying the Fourteenth Amendment and by providing voting rights without a race qualification. Tennessee was not included in the districts because it had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment in 1866 and was quickly readmitted to the Union.

In 1868, the House of Representatives impeached Andrew Johnson. Earlier, Congress had passed the Tenure of Office Act (over Johnson's veto), which required the President to dismiss officers only with the advice and consent of the Senate if he appointed them with the same advice and consent. Johnson believed that the Act was unconstitutional (and the Supreme Court, years after his Presidency, agreed in 1926), and intentionally violated it, to "test the waters." Radical Republicans used this violation as an excuse to impeach Johnson, who was acquitted by one vote in the Senate.

In the election of 1868, Ulysses Grant was nominated for the Republican ticket and won on an incredibly small margin. Republicans noticed that if they did not act swiftly to protect the voting rights of blacks, they might soon lose a majority. Thus, Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment in 1869, which enforced that the suffrage of male citizens shall not be denied on account of race. This was a major blow to the women's movement, as it was the first time gender was deliberately placed into the Constitution. Republicans claimed that if the amendment had included both race and gender discrimination clauses, it would have never had a chance to pass in Congress.

African-Americans in Congress

Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African American to serve in Congress

A number of African-Americans were elected for the first time in American history during this period. With the Reconstruction Acts sending federal troops in the southern states where African-Americans held majorities in South Carolina and Mississippi, and nearly equal numbers with whites in Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, Blacks were elected to Congress from these states.

John Willis Menard was elected in the 2nd District of Louisiana in 1868. His challenger, Caleb Hunt, filed an objection with the election result and the House of Representatives, upon hearing arguments from both candidates, decided to seat neither of them.

Hiram Revels was elected by the Mississippi Senate by an 81-15 margin to finish the term of Mississippi Senator Albert G. Brown, who vacated the seat during the Civil War. Revels served from February 23, 1870 to March 3, 1871.

Joseph Rainey was elected to the US House of Representatives from South Carolina's 1st District in the elections of 1870. He was the longest serving African-American member of congress prior to William L. Dawson in the 1950's.

Blanche Bruce was elected to serve a full term in the US Senate by the Mississippi state senate in 1871. Bruce was the only former slave to ever serve in the US Senate.

Alaskan Purchase

A painting depicting the signing of the Alaska Treaty of Cessation on March 30, 1867.

Beginning in the 1770's the Russian Empire began colonizing Alaska.[2] On March 30, 1867 the American Government purchased Alaska from the Russian empire for 7.2 million dollars.[3] The decision was widely ridiculed at the time, but the purchase was later proven to be a bargain when gold and oil were discovered there.[3] The few Russian settlers in the territory were given three years to return to Russia, with the option of staying and becoming American citizens.[3]

The Panic of 1873

A bank run in New York City during the Panic of 1873.

The Panic of 1873 was the first depression experienced by America and Europe following the Civil War. The depression was a result of the fall for an international demand for silver. Germany stopped using the silver standard after the Franco-Prussia war. The United States enacted the Coinage Act of 1873 which shifted the backing of our monetary system with gold and silver to just gold. The act immediately depreciated the value of silver and hurt western mining operations. Another factor that influenced the Panic of 1873 was the risky over investment into railroad companies that would not bring quick returns. The Jay Cook and Company was a United States bank that declared bankruptcy on September 18, 1873. The bank went under as a result of over investment in the railroad business. As a result, the New York Stock Exchange closed for ten days starting September 20, 1873. 89 of 364 railroad companies failed during the depression. Real estate values, wages, and profits by corporations decreased over the course of the panic. Thousands of businesses fell during the depression as well. The depression was a major highlight in President Grant's second term.

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877

Blockade of engines during the strike.

The strike started on July 14, 1877 in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The strike was caused by wage cuts from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. The workers refused to let the railroad operate. State militia was sent in to quell the strike but would not fire upon the strikers. Governor Henry Mathews called upon federal troops to put down the strike and resume operations of the railroad. The strike spread to Cumberland, Maryland. Troops in Maryland fired upon the mob of strikers and killed ten rioters. The strike occurred in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and even spread to St. Louis. The strikes resulted in millions of dollars of property damage the casualties of many. The great strike lasted 45 days, after finally being put down by federal troops from city to city.

Republicans fall from power


Grant's presidency would bring about the decline of the Republican Party. He appointed a great number of corrupt officials to federal positions and to his cabinet. Many split with the party over that issue. Others grew tired of Reconstruction and proposed reconciliation with the South in a peaceful manner. These people called themselves Liberal Republicans, and nominated Horace Greeley to run against Grant in 1872. The Democrats also endorsed Greeley. Despite wide support, Grant won the election of 1872 decisively.

During the election season, Liberal Republicans were busy pushing the Amnesty Act through Congress, and in May 1872, it passed. The Amnesty Act pardoned most former Confederate citizens, and allowed them to run for office. The act restored the rights to the Democratic majorities in the South. Soon, Democrats had control of the Virginia and North Carolina governments. In states with black Republican majorities, the Ku Klux Klan (formed after the civil war as a white supremacist group) terrorized Republicans and forced them to vote Democratic or not at all. By 1876, Republicans controlled only three states in the South: Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina-- all of which were still occupied by Union troops.

Republicans continued to decline during Grant's second term, after many high level political scandals came to light. Most shocking to the public was that a scandal involved the Vice President, and another involved the Secretary of War. The Northern population's confidence in the party was shaken even more when the nation slipped into a Depression that same year.

In the congressional elections of 1874, Republicans would suffer huge losses in both houses, and for the first time since before the start of the Civil War, Democrats were able to gain control of a part of Congress (the House). Congress no longer was able to be committed strongly to Reconstruction.

The certificate for the electoral vote for Rutherford B. Hayes and William A. Wheeler for the State of Louisiana

In the election of 1876, Democrats nominated New York governor S.J. Tilden to run, and the Republicans nominated Ohio governor Rutherford B. Hayes. On election day, it seemed that Tilden would win by more than 250,000 votes. But the seven, four, and eight electoral votes from South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana, respectively, were disputed (Northern troops still occupied these states). Also, one of Oregon's three electoral votes was disputed. If Hayes won all 20 votes, he would win the election. Congress created a special commission of seven Democrats, seven Republicans, and one independent to review the election and decide a winner. But the independent resigned, and a Republican was appointed to take his place. The commission voted along party lines to award Hayes the election, but Democrats warned that they would fight the decision.

Republican and Democratic leaders secretly met up to draw up a compromise, and the result of the meeting was the Compromise of 1877. Proclaiming that Hayes would win the election, troops left the South and more aid was given to the South; it marked the end of Reconstruction. Ultimately, Reconstruction and the Compromise itself would be failures, as Democrats refused to hold up their end of the compromise, which was to protect the rights of African Americans in the South.

The period after Reconstruction saw the rise of the Democratic "Redeemers" in the South. The Redeemers vowed to take back the South from Republican rule, which had been ousted after the 1876 election. They passed Jim Crow laws, which segregated blacks and whites, and put voting restrictions on blacks that wouldn't be outlawed until the next century. Jim Crow laws were challenged in Plessy v. Ferguson, when the Supreme Court voted to uphold the laws if and only if segregated facilities remained "separate but equal."


A captured Sujagi, flag of a commanding general, on the USS Colorado in 1871.

The United States expedition to Korea in 1871, also known as Sinmiyangyo (Western Disturbance of the Year Sinmi year) was the first American military action in Korea. It took place predominantly on and around the Korean island of Ganghwa. America sent a military expeditionary force to Korea to support an American diplomatic delegation sent to establish trade and diplomatic relations with Korea, to ascertain the fate of the General Sherman merchant ship, and to establish a treaty assuring aid for shipwrecked sailors. The isolationist Joseon Dynasty government and the assertive Americans led to a misunderstanding between the two parties that changed a diplomatic expedition into an armed conflict. The United States won a minor military victory, but the Koreans refused to open up the country to them. As the U.S. forces in Korea did not have the authority or strength to press the issue, the United States failed to secure their diplomatic objectives.

Religion During the 19th Century


The New Wave of Jewish Immigration

1887 picture depicting European immigrants arriving in New York City.

Between the years of 1820 and 1880, about 250,000 Jews came to the U.S. The immigration was not only based in a troubled European economy but also in the 1848 failure of liberal revolutions in the German states.[4]

Railways and the great steamer ships opened up immigration to America in the later 1800s and early 1900s. Yet the trip was dirty, uncomfortable, and dangerous. While prosperous families in upper-class compartments had private cabins, most of the immigrants went across in steerage class: three hundred tightly-packed men, women and children, sleeping on double- or even triple-bunk beds. The beds were about six feet long and two feet wide, with only two-and-a-half feet separating each bunk. Their goods, such as they were, rested on the bunk. The people had little or no running water, the stench was incredible, and there was little recourse against vermin. One witness, a Sophia Kreitzberg, said, "When you scratched your head [. . .] you got lice on your hands."[5] This close environment joined with the background of privation and the strain of long travel to cause break-outs of diseases. The Jews were served unkosher meat and soup, which many refused to eat. Instead they nibbled on what they had brought with them, mostly dried fruit, hard bread, or stale cheese.[6]

At the other end of the passage was often a few ports of entry to the United States. From 1855 to 1890 this was predominantly Castle Garden (also called Castle Clinton), a point at the tip of Manhattan Island in what would later be called New York City. From 1890 onward a vast number of immigrants came through the new reception area at Ellis Island.[7] In these places human beings were duly categorized by ship, country of origin, past employment, and other relevant information. (This next footnote shows one such document from Castle Garden.)[8]

Catholic America

James Gibbons, a prominent Catholic leader in the United States from the 1860's to the early 1900's.
A political cartoon from 1875, protraying the Catholic church as an enemy of American public education. Thomas Nast feared that public money would be shifted from public education to support Catholic education.

Catholic Immigration


A massive influx of immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Russian Empire (most notably Poland) caused a dramatic increase in the U.S. Catholic population during the latter half of the 19th century. From 1840 to 1851 Ireland suffered famine and oppression. The other immigration was caused by nationalization and national upheavals. By 1850 Catholicism had become the United States' largest religious denomination: between 1860 and 1890 the Catholic population tripled, mostly because of immigration. This massive influx of Catholics to the United States eventually led to a significant increase of power for the Catholic church.



American Protestants often feared the increasing power and prominence of American Catholics. In pre-Civil War America anti-Catholic prejudice was shown through the "Know Nothings" and the American branch of the Orange Institution. After the war the American Protective Association, and the Ku Klux Klan regularly persecuted and discriminated against Catholics with such acts as The Philadelphia Nativist Riot, "Bloody Monday", and the Orange Riots of New York City in 1871 and 1872[9].



The severe anti-Catholic activities revealed the sentiments of Nativism, which encouraged all "native-born American men" to rise up against foreigners. (This appeal went out to European-descended Protestants, of course, rather than the actual Native Americans who lived there before the had settled here.)

The first Nativist publication was called The Protestant; its first edition sold on January 2nd, 1830. Its editor was George Bourne, and as he wrote, "the goal of the paper is centered around the denunciation of the Catholic faith" [10] Anti-Catholic rhetoric was occasionally met with violence; yet the Nativists produced one of the greatest violent acts of the 1830's. On August 10, 1834, forty to fifty people gathered outside the Ursuline Convent school and burned it to the ground. [11] In 1834 F. B. Morse, a nativist leader who was a professor of sculpture and painting at New York University, wrote "The Foreign Conspiracies Against the Liberties of the United States", in which his basic message is centered around protecting the American birth right of liberty.

The concern, and fear of the foreign and Catholic communities grew out of the Protestant fear of the monarchial tendencies of Catholicism, during this time urban areas were also starting to grow rapidly with the massive influx of immigrants who all congregated and lived in the same areas. Nativists saw this as an act of "clannishness", and an attempt to avoid or resist "Americanization." With the success of Morse, and his contemporary Lyman Beecher, the nativist movement reached a point where the public did not care whether the stories they heard were true or false, but began to accept works of fiction as truth as well.

In 1836 Maria Monk authored a worked called "Awful Disclosures of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery of Montreal." In her book she tells of her experiences with Catholicism, which involved forced sexual intercourse with priests and the murdering of nuns and children, the book concludes with her [Maria] escaping to save her unborn child. Monk's mother denies her work, and said that Maria was never in a nunnery, and that a brain injury Maria received as a child may have been the cause of her stories. In the Midwest and northern sections of the country Catholics were seen as incapable of free thought and were said to be "anti-American Papists" because it was thought that they took every direction from the Pope in Rome.

During the Mexican-American war Mexican Catholics were displayed in the media as silly or stupid due to their "Papist superstition". It was because of the general attitude in America about Catholics that about 100 American Catholics, mostly recently immigrated Irish, fought against the United States in the Mexican-American war. These men fought for the Mexicans and were known as "Saint Patrick's Battalion ([12]). In 1850, Franklin Pierce presented several resolutions that would remove the restrictions on Catholics from holding public office in New Hampshire, these resolutions that were, at the time, considered "pro-Catholic' were defeated (Battle of Religious Tolerance," The World Almanac, 1950, 53). However as the 19th century passed, hostilities between Catholics and Protestants eased due to the fact that many Irish Catholics fought alongside Protestants during the Civil War, for both the North and the South.[13]


The General Oliver Otis Howard House, built in 1867 and the oldest building at Howard University still standing.

Ex-slaves everywhere across the nation reached out for education. Blacks of all ages really wanted to know what was in the books that had been only permitted to whites. With freedom they started their own schools and the classes were packed days and nights. They sat on log seats or the dirt floors. They would study their letters in old almanacs and in discarded dictionaries. Because the desire to escape slavery's ignorance was so great, ignoring their poverty, many blacks would pay tuition, sometimes $1 or $1.50 a month.[14] Blacks and their white allies also saw a need for colleges and universities, in this case to train teachers, ministers, and professionals for leadership. There were seven colleges founded by the American Missionary Association, Fisk and Atlanta Universities, between 1866 and 1869. The Freedoms Bureau helped to establish Howard University in Washington D.C. As well as Northern religious groups, such as the Methodists, Baptists, and Congregationalists, supported dozens of seminaries and teachers’ colleges.[15] The earliest forms of education that blacks received was from the missionaries to convert them to Christianity. The education of blacks was very low during the civil war, until Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The Department of Education was developed in 1867 to help start more effective schools systems. Howard University was developed in Washington D.C. for black youth “in the liberal arts and sciences.” The first public school day was in Boston in 1869.


An oil field in Pennsylvania.

Just before the Civil War a vast source of petroleum was discovered in and around Titusville, Pennsylvania, and after the War this began to be exploited. At first oil was used for medicinal purposes alone. However, as the supply increased, it also began to be used for industrial purposes, and instead of whale oil. The dangerous and expensive whaling industry collapsed. While some cities used coal gas for night illumination, others began to use oil lamps, and major cities were lit at night. Petroleum, lamp oil (for the great engine lamp), and machine oil increased the usefulness of railways.

First Transcontinental Railroad, Utah, 1869

Information could be transmitted across great distances via the telegraph. In the 1870s and 1880s inventors vied to transmit a human voice. The two major competitors were the Scots-born Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray. In the year 1875, Alexander Graham Bell used an electromagnetic machine to transmit the sound of a steel reed. On February 14, 1876, a partner of Bell presented his patent to the patent office in Washington, D.C., on the same day as his rival Elisha Gray. Three weeks later, on March Seventh, Bell’s patent won out and was granted.

Native Americans After The War


The injustices that Native Americans dealt with during the Civil War did not go away at War's end. The U. S. National government made it clear that though these people were indigenous to the continent, they were not going to be citizens of the country. The Native Americans were forced to live out in the west on reservations. Their travel was restricted and scrutinized by government agents who monitored them. Traveling off the reservations to hunt, fish or even visit the neighboring reservations was frowned upon by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Subsequently, the Bureau instituted a pass system in order keep them under control. This system required the Natives to get a pass from the agents before they were allowed off the reservation.

White settlers also took issue with Indians traveling on trains. However, the Central Pacific Railroad in Nevada granted the Native Americans permission to ride on top of the trains in exchange for their railroads being allowed to cross through the reservations. Many Indian agents were unhappy with this free travel arrangement. They began writing letters to the Bureau to stop it. One of the agents commented that "The injurious effects of this freedom from restraint, and continual change of place, on the Indian, can not be overestimated."

With the 14th amendment the civil rights acts were contrived. For the Indians however, their positioning was made clear. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 states “That all persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States."

Battle at Little Bighorn

A depiction of the battle by a Cheyenne artist.

In 1876, after a few uneventful confrontations, Col. George A. Custer and his small cavalry came across the Sioux and some of their allies at the Little Bighorn River. To force the large Indian army back to the reservations, the Army dispatched three columns to attack. One of these groups contained Lt. Custer and the Seventh Cavalry. They spotted the Sioux village about fifteen miles away just along the Rosebud River, Custer also found a nearby group of about forty men. He ignored orders to wait, and decided to attack before they could alert the main party. He was unaware of how much he was outnumbered. The Sioux and their allies had three times as much force. Custer divided his forces in three, He sent troops under control of Captain Frederick Benteen to try to stop them from escaping through the upper valley of the Little Bighorn River. Major Marcus Reno job was to pursue the group, then cross the river, and attack the Indian village in a conjunction with the remaining troops under his command. He Intended to strike the Indian camp from the north and south, but he had no idea that he would have to cross a rough terrain in order to achieve this. As the Indians descended Custer ordered his men to shoot their horses and stack the carcasses in front of them in order to form a wall. But this did not protect them against bullets. In less than an hour, Custer and all his men were killed in one of the worst American military disasters of all time. After one more day of fighting, Reno and Benteen's now unified forces fled when the Indians stopped fighting. They [who?] knew two more columns of soldiers were coming towards them, so they escaped toward them.

The massacre of Custer's final battle eclipsed any success he had had in the Civil War. Custer was defeated and killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, while fighting Native American tribes in a battle that has come to be known as "Custer's Last Stand".

Women's History of the Period


Victoria Woodhull

Presidential Candidate Victoria Woodhull

In 1872 Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for President of the United States. She was nominated by the Equal Rights Party on May 10. Though it is undisputed that she was the first female to run for president, the legality of her petition is questioned; her name didn't actually appear on the ballot and she was under the age of 35 which is the required age for a presidential candidate according to the constitution. Woodhull did not receive any electoral votes, but evidence supports that she received popular votes that were never counted.

Woman's Christian Temperance Union


The Woman's Christian Temperance Union was formed on December 22, 1873. Fredonia, New York is credited as being the birthplace of the group. The temperance movement was a social movement that pushed for the reduction of alcohol consumption. The movement spread all over the country, and women would go to bars and drug stores to sing and pray. The National Woman's Christian Temperance Union was established in 1874 in Cleveland, Ohio. The women demonstrated use of non violent protestation of the consumption of alcohol by praying in saloons. Often, they were denied entrance and yelled at by patrons. The movement ultimately contributed to prohibition in America's future.


  2. "Russians in Alaska and U.S. Purchase Federal Indian Law for Alaska Tribes". Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  3. a b c "The myth—and memorabilia—of Seward's Folly". NewsCenter. 29 March 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  4. Stone, Amy. Jewish Americans. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: World Almanac Library, 2007. Pp. 6-9.
  5. Stone, p.15
  6. Stone.
  7. Retrieved on March 15, 2015.
  8. Retrieved on March 15, 2015.
  9. Michael Gordon, The Orange riots: Irish political violence in New York City, 1870 and 1871 (1993
  10. Baker, Sean. The American Religious Experience, American Nativism, 1830-1845.
  11. Baker, Sean
  12. Amy S. Greenberg: Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993
  13. Baker, Sean.
  14. A People and A Nation, Eighth Edition
  15. A People and A Nation, Eighth Edition

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