The Reconstruction Period

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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The Reconstruction Period Reconstruction, the period that followed the Civil War, is perhaps the most controversial era in American history. Reconstruction witnessed major changes in America's political life. At the national level, new laws and constitutional amendments permanently altered the federal system and the nature of American citizenship. Reconstruction came on the coattails of one of our nation?s most gruesome wars, the Civil War. Over six hundred thousand men died during the Civil War, from injuries received on the battlefield or by diseases that were then untreatable. All told, over a million men were killed or seriously wounded. Most of the men lost were young fathers that had left families behind. The cost of the war totaled about fifteen billion dollars: other costs such as lost lives, memories, resources, and wasted energy can never be calculated. The war was a supreme test to the young American nation, but as the Americans would soon discover, a larger test was still to come in the aftermath.

The post-war South was in a very poor state. Glorious cities, hubs of commerce, were now reduced to rubble. Transportation systems no longer existed; roads, so long without maintenance, were beyond repair, and rails had been dismantled so that they could be melted into bullets. General Sherman even intentionally destroyed southern land almost to the point where it couldn?t be repaired, just to demoralize the southern soldiers. Without slaves or livestock the fields sat overtaken by weeds (Bailey, 488). How could the south rebuild after both social and economic systems had been destroyed? How should the Confederate leaders be punished and how? What was to be done with the millions of newly freed blacks? How should the readmission process be handled? These and other pressing questions were brought to the forefront, and they desperately needed solutions...