The Civil War Ends - Reconstruction Begins
Frameworks for America's Past
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Reconstruction began as the Civil War ended - 1865

   Reconstruction is the term for the period in American history right after the Civil War.

   The map shows the two sides of that conflict.  The Union states, also called the North, are shown in yellow. 
Three additional states in the Union - California, Oregon, and Nevada - are further to the west and are not shown.

   The Confederate states - the states of the South - are shown in green.

   The Confederacy surrendered in April of 1865, after four years fighting.  That ended the Civil War.

   The Reconstruction period lasted 12 years.  They were years of great changes and challenges for all Americans, but especially for those in the South.


It wasn't going to be easy

As Reconstruction began, many people on both sides of the conflict were angry and resentful.  Hundreds of thousands of people on both sides of the Civil War had died, and many more were wounded.  Many homes, farms, and factories in the South had been destroyed or damaged.  Each side blamed the other for causing the war.

   The photo below shows Richmond, Virginia, at the end of the Civil War.

Job #1: Put the U.S. back together

The main task of the Reconstruction period was to bring the 11 former Confederate states back again as part of the United States.  Also, the people of the Southern states had to be brought back as loyal citizens and voters.

Job #2: Helping the former slaves

The end of the Civil War meant the end of slavery - everyone understood that.  But beyond that basic fact was much uncertainty.  Creating a new place in society for the freed slaves was another big challenge for the years of Reconstruction.  Most of the freedmen, as they were called, had no education, no land, and no money. 

   The photo shows a black family in Richmond as the Reconstruction period began.

The legacy of the Civil War leaders

The country was lucky that some of the Civil War leaders on both sides wanted to move the country forward.  Three leaders left an especially important legacy or impact.  They were U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and Frederick Douglass, a famous public speaker.  Here are some facts about them:

Abraham Lincoln

* Lincoln was the president of the U.S. (the Union) during the Civil War.  He was assassinated shortly after the war ended in 1865.

* Preserving the Union was his most important goal, both during the war and after it ended.

* Lincoln wanted reconciliation (to forgive and make friends again), not punishment of the South, after the war ended.

Robert E. Lee

* Lee, from Virginia, was the most famous general for the South.

* After the surrender in 1865 he urged Southerners to reconcile (become friends again) with the North and reunite as Americans.

* Lee became president of Washington College in Virginia.  He introduced new ideas that changed and improved college education.  (The school is now Washington and Lee University.)

Frederick Douglass

* He escaped from slavery before the Civil War began.  He became a famous public speaker against slavery and started a newspaper called The North Star.

* After the war, he remained a strong voice speaking out for human rights and civil liberties for all people.

* Douglass called for approval of constitutional amendments to guarantee voting rights for all citizens - black and white, male and female.

A picture of hopeful progress

Reconstruction was a time of enormous and often difficult changes, especially in the South.  The drawing below, however, tells another part of the story.  It is the market area of Alexandria, Virginia, in 1868.  The Civil War had ended three years earlier, and was sliding into history.  Slavery had been ended.  On this day, at least, townspeople, farmers, and shopkeepers - including both whites and blacks - are living the normal life of any city: buying, selling, and bargaining for prices in the market.  That was progress, indeed.

Photos and images are from the Library of Congress.
The maps are by David Burns.
Some have been edited or resized for this page.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright 2009, 2016 by David Burns.  All rights reserved.  As a guide to the Virginia Standards of Learning, some pages necessarily include phrases or sentences from that document, which is available online from the Virginia Department of Education.  The author's copyright extends to the original text and graphics, unique design and layout, and related material.