After Appomattox: Military Occupation and the Ends of Warby Gregory P. Downs
On April 8, 1865, after four years of civil war, General Robert E. Lee wrote to General Ulysses S. Grant asking for peace. Peace was beyond his authority to negotiate, Grant replied, but surrender terms he would discuss. As Gregory Downs reveals in this gripping history of post–Civil War America, Grant’s distinction proved prophetic, for peace would
On April 8, 1865, after four years of civil war, General Robert E. Lee wrote to General Ulysses S. Grant asking for peace. Peace was beyond his authority to negotiate, Grant replied, but surrender terms he would discuss. As Gregory Downs reveals in this gripping history of post–Civil War America, Grant’s distinction proved prophetic, for peace would elude the South for years after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
After Appomattox argues that the war did not end with Confederate capitulation in 1865. Instead, a second phase commenced which lasted until 1871not the project euphemistically called Reconstruction but a state of genuine belligerency whose mission was to shape the terms of peace. Using its war powers, the U.S. Army oversaw an ambitious occupation, stationing tens of thousands of troops in hundreds of outposts across the defeated South. This groundbreaking study of the post-surrender occupation makes clear that its purpose was to crush slavery and to create meaningful civil and political rights for freed people in the face of rebels’ bold resistance.
But reliance on military occupation posed its own dilemmas. In areas beyond Army control, the Ku Klux Klan and other violent insurgencies created near-anarchy. Voters in the North also could not stomach an expensive and demoralizing occupation. Under those pressures, by 1871, the Civil War came to its legal end. The wartime after Appomattox disrupted planter power and established important rights, but the dawn of legal peacetime heralded the return of rebel power, not a sustainable peace.
Most books on Reconstruction focus on the legislative achievements of the period such as the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution; the election of black leaders in the South; or the rise of extremism and the failure to secure lasting civil rights for freed slaves. However, Downs (history, City Coll. and Graduate Ctr., City Univ. of New York) examines Reconstruction as primarily a military operation. In order to secure civil rights for freed slaves, Northern republicans had to rely on additional constitutional war powers. From a legal standpoint, the Civil War did not end with the surrender of Confederate armies but lasted until 1871 when Georgia's senator was seated. While many opponents of Reconstruction were motivated by racism, others were compelled by a fear of unchecked military power. How to approach Reconstruction even divided radical Republicans. Downs convincingly argues that the U.S. government should have expanded and extended the use of war powers in the South in order to secure justice and freedom for freed slaves. VERDICT This work will appeal to general readers as well as specialists interested in a fresh understanding of Reconstruction.—Michael Farrell, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Meet the Author
Gregory P. Downs is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Davis.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews