The Louisiana Scalawags: Politics, Race, and Terrorism During the Civil War and Reconstruction

Overview

During the Civil War and Reconstruction, the pejorative term "scalawag" referred to white southerners loyal to the Republican Party. With the onset of the federal occupation of New Orleans in 1862, scalawags challenged the restoration of the antebellum political and social orders. Derided as opportunists, uneducated "poor white trash," Union sympathizers, and race traitors, scalawags remain largely misunderstood even today. In The Louisiana Scalawags, Frank J. Wetta offers the first in-depth analysis of these men...

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The Louisiana Scalawags: Politics, Race, and Terrorism during the Civil War and Reconstruction

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Overview

During the Civil War and Reconstruction, the pejorative term "scalawag" referred to white southerners loyal to the Republican Party. With the onset of the federal occupation of New Orleans in 1862, scalawags challenged the restoration of the antebellum political and social orders. Derided as opportunists, uneducated "poor white trash," Union sympathizers, and race traitors, scalawags remain largely misunderstood even today. In The Louisiana Scalawags, Frank J. Wetta offers the first in-depth analysis of these men and their struggle over the future of Louisiana. A significant assessment of the interplay of politics, race, and terrorism during Reconstruction, this study answers an array of questions about the origin and demise of the scalawags, and debunks much of the negative mythology surrounding them.

Contrary to popular thought, the southern white Republicans counted among their ranks men of genuine accomplishment and talent. They worked in fields as varied as law, business, medicine, journalism, and planting, and many held government positions as city officials, judges, parish officeholders, and state legislators in the antebellum years. Wetta demonstrates that a strong sense of nationalism often motivated the men, no matter their origins.

Louisiana's scalawags grew most active and influential during the early stages of Reconstruction, when they led in founding the state's Republican Party. The vast majority of white Louisianans, however, rejected the scalawags' appeal to form an alliance with the freedmen in a biracial political party. Eventually, the influence of the scalawags succumbed to persistent terrorism, corruption, and competition from the white carpetbaggers and their black Republican allies. By then, the state's Republican Party consisted of white political leaders without any significant white constituency. According to Wetta, these weaknesses, as well as ineffective federal intervention in response to a Democratic Party insurgency, caused the Republican Party to collapse and Reconstruction to fail in Louisiana.

LSU Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807147467
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2013
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank J. Wetta is Senior Fellow at the Center for History, Politics, and Policy in the department of history at Kean University. He is a former Leverhulme British Commonwealth, United States Visiting Fellow in American Studies at the University of Keele in the United Kingdom.

LSU Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 The Scalawags in "The Land of Jubilee": Myth, Memory, and the Historians 4

2 Backstory: The Origins of the Louisiana Scalawags 14

3 "The Rainbow of Happiness": The Scalawags' Unionist Connection 44

4 "Minds and Hearts": The Scalawags, Unionism, and the Making of the Republican Party in Louisiana 61

5 "What the Hell is Your Hide Worth Today?": The Scalawags and the New Orleans Riot of 1866 90

6 The Scalawags and the Carpetbag Prince 116

7 "Doom for the Traitor": Bulldozing the Scalawags 156

8 After the Deluge: The Scalawags and the Waning of Louisiana Republicanism 169

9 The Scalawags in Retrospect 183

Notes 191

Bibliography 219

Index 233

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