Journalist and military historian Budiansky (Her Majesty's Spymaster) pulls no punches in this hard-hitting examination of the most sordid aspects of Reconstruction in the South from 1865 to 1876. The "brutal war of terrorist violence" that he surveys certainly has not escaped the history books. But this worthy effort goes a long way toward highlighting the most venal aspects of how, in the 10 years after the Civil War, the white Southern power structure managed to erect the Jim Crow laws that for nearly a century legalized many aspects of racial discrimination. Budiansky also highlights "men and women of courage, idealism, rectitude, and vision" who confronted the establishment: Pennsylvania-born U.S. Army major Lewis Merrill, who fought the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina; Prince Rivers, a former slave and Union army Colored Troop sergeant who became a state legislator and trial judge in South Carolina; and Maine-born Adelbert Ames, a Union general who served as Mississippi's provisional military governor. Budiansky brings the unpleasant details of the era alive in a smoothly written narrative. (Jan. 28)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Serviceable overview of vigilante violence in the Reconstruction-era South and its victims. Historians have long observed that emancipation was a half-gesture: Scarcely any provision was made for the freed slaves, and it was all too easy for former owners to proclaim-as one of those who people military historian Budiansky's pages does-that freed slaves would not be paid wages for doing the same work as they did while in bondage. "You shall work for me as you have heretofore," the owner told the manumitted slaves, "and I will give you the same treatment you have always had, the same quantity and quality of food, and the same amount of clothing." The victorious federal government set to work with 40-acres-and-a-mule schemes, instituting Reconstruction and appointing military and civilian governors throughout the South, some of them black. Defeated Southerners mounted resistance through groups such as, most famously, the KKK. Other groups operated at the local level, as with one self-described "committee" that warned that an Englishman who rented Louisiana land to freedmen would be punished by being burned out: the gin house first, the rest of the place next. "If that don't break it up, we will break your neck," the committee warned. How the Englishman responded we do not know, but Budiansky (Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage, 2005, etc.) tracks the fortunes of several Reconstruction appointees, as well as those of the renowned Confederate general James Longstreet, who took time to remind the guerrillas that their cause had, in fact, been defeated, adding, "These issues expired upon the fields last occupied by the Confederatearmies. There they should have been buried." Longstreet's intercession did not make Reconstruction any easier-and, writes Budiansky, the general suffered terribly for having voiced such views. The Longstreet episode is one of the best in the book, which covers ground well discussed elsewhere in the historical literature.