Death at Cross Plains: An Alabama Reconstruction Tragedy

Death at Cross Plains: An Alabama Reconstruction Tragedy

Death at Cross Plains: An Alabama Reconstruction Tragedy

Death at Cross Plains: An Alabama Reconstruction Tragedy

Excerpt

The political, social, and economic turmoil that gripped the South after the Civil War created an atmosphere conducive to violence amid a people already fiercely proud and exceedingly passionate. The federal Reconstruction of the defeated Confederacy closed to southerners those avenues of protest against injustice that are customary in civilized society, forcing them to seek both defense and vengeance by more surreptitious means, against whatever targets might be accessible. The subjected southerners could do nothing to reach the roots of the very real problems caused by a lost war and a ruined economy, but they could--and did--strike at the people who contributed to their plight; and amid their frustration, it seldom mattered whether their victims were actually guilty or merely symbolic.

Traditionally, history has tended to relate all violence during this era to organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and to portray the victims as innocent idealists. In reality, there can be no doubt that some of the deaths and assaults were unrelated to politics. Personal vengeance and satisfaction for affronts to honor were important tenets of the code inherited by generations of southerners. Such individual expressions of violence continued to occur during Reconstruction, and many victims of this era were by no means innocent. Some had fomented violence or had purposefully acted in a provocative manner.

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