Academic journal article Military Review

The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction

Academic journal article Military Review

The Ordeal of the Reunion: A New History of Reconstruction

Article excerpt

THE ORDEAL OF THE REUNION: A New History of Reconstruction

Mark Wahlgren Summers, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2014, 528 pages

Stability operations will remain, albeit reluctantly, a central mission of the U.S. military for the foreseeable future, and officers should study the history of such operations as earnestly as they study conventional battles and campaigns. Soldiers can start with no better example than the Civil War and Reconstruction-and with no better book than Mark W. Summers' The Ordeal of the Reunion. The author does not intend for this New History of Reconstruction to replace other works, especially Eric Foner's massive study of the period. However, by focusing primarily on the political aspects of reconstruction and placing them in the context of the events of the era, he outlines the key facts, frustrations, and failures of the "post-war" program for the modern officer.

Summers begins with wartime reconstruction and the evolving policies toward occupying and governing border and rebellious states. Lincoln ultimately adopted a policy to rapidly return states to civil authority by accepting government based on only a loyal 10 percent of the electorate. His critics rightly observed that this was too narrow of a portion of the electorate to be sustained without military support. This proved all too true by the end of 1865. President Johnson required only a grudging acceptance of the Thirteenth Amendment, and a largely insincere profession of loyalty thus enabled the former rebels to quickly use the courts and legislatures to suppress the freedmen and punish Unionists.

Slowly and reluctantly, the Republicans realized the Union victory would be lost if something more drastic were not done. Over the vetoes of the president, Congress passed a series of acts that renewed the military occupation of the South and set requirements for a return to full statehood. …

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