Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War

By Harold S. Wilson | Go to book overview

7
The Tortuous Course Toward
Economic Reconstruction

After Appomattox, a “New South” emerged that was characterized by the rapid rebuilding of factories, railroads, mines, stores, and homesteads. Manufacturers, railroaders, former Confederate officers, educators, and editors, deeply shocked by the wartime scarcity and deprivation, asserted leadership in this endeavor and widely called for the adoption of modern science and technology as tools to rebuild the conquered South. From the pulpit and the podium, the press and the statehouse, there was a renewal of the great antebellum campaign to introduce a system of technology to the South, to bring the factories to the fields. At hand were the successful examples of the Confederate War Department in discovering and utilizing iron and coal resources, building and integrating railroad systems, and mobilizing factories. The lenient reconstruction policies of President Andrew Johnson fostered this process of rejuvenation by bringing mill leaders to the forefront of Southern leadership.

Johnson, a former senator and military governor from Tennessee who assumed the presidency following Abraham Lincoln's assassination on April 14, 1865, adopted a policy of economic reconstruction. This policy was attractive to many in the Northern business community who sought renewed commerce with the South and to the South, desperately in need of Northern investments and goods. The ultimate success of such a program hinged on Johnson's ability to lead the victorious commercial North into the acceptance of a policy of sectional reconciliation while permitting the loyal business interests of the South to guide the former Confederacy toward national integration.

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