Were Southern whites disfranchised during Reconstruction?

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
So, you are both of the opinion the losing side should suffer no consequences for their actions?
No consequences? Didn't they already have property confiscated and their towns and homes burned to the ground?

What's the motive to inflict more? Vindictiveness?

They freely chose to employ violence and revolution in a hope to force the rest of the nation to bend to their will.

They rolled the dice and came up snake eyes (Lincoln and Grant) and then had to pay for their arrogance.

They got off easy.
 

19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
So, you are both of the opinion the losing side should suffer no consequences for their actions?

No consequences? Didn't they already have property confiscated and their towns and homes burned to the ground?

...along with over 300,000 dead.

They freely chose to employ violence and revolution in a hope to force the rest of the nation to bend to their will.

They rolled the dice and came up snake eyes (Lincoln and Grant) and then had to pay for their arrogance.

They got off easy.

So in your view it was not enough.

***

Union Death Squads in Middle Tennessee:

"...execution without trial had become commonplace in occupied Middle Tennessee. Not content with capturing and defeating various bushwhacker gangs, [General] Milroy still felt that the civilian base of support for such bands needed to be destroyed. He believed that his policy of 'fire and blood' was the best way to accomplish such a task. Milroy found allies among those individuals who had been affected by Hood's return to Tennessee in November and December 1864.

Moses Pitman was one of the pro-Union men who had been attacked by guerillas during the absence of Union troops from Tullahoma. His list of stolen and lost goods included several weapons, horses, and household goods. Pitman provided Milroy with a list of goods for which he was seeking restitution as well as a list of his neighbors who he felt deserved punishment for 'disloyal' actions.

Names of some disloyal citizens of the Fourth district Franklin County Tenn.
A narration of their crimes and the orders of Maj. Gen'l Milroy as to what
punishment they shall suffer for said crimes....

Joel Cunningham- He is a leader of a gang of bushwhackers 75 to 100 strong.
[Milroy's instructions:] Kill

Wesley Davis- Harbors bushwhackers.
Clean out [-confiscate property that can be removed and burn the rest]

Green Denison- A bushwhacker with Hays.
Kill

Jane Lipscum- A widow. Harbors bushwhackers.
Clean out

Curtis McCullum- Harbors bushwhackers and instigated his son and three others to murder in cold blood a Union man named Samuel Kennedy on Oct 15, 1864....
Hang and burn

Cynthia McCullum- Wife of the above and also instigated her son to murder Kennedy, the same remarks that apply to her husband apply also to her with double force. She is a very bad and a very dangerous woman.
Shoot if you can make it look an accident

Charlotte McCullum- An unmarried sister of the above and is almost as bad as her mother.

Burn everything

The list goes on for a total of 58 names....

Leroy Moore, Thomas Saunders, and William Saunders were three of the men that had been ordered to be executed...Leroy Moore was described as 'an old, white haired man' while Thomas Saunders was 'over 50 years of age,' and William Saunders was only 14. When the detail from the 42nd Missouri reached the Saunders house Moore was found to be visiting them. All three had their hands tied behind their backs and were forced to wade into a mill pond at Huffers Mill. They were then shot in the back and their corpses were guarded for three days before the families were allowed to remove them from the water. The method of their execution was the same as that styled 'barbaric' by General Slocum and General Thomas when three of their men were murdered at Mulberry in 1863. The three are still buried on the banks of the mill pond." -With Blood and Fire, pp. 115-117, 120
 
Last edited:

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
No consequences? Didn't they already have property confiscated and their towns and homes burned to the ground?

...along with over 300,000 dead.



So in your view it was not enough.

***

Union Death Squads in Middle Tennessee:

"...execution without trial had become commonplace in occupied Middle Tennessee. Not content with capturing and defeating various bushwhacker gangs, [General] Milroy still felt that the civilian base of support for such bands needed to be destroyed. He believed that his policy of 'fire and blood' was the best way to accomplish such a task. Milroy found allies among those individuals who had been affected by Hood's return to Tennessee in November and December 1864.

Moses Pitman was one of the pro-Union men who had been attacked by guerillas during the absence of Union troops from Tullahoma. His list of stolen and lost goods included several weapons, horses, and household goods. Pitman provided Milroy with a list of goods for which he was seeking restitution as well as a list of his neighbors who he felt deserved punishment for 'disloyal' actions.

Names of some disloyal citizens of the Fourth district Franklin County Tenn.
A narration of their crimes and the orders of Maj. Gen'l Milroy as to what
punishment they shall suffer for said crimes....

Joel Cunningham- He is a leader of a gang of bushwhackers 75 to 100 strong.
[Milroy's instructions:] Kill

Wesley Davis- Harbors bushwhackers.
Clean out [-confiscate property that can be removed and burn the rest]

Green Denison- A bushwhacker with Hays.
Kill

Jane Lipscum- A widow. Harbors bushwhackers.
Clean out

Curtis McCullum- Harbors bushwhackers and instigated his son and three others to murder in cold blood a Union man named Samuel Kennedy on Oct 15, 1864....
Hang and burn

Cynthia McCullum- Wife of the above and also instigated her son to murder Kennedy, the same remarks that apply to her husband apply also to her with double force. She is a very bad and a very dangerous woman.
Shoot if you can make it look an accident

Charlotte McCullum- An unmarried sister of the above and is almost as bad as her mother.

Burn everything

The list goes on for a total of 58 names....

Leroy Moore, Thomas Saunders, and William Saunders were three of the men that had been ordered to be executed...Leroy Moore was described as 'an old, white haired man' while Thomas Saunders was 'over 50 years of age,' and William Saunders was only 14. When the detail from the 42nd Missouri reached the Saunders house Moore was found to be visiting them. All three had their hands tied behind their backs and were forced to wade into a mill pond at Huffers Mill. They were then shot in the back and their corpses were guarded for three days before the families were allowed to remove them from the water. The method of their execution was the same as that styled 'barbaric' by General Slocum and General Thomas when three of their men were murdered at Mulberry in 1863. The three are still buried on the banks of the mill pond." -With Blood and Fire, pp. 115-117, 120

In my view, which you should not misrepresent, is that the slaveholding South got off easy after the war.

It could have been very much worse, even with the above examples.

Though, in my own view, the only way it could have got even worse is, if the Confederacy had won.
 

Horrido67

Private
Joined
Sep 29, 2019
If you believe that any state outside the Confederacy was not predominantly racist in the 19th and early 20th century, you may wish to consider the anti-Asian bias in California notwithstanding that the targeted race was never more than 10% of the state's population.

Consider, for example, that the state did not approve the Fifteenth Amendment providing blacks the right to vote until 1962, almost a century after it was ratified. Similarly, California did not approve the Fourteenth Amendment until 1959, also a century late.

California’s Fourteenth-Amendment-approval-delay reveals the state’s most blatant historical racism, which was chiefly against Asians. Blacks represented less than 1% of the state’s population until 1910 and did not exceed 2% until World War II. In contrast, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted in 1868, Chinese-Americans composed 9% of the state’s population. Californians particularly objected to the Amendment’s provision granting citizenship to anyone born in the USA because they did not want Asians to have a right to vote, which the state would be hard pressed to deny if they were citizens. Notwithstanding that Chinese-Americans never composed more than 10% of the state’s population, Californians successfully lobbied for Federal laws to negate the Amendment’s birthright citizenship as it would apply to such Asians.

First, the language of the 1870 Naturalization Act did not allow Chinese-Americans to become naturalized citizens. It was instead targeted at blacks because they composed the solitary racial minority that would reliably vote Republican. Chinese residents could not become naturalized citizens until 1943.

Second, with few exceptions the 1875 Page Act did not allow Chinese women to immigrate into America. The reason was to prevent American Chinese residents from having children because 95% of them were males who were not allowed to marry whites.

Third, between 1882 and 1904 a series of Chinese Exclusion Acts blocked Chinese immigrants of both sexes.

Fourth, President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration blocked most immigration from Japan. In 1907 it negotiated a “Gentleman’s Agreement” stipulating that Japan would not issue passports to Japanese workers seeking to enter the continental United States.

As a result of the preceding acts and agreements, the percent of California’s population that was Chinese-America dropped from 9% in 1860 to 4% in 1900 and 2% in 1940. Almost none of them could vote until World War II. Californians also often suppressed Chinese-Americans with many acts of violence, particularly in the nineteenth century. They composed two thirds of California’s lynch victims between 1849 and 1902. In fact, America’s single biggest lynching happened in Los Angeles in 1871 when seventeen Chinese-Americans were killed including one woman.

Prior to the above occurrences Californians had long discriminated against Chinese-Americans with restrictive conduct codes similar to the so-called black codes that some Southern states attempted, but failed, to implement after Appomattox. In order to discourage non-white gold prospectors, for example, California imposed a steep monthly Foreign Miners Tax on Chinese-Americans. For almost 100 years after 1850 the state had laws on the books banning inter-racial marriage.

I am not sure if this kind of "You too" fallacy somehow vindicates White Southerners' subjugation and disfrenchisement of African American who were actual citizens of United States.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
This weekend the originals of Tennessee’s three constitutions are on display. The constitution was amended to disenfranchise anyone who had served the Confederacy for five years & to enfranchise men of African descent. In 1870, the present constitution opened the franchise to all males of voting age. It is a rare occasion, the original documents are normally not on public display.
 

uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
How does ANY of what you state in the above posts equate with a rebellion that ignored a legal and fair election, then attempted to steal every bit of property and funds of the entire US to fund and arm that rebellion, ALL in the defense of maintaining and expanding human slavery, with the slap on the wrist of a number of southern whites being disfranchised for a period of time?
Glad you Finally recognize that Southern Whites were disenfranchised.

Northerners Bitterly Cling to their Myths.
 

uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
This weekend the originals of Tennessee’s three constitutions are on display. The constitution was amended to disenfranchise anyone who had served the Confederacy for five years & to enfranchise men of African descent. In 1870, the present constitution opened the franchise to all males of voting age. It is a rare occasion, the original documents are normally not on public display.
Do they explain how Brownlow destroyed ballot boxes so he could manipulate the Vote to get his desired result? If the result didn’t reflect the Radical Republican win, he simply called the Vote fraudulent and removed enough ballot boxes to validate His desired result. Another way Tennessee disenfranchised conservative White Voters who didn’t Vote Republican.
 

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
No consequences? Didn't they already have property confiscated and their towns and homes burned to the ground?

What's the motive to inflict more? Vindictiveness?

I think this is overstating the matter slightly. Andrew Johnson ordered pretty much all of the confiscated land returned during the era of Presidential Reconstruction. The army was even employed to evict freepeople from plantations so they could be returned to their former owners.

Eric Foner recounts some of these eviction stories in FOREVER FREE (Chapter 3):
"In the waning days of 1865 and early 1866, as a result of his policy, thousands of freepeople were displaced from land on which they had settled. Even Davis Bend, Mississippi, reverted to Joseph Davis, brother of the Confederate president. Unlike most planters, however, Davis then sold the land on long-term credit to Benjamin Montgomery, the most prominent leader of the Bend's black community, and directed his own heirs to be as generous as possible if Montgomery could not meet his payments. After his brother's death, Jefferson Davis launched a long legal battle to regain possession of the land. The Montgomery family and Joseph Davis's children fought Jefferson Davis every inch of hte way. But after the end of Reconstruction and the restoration of white supremacy in Mississippi, the former Confederate president succeeded, and Montgomery was evicted, a sad end to General Grant's hope of establishing a 'Negro paradise' at Davis Bend."

As another example, in February 1866 freedmen used shovels and picks to drive off Freedmen's Bureau agents come to evict them from their land on Edisto Island. The Bureau came back with soldiers and forced the freedpeople to leave (FOREVER FREE same chapter - I'm on kindle so page numbers are imprecise)

To answer the original question, yes some number of white Southerners were disenfranchised immediately after the war. Truthfully, it would be odd if it were otherwise. They staged an armed rebellion against the government and then expected to be welcomed back with open arms?

I doubt they felt lucky. The South destroyed, so many dead, their society upended. They were an impoverished backwater in the United States for most of a century following the war. Of course there could have been mass arrests and hangings of leaders of the "rebellion", but do you think all of those Southern men would have just sat around waiting to be hung, shot, or arrested? The war would have started right back up. The North wasn't generous or acting on principle, it was acting, as always, in its own self-interest.

This isn't entirely the result of the war. In Chapter 7 of FOREVER FREE Foner explores the ways rolling back Reconstruction in the 1870s negatively impacted the South. The statistic I found most startling is that "hardest hit were the new public school systems, one of the greatest achievements of the Reconstruction era. Black schools suffered the most, but education for whites was affected as well. Louisiana spent so little on education that it became the only state in the Union in which the percentage of whites unable to read and write actually increased between 1880 and 1900."

That's stunning to me.

Reconstruction did nothing to improve pre-war concerns about uncontrolled blacks.
Ummm...what?

Ever wonder why white Southerners in the nine states without black majorities didn't vote the hated carpetbaggers and scalawags out of office during Radical Reconstruction?
This is also an oversimplification. The vote went back and forth throughout the era. Corruption varied. It's hard to say the South was completely powerless though when they sent people like Alexander Stephens back to Congress. Obviously the Republicans weren't happy with that and locked out Southern Democrats. But my point is that it's not so straightforward.

To quote Foner again - "[Johnson] believed that his initial exclusion of wealthy planters from individual pardons would allow ordinary white farmers - the group for whom he considered himself a spokesman and most of whom, he believed, had been dragged unwillingly into secession - to take control of southern government. But when the South's white electorate went to the poll sin the fall of 1865, as noted earlier, it filled the region's offices with former Confederate generals and officials. William W. Holden, whom Johnson had appointed governor of North Carolina, warned the president that his 'leniency' had 'emboldened [the] rebellious spirits' of the South. Johnson himself worried that the elections seemed to reflect a spirit of 'defiance, which is all out of place at this time.' But he did not reconsider his Reconstruction policies."

It took a good three years or so before the Republicans could be considered in control of most of the South. And with the end of Reconstruction came mass disenfranchisement of black voters via poll taxes, literacy tests, etc. Foner quotes a South Carolina newspaper as announcing that the goal was to "reduce the colored vote to insignificance in every county in the State" and make it clear that the white South "does not desire or intend ever to include black men among its citizens."

You might want to consider that black militia gangs like the Union League did a better job of voter suppression than did the KKK and Union League during Radical Reconstruction.
Source for this? These "militia gangs" often arose to protect African American men and women from being attacked and/or murdered. Yes, there was hostility towards African Americans who voted Democrat, but, to quote Foner again (Chapter 6 FOREVER FREE), "To be sure, blacks sometimes intimidated, ostracized, or assaulted fellow freedmen who wished to vote Democratic. But no Republican rode at night to murder their political foes. 'We could burn their churches and schoolhouses,' wrote one former slave from a violent section of Georgia, 'but we don't want to break the law or harm anybody. All we want is to live under the law.'" Foner also writes, "the widespread violence posed a difficult dilemma for Republicans, north and south. By the early 1870s, very few federal troops remained in the South - in Louisiana, for example, they numbered fewer than five hundred. In states such as Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas, where they could draw on a considerable force of white Republicans, Reconstruction governors mobilized the militia and dealt effectively with the Klan. In some localities, blacks succeeded in banding together to fight the Klan, relying on the paramilitary organization that had sprung up around the Union Leagues. In 1868, armed members of the Union League patrolled the streets of Wilmington, North Carolina, and succeeded in enforcing order against Klan threats to disrupt the election to ratify the new state constitution."

Would armed groups marching through the streets discourage white Southerners from voting? Maybe. Probably. But it must be noted that these groups deployed because of explicit threats of violence against black men casting their vote.
 
Last edited:

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
Reconstruction did nothing to improve pre-war concerns about uncontrolled blacks. I place most of the blame the radical white leadership that used blacks to keep them in power, you might say as useful dupes to be abandoned when they were no longer needed.
“Uncontrolled blacks”. Wow.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
Reconstruction did nothing to improve pre-war concerns about uncontrolled blacks.

He is correct, and there is nothing controversial about this statement. Many whites during this time had a fear of “uncontrolled” blacks. The fear was heightened whenever they saw them being given more freedoms.
Is there any factual documentation on incidents of fearful whites being tormented or harmed by "uncontrolled blacks" at the time?
 

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
The leniency of Presidential Reconstruction opened the door for Southern Planters to rapidly and thoroughly roll back the freedoms of African Americans. The population of Freedpeople soon found themselves trapped in crippling poverty with little hope of escape. It cannot be overstated how quickly white Southerners brought the nation as close back to slavery as possible.

After being evicted from their land, Black Codes required all African Americans to sign yearly labor contracts with their employers. Those who failed to sign said contracts could be arrested as vagrants and fined. If they were unable to pay the fines, they would then be auctioned off to an employer who would cover the fine and then require labor as reimbursement.
Screen Shot 2021-06-26 at 12.33.53 PM.png


Black Codes also restricted the benefits of free labor by preventing employers from "enticing" African American labor through higher wages. This was a response to the loud demands of frustrated Planters who found that, when they refused to pay reasonable wages to Freedpeople, they lost their entire labor force when someone else offered a better deal.

Several states also implemented apprenticeship laws. Through these laws, the courts could declare black parents unable to support or raise their children and then assign those children as uncompensated labor for white employers. The Freedmen's Bureau was soon drowning in appeals and petitions from desperate parents trying to get their children back. Of course, the original owners were granted priority when assigning children. One parent who lost their child said, "I think very hard of the former owners for trying to keep my blood when I know that slavery is dead."

The whole framework was supported by a biased legal system. One Freedmen's Bureau agent commented that African Americans, "would be just as well off with no law at all or no Government" as with the legal system imposed during Presidential Reconstruction. One black veteran added, "If you call this Freedom, what do you call Slavery?"

This all comes from - you guessed it - FOREVER FREE by Eric Foner (isn't it convenient I was rereading it at this moment?). He makes a really good overall point: "The real significance of the Black Codes and other measures adopted by the state governments established by Andrew Johnson lay not in their effectiveness - the law was an inefficient means of mobilizing labor, and the most onerous provisions of the codes were quickly voided by the Freedmen's Bureau - but in what they showed about the determination of the South's white leadership to ensure that white supremacy and plantation agriculture survived emancipation."
 

19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
The Radical Plan of Reconstruction:

"[T]he adoption of the measures I advocated at the outset of the war, the arming of the negroes, the slaves of the rebels, is the only way left on earth in which these rebels can be exterminated. They will find that they must treat those States now outside of the Union as conquered provinces and settle them with new men, and drive the present rebels as exiles from this country....They have such determination, energy, and endurance, that nothing but actual extermination or exile or starvation will ever induce them to surrender to this Government." -Thaddeus Stevens, US House of Representatives, January 8, 1863
 
Last edited:
Top