Sunday, July 22, 2012

Reconstruction: The Second Civil War

NARRATOR: April 11th, 1865, two days after the end of the Civil War. In the White House, President Abraham Lincoln agonized over his first speech since the defeat of the South. The jubilant crowd outside expected a celebration of the Union victory. Instead, the president warned that "Reconstruction," as he called it, would be "fraught with great difficulty."

EDWARD AYERS, HISTORIAN: The war has spiraled far beyond the worst imaginings of anyone. Over six hundred thousand people had died in the last four years. The largest slave system in the modern world is in shambles and no one knows what is going to replace it. People just can't imagine how they're going to put the country back together again.

DAVID BLIGHT, HISTORIAN: It is a revolutionary, chaotic situation, and the responsibility now was to come up with a plan to restore this society. But you also had to do it with this deep and abiding division over race.

NARRATOR: Three days later, the statesman who led the Union through the Civil War was assassinated. Suddenly, the extraordinary challenge of reconstructing the nation was in the hands of ordinary men and women. A Yankee officer would venture to the most violent corner of Louisiana to try to impose order. A plantation mistress whose slaves were now free would struggle to reclaim her place in the world. A fiery black minister would mount a pitched battle with white landowners. And a new President would force a dramatic showdown with Congress.

ERIC FONER, HISTORIAN: An old order, an old social order has been destroyed; and everything is up for grabs.

CLARENCE WALKER, HISTORIAN: The violence in the South was a way to reestablish white Supremacy. This was a war of terror.

NARRATOR: After four bloody years of Civil War, Americans, North and South would continue to fight over the meaning of freedom, the meaning of citizenship, and the survival of the nation itself.

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