- This lecture was about the time after Lincoln won a second term, as the president of the United States, and what was to come after the Civil War.
After the meeting in Savannah, General Sherman issued Temporary General Field Order #15, which gave the freemen a portion of the 400,000 acres of abandoned land. General Sherman also told them that since the union also had surplus mule they could have a mule also. This event was where the phrase “40 ACRES and MULE” came from. Although General Sherman did not have authority to “give” abandoned land away, he started giving land away to the freedmen. This Temporary General Field Order #15 was the most controversial proclamation, at that time. 4,000,000 freed slaves now have a chance to be landowners.
After Lincoln’s assignation, by John Wilkes Booth, the question of how to put the country back together took on an even greater urgency. Whites from the north and the south questioned what the freed slaves’ rights and who would rule in the South and the Southern Government and what will the black’s role in the society. White southerners also didn’t know what was in store for them.
He newly inaugurated president, Andrew Johnson, a Tennessean, was the only southern congressman to not give his seat in government when the rebellion started. Johnson was against the rebellion and he was against slavery. Johnson embodied what Lincoln wanted. But Johnson also thought that blacks needs to subordinate to the whites.
Frederick Douglass is said to have met President Johnson once at the 2nd inauguration of President Lincoln. Frederick Douglass was heard saying “Johnson is no friend of our race”, about Johnson.
The lecturer then talked about Tunis G. Campbell, a man from New Jersey, and with the help of Secretary Stanton, Campbell went to Saint Catherine Island. Campbell established a government within a government, complete with a Supreme Court and legislature. Campbell also built a militia to enforce one of the law at Saint Catherine Island, no white men allowed. Campbell and his people panted crops and became successful in running their own “country” that Campbell even spend his own money to bring teachers to their island to teach freedmen, women and children to read and write.
Then the lecturer talked about Marshall Twitsel, who was former soldier and who became an agent with the Freedmen Bureau. Marshall acted as a mediator between the white people and the freed black slaves.
During the reconstruction, under President Johnson, Johnson required the rebel states to draft a new state constitution and admit that they lost the Civil War. President Johnson’s approach to reconstruction was somewhat lenient and there were no harsh punishments to the rebels, all he wanted was an oath of loyalty. Johnson were, at first, a little harsher to the land owners and the confederate leaders. Johnson wanted the land owners and confederate leaders to when write a letter begging for clemency, written personally to him. Johnson did not have sympathy for the rich land owners. But Johnson wanted all blacks to go back to their place and work and accept subordination to white people.
Scores of planters went to the White House to ask the president to protect their rights as landowners. One of these land owners was Jacob Walburg, who owned Saint Catharine Island before the Civil War. Walburg contended that the land had been with his family for generations and that the government cannot just give it away. Johnson then rescinded General Field Order #15. Johnson abandoned his strict policy on pardoning land owners. Johnson believed that the land owners were the only people that can control the blacks in the south.
Johnson sent a large contingent of black troops to Saint Catherine Island, to take the land back from Campbell and his people. When Campbell’s militia saw black troops, since they would not shoot at black people, Campbell and his people abandoned Saint Catherine Island. Saint Catherine Island was given to the rightful owner.
- The lecturer purpose was to lay out what and how reconstruction was supposed to be and at first, he mentioned hos President Johnson wanted reconstruction to happen, but in the end, President Johnson did what his heart told him to do. Deep down, I believe that Johnson had to please the northerners but in the end, because of his thinking, especially towards the black people, he pleased the southerners. There were many historians that we heard from and the basic message was that President Johnson had good intentions but fell short of doing things for the freedmen, due to his own beliefs. The voice I would have liked to hear more was those of the freedmen after President Johnson rescinded General Field Order #15 and why didn’t the freedmen “riot” and make a stink about their predicament.
- In class we viewed several pictures and each of the pictures we analyzed them. The picture that stood out for me was that of Marshall Twistel standing in-between the group of white and black people mediating between the two groups. In the picture the flag was draped behind him, as if to say that the whole US was behind him in the work he does as a freedmen bureau agent. And in class we also received a sheet of paper that a freedman’s contract was written on. It is interesting reading the contract and learning that the freedmen were really not free at all, but the bondage of debt is now the way the landowners kept the freemen their “slaves”. We also learned in class that some will eventually learn how to be independent of land owners by buying parcels of land from land owners who were down in their luck.
- We discussed several questions in class and the one that stands out is how Campbell and his people flourished while in Saint Catherine Island, building their own little country, within a country. They were self-reliant and self-governed. Campbell even brought in teachers to teach the freedmen, women and children how to read. Although they were ready to defend what they have, they could not fight against the black soldiers that was sent to Saint Catherine Island to evict them. The iron of sending black troops, by the government, but I suppose that that was the whole plan by the government, knowing that Campbell’s militia would not shoot at black soldiers when they see them.
- How differently would the reconstruction of the south be if Lincoln would not have been assassinated? Or would it be any different?