Civil War and Reconstruction

Our new listings for May feature items from the elections between 1860 and 1876, the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The "War Between the States" was sparked by the election of Lincoln. His name did not even appear on the ballot in most Southern states, and while no one claimed he hadn't legitimately won, "Fire-eaters" in the South began calling for the dissolution of the Union. Starting with South Carolina on December 20, seven states had voted to secede by the time Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, and on April 12, Ft. Sumter was fired on, beginning the war. It would end almost exactly four years later, with Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. Five days later Lincoln was assassinated.

Reconstruction, the federal occupation of the South after the war, was administered by the administrations of Johnson and Grant, with Radical Republicans in Congress urging punitive measures intended to humiliate the South. White leaders in the South seethed and average citizens suffered. Grant's administration was plagued with corruption, and as the election of 1876 approached, many on both sides of the Mason-Dixon were ready for change. After flirting with running for a third term, Grant stepped aside in favor of Ohio Governor Rutherford Hayes. Democrats chose New York Governor Samuel Tilden. The election was extremely close, and after a first count of ballots, Tilden had won 184 electoral votes to Hayes's 165, with 20 votes from four states unresolved. The dispute would linger into 1877, and an Electoral Commission was formed to sort it out, ultimately resulting in the Compromise of 1877 -- Hayes would become President, in exchange for an end to Reconstruction.

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