History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 731 pages of information about History of the United States.

=Railways Dilapidated.=—­Transportation was still more demoralized.  This is revealed in the pages of congressional reports based upon first-hand investigations.  One eloquent passage illustrates all the rest.  From Pocahontas to Decatur, Alabama, a distance of 114 miles, we are told, the railroad was “almost entirely destroyed, except the road bed and iron rails, and they were in a very bad condition—­every bridge and trestle destroyed, cross-ties rotten, buildings burned, water tanks gone, tracks grown up in weeds and bushes, not a saw mill near the line and the labor system of the country gone.  About forty miles of the track were burned, the cross-ties entirely destroyed, and the rails bent and twisted in such a manner as to require great labor to straighten and a large portion of them requiring renewal.”

=Capital and Credit Destroyed.=—­The fluid capital of the South, money and credit, was in the same prostrate condition as the material capital.  The Confederate currency, inflated to the bursting point, had utterly collapsed and was as worthless as waste paper.  The bonds of the Confederate government were equally valueless.  Specie had nearly disappeared from circulation.  The fourteenth amendment to the federal Constitution had made all “debts, obligations, and claims” incurred in aid of the Confederate cause “illegal and void.”  Millions of dollars owed to Northern creditors before the war were overdue and payment was pressed upon the debtors.  Where such debts were secured by mortgages on land, executions against the property could be obtained in federal courts.


=Intimidation.=—­In both politics and economics, the process of reconstruction in the South was slow and arduous.  The first battle in the political contest for white supremacy was won outside the halls of legislatures and the courts of law.  It was waged, in the main, by secret organizations, among which the Ku Klux Klan and the White Camelia were the most prominent.  The first of these societies appeared in Tennessee in 1866 and held its first national convention the following year.  It was in origin a social club.  According to its announcement, its objects were “to protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenceless from the indignities, wrongs, and outrages of the lawless, the violent, and the brutal; and to succor the suffering, especially the widows and orphans of the Confederate soldiers.”  The whole South was called “the Empire” and was ruled by a “Grand Wizard.”  Each state was a realm and each county a province.  In the secret orders there were enrolled over half a million men.

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History of the United States from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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