Differing views on reconstruction initially undermined Lincoln’s reelection efforts. But the president understood that the future of both reconstruction and emancipation depended on his reelection. Lincoln, according to historian Phillip Shaw Paludan, “took care to see that the intraparty conflict remained civil and that he kept ties to his more radical colleagues.” Historian Stephen B. Oates noted that “despite their differences, Lincoln and the advanced and moderate Republicans on Capitol Hill stood together on most crucial reconstruction issues. They agreed that the South must be remade. They meant to abolish slavery there forever, and they worked closely… in guiding the present Thirteenth Amendment through Congress. They were concerned about the welfare of the freemen. And they intended for southern Unionists to rule in postwar Dixie. Above all, they wanted to prevent ex-Confederate leaders from taking over the postwar South and forming a coalition with northern Democrats that might imperil the gains of the war.”179
The flow of former slaves away from plantations created economic, political and legal problems for reconstruction. Historian Allen Guelzo noted that “it was no easy matter to distinguish between runaways who really were contraband – in other words, slaves who had been conscripted by the Confederates as military laborers – and runaways who were simply runaways.” 79 General Ulysses S. Grant recalled in his memoirs, “There was no special authority for feeding them unless they were employed as teamsters, cooks,,, and pioneers with the army; but only able-bodied young men were suitable for such work. This labor would support but a very limited percentage of them. The plantations were all deserted; the cotton anc corn were ripe: men, women, and children above ten years of age could be employed in saving these crops. To do this work with contraband, or to have it done, organization under a competent chief was necessary. On inquiring for such a man Chaplain Eaton, now and for many years the very able United States Commissioner of Education, was suggested. He proved as efficient in that field as he has since done in his present one. I gave him all the assistants and guards he called for. We together fixed the prices to be paid for the negro labor, whether rendered to the government or to individuals. The cotton was to be picked from abandoned plantations, the laborers to receive the stipulated price (my recollection is twelve and a half cents per pound for picking and ginning) from the quartermaster, shipping the cotton north to be sold for the benefit of the government. Citizens remaining on their plantations were allowed the privilege of having their crops saved by freedmen on the same terms.”80
The Ordeal of Reconstruction - Sample Essays
During this reconstruction period many Northerners came southward to take unfair advantage of a destroyed economic and governmental structure in order to gain political and or financial advantage.