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The Wars of Reconstruction: The Brief, Violent History of America's Most Progressive Era

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  128 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
By 1870, just five years after Confederate surrender and thirteen years after the Dred Scott decision ruled blacks ineligible for citizenship, Congressional action had ended slavery and given the vote to black men. That same year, Hiram Revels and Joseph Hayne Rainey became the first African-American U.S. senator and congressman respectively. In South Carolina, only twenty ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published January 21st 2014 by Bloomsbury Press (first published November 19th 2013)
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Jane
May 30, 2014 Jane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, research
Where I got the book: my local library.

My own writing interests are increasingly leading me to explore the post-Civil War period in America. What I thought I knew about the decade or so after the War was, I will freely admit, based mostly on good old Gone With The Wind, book and movie. I do have the excuse that I wasn’t born or brought up in the States, but let’s face it, Reconstruction doesn’t seem to be a period of American history that most Americans know a lot about. Most people’s awareness
...more
Kidada
Feb 23, 2014 Kidada rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most of Egerton's history of Reconstruction will be familiar to scholars who are well versed in the subject (namely those who have read work by Du Bois, Foner, etc.). However, one of his real contributions is making this period more accessible to lay audiences by using the histories of lesser known individuals like Hugh Lennox Bond, Ocavtius Catto, an enslaved girl named Dolly, and William Dennis to open a window onto different people's experiences of Reconstruction. Another intervention is Eger ...more
Sandra Ross
Jun 14, 2015 Sandra Ross rated it it was amazing
As a Southerner educated in North Carolina schools growing up, the Civil War (or, as I tease my Northern friends, the War of Northern Aggression) was a noble, doomed cause for the South (it was not, as I was already reading about on my own time) and Reconstruction and its carpetbaggers were damnable. And that's about all we heard in school about Reconstruction.

Therefore, when I saw this book, I wanted to get a better handle on Reconstruction from a reality aspect, not a Southern one.

This book is
...more
Martin King
Aug 10, 2014 Martin King rated it really liked it
The subtitle of Douglas Egerton’s The Wars of Reconstruction is The Brief, Violent History of America’s Most Progressive Era clearly states the theme of the book. While Eric Foner’s Reconstruction remains the standard comprehensive study of the period Egerton successfully presents his focused argument in an informative and very interesting book.
It was noted in the afterword of the commemorative edition of C. Vann Woodward’s The Strange Career of Jim Crow and more recently in Michelle Alexander’
...more
David Figura
Aug 25, 2014 David Figura rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read about post civil war legal battles and states attempts to undo the constitutional rights granted to slaves.
Robert Owen
Douglas Egerton’s “The Wars of Reconstruction” is a retelling of the post-Civil War Reconstruction era that focuses on the experiences, trials, triumphs and reversals of the emancipated blacks who Reconstruction was envisioned to protect. As a history of the principal events of Reconstruction Egerton’s work is serviceable, but only just; yet to anyone knowledgeable about those events there is little that is new here. What is interesting, however, is Egerton’s attempt to tell the story from the p ...more
Amanda
Feb 19, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it
Shelves: in-store-non
This book was dense, but not in an enjoyable way. There were a lot of names and people thrown at you (who would end up dead by the end of the sentence) of no lasting importance, and there were a lot of important details that were not separated from the chaff. This book had VERY interesting points to make but as the reader, you really had to work to find them.

To be fair, his interperation of the reason that reconstruction failed was interesting, and a way that I would like to see explored more- t
...more
Steve
Mar 24, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
Overall, an excellent read. It continues to amaze me how this period of history was so entirely rewritten by the "progressives" at the turn of the last century, but as Egeton writes that process of revision started in the late 1860s. The text was a bit dry at times, but the information presented is important. It does show America's inability to sustain political and moral efforts for more than a short time. As soon as the Civil War was over even some of the most ardent abolitionists started to v ...more
Dan Pepper
Oct 09, 2014 Dan Pepper rated it liked it
It's a strange thing to read a history of a movement that failed, because most history is so triumphal.

Egerton finds a lot of good stories about the U.S.'s brief experiment with democracy after the Civil War. Most people would point to democracy and majority rule as cherished American values, but the book reminds us of the ugly truth that the states that made up the Confederacy have been democracies which practiced majority rule for about 60 years in total, a minority of their existence. And th
...more
Mark
May 16, 2016 Mark added it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I know it took me awhile to finish this book. There is too much death in it to read too near to losing a loved one. But that aside, this book is extremely important for every American to read. The truth about Reconstruction should be known. It was actually a time of great hope and real progress that was sadly beaten down by terrorism of the most horrifying kind. I'm talking DAESH-like here (sorry, I refuse to call them Islamic in any way) horror here. You name it, whatever horror or torture you ...more
Rachael Lind
A book about the continued struggles after the war is over. The war is always the glorious part, so the Civil War itself is often discussed in great lengths. However, Reconstruction is often glossed over, sometimes even left out. This book goes into details of all the struggles after the war's end, especially regarding African Americans. A long read, but if you care at all about the civil rights movement in America or the Civil War, I definitely recommend it.
Rock
Mar 30, 2015 Rock rated it really liked it
Recently I read an essay in the Minneapolis paper that lionizes Lincoln but dismisses Reconstruction as an era of corruption, chicanery, and ineptitude. That's just one example of why Reconstruction needs rehabilitation, and this book does a thorough, readable, and democratic job of telling the true story of Reconstruction as a period where continued guerrilla warfare by Southerns partisans committed multiple atrocities to overcome the remarkable advances of Southern African-Americans. It would ...more
Mark Hansen
Jan 19, 2015 Mark Hansen rated it liked it
Timely to finish this on MLK day. From the Epilogue:

"And members of a nation who rightly regard themselves as residents of a more just and democratic society than many others on the planet are collectively loath to admit that good and honorable policies were consciously overturned by a reactionary minority while thousands of people across the nation found it easier to look the other way."

The Supreme Court's 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act coupled with the continued institutional violence
...more
Justin White
Jul 31, 2014 Justin White rated it it was amazing
I actually got this work on audiobook, and on that note I found the performance excellent and the prose was easy to follow (this is not always the case with historical works).

The book traces the history of individuals and their communities, which I found a novel way of navigating what must be a large amount of primary documents and secondary research. What I enjoyed most though was the conclusions, which focused on the Reconstruction Era in memory as a "failure" and the actual history of how th
...more
Patrick Day
Feb 15, 2014 Patrick Day rated it really liked it
Eye-opening look at an era too often forgotten in the shadow of the Civil War itself. Especially appreciated is Egerton's final chapter, which looks at efforts in the years following Reconstruction to rewrite and revise history in order to disguise or obfuscate the rough edges of the war and its causes.
Scott
May 16, 2014 Scott rated it liked it
Douglas R. Egerton has written a fascinating book about the period of time directly after the Civil War. His writing is well done. My only complaint is that the book is 100 pages too long. But he does provide a good narrative of the people, events and challenges.
Philip
Aug 23, 2014 Philip rated it really liked it
This is a hugely informative book on Reconstruction and shows that our view of it is totally wrong and influenced by the likes of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. The book is too long on anecdotes and too short of conclusions but still a great read.
David Suski
Aug 01, 2016 David Suski rated it it was amazing
A fantastic read that completely changed my ideas about the Reconstruction era. Probably one of the most important books I've ever read, it peels back layers of revisionist history to reveal the truth about Reconstruction. If you ever wonder how a lot of the race problems we still face today came about then read this book. You won't be disappointed.
Tim Brown
Mar 10, 2014 Tim Brown rated it liked it
Decent account of a brief time when freedmen had high hopes for a future of equality, only to see them dashed as Southern whites re-established control and all but removed African-Americans from public life for a hundred years. I could've used more information on the machinations of the Radical Republicans and more detail about Andrew Johnson's impeachment.
Alexandria Osborne
Jan 02, 2015 Alexandria Osborne rated it it was amazing
Informative and thought provoking. Sets the record straight.
Kevin
Nov 18, 2015 Kevin rated it it was amazing
The most progressive era in America's history is quickly followed by it's most violent and terror ridden. White supremacists in The South succeed in winning the Civil War after having surrendered the military conflict.
Elizabeth
Jun 23, 2014 Elizabeth marked it as abandoned
The University of Chicago Alumni Club's June selection.
Brandi Koziatek
Aug 24, 2015 Brandi Koziatek rated it really liked it
Gives a good account of what happened after the Civil War during Reconstruction. I learned a lot!
Peter
Jul 09, 2016 Peter rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
A fascinating period of US history is told here, reminding us that the Civil War continued after 1965, as it quite possibly still does today in a manner of speaking. Reconstruction was a period in US history that showed great advancements for African American people being steadily wound back through violent and other means.
Jason Cecil
Mar 09, 2015 Jason Cecil rated it really liked it
Such a wonderful and tragic history of reconstruction and hiw perilously close we came to doing it right. Andrew johnson almost undid the gains if the civil war based on his personal racism. I especually enjoyed the discussions about atlanta.
Jason Honeycutt
Dec 30, 2015 Jason Honeycutt rated it liked it
Obviously very well researched, but rambles on and on with finite, unimportant details and very little or no discernible connection from one paragraph to the next
Marie
Apr 28, 2014 Marie rated it liked it
Enjoyed the first half of the book but got really bogged down in the 2nd half - skimmed quite a bit of it.
Jay Perkins
Dec 02, 2015 Jay Perkins rated it really liked it
Excellent! Reconstruction history from the view of the freed men and women. (More later)
Redpoet
Oct 18, 2014 Redpoet rated it it was amazing
Not DuBois, but damn good. A must read. The truth is in there.
Kara
Kara rated it really liked it
Aug 24, 2016
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