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Joseph G. Dawson

Army Generals and Reconstruction: Louisiana, 1862-1877

  • The U.S. Army faced extraordinary problems while policing the post-Civil War South, and the task may have been most difficult in Louisiana, where Reconstruction lasted longer than in any other of the former Confederate states. Beginning with General Benjamin Franklin Butler, who boasted that "in six months New Orleans should be a Union city or - a home of the alligators, " the Union generals who commanded Louisiana met with varying degrees of success in their attempts to enforce the constantly evolving Reconstruction policies of three administrations on a people who openly despised their conquerors. Covering the period from the fall of New Orleans to Federal forces through the collapse of Stephen Packard's Republican government in 1877, Army Generals and Reconstruction, by Joseph G. Dawson III, is a history and a detailed analysis of the army's responsibilities, accomplishments, and failures in Reconstruction Louisiana. Dawson shows how the decisions and attitudes of the army commanders were crucial to both the Republican and Democratic parties and how neither side could act confidently without knowing first how the generals would respond to their actions. He examines the army commanders' efforts to ensure that blacks and Republicans could exercise their civil and political rights, and he looks at the influence General Philip Sheridan exerted on Louisiana Reconstruction politics - both during his supervision of the state and after President Andrew Johnson reassigned him elsewhere. Based on a close examination of archival sources, Army Generals and Reconstruction reveals the full complexity of the army's involvement in this tumultuous period in Louisiana politics.

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