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ANOTHER LOOK AT RECONSTRUCTION IN VIRGINIA Richard Lowe VIRGINIANS INTERESTED in the history of the Old Dominion have been well served by historians. Scholars have traced the life ofthe state from its beginnings at Jamestown in 1607, through the glory years ofthe Revolution and early republican period, on through the tragedy ofcivil war, and down to the late twentieth century. One particular chapter in this long history, however, has not been as well documented as some others—Reconstruction . Hamilton J. Eckenrode did publish The Political History ofVirginia during the Reconstruction in 1904, but it is ofcourse badly outdated eighty years later. And Jack P. Maddex produced a fine study of The Virginia Conservatives, 1867-1879 in 1970, but it begins in the middle of the Reconstruction period and concentrates on only one side of the colorful politics of the time. Various other histories treat one or another aspect of Virginia's Reconstruction without giving an overview ofthe whole story, and several excellent monographs have remained unpublished in the form ofmaster's theses and doctoral dissertations. There is a need, then, for a modern treatment of the subject which takes into account the immense research ofthe last thirty years and covers the story from beginning to end. While only afull-scale book could do complete justice to such an important and interesting episode in the Old Dominion's past, this article does provide a short overview, another look, at Reconstruction in Virginia. ' 1 Hamilton J. Eckenrode, The Political History ofVirginia during the Reconstruction (Baltimore : The Johns Hopkins Press, 1904); Jack E Maddex, Jr., The Virginia Conservatives, 1867-1879 (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1970). Other useful books include Michael B. Chesson, Richmond After the War, 1865-1890 (Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1981); William D. Henderson, The Unredeemed City: Reconstruction in Petersburg, Virginia, 1865-1874 (Washington, D.C: University Press of America, 1977); Charles H. Ambler, Francis H. Pierpont: Union War Governor ofVirginia and Father ofWest Virginia (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1937); Nelson M. Blake, William Mahone of Virginia: Soldier and Political Insurgent (Richmond, Va. : Garrett and Massie, 1935); and Civil War History, Vol. XXXII, No. 1, ©1986 by The Kent State University Press RECONSTRUCTION IN VIRGINIA57 Reconstruction in the Old Dominion proved to be a rather mild affair when compared to the social and political upheaval in some other Southern states. Ex-Confederates and tiieir supporters controlled the state government during Presidential Reconstruction. Congressional, or Radical, Reconstruction lasted less than three years, and conservative whites regained control of the state immediately thereafter. Indeed, the Republican party enjoyed real power in Virginia politics for only a few months during military rule. Nevertheless, considerable bitterness between black and white, carpetbagger and native, scalawag and conservative marked the attempts ofthe Federal government to reconstruct the "MotherofStates." Reconstruction came to Virginia in three waves—wartime, Presidential, and Congressional. The first began only a few weeks after the Civil War erupted in 1861, when "reconstruction" meant nothing more than the restoration ofthe Confederate states to their normal places within the Union with all their rights and privileges intact.2 And restoring Virginia to the Union was precisely the aim of many Virginians, especially those in the counties bordering Ohio and Pennsylvania. Northwestern Virginia had been quarreling with the eastern two-thirds of the state since the Revolution . Westerners resented their underrepresentation in the General Assembly ofVirginia and blamed it on the political power of the east. Their economic interests were often at odds with those of the Tidewater and Piedmont. Westerners were mainly small farmers with few or no slaves, but the state government was dominated by slaveholding easterners who made sure their own interests were protected, at the expense ofthe west if necessary. The lack of communication between the two sections, due mainly to the mountains separating them, served only to widen the breach. Constitutional conventions in 1830 and 1851 had removed some of the Alrutheus A. Taylor, The Negro in the Reconstruction ofVirginia (Washington, D.C: Assoc, for the Study ofNegro Life and History, 1926). Some valuable unpublished studies are Leslie Winston Smith, "Richmond during Presidental Reconstruction, 1865-1867" (Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1974); Richard G...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 56-76
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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