This essay challenges scholarship on Americans’ memory of the Civil War era by examining reminiscences of Reconstruction by Ulysses S. Grant and James G. Blaine published after 1876. Study of the memory of Reconstruction has lagged behind that of Civil War memory and focused largely on the twentieth century’s “tragic era” view. This essay looks instead to Reconstruction’s twilight, when the Republican Party had retreated from but not abandoned its democratic promise. Grant and Blaine questioned black men’s enfranchisement but were most critical of ex-Confederates, whose postwar violence pushed Republicans to embrace black suffrage, and whose assault on voting rights continued after 1876. While historians have debated Civil War memory’s reconciliationist and emancipationist strains, Blaine and Grant demonstrated a paramount concern with problems of national political power. They connected Gilded Age politics to the memory of Reconstruction and to antebellum worries about the South’s antidemocratic influence in American life.


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pp. 495-523
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