The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Friday, January 9, 2015

Reconstruction, part one

A sample of one of my current projects. Reconstruction: The Roarings '20s.

Not Home by Christmas
Those hundreds of thousands of veterans who expected to be home by Christmas upon hearing of the Confederate States’ unconditional surrender on September 30, 1916, turned out to be sorely disappointed. Unlike previous wars, the United States did not quickly demobilize its army. It was an unprecedented move in the nation’s history and one explained by President Roosevelt during last minute campaigning in October.

Defeating the Confederate States was not enough. After a war that left millions of Americans dead on both sides, he and his administration, along with Congress, every soldier who shed blood and the families of the casualties were all determined that such a calamity should never again befall the American continent. Now that the Confederate Congress surrendered the Union still had a job to do; make sure the Confederate Army and the divisions of the several States complied.

Disarming more than eighty divisions took time, months in fact. Many soldiers who expected to return home as soon as the fighting ceased found themselves in exotic locations such as New Orleans, Montgomery, Macon or Pensacola disarming the States’ divisions. The Deep South was expected to be the most stubborn of the C.S.A.’s regions, given that the Upper South sued for peace in piecemeal and the West gave in as a whole. If there were to be unreconciled rebels, they would be in these States.

Or so the Joint Chiefs believed. They did not expect to see the 102nd North Carolina simply vanish. Out of the division, eighty-two hundred seventy-one soldiers took to the North Carolina back country, swearing to fight the invaders in what they hoped would be a costly and long-drawn guerilla war. The Army did plan for resistance, either by former soldiers or local civilians. To what extent and degree it would come was anyone’s guess.

Disarming the Confederate Navy proved a far easier process. With half of their Atlantic Fleet destroyed at the Battle of Grand Bahama, there was little for their navy to surrender. U.S. Marines took control of three battleships, the CSS Congress, Mississippi and crippled Sonora, as well as a battlecruiser squadron, six cruisers and a number of destroyers. Not all of the ship of the Confederate Navy ended up in Union hands. The captain of the CSS South Carolina ordered his ship scuttled rather than handed over to his life-long enemies. Other Confederate captains, mostly of cruisers and destroyers, followed suit.

As the Confederate Navy was under the control of the former central government, there was nobody the Federal Government could penalize for the loss of the war prizes. The same was not true about the Confederate Army. North Carolina suffered a complete suspension of all civil liberties until their holdouts surrendered. In Alabama, when a number of armored vehicles of an Alabaman division were unaccounted for (later discovered to be scrapped rather than turned over to the Union), the Union military governor levied a fine upon the county that was home to most of the division.

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