Reconstruction - Encyclopedia of American Studies
Generally dating from 1865 to 1877, Reconstruction is the term describing the period of readjustment following the American Civil War. The term is instructive on many levels. Physically, the destruction wrought in the South by the invading Union forces was enormous and there was little local financing for rebuilding. Socially, chaos reigned in the South: the old social and economic order founded on slavery had collapsed completely, with nothing to replace it. Nationally, the eleven Confederate states somehow had to be restored to their positions in the Union, provided with loyal governments, but without allowing Northerners to feel that the war had been for nothing. Finally, the role of the emancipated slaves in Southern society had to be defined. In sum, a region, but also a nation, demanded reconstruction in 1865.