Military Reconstruction Act: History & Summary

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  • 0:00 Reconstruction
  • 0:46 Military Reconstruction
  • 5:12 End of Reconstruction
  • 5:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michael Knoedl

Michael teaches high school Social Studies and has a M.S. in Sports Management.

There are few times in American history where a lasting hatred of another group of the same culture of people has occurred than during Reconstruction. Learn here about the Military Reconstruction Acts of 1867.


Reconstruction was the time period immediately following the Civil War. It is officially the years between 1865 and 1877. The victorious Union, mainly Congress, felt that it was necessary to punish the former Confederacy before those states were allowed to rejoin the nation and have all their rights reinstated. The Confederacy attempted to appease many of the requirements set forth by Congress to become states again. They were not willing, though, to grant rights to former slaves. This unwillingness assisted in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson and the beginning of a period called Radical Reconstruction in 1867, which was controlled by Congress and Radical Republicans.

Military Reconstruction

With the Radical Republicans fully in control of Congress after the mid-term elections of 1866, they quickly passed the Military Reconstruction Acts of 1867. These acts divided the south into five military districts. Each district was placed under military leadership and new elections were held with voting only allowed by Congress' approved voters, which were mostly former slaves. Each state was also required to ratify the 13th and 14th Amendments after drafting new state constitutions. This could only be done after new public officials were elected that had pledged their loyalty to the Union. Most of these were either poor whites or former slaves. This new influx of voters led to the Republican control of a traditionally Democratic south.

Tennessee was the only state exempt from military reconstruction because it had a large number of Union supporters and had met most of the Radical Republicans' demands for reconstruction. The rest of the Confederacy was split up under the rule of former Union generals.

Military District Number One

Virginia was the only state to not be joined with another for military reconstruction and was under the command of General John Schofield. On October 22, 1867, blacks were allowed to vote in Virginia for the first time. They elected around 24 former slaves to the Constitutional Convention. The new state constitution was ratified in 1869, as were the 13th and 14th Amendments, and Virginia was readmitted to the Union in 1870. This readmission ended reconstruction in Virginia.

Military District Number Two

North and South Carolina were officially named Military District Number Two and placed under the command of General Daniel Sickles. North Carolina saw a number of colored units overseeing the military reconstruction there. South Carolina saw 71 of the 124 seats at their state Constitutional Convention won by former slaves. Both Carolinas were readmitted to the Union in July 1868.

Military District Number Three

General John Pope commanded Military District Number Three, which consisted of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. This region was one of the most violent during reconstruction. Alabama aimed to delay reconstruction, so General Pope publicized voter registration to get more former slaves to register. Georgia had a majority of Republicans in the state senate and had a large amount of whites move from the north to the Atlanta area for economic gain. These people became known as carpetbaggers. Florida had near 1,200 troops spread across the state, and they often worked directly with the Freedmen's Bureau, which looked out for the general welfare of freed slaves. Florida and Alabama were both readmitted in 1868, but Georgia was not allowed to rejoin the Union until 1870.

Military District Number Four

Arkansas and Mississippi were commanded by General Edward Ord. Arkansas saw 68 of the 70 delegates elected for the state Constitutional Convention taken by Republicans. Their new governor was also a former Union commander that saw his duties as a continuation of the Civil War. Mississippi saw possibly the most post-war violence of any state. Mississippi also had over 200 former slaves become state legislators and the only two former slaves that were elected to the U.S. Senate from any Reconstruction state. Arkansas was readmitted in 1868 while Mississippi was forced to wait until 1870.

Military District Number Five

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