Those Terrible Carpetbaggers
Woodrow Wilson described them as men bent on "an expedition of profit," who used "the negroes as tools for their own selfish ends." Horance Greeley, while running for President, said they were "fellows who crawled down south in the track of our armies, generally at a very safe distance in the rear." And in the South they were hotly condemned as "the larvae of the North," "vulturous adventurers," and "vile, oily, odious." But how accurately does this describe the men from the North who came to be called "carpetbaggers"? Were they uneducated, penniless exploiters of the freed slave, jackals who plundered a devastated South?
In this eye-opening account, the eminent Civil War historian Richard Nelson Current weaves together the biographies of ten of these men--all of whom are representative, if not the epitome, of the men called "carpetbaggers." The result is a provocative revisionist history of Reconstruction and what has long been considered its "most disgraceful" episode. Set within the larger context of Congressional politics and the history of individual Southern states, Current's narrative reveals a group of men who were often highly educated, almost all of whom had served with distinction in the Union Army (three were generals), and several of whom brought their own money down South to help rebuild a war-torn land. Daniel H. Chamberlain, for instance, was educated at Yale and Harvard Law School--he was described by the President of Yale as "a born leader of men"--was governor of South Carolina, and later made a fortune as a Wall Street lawyer. Adelbert Ames, far from exploiting the black, was a leading exponent of black rights, the author of the main brief of the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson, a major court battle against segregation. And Albion W. Tourgee, author of the best-selling A Fool's Errand, was praised after his death by W.E.B. du Bois for his efforts on behalf of the freed slaves.
Current's vivid narrative captures the passions of this tumultuous period as he documents the careers and private lives of these ten prominent men. But more important, he provides a major reinterpretation of the entire period, revealing Reconstruction as it was seen by ten of its leading exponents in the South.
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An Civil War eminent historian demolishes the myths about carpetbaggers. The book follows 10 Northerners who became some of the more prominent leaders of the reconstructed South in the post-war era. Their actions belie the stereotypical story of greedy, slippery Northerners that was created to explain away the failure of Reconstruction after the North gave up on it. Read this book along with Eric Foner's masterpiece on the same subject. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the Civil War, the South, or race relations. To understand America you need to know the story of Reconstruction - and it is likely not the one you learned in school. A fascinating read.
This tome should have been titled (Richard Current’s misinterpretation) instead of (A reinterpretation). If Richard Nelson Current is an “eminent Civil War historian” then I wonder just who holds him in eminence. He spends all of his time showing all the BAD things done to those poor innocent Northerners who came south just to help those poor "Godforsaken" people who had so many problems. Come on, go back and read the newspapers and books of the day.
If he can find 10 people to praise, I can find hundreds more that fit the description of Woodrow Wilson that they were “men bent on an expedition of profit, who used the Negroes as tools for their own selfish ends”. You must understand that the blacks were for the most part uneducated and were pushed into doing things that were only due to fail and cause animosity between the races. These people did as much or more harm to the Black Man than did the KKK. I can list at least ten members of the KKK that would pass the same "Nice Persons" Test as did Current, but this would not make the KKK a good and kind organization. In fact the KKK came into being due to the work of those Carpetbaggers!
If I am allowed my opinion of this period I would say that it is the reason that it has taken so long for the Black Man to be recognized as an equal, because of the things done while “promoting” and using him they just built a wall between the races. Evidence shows that though these people were wrongly enslaved before this war, more respect was shown to the Black freeman of that day than was shown to the Black Man after "reconstruction" as late as the 1950’s.
Slavery was wrong but a more tolerant North would have eased the wrongs of war. Mr. Current, what about the many elections where the Democratic vote was not counted or a white man was disenfranchised to put a Republican in office? Come on, how ignorant do you take your fellow Americans.
The attitude of the Republicans after the War of Aggression was that “these people must be punished for their rebellion”…. Never mind that most were fighting because their homeland had been invaded and had little or nothing to do with the politics that started the conflict.
If you want a true story of these Carpetbaggers, read online the contemporary news articles and writings about them, not some person painting his version almost a century and a half later. By the way I got my copy of this book at Half Price Books for $2.98 and felt about one third through the book that I had wasted my money. I gave it one star because it might cause a person to go seek the truth about Carpetbaggers.
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