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Reconstruction

Broadside, 1865 July 14. VirginiaGeneral Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, ending the Civil War in Virginia. A month later, on May 9, 1865, President Andrew Johnson recognized Francis H. Pierpont as provisional governor of Virginia. In 1866, the Fourteenth Amendment protecting the rights of freedmen was submitted by Congress to the states for ratification, but the Virginia General Assembly voted on January 9, 1867, not to ratify it.

On March 2, 1867, Congress, led by Radical Republicans who were dissatisfied by events in the former Confederate states, placed the South under military administration. Virginia was designated Military District Number One and Major General John M. Schofield was appointed commander. Under military government, African American males voted for the first on October 22, when ballots were cast for delegates to a constitutional convention. The constitutional convention, to which about two dozen African American men were elected, met from December 3, 1867, to April 17, 1868. General Schofield did not allow the required referendum on the constitution to take place because it disenfranchised many former Confederates and altered the format of local governance. Schofield also replaced Governor Pierpont with Henry H. Wells.

The constitution, which provided for universal manhood suffrage, finally went to voters on July 6, 1869, and was passed. A provision that disenfranchised former Confederates was submitted to voters separately and was defeated. On October 8, 1869, Virginia voted to ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments as part of the requirement for being readmitted to the Union. The act readmitting Virginia to the Union and its representatives into Congress was signed by President Ulysses S. Grant on January 26, 1870. This ended the era of Reconstruction in Virginia.

How to Search the Catalogs:

Conduct a keyword or subject search heading in the catalog using the following examples of Library of Congress subject headings.

African Americans History 1863-1877
Reconstruction (U.S. History, 1865-1877) Virginia
Reconstruction Virginia
Virginia Constitutional Convention (1867-1868)

Selected Published Resources

Berlin, Ira, et al., eds. Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861–1867. 5 vols. to date. Each volume individually titled. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982–1993; Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008–  .

Jackson, Luther Porter. Negro Office-Holders in Virginia, 1865–1895. Norfolk, Va.: Guide Quality Press, 1945.

Lowe, Richard G. Republicans and Reconstruction in Virginia, 1856–70. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991.

Maddex, Jack Pendleton. The Virginia Conservatives, 1867–1879: A Study in Reconstruction Politics. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970.

O'Brien, John Thomas. From Bondage to Citizenship: The Richmond Black Community, 1865–1870. New York: Garland, 1990.

Taylor, Alrutheus Ambush. The Negro in the Reconstruction of Virginia. Washington D.C.: The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, [1926].

Selected Manuscript Collections

Diary of Cornelius H. Carlton, 1864–1869Cornelius H. Carlton. Diary, 1864–1869. Accession 26882.
Diary, 1864–1869, of Cornelius Carlton (1826–1887) of King and Queen County, Virginia. The entries in this diary are mainly brief, general ones, such as camp life, health, and weather; those for April 1865, however, are fairly detailed. Includes details of the burning and looting of Richmond and the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. Also includes entries after the Civil War regarding the author's reactions to various aspects of the Reconstruction period, military rule of Richmond, and voting rights for the freed slaves. Also included is a clipping on the "Defences of Richmond."

James Chatham Robertson. Papers, 1865–1867. Accession 32037.
Letters, 1865–1867, from James C. Robertson (1818–1875) of Page County, Virginia, to his sister Elizabeth M. Robertson Lash (b. ca. 1820) of Mount Pleasant, Henry County, Iowa. Topics include the economic and social conditions in Virginia and in Page County as a result of the Civil War and Reconstruction; the new status of freed slaves in Virginia; the condition of farms and crops in Page County, and in Virginia; his position as sheriff of Page County; and family news. Robertson states that land can be bought cheap in eastern Virginia, and complains about radical newspapers and northern leaders who are still attacking the South and preventing reconciliation, mentioning the Mount Pleasant Home Journal of Mount Pleasant by name. He comments on the conditions for Virginia's reentry into the Union and the upcoming state constitutional convention as well.

Certificate of William H. SewardVirginia. Governor's Office. Executive Papers of Governor Francis H. Pierpont, 1865–1868. Accession 37024.
Executive papers, 1865–1868, of Governor Francis H. Pierpont (1814–1899), are organized chronologically and primarily consist of incoming correspondence between 10 May 1865 and 3 April 1868. Correspondence consists of requests for appointments in state government and from citizens seeking recompense for services rendered during the war. Pierpont corresponded with U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward (1801–1872), regarding pardons, passports, and freedmen. Some of the correspondence in these papers relates to the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands (Freedmen’s Bureau); proclamations from other state governors calling for days of Thanksgiving; petitions of protest against elections of certain individuals because of their role during the war; applications for pardons, along with affidavits and court cases; and appointments of county officers issued from the Headquarters of the 1st Military District.

Virginia. Governor's Office. Executive Papers of Gilbert Carlton Walker, 1869–1874. Accession 40233. (Click Here for Finding Aid)
Executive papers, 1869–1874, of Governor Gilbert C. Walker (1833–1885) consisting of correspondence dated between September 1869 and December 1873. Correspondents request appointments to public office, including the Commissioner of the Virginia–West Virginia Boundary Line Commission, and Virginia's delegations to both the Centennial Celebration of Independence scheduled for Philadelphia in 1876 and the 1873 Vienna Exposition. There are letters from citizens seeking assistance finding employment, educational training, or money, many claiming to have suffered severely since the end of the Civil War, as well as requests for removals of political disabilities. Correspondence between Walker and U.S. Secretary of State Hamilton Fish (1808–1893), regarding Virginia's readmission to the Union; letters between Walker and the Auditor of Public Accounts regarding the repayment of the public debt; statistical returns from Virginia localities regarding taxes and court cases; and an undated joint resolution of the Senate and House of Delegates asking the U.S. State Department for the return of the Ordinance of Secession to the Virginia State Library as part of the official history of the state.

Letter of Sidney Turner to Governor Wells, 1868 September 28 Letter of Sidney Turner to Governor Wells, 1868 September 28, page 2 Virginia. Governor's Office. Executive Papers of Henry H. Wells, 1868–1869. Accession 43756. (Click Here for Finding Aid)
Executive papers, 1868–1869, of Governor Henry H. Wells (1823–1900), consisting of incoming correspondence between 3 April 1868 and 15 September 1869. Includes correspondence, resolutions, proclamations, special orders, petitions, applications, pardons, affidavits, lists, clippings, reports, resignations, requisitions of escaped convicts, and other items. Correspondence relates to requests for appointments in Virginia state government; various insurance companies requesting the insurance laws of Virginia; bids for removing debris around the State Courthouse; and inquiries on the interest payments of state bonds. Papers also include special orders; proclamations from other state governors calling for days of Thanksgiving; requests for the state seal; requests for laws or congressional proceedings; applications for pardons along with affidavits and court cases; and appointments of county officers issued from the Headquarters of the 1st Military District. Correspondence also concerns election to the state constitutional constitution of 1867–1868; availability of funds to supply veterans with artificial limbs; the test-oath; and the 15th Amendment to U.S. Constitution.

Jacob E. Yoder. Diaries, 1861–1870. Accession 27680.
Diaries, 1861–1870, of Jacob E. Yoder (1838–1905) of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and Lynchburg, Virginia, concerning his teaching career. Includes a diary, 25 January–25 February 1864, detailing Yoder's life and teaching career in Pennsylvania; diary, 1866–1867, recording his experiences teaching in a Freedmen's Bureau School for African Americans in Lynchburg, Virginia, commenting on the sentiments of the local white population on the end of the Civil War and Union occupation, and his personal experiences while teaching; and diary, 1869–1870, continuing his experiences as a teacher for the Freedmen's Bureau, recounting trips he made as school superintendent to various African American schools in central Virginia, and commenting on his personal experiences in Lynchburg, also containing a list of names and copies of receipts for money given to Alex Wharton of Lynchburg.

Jacob E. Yoder. Letter Book, 1870. Accession 35108.
Letter book, March–December 1870, of Jacob E. Yoder (1838–1905) of Lynchburg, Virginia, containing copies of outgoing letters written while Yoder was administrator of the Freedmen's Bureau schools in the Lynchburg, Virginia, area, including the surrounding counties. Topics covered include teacher recommendations and salaries, monthly teachers' report, maintenance of the schools, disbursement of funds, and concerns relating to the general operation of the schools.