A gripping look at terrorist violence during the Reconstruction era
Between 1867, when the defeated South was forced to establish new state governments that fully represented both black and white citizens, and 1877, when the last of these governments was overthrown, more than three thousand African Americans and their white allies were killed by terrorist violence. Drawing on original letters and diaries as well as published racist diatribes of the time, acclaimed historian Stephen Budiansky concentrates his vivid, fast paced narrative on the efforts of five heroic men; two Union officers, a Confederate general, a Northern entrepreneur, and a former slave; who showed remarkable idealism and courage as they struggled to establish a 'New South' in the face of overwhelming hatred and organized resistance. The Bloody Shirt sheds new light on the violence, racism, division, and heroism of Reconstruction, a largely forgotten but epochal chapter in American history.
Journalist and military historian Budiansky (Her Majesty's Spymaster) pulls no punches in this hard-hitting examination of the most sordid aspects of Reconstruction in the South from 1865 to 1876. The "brutal war of terrorist violence" that he surveys certainly has not escaped the history books. But this worthy effort goes a long way toward highlighting the most venal aspects of how, in the 10 years after the Civil War, the white Southern power structure managed to erect the Jim Crow laws that for nearly a century legalized many aspects of racial discrimination. Budiansky also highlights "men and women of courage, idealism, rectitude, and vision" who confronted the establishment: Pennsylvania-born U.S. Army major Lewis Merrill, who fought the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina; Prince Rivers, a former slave and Union army Colored Troop sergeant who became a state legislator and trial judge in South Carolina; and Maine-born Adelbert Ames, a Union general who served as Mississippi's provisional military governor. Budiansky brings the unpleasant details of the era alive in a smoothly written narrative.