Jan 1, 1863
Lincoln issues the second Emancipation Proclamation, emphasized as a war measure, which frees all slaves in states or parts of states that were still in rebellion against the United States.
Dec 8, 1863
Lincoln issues a Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which comes to be known as his 10 Percent Plan.
Jul 8, 1864
Republicans in Congress propose the Wade Davis Bill as an alternative to Lincoln's 10 Percent Plan. Lincoln pocket-vetoes it.
Jan 16, 1865
General William T. Sherman issues Special Field Order 15, setting aside confiscated plantation land in the Sea Islands and along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia for Black families to settle in 40-acre plots. Some 40,000 freedmen and women are living on the land by June.
Mar 3, 1865
The temporary Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (known as the Freedmen's Bureau) is established within the War Department.
Mar 3, 1865
Congress also charters the Freedmen's Savings and Trust Company, commonly called the Freedmen's Savings Bank.
Apr 9, 1865
Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders his army to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.
President Lincoln is shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth while attending the comedy "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. He dies the next day.
Andrew Johnson becomes the 17th president upon the death of Abraham Lincoln.
May 1, 1865
President Johnson announces his plan of Presidential Reconstruction (1865–1867).
Oct 1, 1865
Johnson's strict pardon policy has been abandoned; wealthy planters are quickly brought back into the Union. By September, hundreds of pardons were being issued in a single day—some 13,000 in all.
Nov 1, 1865
Southern states elect former Confederates to public office at the state and national levels, drag their feet in ratifying the 13th Amendment, and refuse to extend the vote to Black men.
Nov 1, 1865
Southern legislatures begin drafting "Black Codes" to re-establish white supremacy.
Jul 7, 1865
Four people are hanged in Washington, D.C., after being convicted of conspiring with John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.
Dec 18, 1865
The 13th Amendment is ratified, prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude.
Dec 1, 1865
President Johnson declares the reconstruction process complete. Outraged, Radical Republicans in Congress refuse to recognize new governments in southern states.
Dec 1, 1865
The Union Army is quickly demobilized. From a troop strength of one million on May 1st, only 152,000 Union soldiers remain in the South by the end of 1865.
Dec 1, 1865
Southern towns and cities start to experience a large influx of freedmen. Over the next five years, the Black populations of the South's ten largest cities will double.
Dec 24, 1865
An organization primarily composed of Confederate Army veterans founds the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a terrorist group formed to intimidate Blacks and other ethnic and religious minorities. It first meets in Pulaski, Tennessee. The Klan is the first of many secret terrorist organizations organized in the South for the purpose of reestablishing white authority.
Feb 2, 1866
A Black delegation led by Frederick Douglass meets with President Andrew Johnson at the White House to advocate Black suffrage. The president expresses his opposition, and the meeting ends in controversy.
Apr 9, 1866
Congress passes the Civil Rights Bill over Johnson's veto. Johnson objects to the Bill on the grounds that Blacks didn't deserve to become citizens, and that doing so would discriminate against the white race. He also thought that both the Civil Rights Bill and the Freedmen's Bureau Bill would centralize power at the federal level, depriving states of the authority to govern their own affairs (a typical prewar philosophy of government).
May 1, 1866
Racial violence rages in Memphis, Tennessee for three days as whites assault Blacks on the streets. In the aftermath, 48 people, nearly all Black, are dead, and hundreds of Black homes, churches, and schools have been pillaged or burned. Many more are injured.
Jul 24, 1866
Tennessee is the first former Confederate state readmitted to the Union.
Jul 30, 1866
Riots and a race massacre break out in New Orleans, Louisiana. A white mob attacks Blacks and Radical Republicans attending a Black suffrage convention, killing 40 people.
Oct 1, 1866
Union Army troops are further demobilized; only 38,000 remain in the South by the fall. More than half of the ones stationed in some places, such as Louisiana, are Black.
Jul 16, 1866
Congress passes a third Freedman's Bureau bill, overriding another veto.
Nov 1, 1866
Republicans win well over a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate; the election is seen as a popular referendum on the widening divide between Johnson and the Radicals.
Jan 8, 1867
Overriding President Johnson's veto, Congress grants Black male citizens in the District of Columbia the right to vote.
Mar 2, 1867
Congress passes the first series of Reconstruction Acts (Military, Command of the Army, and Tenure of Office). Congressional, or "Radical" Reconstruction commences.
Mar 23, 1867
Congress passes the Second Reconstruction Act; military commanders in each southern district are to register all qualified adult males to vote.
Mar 30, 1867
The U.S. buys Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million (1.9¢ per acre); this is dubbed a foolish purchase at the time, named "Seward's Folly" after the Secretary of State (William Henry Seward) who negotiated it.
Aug 28, 1867
The U.S. occupies (annexes) the Midway Islands in the Pacific.
Jul 19, 1867
Congress passes the Third Reconstruction Act. Registrars are directed to go beyond the loyalty oath by determining the eligibility of each person who wants to take it; district commanders are authorized to re-take control by replacing the preexisting state officeholders.
Aug 12, 1867
Johnson intentionally violates the Tenure of Office Act when he suspends Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and replaces him with General Ulysses S. Grant during a congressional recess. The Senate refuses to confirm the action, Grant returns the office to Stanton, but the President names Gen. Lorenzo Thomas to the post instead. Impeachment proceedings follow in 1868.
Dec 31, 1867
By the end of 1867, new elections have been held under the Radical Reconstruction plan in every southern state except Texas.
Feb 24, 1868
The House of Representatives votes to impeach the president. 11 articles of impeachment are drawn up for the trial, with the Senate presiding.
Mar 27, 1868
Congress removes from the Supreme Court the power to review cases under the Habeas Corpus Act of the previous year (constitutionally, the legislative branch can determine the jurisdiction of the Court).
May 16, 1868
President Andrew Johnson avoids removal from office by one vote (35–19) in the Senate. He will not get the Democratic nomination in the upcoming presidential election.
Jun 22, 1868
Arkansas is readmitted to the Union.
Jun 25, 1868
Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina are readmitted to the Union.
Jul 14, 1868
Alabama is readmitted to the Union.
Jul 28, 1868
The 14th Amendment is ratified: it revokes the three-fifths compromise in the Constitution and creates a new federal category of citizenship. It is quite possibly the most important constitutional amendment ever ratified.
Aug 11, 1868
Thaddeus Stevens, Radical Republican leader in Congress, dies at age 76.
Sep 1, 1868
Black elected officials are ousted from the Georgia state legislature; "The N**** is unfit to rule the State," the Atlanta Constitution declares. The Black legislators appeal to President Grant to intervene to get them readmitted, which takes a year.
Sep 28, 1868
The Opelousas Massacre in Louisiana. An estimated 200 to 300 Black Americans are killed.
Nov 3, 1868
Election of Ulysses S. Grant, Republican, to the presidency.
Apr 1, 1869
In its 5 to 3 Texas v. White decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declares Radical Reconstruction constitutional, stating that secession from the Union is illegal.
Apr 6, 1869
Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett is appointed minister to Haiti—the first Black American diplomat and the first Black American presidential appointment. For many years into the future, both Democratic and Republican administrations will follow a tradition of appointing African Americans as ministers to Haiti and Liberia.
Sep 24, 1869
Black Friday on the New York gold exchange. Financiers Jay Gould and Jim Fisk attempt to corner the available gold supply, and try unsuccessfully to involve President Grant in the illegal plan.
Oct 1, 1869
Violence against Blacks continues throughout the South; in October, Georgia legislator Abram Colby is kidnapped and whipped.
Dec 31, 1869
By year's end, the Freedmen's Bureau tallies nearly 3,000 schools, serving over 150,000 students, in the South; the first public school system in the South outside of North Carolina.
Jan 10, 1870
Grant proposes a treaty of annexation with Santo Domingo in an attempt to find land for freed slaves to settle. Under Grant's plan, freed slaves will be able to relocate to the Caribbean island (the Dominican Republic today). The treaty is opposed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Charles Sumner, and will never be confirmed.
Jan 26, 1870
Virginia is readmitted to the Union.
Feb 23, 1870
Mississippi is readmitted to the Union.
Feb 25, 1870
The first African-American senator—Hiram R. Revels (Republican) of Mississippi —takes office, though he serves only one year.
Mar 30, 1870
The 15th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified: universal male suffrage is now the law of the land.
Mar 30, 1870
Texas is readmitted to the Union.
Jun 22, 1870
Congress creates the Department of Justice.
Jul 15, 1870
Georgia is the last former Confederate state to be readmitted to the Union.
Dec 12, 1870
Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina takes his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the first Black congressman.
May 31, 1870
The first of the Enforcement Acts are passed in response to KKK violence.
Apr 1, 1871
Congress passes the Ku Klux Klan Act, a more far-reaching reform than the Enforcement Acts. This is the first time that specific crimes committed by individuals are deemed punishable by federal law.
Oct 17, 1871
Grant declares martial law in South Carolina; mass arrests follow, and by the following month, prosecutors are indicting Klan members under the Klan and Enforcement Acts (the testimony of freed slaves is solicited).
May 1, 1872
The Liberal Republican Convention meets at Cincinnati. Leaders of the group include many prominent Republicans unhappy about what they perceive as vindictive Reconstruction policies and corruption in government, which they call Grantism. New York newspaperman Horace Greeley receives their nomination. Greeley's earlier radicalism, high tariff views, and well-known eccentricity repel many who oppose Grant. The Democrats, on July 9th, also nominate Greeley.
May 22, 1872
Grant signs the Amnesty Act, although the final legislation is less generous than he had wanted. Now only a few hundred former Confederates are excluded from political privileges.
Sep 5, 1872
The New York Sun charges that Vice President Schuyler Colfax, vice-presidential nominee Henry Wilson, James Garfield, and other prominent politicians are involved in the operations of the Crédit Mobilier, a corporation established by the promoters of the Union Pacific railroad to siphon off the profits of transcontinental railroad construction. Ultimately, two congressmen will be censured for their part in the swindle and many other politicians will be damaged in reputation.
Nov 1, 1872
Reelection of Ulysses S. Grant with a landslide victory. Grant invites Black people to the inaugural ball for the first time in American history.
Dec 9, 1872
P. B. S. Pinchback becomes the first Black man to serve as an acting state governor in Louisiana, for one month (until January 13th, 1873). He assumes the office upon the impeachment and removal of predecessor Henry Clay Warmouth, for corruption. Due to white resistance, his tenure is extremely short.
Sep 18, 1873
Financial panic and depression follow the failure of the Philadelphia investment house owned by Jay Cooke, who had helped finance the Union war effort by selling federal bonds to farmers and workers. Of the country's 364 railroads, 89 will go bankrupt. Some 18,000 businesses will fail in the next two years.
Jun 1, 1874
The Freedmen's Savings Bank fails, with only $31,000 to reimburse its 61,000 remaining depositors. The average loss is $20 per customer.
Oct 1, 1875
In United States v. Cruikshank, the Supreme Court asserts that, 15th Amendment notwithstanding, the Constitution "has not conferred the right of suffrage upon anyone." The decision emphasizes that the right to vote in the U.S. comes from the states, though "the right of exemption from the prohibited discrimination" comes from the federal government. This decision echoes Minor v. Happersett, which is passed the same year.
May 10, 1875
The Whiskey Ring scandal is exposed; a group of public officials and liquor distillers have defrauded the federal government of millions by bribing liquor tax collectors. Orville E. Babcock, Grant's private secretary, was involved in the scandal and only acquitted through the personal intervention of the president.
Nov 1, 1875
Mississippi election returns Democrats to power.
Mar 3, 1875
The first African American to serve a full six-year term as senator, Blanche Kelso Bruce (Republican) of Mississippi takes his seat in the United States Senate. Not until 1969 would another Black American begin a Senate term.
Mar 4, 1875
Andrew Johnson becomes the first and only former president to serve in the Senate.
Sep 4, 1875 - Sep 6, 1875
More than 20 Black Americans are killed in a massacre in Clinton, Mississippi.
Jun 1, 1875
A summer of race riots and terrorism directed at Blacks commences in South Carolina. President Grant sends federal troops to restore order.
Jan 1, 1876
Unemployment has risen to 14%.
Nov 1, 1876
In the presidential election, the outcome in the Electoral College appears too close to be conclusive in the campaign of Samuel Tilden (Democrat) versus Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican).
Mar 2, 1877
Republican Rutherford B. Hayes is declared the winner of the 1876 presidential election over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden, even though Tilden won the popular vote.
Sep 18, 1873 - Dec 31, 1879
Almost immediately after taking office, Hayes withdraws the federal troops from the South (the last states remaining under Reconstruction are Louisiana and South Carolina). The last Radical state governments collapse and the Redemption Period begins.