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Reconstruction in United States history the process of rebuilding that followed the American Civil War 1861-1865 Since the United States had never before experienced civil war the end of hostilities left Americans to grapple with a set of pressing questions over what to do with the South after the defeat of the Confederacy and the overthrow of slavery These questions included 1 What was the relationship between the former Confederate states and the federal Union What should be demanded of those states before they were regarded as reconstructed 2 Who was responsible for the Confederate rebellion Who if anyone should be punished for it 3 What should be the position of the newly-freed slaves What responsibility did the government have to extend basic rights to them Which rights 4 How should the Southern economy be converted from one based on slave labor to one based on free labor Although the debate over these questions began during the war and continued for decades the time period traditionally assigned to Reconstruction is 1865 to 1877 This period began with the onset of an intense national struggle over the shape of society and government in the postwar South it ended with the collapse of the last Southern state governments under Republican control and the tacit acknowledgment that the federal attempt to remake the South was over Debate over Reconstruction Reconstruction emerged as an inevitable issue early in the war and attracted increased attention as Northern victory neared As Union forces gained control of large areas of the South both Union commanders and the federal government were forced to make decisions about how those areas should be administered These decisions were made first for the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia for southern Louisiana for northern Virginia and then for much of the South Federal officials supervised experiments in which Northern missionaries arrived to set up schools for blacks former slaves were employed as
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