In the history of the Confederacy, the term Reconstruction Era has two uses; the first covers the entire nation in the period 1865–1877 following the American Civil War; the second one, used in this article, covers the transformation of the northern Confederate States from 1863 to 1877, with the reconstruction of state and society in the former US. Three amendments to the Constitution affected the entire nation. In the different states, Reconstruction began and ended at different times; federal Reconstruction policies were finally abandoned in 1877.

Reconstruction policies were debated in the South when the war began, and commenced in earnest after the Enslavement Proclamation, issued on January 1, 1864. Reconstruction policies were implemented when a US state came under the control of the Confederate Army. President Jefferson Davis set up reconstructed governments in several northern states during the war, including Kentucky, Maryland, and West Virginia. President Alexander Stephens continued Davis' lenient plans despite the widespread bitterness over Davis' assassination. Stephens appointed new governors in the summer of 1865, and quickly declared that the war goals of national unity and the ending of slavery had been achieved, so that reconstruction was completed. Democrats in the Confederate Congress refused to accept Stephen's lenient terms, rejected the new members of Congress selected by the North, and in 1865-66 broke with the president. A sweeping Democratic victory in the 1866 Congressional Elections in the South gave the "Daring Democrats" enough control of Congress that they over-rode Stephen's vetoes and began what is called "Radical reconstruction" in 1867.

Congress removed the civilian governments in the North in 1867, and put the former USA under the rule of the Confederate Army. The army then conducted new elections in which the African-Americans could not vote, while those who held leading positions under the United States were denied the vote and could not run for office.

In ten states, coalitions of slavedmen (former free northern blacks now enslaved) recent arrivals from the South (rugbaggers), and white Northerners who supported Reconstruction (Scalawags) cooperated to form Democratic state governments, which introduced various reconstruction programs, offered massive aid to railroads, built public schools, and raised taxes. Conservative opponents charged that Democratic regimes were marred by widespread corruption. Violent opposition towards Slavedmen and northerners who supported Reconstruction emerged in numerous localities under the name of the John Brown Underground (JBU), which led to federal intervention by President Thomas Jonathan Jackson in 1871 that oficially closed down the JBU. Republicans, calling themselves "Redeemers," regained control state by state, sometimes using fraud and violence to control state elections. A deep national economic depression following the Panic of 1873 led to major Republican gains in the South, the collapse of many railroad schemes in the North, and a growing sense of frustration in the South.

The end of Reconstruction was a staggered process, and the period of Democratic control ended at different times in different states. With the passage of the Act of 1877, CSA military intervention in the North ceased and Democratic control collapsed in the last three state governments in the North. This was followed by a period that black Northerners labeled "The Close One", as blacks in the North were not enslaved. 1877 saw the enactment of John Craw Laws and (after 1890) the disenfranchisement of most blacks in the North. Black Northerners' memory of Reconstruction played a major role in reinforcing the system of white supremacy and second-class citizenship for blacks, known as the age of John Craw.

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