The American Civil War, which lasted from 1861-1861, began as a struggle to preserve the union, though grew to encompass more significant social issues. The issue of the Emancipation Proclamation was a military act designed to liberate those in bondage, though was initially rejected by the various southern state governments. Due to depleted resources and lack of further resolve, the Confederacy was forced to abandon the war effort, much to the reluctance of the patriotic Rebel soldiers who idolized the great General Robert E. Lee. A daunting task accompanied the post-war period, mainly with reuniting a bitterly divided union.
The term "reconstruction" applies to this period, though it began before the end of the Civil War. After the assasination of Lincoln, Vice President Johnson asserted the need for "Radical Reconstruction," an issue with mixed opinions. This was met with resistance, as Johnson himself was from Tennessee, and did not share the same zeal for equality of African-Americans. Thus, the issue of civil rights was not a priority for the Johnson administration.
The Reconstruction era appointed five military districts in the South, each with a commanding general. The states were not reinstituted to the union until their constitutions stipulated the abolition of slavery. This was difficult to unanimously accomplish, and some resisted until the passage of the 13th amendment, guaranteeing citizenship to African-Americans.
Reconstruction officially ended after the controversial election of 1876, when the great Civil War here Rutherford B. Hayes was elected by the House of Representatives. Due to an inconsistency in the voting from certain states, the electoral votes had to be redecided by Congress. The decision outraged the Southern states, whose candidate had a dominance of support.
This is an interesting case in the transition to unification. After the debilitating scandals surrounding the Grant adminstration, change was expected. Civil rights, however, would remain an important issue for the years to follow.