provided food and medical care to both blacks and whites in the South. It helped freedmen bargain for wages and good working conditions. It also distributed some land in forty-acre plots to “loyal refugees and freedmen.” Resentful whites, however, attacked the bureau as an example of northern interference in the South. Ultimately, the hope of many freedmen for “forty acres and a mule” died when Congress refused to take land away from southern whites.
The most lasting benefit of the Freedmen’s Bureau was in education. Thousands of former slaves, both young and old, flocked to free public schools built by the bureau. Long after the bureau was gone, such institutions as Howard University in Washington, D.C., continued to provide educational opportunity for African Americans.
The Black Codes As new state governments took power in the South, many Republicans in Congress were alarmed to see that they were headed by the same people who had led the South before the war—wealthy white planters. Once in office, these leaders began passing laws known as black codes to control their former slaves.
The black codes served three purposes. The first was to limit the rights of freedmen. Generally, former slaves were given the right to marry, to own property, to work for wages, and to sue in court. But other rights of citizenship were denied them. Blacks, for example, could not vote or serve on juries in the South.
The second purpose of the black codes was to help planters find workers to replace their slaves. The codes required freedmen to work. Those without jobs could be arrested and hired out to planters. The codes also limited freedmen to farmwork or jobs requiring few skills. African Americans could not enter many trades or start businesses.
The third purpose of the black codes was to keep freedmen at the bottom of the social order in the South. Most codes called for the segregation of blacks and whites in public places. Black children were not allowed to attend public schools. A Louisiana lawmaker defended this ban by saying that it made no sense to spend tax money to educate “any but the superior race of man—the White race.”
This political cartoon shows President Andrew Johnson using his veto to try to do away with the Freedmen’s Bureau.
23.3 Congressional Reconstruction
As 1865 came to a close, President Johnson announced that Reconstruction was over. The southern states were ready to rejoin the Union. Republican leaders in Congress did not agree. These lawmakers believed that the South would not be reconstructed until freedmen were granted full rights of citizenship.
The following year, Congress enacted two bills designed to help freedmen. The first extended the life of the Freedmen’s Bureau. The second was the Civil Rights Act of 1866. It struck at the black codes by declaring freedmen to be full citizens with the same rights as whites. Johnson declared both bills unconstitutional and vetoed them. An angry Congress overrode his vetoes.
The Fourteenth Amendment To further protect the rights of African Americans, Congress approved the Fourteenth Amendment. This amendment declared former slaves to be citizens with full civil rights. “No state,” it said, “shall…deny to any person…the equal protection of the laws.” This meant that state governments could not treat some citizens as less equal than others.
President Johnson opposed the Fourteenth Amendment and called on voters to throw Republican lawmakers out of office. Instead, Republican candidates won a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress in the 1866 election. From that point on, Congress controlled Reconstruction.
Military Reconstruction Act Early in 1867, the new Congress passed its own Military Reconstruction Act. Once again, it did so over Johnson’s veto. This plan divided the South into five military districts, each governed by a general who was backed by federal troops. The state governments set up under Johnson’s Reconstruction plan were declared illegal. New governments were to be formed by southerners loyal to the United States—both black and white. Southerners who had supported the Confederacy were denied the right to vote.
Lawmakers also passed two acts designed to reduce Johnson’s power to interfere with Congressional Reconstruction. The Command of the Army Act limited his power over the army. The Tenure of Office Act barred him from firing certain federal officials without the Senate’s consent. President Johnson blasted both laws as unconstitutional. Then, to prove his point, he fired one of the officials protected under the Tenure of Office Act.
Radical Republicans in Congress reorganized the South into the five military districts shown on this map.
civil rights the rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution to all people as citizens, especially equal treatment under the law
Military Reconstruction and the Readmission of the South
The Impeachment of Johnson The House of Representatives responded to Johnson’s challenge by voting to impeach the president. Besides violating the Tenure of Office Act, Johnson was charged with bringing “the high office of the President of the United States into contempt, ridicule, and disgrace, to the scandal of all good citizens.”
During his trial in the Senate, the president’s lawyers argued that Johnson’s only “crime” had been to oppose Congress. If he were removed from office for that reason, they warned, “no future President will be safe who happens to differ with a majority of the House and Senate.”
Two thirds of the Senate had to find the president guilty in order to remove him from office. Despite very heavy pressure to convict him, 7 Republicans and 12 Democrats voted “not guilty.” Johnson escaped removal from office by one vote, but his power was broken.
Sharecropping While Congress and the president battled over Reconstruction, African Americans in the South struggled to build new lives. Most former slaves desperately wanted land to farm but had no money to buy it. Meanwhile, their former owners desperately needed workers to farm their land but had no money to pay them. Out of the needs of both groups came a farming system called sharecropping.
Planters who turned to sharecropping divided their land into small plots. They rented these plots to individual tenant farmers (farmers who pay rent for the land they work). A few tenants paid the rent for their plots in cash. But most paid their rent by giving the landowner a share—usually a third or a half—of the crops they raised on their plots.
Sharecropping looked promising to freedmen at first. They liked being independent farmers who worked for themselves. In time, they hoped to earn enough money to buy a farm of their own.
However, most sharecroppers had to borrow money from planters to buy the food, seeds, tools, and supplies they needed to survive until harvest-time. Few ever earned enough from their crops to pay back what they owed. Rather than leading to independence, sharecropping usually led to a lifetime of poverty and debt.
Sharecroppers, such as these shown growing cotton, rented their land from plantation owners. In exchange, most paid one third to one half of their crops back to the landowners.
23.4 Southern Reconstruction
The U.S. Army returned to the South in 1867. The first thing it did was begin to register voters. Because Congress had banned former Confederates from voting, the right to vote in the South was limited to three groups—freedmen, white southerners who had opposed the war, and northerners who had moved south after the war.
The South’s New Voters African Americans made up the South’s largest group of new voters. Most black voters joined the Republican Party—the party of Lincoln and emancipation.
White southerners who had not supported secession were the next largest group. Many were poor farmers who had never voted before. In their eyes, the Democratic Party was the party of wealthy planters and secession. As a result, they also supported the Republican Party. Southern Democrats were appalled. They saw any white man who voted Republican as a traitor to the South. Democrats scorned such people as scalawags, or worthless scoundrels.
The last group of new voters were northerners who had moved south after the war. Yankee-hating southerners called the newcomers carpetbaggers after a type of handbag used by many travelers. They saw carpetbaggers as fortune hunters who had come south “to fatten on our misfortunes.”
The 1868 Election These new voters cast their first ballots in the 1868 presidential election. The Republican candidate was former Union general Ulysses S. Grant. Grant supported Reconstruction and promised to protect the rights of African Americans in the South. His Democratic opponent, Horatio Seymour, promised to end Reconstruction and return the South to its traditional leaders—white Democrats.
Seymour won a majority of white votes. Grant, however, was elected with the help of half a million black votes. The election’s lesson to Republicans was that if they wanted to keep control of the White House and Congress, they needed African American votes.
The Fifteenth Amendment In 1869, at President Grant’s urging, Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment. This amendment said that a citizen’s right to vote “shall not be denied…on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Its purpose was to protect the right of African American men to vote.
With the passage of this amendment, most abolitionists felt their work was done. The American Anti-Slavery Society declared the Fifteenth Amendment to be “the capstone and completion of our movement; the
This poster celebrated the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, which said that a citizen’s right to vote could not be denied on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The poster includes pictures of students, soldiers, preachers, teachers, and lawmakers.
scalawags white southerners who supported the federal government after the Civil War
carpetbaggers northerners who went to the South after the Civil War to gain money and political power
fulfillment of our pledge to the Negro race; since it secures to them equal political rights with the white race.”
New State Constitutions When the army finished registering voters, southern Reconstruction got underway. Across the South, delegates were elected to constitutional conventions. About a fourth of those elected were African Americans.
The conventions met and wrote new constitutions for their states. These constitutions were the most progressive, or advanced, in the nation. They guaranteed the right to vote to every adult male, regardless of race. They ended imprisonment for debt. They also called for the establishment of the first public schools in the South. The Georgia constitution stated that these schools should be “forever free to all the children of the state.”
New State Governments Elections were then held to fill state offices. To the dismay of southern Democrats, a majority of those elected were Republicans. About a fifth were African Americans.
The South’s new state governments quickly ratified the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. By 1870, every southern state had finished this final step of Reconstruction and rejoined the Union.
Next, southern governments turned to the task of rebuilding. Work was begun on damaged roads, bridges, and railroads. Schools and hospitals were built. To pay for these projects, state legislatures raised taxes. Between 1860 and 1870, taxes in the South increased by up to 400 percent.
African Americans in Office About a fifth of the South’s new officeholders were African Americans. Blacks served in every southern legislature and held high offices in three states. Twenty-two African Americans represented their states in Congress—20 in the House, and 2 in the Senate. After watching these representatives, many of whom had been born slaves, Pennsylvania congressman James G. Blaine observed:
The colored men who took their seats in both the Senate and House did not appear ignorant or helpless. They were as a rule studious, earnest, ambitious men, whose public conduct…would be honorable to any race. (Caption)
Robert B. Elliott, African American congressman from South Carolina, delivers a speech in favor of civil rights. During Reconstruction, many African Americans were elected to the House of Representatives and the Senate.
23.5 The End of Reconstruction
Most whites in the South bitterly resented the southern Reconstruction governments. They hated the fact that these governments had been “forced” on them by the Yankees.
Many taxpayers also blamed their soaring tax bills on corruption (misuse of public office for personal gain) by the South’s new leaders. One outraged Democrat called Republican rule in the South the “most stupendous system of organized robbery in history.” While some southern officeholders did line their pockets with public funds, most, whether black or white, were honest, capable leaders. Still, when taxes increased, so too did opposition to the new state governments.
But what bothered southerners most about their Reconstruction governments was seeing former slaves voting and holding public offices. Across the South, Democrats vowed to regain power and return their states to “white man’s rule.”
White Terrorism At first, Democrats tried to win black voters away from the Republican Party. When that failed, they tried using legal tricks to keep blacks from voting or taking office. In Georgia, for example, the legislature refused to seat elected black lawmakers until forced to by the state supreme court. When legal tricks failed, whites turned to terrorism, or violence.
Throughout the South, whites formed secret societies to drive African Americans out of political life. The most infamous of these groups was the Ku Klux Klan. Dressed in long, hooded robes and armed with guns and swords, Klansmen did their work at night. They started by threatening black voters and officeholders. African Americans who did not heed their threats were beaten, tarred and feathered, and even murdered.
The Enforcement Acts In 1870 and 1871, Congress passed three laws to combat terrorism against African Americans. Known as the Enforcement Acts, these laws made it illegal to prevent another person from voting by bribery, force, or scare tactics.
President Grant sent troops into the South to enforce these acts. Hundreds of people were arrested for their terrorist activities. Those who were brought to trial, however, were seldom convicted. Few witnesses and jurors wanted to risk the Klan’s revenge by speaking out against one of its members.
Ku Klux Klan members, shown above, were determined to prevent African Americans from participating in politics. Using threats, beatings, and even murder, the Klan eventually reestablished white Democratic rule in the South.
The Amnesty Act of 1872 By this time, however, most northerners were losing interest in Reconstruction and the plight of the freedmen. It was time, many people said, to “let the South alone.” One sign of this changing attitude was the passage of the Amnesty Act of 1872. (Amnesty means forgiveness for past offenses.) This law allowed most former Confederates to vote once again.
The effects of the Amnesty Act were quickly seen. By 1876, Democrats had regained control of all but three states in the South. Republicans clung to power in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida, but only with the help of federal troops.
The Disputed Election of 1876 In 1876, Americans went to the polls to choose a new president. The Democrats nominated New York governor Samuel J. Tilden as their candidate. Rutherford B. Hayes was the Republican nominee. When the votes were tallied, Tilden won a majority of popular votes and 184 electoral votes, just one short of the 185 needed for election. Hayes received 165 electoral votes. Twenty electoral votes from four states were in dispute.
Congress, which was controlled by Republicans, appointed a commission to decide who should get the disputed votes. The commission awarded all 20 to Hayes, giving him exactly the 185 electoral votes he needed to win. Outraged Democrats in Congress threatened to block the election of anyone. Inauguration day drew near with no president in sight.
The Compromise of 1877 At the last moment, the two parties agreed to compromise. Democrats allow Hayes to become president. In return, Hayes agreed to give southern states “the right to control their own affairs.”
Once in office, President Hayes withdrew all remaining federal troops from the South. After that, Democrats quickly took control of the last southern states. “This is a white man’s country,” boasted South Carolina senator Ben Tillman, “and white men must govern it.”
Most white southerners cheered the end of Reconstruction. But for freedmen, the return of the South to “white man’s rule” was a giant step backward. “The whole South—every state in the South,” observed a Louisiana freedmen, “has got into the hands of the very men that held us as slaves.”
Thomas Nast’s political cartoon “Is This a Republican Form of Government?” condemns northern indifference to the violence that African Americans had to endure as Reconstruction ended.
23.6 Reconstruction Reversed
With Reconstruction over, southern leaders talked of building a “New South” humming with mills, factories, and cities. Between 1880 and 1900, the number of textile mills in the South grew rapidly. Birmingham, Alabama, became a major iron-making center. Still, most southerners, black and white, remained trapped in an “Old South” of poverty.
Losing Ground in Education During Reconstruction, freedmen had pinned their hopes for a better life on education provided by the South’s first public schools. When southern Democrats regained control of states, however, they cut spending on education. “Free schools are not a necessity,” explained the governor of Virginia. Schools, he said, “are a luxury…to be paid for, like any other luxury, by the people who wish their benefits.”
As public funding dried up, many schools closed. Those that stayed open often charged fees. By the 1880s, only about half of all black children in the South attended school.
Losing Voting Rights Southern Democrats also reversed the political gains made by freedmen after the war. Many southern states passed laws requiring citizens who wanted to vote to pay a poll tax. The tax was set high enough that voting, like education, became a luxury that many black southerners could not afford.
Some southern states also required citizens to pass a literacy test to show that they could read before allowing them to vote. These tests were rigged (set up) to fail any African American, regardless of his education.
In theory, these laws applied equally to blacks and whites and, for that reason, did not violate the Fifteenth Amendment. In practice, however, whites were excused from paying poll taxes or taking literacy tests by a “grandfather clause” in the laws. This clause said the taxes and tests did not apply to any man whose father or grandfather could vote on January 1, 1867. Since no blacks could vote on that date, the grandfather clause applied only to whites.
African Americans protested that these laws denied them their Constitutional right to vote. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that the new voting laws did not violate the Fifteenth Amendment because they did not deny anyone the right to vote on the basis of race.
This painting shows a new South rising from the ashes of the Civil War. Although southern leaders hoped this would be the future of the South, most whites and African Americans continued to live in poverty.
Drawing a “Color Line” During Reconstruction, most southern states had outlawed segregation in public places. When Democrats returned to power, they reversed these laws and drew a “color line” between blacks and whites in public life. Whites called the new segregation acts Jim Crow laws.
Not all white southerners supported segregation. When a Jim Crow law was proposed in South Carolina, the Charleston News and Courier tried to show how silly it was by taking segregation to ridiculous extremes.
If there must be Jim Crow cars on railroads, there should be Jim Crow cars on the street railways. Also on all passenger boats…. There should be Jim Crow waiting saloons [waiting rooms] at all stations, and Jim Crow eating houses…. There should be Jim Crow sections of the jury box, and a separate Jim Crow…witness stand in every court—and a Jim Crow Bible for colored witnesses to kiss.
Instead of being a joke, as intended, most of these “silly” suggestions soon became laws.
Plessy v. Ferguson African Americans argued that segregation laws violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws.” Homer Plessy, who was arrested for refusing to obey a Jim Crow law, took his protest all the way to the Supreme Court. His case is known as Plessy v. Ferguson.
In 1896, the majority of Supreme Court justices ruled that segregation laws did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment as long as the facilities available to both races were roughly equal. Justice John Marshall Harlan, a former slaveholder, disagreed. “Our Constitution is color blind,” he wrote, “and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”
After the Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, more Jim Crow laws were passed. Blacks and whites attended separate schools, played in separate parks, and sat in separate sections in theaters. But despite the Court’s ruling that these separate facilities must be equal, those set aside for African Americans were almost always inferior to facilities labeled “whites only.”
In the cartoon below, Thomas Nast attacks the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. According to this cartoon, what did supremacist groups do to African Americans? What does the label “Worse Than Slavery” mean?
Jim Crow laws Laws enforcing segregation of blacks and whites in the South after the Civil War. “Jim Crow” was a black character in an entertainer’s act in the mid-1800s.
23.7 Responding to Segregation
African Americans responded to segregation in many ways. The boldest protested openly. Doing so, however, was dangerous. Blacks who spoke out risked being attacked by white mobs. Some were even lynched, or murdered (often by hanging), for speaking out against “white rule.” During the 1890s, there was an African American lynched somewhere in the United States almost every day.
Migration Thousands of African Americans responded to segregation by leaving the South. A few chose to return to Africa. In 1878, some 200 southern blacks chartered a ship and sailed to Liberia, a nation founded by freed American slaves on the coast of West Africa.
Many more African Americans migrated to other parts of the United States. Not only were they “pushed” from the South by racism and poverty, but they were “pulled” by the lure of better opportunities and more equal treatment. Some sought a new life as wage earners by migrating to cities in the North. There they competed for jobs with recent immigrants from Europe and often faced racism, if not southern-style segregation. Others headed to the West, where they found work as cowboys and Indian fighters. Two all-black U.S. Cavalry units known as the Buffalo Soldiers fought on the front lines of the Indian wars. Ironically, some blacks found new homes with Native American nations.
Thousands of black families left the South for Kansas in the “Exodus of 1879.” The “exodusters,” as the migrants were known, faced many hardships on their journey west. Bands of armed whites patrolled roads in Kansas in an effort to drive the migrants away. Still, the exodusters pushed on, saying, “We had rather suffer and be free.”
Self-Help Most African Americans, however, remained in the South. They worked hard as families, churches, and communities to improve their lives. While most blacks farmed for a living, a growing number started their own businesses. Between 1865 and 1903, the number of black-owned businesses in the South soared from about 2,000 to 25,000.
Families, churches, and communities also banded together to build schools and colleges for black children. Because of these efforts, literacy among American Americans rose rapidly. When slavery ended in 1865, only 5 percent of African Americans could read. By 1900, more than 50 percent could read and write.
Two units of African American cavalrymen, the Ninth and Tenth U.S. Cavalry, fought in the Indian wars that followed the end of the Civil War. Dubbed “Buffalo Soldiers” by Native Americans, the black cavalrymen served loyally but were often mistreated by the white settlers they were supposed to protect. Twenty-three Buffalo Soldiers earned the Medal of Honor for heroism.
23.8 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you read about the events of Reconstruction in the South after the Civil War. You used a visual metaphor to understand African Americans’ struggle to achieve full rights as citizens during the five phases of Reconstruction.
In the first phase, the Thirteenth Amendment became part of the Constitution, and slavery became illegal. However, freedmen still could not vote and were allowed to work only at unskilled jobs. African Americans were kept separate from whites in public. Black children could not attend public schools.
Congressional Reconstruction was an attempt to give African Americans all the rights of citizens. The Fourteenth Amendment granted full citizenship to all people born in the United States.
Congress sent federal troops back to the South to begin Southern Reconstruction. The Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed the right to vote to eligible citizens of all races. Many African Americans were elected to state government offices during this third phase of Reconstruction.
During the fourth phase of Reconstruction, President Hayes withdrew federal troops from the South. Throughout the South, the men who had held African Americans in slavery before the war were again in charge of their lives and livelihoods.
During the final stage of Reconstruction, southern state governments began reversing the gains that African Americans had made. Education and the right to vote in the South became luxuries that only white southerners could afford. Jim Crow laws quickly reestablished segregation.
African Americans were free to leave the South, and many did. They migrated to the North and the West, or returned to Africa. But most remained in the South, where they formed communities to help themselves build better lives.
In the next chapter, you will read about the tensions that arose as Americans settled the West.
This Thomas Nast cartoon celebrates the Civil Rights Bill of 1875. This bill and other Reconstruction legislation tried to give full citizenship rights to African Americans.
Tensions in the West
Why is this soldier fighting on foot?
What country’s army does this soldier belong to?
What group does this soldier belong to? Why is he fighting?
In the spring of 1889, two women arrived at the Nez Percé reservation in Lapwai, Idaho. One of them, Jane Gay, had nursed soldiers during the Civil War. The other, Alice Fletcher, had been a leader in the growing movement for women’s rights. Now a new cause had brought these women west. They wanted to improve the lives of Native Americans.
Gay and Fletcher were just two of the thousands of Americans who moved west after the Civil War. As you read in the last chapter, during this period politicians in the East were arguing over Reconstruction. Meanwhile, railroad builders, miners, ranchers, and farmers continued to push westward. In this chapter, you will read about how the settlers’ dreams of freedom and opportunity clashed with the dreams of the Native Americans who already lived in the West.
The conflict between settlers and Indians was not just a fight over land. It was a conflict between two very different cultures and ways of seeing the world.
Jane Gay and Alice Fletcher discovered these deep differences soon after they arrived at Lapwai. Like other Indians, the Nez Percé had already been forced onto reservations to make way for new settlers. Now Fletcher told the Indians that the government wanted to divide the Lapwai Reservation into farm plots. Each family would receive one plot. Then the Nez Percé could live like other Americans.
The Indians listened in stony silence. Settlers might think of owning a plot of land as a way to be free. But to a Nez Percé, being tied to one spot of earth would be like being in jail.
Finally, one man spoke. “We do not cut up our land in little pieces,” the Indian said. “We have not told you to do it. We are content to be as we are.”
The Indian’s words show why tensions were bound to develop between settlers and Native Americans. As you read about the Nez Percé and other Indian groups, you will see how the progress of the settlers meant the end of the Indians’ ways of life.
Graphic Organizer: Annotated Illustration
You will use an annotated illustration of a buffalo hide to record information about four groups of settlers and their impact on native peoples.
24.2 The Nez Percé
For centuries, the Nez Percé freely roamed the lush mountains and valleys where Oregon, Washington, and Idaho come together today. Their name, which means “pierced nose” in French, was given to them by French explorers. The French had confused the Nez Percé with other Indians who decorated their noses with pieces of shell. In reality, the Nez Percé did not usually pierce their noses or wear nose ornaments.
When horses arrived in the Northwest in the 1700s, the Nez Percé became expert riders and horse breeders. They developed their own special breed known as the Appaloosa. These beautiful, spotted horses were fast, strong, and brave. The Nez Percé trained them to ride into stampeding buffalo herds and single out one animal for the kill.
The Nez Percé treasured their homeland and way of life. But in the years after the Civil War, more and more strangers arrived from the East to settle in the Pacific Northwest. The world of the Nez Percé would never be the same.
Friendship with Whites For decades the Nez Percé were among the friendliest of all western Indians toward whites. In 1805, they saved Lewis and Clark and their expedition from starvation. They were also friendly with the first trappers, traders, and missionaries who came to the North- west. The Nez Percé had never killed a white person.
The friendship was finally broken by Americans’ hunger for land and riches. In the 1860s, miners swarmed over Nez Percé land, looking for gold. Settlers followed. Some Nez Percé bands signed treaties in which they agreed to give up their land and move to the Lapwai Reservation in Idaho. Other bands refused to sign any treaty.
One of these “no treaty” bands lived in the Wallowa Valley of eastern Oregon. It was led by a man whose Indian name meant “Thunder Rolling in the Mountains.” The newcomers called him Chief Joseph. In 1877, representatives of the United States government presented Chief Joseph with a terrible choice. You can give up your land peacefully and move to Lapwai, they told him, or else army troops will come and force you out.
Fearing a war he could not win, Chief Joseph agreed to
Hurricane Creek runs majestically through the Wallowa Valley, home to the Nez Percé Indians. In the background is Chief Joseph Mountain.
move. “I would give up my country,” he said, “rather than have the blood of white men upon the hands of my people.”
Blood Is Shed That summer, 700 Nez Percé left the Wallowa Valley, their hearts filled with bitterness. One night, a group of angry young warriors slipped out of camp and murdered several whites. Chief Joseph knew that the killings would bring soldiers to punish his people. For the first time, the Nez Percé would be at war with whites.
The soldiers came. Still hoping to avoid war, Indians carrying the white flag of peace came forward to talk. Foolishly, the troops opened fire anyway. Minutes later, 34 soldiers were dead. “I have been in lots of scrapes,” reported a survivor, “but I never went up against anything like the Nez Percé in all my life.”
The Flight to Canada In desperation, the Nez Percé headed for the one place where they might still live free—Canada. For the next three months, Chief Joseph led the U.S. Army on a chase of more than 1,000 miles through rugged mountain country. Although greatly outnumbered, his warriors won several battles.
The chase ended less than 40 miles from the Canadian border. Forced to surrender, Chief Joseph spoke his heart in these words:
I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed…. The old men are all dead…. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are…. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.
After their surrender, Chief Joseph and his followers were sent to a barren reservation in Oklahoma. There they began to fall sick and die. Soon they had a cemetery just for babies, with more than a hundred graves.
Chief Joseph begged the government to allow his people to join the rest of the Nez Percé in Lapwai. Although some did go to Lapwai, others, including Chief Joseph, were sent to the Colville Reservation in Washington. They never went back to their homeland. When the chief died in 1904, the doctor listed the cause of death as “a broken heart.”
Chief Joseph was a great leader among the Nez Percé. He promised his dying father that he would not sell or give away his people’s land. Tragically, white settlers and government troops drove the Nez Percé from their homes in the 1870s. Chief Joseph died of a “broken heart” on a remote Indian reservation in 1904.
24.3 New Interest in the West
Settlers had been gradually forcing Native Americans from their land ever since the first colonists arrived in North America. Still, by the start of the Civil War, the West was populated mostly by roaming Indians and huge herds of buffalo. Then, in 1861 and 1862, Congress passed two laws that stirred new interest in the West—the Homestead Act and the Pacific Railroad Act.
The Homestead Act The Homestead Act offered farmers 160 acres of public land in the West for free. All the farmer, or homesteader, had to do was clear the land and farm it for five years. At the end of that time, the homesteader was given ownership of the land.
The impact of the new law was enormous. Year after year, the promise of free land drew hopeful homesteaders west. Between 1860 and 1910, the number of farms in the United States tripled from 2 million to more than 6 million.
The Pacific Railroad Act The Pacific Railroad Act called for the building of a transcontinental railroad to link the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. This huge construction project was given to two railroad companies, the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific.
To help the railroad companies pay for the project, Congress gave them subsidies in the form ofsections of free land for every mile of track they
As settlers moved west, they seized more and more land from the Native Americans who lived and hunted there. Below we see a Native American village near Fort Laramie, in what is now Wyoming.