Voting during the
Who were the Carpetbaggers? The Reconstruction Era
The end of the
bitter and destructive Civil War led to the
Era which lasted from 1865-1877. The old South was humiliated
and defeated. During the Reconstruction Era the South was occupied by United States Federal troops.
New state governments and economies had to be established in the
South. The infrastructure of the South had to be rebuilt. Life
in the South was turned on its head. Power in politics was
controlled by Republicans from the North as opposed to the Democrats
of the South.
The Carpetbaggers wanted Money and Power
It was a time for great change and for many it was a
time for exploitation. Unscrupulous Northerners headed South looking to exploit
opportunities for financial gain and personal power - they were
referred to as the 'Carpetbaggers'.
Carpetbaggers called Carpetbaggers?
How did Carpetbaggers get their name?
The name is based on the image of opportunist "Yankees"
arriving from the North with all their goods thrown
together in a big carpetbag. A carpetbag was a common
type of travelers bag, made out of scraps of carpet. The
carpetbaggers were quick to move - ready to pillage and
plunder the defeated South.
What was the
purpose of the Carpetbaggers?
name 'Carpetbaggers' was therefore a
highly derisive name given to Northerners who went South after the
fall of the Confederate States of America (CSA). Their purpose was
to seek personal financial gain or political advancement. The
Carpetbaggers were looking for money or power.
What is the Difference between Carpetbaggers and Scalawags?
The Carpetbaggers came from the North to exploit the troubles of the
Scalawags were native to the South. The Scalawags turned on
their own kind and were deemed as traitors to the South,
cooperating with the Republicans
for the same reasons as the Carpetbaggers - to get rich by
exploiting Southerners or gaining power through political
advancement. Both the alien Carpetbaggers and the renegade Scalawags
had the same objectives during the Reconstruction era.
How were the Carpetbaggers able to exploit the South? The Southern
Economy after the Civil War
The Carpetbaggers looking to make money took advantage of the
plight of the Southerners. The Civil War had taken its toll on the
people of the South. They had been defeated and humiliated. Land had
been destroyed during the "scorched earth" policies adopted by
General William T. Sherman and homes had been damaged.
The Union Blockade prevented the
Southern farmers from selling their goods - cotton exports, fell to
2% of their pre-war volume. The
Confederate States of America had been forced to raise money to
finance the war by
borrowing from its citizens. Confederate bonds were given in
exchange for money. The Confederate government issued over $150
million in Confederate bonds, none of which was ever repaid.
The CSA also printed about $1 billion dollars which was not backed
by gold which led to massive inflation and high prices. By the end
of the Civil War Confederate dollars were worth about $.05 in gold,
the South was economically devastated and many Southerners
How were the Carpetbaggers able to exploit the South? The Money
What did the Carpetbaggers do? The Carpetbaggers who were
looking to make money took advantage of the economic plight of the
Southerners. In order to finance the re-building of the South and
its infrastructure the state governments raised property tax rates.
In some places, the property tax rate increased ten-fold. The
Southerners had no money to pay the taxes. The new tax system had
been designed to force owners of large plantations and lands to
either sell their property or have it confiscated for failure to pay
taxes. The Carpetbaggers were able to buy property, businesses and
lands at rock-bottom, bargain prices. Other money-making
Carpetbaggers invested in re-building programs, including the highly
lucrative railroads. Cheap labor was made available by the
Vagrancy Laws and Convict Leasing.
How were the Carpetbaggers able to exploit the South? The Power
What did the Carpetbaggers do? The Carpetbaggers looking to gain
political power were provided with ample opportunity following the
changes to Southern state government during the Reconstruction Era.
Southerners had attempted to restore self-rule, the
Black Codes were passed and only white
people were allowed to vote or to participate in the framing of the
new state governments and constitutions. Congress intervened and new
constitutional conventions were held in 1867 and 1868. Black adult
males were given the right to vote, run for public office and
participate in the new state governments. The ex-slave vote,
consisting of 4 million in the South, provided the means to acquire
political power. Traditionally members of Congress and the State
legislatures would invariably reside in the district which they
represent. Former Confederate leaders and military personnel were
banned from both voting and holding political office in the South.
The Republican Political Carpetbaggers moved to the South with the
prospect of gaining power through the black vote. The term
'carpetbagger' was to become synonymous with any outsider who
meddles in an area's political affairs for his own benefit.
Corruption soon followed the Carpetbaggers. Rumors were spread among
freedmen that the federal government was going to grant “40 acres
and a mule” to every ex-slave family. The Freedmen became the allies
of the political Carpetbaggers. Once elected to office the political
Carpetbaggers had the power to pass new laws and to grant contracts
for the re-building of the South.
How did Carpetbaggers affect Reconstruction?
The Carpetbaggers had a significant effect on Reconstruction:
● Many White
Southerners were dispossessed of their lands by
Carpetbaggers and denied political power
sought allies with Scalawags and Freedmen to
form the Republican Party in the South
Carpetbaggers obtained power and influenced
Reconstruction in the South by serving as
constitutional convention delegates,
representatives, judges, sheriffs and as other
local and state government officials
Carpetbaggers passed high taxes and
● The poor
management of many Carpetbaggers were
responsible for increasing levels of debt in the
History for kids: Important People and Events
For visitors interested in African American History
Black History - People and Events.
A useful resource for
teachers, kids, schools and colleges undertaking
projects for the Black History Month.
Carpetbaggers for kids - President Andrew Johnson Video
The article on the Carpetbaggers
for kids provides an overview of
the emergence of the Carpetbaggers during his presidential term in office. The following
Andrew Johnson video will
give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 17th American President whose presidency spanned from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869.
Interesting Facts about the Carpetbaggers for kids and schools
● Facts about the
Carpetbaggers for kids
The Southern Carpetbaggers
Andrew Johnson Presidency from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869
Fast, fun, facts about the Carpetbaggers
policies of President Johnson and Civil Rights Act of
● Andrew Johnson Presidency and
the Carpetbaggers for schools,
homework, kids and children