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The Jackson County War: Reconstruction and Resistance in Post-Civil War Florida Hardcover – March 19, 2012
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As exciting as combat was during the war, the postwar Reconstruction era in the panhandle of Florida was a hard struggle for both races with the occasional murder of a freedman keeping blacks and white suspicious of each other. And then the Klan came along…. This book is a finely detailed account of everyday life under Reconstruction….The Jackson County War does not dwell on the politics of Reconstruction, but it is rich in the daily details of what life was like for several years after the war. White planters did not like the growing independence of their former slaves, and the former slaves were often unable to leave those same plantations because they had nowhere to go. Still, they wanted to make a better, more independent life for themselves. This is a sad but informative tale of Reconstruction at the grassroots level. —Civil War News
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This knowledge matters. Call up Gone with the Wind tonight on HD streaming video, and you'll learn from the narrator about the tyranny and corruption of Carpetbag Rule - a horror far worse than the Civil War itself, the viewer is told. The lies and failures and rewarded assassinations of Reconstruction haunt us today in ways we often don't recognize. As a country, we still fight over the 14th amendment while hardly understanding its origins and context.
To his credit, Weinfeld resists the urge to anger that any honest person should feel upon reading this book and then reflecting on how the story of Reconstruction's overthrow was laundered throughout most of the popular history that followed. He's not writing to judge national memory. He's writing to add to it. And he's provided an invaluable service.
Dozens of people, mostly blacks and high-ranking white Republicans, died in two years of Reconstruction-era fighting in Jackson County, an agricultural hub near the Alabama border.
Weinfeld's research animates the factions in The Jackson County War. It reproduces Freedman Bureau records of the doomed white Republicans, many of whom ended up dead at the hands of the drunken, sullen children of the shattered local aristocracy, who were cheered on by the local press. And it recounts the black Republicans who voted in huge numbers to take a role in governing themselves and their new country. And who fought a steadily losing battle to keep that role and their lives.
Weinfeld writes with moral nuance and dispassion about the often violent and tragic collisions of these men and women. His creates honest portraits of real people, full of ideals, ambition, corruption, and corrosive anger. Carpetbag rule as a trope is a lie. But Carpetbag occupation, enabled by black votes and white Democratic restrictions, was an unavoidable provocation that could only exist with the help of force.
Perhaps above all, The Jackson County War is a story of the defeat of a military occupation. It ought to be mandatory reading for anyone fighting a counterinsurgency. Born of spite, nourished on success, the Jackson County insurgency was led by thugs who became respectable pillars of their community for decades to come. Yet, it was often derailed temporarily by even the small handful of soldiers who came in and out of Marianna and Jackson County. As soon as they left, the insurgency would start again.
Ultimately the United States federal government did not have the means and will to enforce the ideals of the Radical Republicans. And the Jackson County War makes clear that if you bring revolution to a place that doesn't want it, you better be prepared to enforce it with power, blood, and patience. Everything else is abstraction.
Note: (Proofreading was not totally satisfactory; for some reason the word Jackson was often rendered as "Jack n" or something similar!)