Aftermath & Reconstruction

    Scalawags  "White Southern Republicans"

Native white Southern politicians who joined the Republican party after the war and advocated the acceptance of and compliance with congressional Reconstruction were labeled scalawags. To most white Southerners, scalawags were an unprincipled group of traitorous opportunists who had deserted their countrymen and ingratiated themselves with the hated Radical Republicans for their own material gain. The devastation in the South after the war, coupled with the economic and social problems, created a need for progressive political action that the disenfranchised white population could not address.

Many scalawags were sincere in their belief that conformance with the dictated measures of the Reconstruction Acts was the best and fastest way to end Reconstruction and return the South to home rule. However, other scalawags, whose ranks included planters and businessmen as well as poor whites, joined the most unscrupulous of the Northern carpetbaggers in pillaging state treasuries and being the political pawns of the Radical Republicans in Congress. Scalawags who persisted in aiding the Northern Republicans after the passage of the March 27, 1867, supplementary Reconstruction Act, which instituted military rule in the Southern states to enforce black suffrage and political equality, were especially detested and would sometimes become the target of vigilantism by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Lee's "Warhorse", Gen. James Longstreet, and partisan ranger John S. Mosby were probably the two most prominent ex-Confederates to embrace the Republicans and earn the name scalawag. Col. Franklin J. Moses, Jr., is an example of the worst of the scalawags. He had been an ardent secessionist and had raised the Confederate flag over Fort Sumter in 1861. After the war he joined the Republicans, became governor of SOuth Carolina, and looted the state treasury.

Fascinating Fact:  The dictionary defines scalawag as "scamp, reprobate, or an animal of little value because of its small size, condition, or age". The term has been traced to Scalloway, a town in the Shetland Islands known for its stunted cattle.


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