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The Senate at the End of the Civil War

Grand Review at Washington—Public School Children Greeting the Soldiers from the Steps of the Capitol.

Long before the Confederate army surrendered at Appomattox, members of Congress had begun anticipating the challenges that the post-war nation would face. High among their concerns were the readmission to representation of seceded states and the integration of newly emancipated African Americans into the political life of the nation. Among the early steps toward Reconstruction were the Thirteenth Amendment, establishment of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and creation of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction. When President Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865, however, Congress had not yet reached agreement with the president over terms of Reconstruction. Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, adopted lenient policies towards the South that angered both moderates and radicals in his party. Senators would spar with the president, and with each other, over the course of Reconstruction and civil rights in America, and that debate would shape national development for years to come.