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Civil War and Reconstruction
The Travails of Reconstruction
George Ogden Recalls Reconstruction in the South

George Ogden was born in Iowa before the Civil War. After the war, he traveled widely, picking up odd jobs in a number of places. Eventually, he moved to McLennan County, Texas. In the excerpt below, Ogden makes several observations about white-black relations in the period after the Civil War. Which of these do you find most interesting? Do you think his observations are credible? Why or why not?

View the entire interview with Mr. Ogden from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.


"I was born in the year 1852 in the state of Iowa. I was 13 years old when the war between the states closed. At the age of 18 years I left my home in Iowa and came south to the state of  Mississippi.. Two years later came to Texas where I have resided with the exception of 12 years which I spent in Mexico. . . .

". . . Once again I experienced a thrill as the war torn city of historical fame [Vicksburg, Mississippi] it seemed, held out its hand in welcome to a son of the North. So after many years I came and fell a victim to its charms, as well as a victim to the entire South. My first impression of awe after seeing the canon were for the old mansions of the city. [H]ere the belles and the beaus trod the dances with its high ceilings and the stately halls. Then the next thing were the plantations as they stood in the days of ante-bellum. . . .

"The other most impressive thing to me were the "quarters" where the slaves had lived before the Civil War , they were still as they were then and the oldest slaves were still living with their "white folks" as their master with his family was called. These cabins were some distance back of the master's house and while still in use, were old and showed they had been built in another day.  They were all alike, two rooms with a chimney rising at one and of the cabin. . . .

"At this time the negroes had been giving trouble altho the Reconstruction days were about over, they still were undecided as to their rights. The Freedmans Bureau had been withdrawn and the white man was again assuming control. I found many plantations which had once been prosporus not run down and in a forsaken condition, in some instances due to the fact that the owner did not return from the war and in others due to the fact that the losses incurred as a result of the war had made it impossible for the owner to regain his financial status.

"These communities still mobbed a negro if he still committed an offense they thought justified taking the law into their own hands. At the time I worked in Pine Bluff the white man and the negro did not work together in the fields or else where, always in separate crowds. At first this struck me as odd, but in time I assumed the same attitude as the southern man towards the negro, with this exception, that I could not understand the southern mans attitude of responsibility towards their former slaves. If the slave tried to do right the former owner gave him a crop and furnished him his supplies, gave him part of the crop he made and saw that he was taken care of, just as if there had been no war with the slavery question involved. But he knew how to handle the situation it seemed."
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View the entire interview with Mr. Ogden from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.