Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War

The journalism professor of the Columbia University, Nicholas Lemann, in his book ‘Redemption’ recounts the ruthless campaign of fraud and chaos for the duration of the mid-1870s that in the long run steered to the reinstatement of traditional, white administrations in numerous southern states. In spite of this practice of extortion taking quite a lot of years to have a complete outcome in the south, it attained its peak in the year 1875 in Mississippi. During the period mentioned above, the militias allied to the Whites established the Mississippi plot which was meant to disfranchise a bulk of the black Republican people, entitled to vote, by way of forceful coercion of the politically powerful blacks. The fourteenth and fifteenth amendments had spelled out new rights of citizenship for the blacks, and this is what they were trying to exercise.  The Last Battle of the Civil War revolves around two major themes which are political violence and lack of accountability for the violence. 

Redemption explicates events of political strife in Louisiana and Mississippi in the middle of the years 1873 and 1876. Starting with the Colfax bloodbath, the author brings out the essential subject matters of the Redemption era. According to Lemann (2006), in 1873 a heavily armed white paramilitary force, on Easter Sunday, pounced on the black devotees, of a freshly voted black sheriff of the Grant Parish, while they were in the law court.  Outgunned and hemmed in, the defenders of the black were able to hold off the white militia from behind the earthworks. However, it turned out awful when the whites got ahead by burning down the courthouse. Without any place left for them to hide, the Black Americans made efforts to run away, but a cannonade of bullets killed them. Some of the blacks were caught and instantaneously executed while others were trapped in the courthouse to be absorbed by the infernos. Lemann (2006), puts it that not less than seventy-one Black Americans were executed at Colfax. These tussle amongst the black Republicans and the White Democrats concerned, to a great degree, supremacy: “who could vote and hold government office” (Lemann 4).

Lemann exonerates the gravity of the political violence in Mississippi to that of a civil war that broke out again (Lemann 28). He claims that this “Last Battle” stood out to be very dissimilar from the theater of warfare in the 1860s (Lemann 28). In other words, the war incorporated the White Army who protected the state officeholders, especially in New Orleans. More pointedly, the conflict turned out to be a combat in-between local communities rather than a sectional skirmish. The black neighbors clashed with the white neighbors; the southern Republicans faced off the southern Democrats. Not only did the violence become the end stage of the political battle but also a newfangled sectarian engagement that tore apart all the communities of the south. In his words, Lemann claims that “Yes, a revolution has taken place, by force of arms, and race are disfranchised (Lemann 132). Furthermore, the author illustrates on the reason behind the revolution as “they are to be returned to a condition of serfdom, an era of second slavery” (Lemann 132).

Lack of accountability for the violence was another major theme brought out by Lemann. The newly chosen sheriff of Grant Parish steered the white armed forces and therefore not interested in investigating his supporters or his actions. Even though a state judge affiliated to the Republican made an effort to begin criminal proceedings against the sheriff, a multitude of the armed white martial enforced the magistrate to back down. What is more, the federal court of law acquired indictments in addition to three verdicts. However, these results were negated by the supreme law court in the landmark Cruickshank judgment which ruled that it was the states’ and not the responsibility of the central government to safeguard the rights of the residents. The consequence of this verdict was endorsing the white fanatics’ violence as a way of tussling control of the regime from the Republicans. According to the writer, the terrorists were well financed in what looked like a plotted campaign to remove from office the Republican Party and do away with the black people’s voting and civil rights (Lemann 76). For many years, the Democrats had employed all sought of coercion, inducement, and intimidation to persuade freedmen against polling with the Republican political party. However, in the year 1873, a way out came up by itself whereby the Black Americans voted officeholders from authority with a prodigious vigor. The ultimate goal of the ferocity, according to White Liner, was “to strike terror into the hearts of these Negro men” (Lemann 157).

In conclusion, Lemann placed more emphasis on the theme of political violence and lack of answerability for the chaos in his piece of art Redemption. The author succeeded in linking the 1870s southern political violence to the Civil War, showcasing that the confrontation concerned democracy, citizenship as well as equal rights.

Works Cited

Lemann, Nicholas. Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. Print.

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