by Christopher Lyle McIlwain
University of Alabama Press, 2017
eISBN: 978-0-8173-9136-2 | Cloth: 978-0-8173-1953-3 | Paper: 978-0-8173-6193-8
Library of Congress Classification F326.M365 2017
Dewey Decimal Classification 976.106

The epic final year of the Civil War in Alabama and its effects on Alabama politics today

To understand Alabama today, it's necessary to understand what happened in 1865. In 1865 Alabama: From Civil War to Uncivil Peace Christopher McIlwain examines the end of the Civil War and the early days of Reconstruction, tracing how the action—and inaction—of leaders in the state during those twelve months shaped the decades that followed as well as state politics today. McIlwain focuses on four factors: the immediate and unconditional emancipation of enslaved people, the destruction of Alabama’s industrial economy, significant broadening of northern support for suffrage rights for freedmen, and a long scarcity of investment capital. Each element proves important to understanding aspects of Alabama today.  

Relevant events outside Alabama are woven into the narrative, including McIlwain’s controversial argument regarding the effect of Lincoln’s assassination. Most historians assume that Lincoln favored black suffrage and that he would have led the fight to impose that on the South. But he made it clear to his cabinet members that granting suffrage rights was a matter to be decided by the southern states, not the federal government. Thus, according to McIlwain, if Lincoln had lived, black suffrage would not have been the issue it became in Alabama.

In his fresh analysis of what really happened in Alabama in 1865 and why—McIlwain illuminates that Alabama's challenges were neither entirely the fault of northern or southern policies but rather the complex interaction between the two.