The South's Response to Reconstruction
In Origins of the New South 1877-1913 (first published in 1951) C. Vann Woodward maintains that the South was more distinctive as a region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries than it had been before the Civil War. Between 1877 and 1913 the South achieved some semblance of political unity and aligned itself with the West in protest of Eastern capitalism and monopolies. The economy, per capita wealth, income, education, standard of living, and religion of the South all set the region apart from the rest of the nation in the years after Reconstruction.
The Civil War and Reconstruction, while removing some of the South's peculiarities, merely aggravated others and gave rise to new ones. Radical Republican intrusions caused the South to react against governmental influence of any kind. Before the Civil War many southerners had served as presidents, speakers of the House of Representatives, and cabinet members. However, after the Civil War there was a shift in the geography of political power. Woodward believes that the very solidarity of the South was one important source of its political impotence. Not only did the South stake all its political fortunes upon the chances of a single party but those of a consistently losing party at that. However, in the presidential election of 1912 the South finally triumphed by the break-up of a solid North. To summarize, Woodward sees southern sectionalism as a political response to the Reconstruction era of 1865-1877. Furthermore, the South became more unified and distinctive as a region as a result of the southern reaction to Reconstruction.