Beginnings of Reconstruction (1865)


The reconstruction of Georgia began in June 1865 when President Andrew Johnson appointed James Johnson provi­sional governor of Georgia. He was charged with the respon­sibility of preparing Georgia for re-admittance to the Union.


Confederate States bonds and currency were worthless. There was little U.S. currency available in the South. Virtually all of the commerce in the state was inactive. The railroads were idle.


Milledgeville remained the state capitol for 15 years after the Civil War. It was there that state legislators struggled with the enormous task of spelling out the legal and civil rights of former slaves, now full-fledged citizens in the eyes of the federal government.


Records of Liberty County indicate the task faced by county officials complying with laws streaming out of Mil­ledgeville. Some of the laws displeased federal authorities and were either abolished or changed. This left the officials unsure about any action expected of them.


Food was the main concern of Liberty Countians during the late spring of 1865. With the county plantation system completely destroyed, and slave labor gone forever, nothing could be expected from that previously plentiful source. The small farmers of Liberty County, those who had never owned slaves, were looked to in the summer of 1865 as the hope for survival of the county. They went to work planting and working with what they had. In many cases all of the work was done by hand, since few farm animals had been left by the U.S. Army.


Liberty County officials worked, without pay, with feder­al administrators in the county to restore order to the county government. Jesse Brewer was clerk of the Inferior Court, which administrated most facets of the county government. Sheriff John Fennell worked with the freedmens bureau in restoring order among former slaves. The offices of James McVeigh, tax receiver, and Simon S. Moody, tax collector, were inoperative since the pre-war tax structure was formu­lated by Henry R. Wheeler, tax collector, and James D. Zorn, tax receiver. Hardest hit by reconstruction demands was William P. Girardeau, ordinary of Liberty County. He had to formulate a new records system in his office to include former slaves, now U.S. citizens, who comprised more than 50 percent of the county population.


By May 1865 many Confederate Army soldiers had been paroled and allowed to return home. Members of Confeder­ate Army cavalry units, in most cases, were allowed to keep their mount and rode home. Those without mounts walked. Some of the Confederate troops received $1.15 from the federal government, their pay for the past six months.  


From "Sweet Land of Liberty, A History of Liberty County, Georgia" by Robert Long Groover; Page(s) 51; Used by the permission of the Liberty County Commissioners Office