Merlin G. Cox


The sovereign power in Florida from March 15, 1867, to July 4, 1868, was the military arm of the United States government. Many interpreters have viewed military reconstruction as an illustration of man’s inhumanity to man; it was, they say, a revenge mechanism to punish the vanquished for losing the war. Most members of democratic societies are so vehement in their condemnation of military rule that they admit no shades of difference in assessing the achievements of armies of occupation. If this blanket indictment were valid, Hitler’s armies of occupation in Western Europe and American occupation armies in Japan were comparable in their roles as avengers and destroyers. Despite this popular view, historians of the Civil War and Reconstruction era have glimpsed shades of grey in military as well as civilian regimes. Revisionist interpretations of reconstruction have observed great variations in the conduct and exercise of federal military authority in the five districts set up in 1867.