Timeline of the Reconstruction Era

Key Events of the Reconstruction Period

Andrew Johnson taking the oath of office in the small parlor of the Kirkwood House

Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain 

Reconstruction was a time of rebuilding the United States after the tumultuous years of the Civil War. It lasted from the end of the Civil War in 1865 to the Compromise of 1877 when Rutherford B. Hayes was given the presidency in exchange for removing federal troops from Southern states. The following are key events that occurred during this era including events that were occurring in other parts of the United States.


  • Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment which abolished slavery in the United States. 
  • Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate forces at Appomattox Courthouse
  • Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Ford's Theater. 
  • Andrew Johnson succeeded Lincoln to the presidency. 
  • Johnson began implementing a restoration plan based loosely on Lincoln's ideas to help reintegrate the South. He issues pardons to most Confederates who are willing to take an oath of loyalty. 
  • The last enslaved people in the United States are emancipated on June 19, also called Juneteenth
  • Mississippi creates "Black Codes" that limit the rights of freed Black people. They soon become common across the South. 
  • The Freedman's Bureau is established. 


  • Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment which ensured equal protection of the laws to all persons. Most Southern states reject it. 
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed which granted full citizenship and civil rights to Black Americans. 
  • The Ku Klux Klan was founded in Tennessee. It would extend throughout the South by 1868. 
  • The First Transatlantic Cable was completed. 


  • The Military Reconstruction Act divided the former Confederacy into five military districts. Union generals policed these districts. 
  • The Tenure of Office Act was passed requiring congressional approval before the president could remove appointees. This was to try and force Johnson to keep radical Republican Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War. He went against the act when he removed Stanton from office in August. 
  • The Grange was established by farmers in the Midwest. It would quickly grow to over 800,000 members. 
  • The U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia in what was called Seward's Folly. 


  • President Andrew Johnson was impeached by the House but was acquitted by the Senate. 
  • The Fourteenth Amendment was finally ratified by the states.
  • Ulysses S. Grant became president. 
  • The eight-hour workday became law for federal employees. 


  • The first transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory Point, Utah. 
  • The Knights of Labor was formed. 
  • James Fisk and Jay Gould tried to corner the gold market leading to Black Friday. 
  • Wyoming became the first state to grant women's suffrage


  • The Fifteenth Amendment was ratified giving Black males the right to vote. 
  • The last four Southern states that fought for the confederacy were readmitted to Congress. These were Virginia, Mississippi, Texas, and Georgia. 
  • The first Black Senator, Hiram R. Revels, assumed the seat of Jefferson Davis
  • The Enforcement Act was passed. This was allowed for federal intervention against the Ku Klux Klan. 
  • A California case, White v. Flood, set the precedent for schools to be segregated by race. 


  • The Indian Appropriations Act was passed. This made all Indigenous people wards of the state.
  • "Boss" Tweed political machine was exposed by the New York Times.
  • The greenback becomes legal tender. 
  • U.S. reached the Alabama settlement with England over the aid it gave to the Confederacy in building warships. England paid $15.5 million in damages. 
  • The Great Chicago Fire occurred.


  • Ulysses S. Grant was reelected as president.
  • Democrats gradually reclaim control of Southern state governments in a process known as Redemption. 
  • Yellowstone National Park was established.


  • The Panic of 1873 occurred, caused by rampant railroad speculation.
  • "The Gilded Age" was written by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner.


  • The Woman's Christian Temperance Union was founded.


  • The Whiskey Ring scandal occurred during President Grant's administration. A number of his associates were indicted. 
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was passed by Congress. It established penalties for those who denied citizens equal employment and the use of inns, theaters, and other places. 



  • The Compromise of 1877 occurred giving Hayes the presidency. 
  • Federal troops were removed from the Southern states. 
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Your Citation
Kelly, Martin. "Timeline of the Reconstruction Era." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/timeline-of-the-reconstruction-era-104856. Kelly, Martin. (2021, February 16). Timeline of the Reconstruction Era. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/timeline-of-the-reconstruction-era-104856 Kelly, Martin. "Timeline of the Reconstruction Era." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/timeline-of-the-reconstruction-era-104856 (accessed March 27, 2023).