Early January, 1876, the centennial year of the Declaration of Independence. John sat on his porch reading the news: Peace with Spain! He thought back on a year of war and of an extraordinary journey completed. And he thought of desperate times in Alabama.
In January, the US 5th Division took Palawan in the Philippines in the continuing war with Spain. The US had military control of all regions of the Philippines, and only one small Spanish army operating near Manila remained in the field. It proved hard to pin down. Finally in March Joe Johnston caught the Spanish and inflicted a heavy defeat. The US also brought in two cavalry units to help. A battle in May and a final battle in August completed the destruction of the Spanish forces in the Philippines.
Spain began to offer more and more in return for peace, and in August France declared war on Spain.
The US was left with the option of continuing the war either through attrition in hopes of gradually getting more concessions from Spain, or by taking the war directly to Spain. But President Grant opposed this move proposed by some of his generals and warhawks in Congress. And when Spain finally offered Puerto Rico in exchange for peace in December, Grant accepted and Congress approved the treaty. The war was over though large US forces remained in Cuba and the Philippines.
In the midst of this Joe Johnston's force completed one of the great journeys of any armed force in the history of the world. Embarking from Manila in August, they sailed to California and then returned to the East by rail, arriving at Norfolk, Virginia in October to tremendous acclaim. They were hailed as the first army in history to travel around the world, having journeyed from the US to Cuba and then to the Philippines by sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, and then returning to the US by crossing the Pacific. Writer Mark Twain declared Joe Johnston a modern Xenophon and began writing what would become his most famous book. Casting aside his manuscript for a potential novel named The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain began work on The Anabasis of Billy Bob, or How a Country Boy from Missouri Got to See the World.
The nation was celebrating, but Alabama was hurting. With the Democrats in power after the 1874 elections, things were changing greatly. The Alabama Constitution of 1875 changed everything. All the reforms that had been enacted by the Republican-controlled and military-backed state government were erased at one stroke. The constitution was designed to erase Republican reforms completely. Redemption is what the white planters who now controlled the state government called it. Redemption from radical Reconstruction.
The power of the Freedmen, the former slaves, had already been overturned. Now the state began to eliminate the rights granted to the Freedmen. Schools were segregated. Efforts began to eliminate voting rights for blacks.
Additionally, with the huge state debt that had been run up by the Republicans in mind, severe restrictions were placed on spending and taxation, to the point where government services and improvements nearly ceased to exist.
It remained to be seen how these reforms would affect that state, but in the hill country people like John felt squeezed. They had never liked the big planters who now controlled the state. But then they had not liked the military-backed Republican administrations that had treated former Confederates as second-class citizens.
John had started doing more reading. What were the political options of people like him? The Republican Party was dead in Alabama. The Democratic Party was controlled by the big planters. And across the South the same thing was happening, as Republican control waned and Democratic control ascended.
Were there other choices? Across the South and the nation, groups disaffected from both parties, like the people of the hill country of northern Alabama, had begun to gather and talk. In Texas one group had formed an alliance, the Texas Alliance, starting with a group of ranchers in Lampassas County near Dallas. John's brother and son wrote to John about the alliance. The idea was the band together for the common good.
Meanwhile the Grange movement that had started in New York was spreading and gaining popularity among small farmers, though it was met with suspicion when Yankees tried to spread it into the South. And the Greenback Party and other similar parties were springing up in several states, with the goal of organizing farmers.
John continued to read and think about these movements and what they might mean for the hard-pressed small farmers in the hill country.
PP 37,531. GB 53,406. FR 23,926. Russia 18,836. S-P 11,112.
I ended the war because I did not want to invade Spain or to let it drag on for years. Now I am left with armies in the Philippines and Cuba. It appears for the moment at least that they are in supply. It appears that another war with Spain might be in the future.
As I said earlier, with the school year started, progress will be much slower, but it won't stop.