• General History
  • 2 mins

By Crusader1307

A derisive term used by ex-Southern Confederates, a “Carpetbagger” was an independent Business Person who exploited the ruined economy of the Post Civil War South – for personal financial gain. They were – by and large, affiliated with The Northern Republican Political Party. Their name came from the cheap luggage (made of Carpet), that they carried with them.
Made up of Middle-Class Northerners, The Carpetbaggers (also known as “Scaliwags”), were educated and came from all walks of life. Most had managed to save small amounts of monies during The Civil War and saw a fractured Southern economy as a money making venture. Many were able to get elected into local Government (through bribery). In this position, many Carpetbaggers saw a chance to use long unpaid Land Tax debt as a way to get land and property from Southerners who could not afford to pay it.
A small portion of Southern “Land Aristocrats” had managed to survive The War, and use monies to rebuild their Plantations and businesses. Many had no choice but to do business with The Carpetbaggers. Eventually, they would be able to re-establish their political “power base” and take back their Government titles locally. This was more so due to the fact that The Carpetbaggers misused The Freedman’s Bureau (set up in 1865 to help educate and employ ex-Slaves in The South). Often, barely educated ex-Slaves were used as Tax Collectors against their former “Masters”. This caused even more discontent among Southern Whites. Also, The Carpetbaggers misused The Union Army of Occupation to enforce many of their contrary Laws.
With the re-sparking of The Plains Indian Wars of the 1870s, The US Army pulled much of it’s Occupying Armies away from The South (sending them out West). As a result, many Southern Cities enacted what would become known as The “Black Codes”. These regional Laws circumvented The 14th Amendment which gave full Citizenship and equal rights to ex-Slaves. The US Government, tired of The Civil War and it’s aftermath – did little to enforce Constitutional Law. The prevailing Codes would gain in power between the 1920s until the 1960s (ending only with The American Civil Rights Movement and harsh “tests” of Constitutional Law – via The US Supreme Court).
Another result of The Carpetbaggers was the creation of the infamous Extremist Group known as The “Klu Klux Klan”. Formed by ex-Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, The Klan used terror tactics to chase many Carpetbaggers away (and control most of the Black population of The South), They too would reach their height of “power” from the 1920s to the 1980s (although they still exist today). Full “Carpetbaggery” would cease by the late 1880s when all former Confederate States were readmitted back into The Union.