Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



In the aftermath of the Civil War, southern cities such as New Orleans had to reconstitute local civilian government under extremely difficult circumstances. Different aspects of their physical infrastructure had been worn down and required revitalization. Sudden changes in the size and demographics of the population made social cohesion and provision of services more difficult and complicated. A depressed economy limited the financial resources available to government and business to confront the needs of growth. These recovery problems were common to all areas of the South, but in New Orleans they were greatly exacerbated by the city’s unusually high population density and its special role in commerce. The new city government not only had to provide services and preserve safety, but civic leaders had to make themselves seem like legitimate and competent replacements. Outgoing Union authorities had to seem superfluous in their continued presence. This thesis seeks to know how fervently city leadership sought to meet these problems, and to what degree they succeeded. The main areas of focus are on transportation, public health, and public safety. To investigate these matters I studied a range of primary and secondary sources. Letter books, contracts, and permits recorded by the City of New Orleans furnish a view of the city’s official policies. New Orleans’s diverse newspapers illustrate public perception of crisis management as it unfolded. Census bureau data grounds idiosyncratic observations of city life in statistical foundations. A wealth of photographic documentation of this period offers the look and feel of a great city in transition from a slave economy to the uncertainties of the new free labor society. While the first civilian governments after the war did much to solve basic problems of industry, they failed to properly account for the substantial needs of their polity. Through shortsightedness and the uninspired maintenance of outmoded policies, city government failed the trust placed in it in 1865.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

John C. Rodrigue



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