From Ohio History Central
Reconstruction is a name often given to the era immediately following the American Civil War. After the Northern states had defeated the Confederacy, the Union government developed policies to reconstruct the nation. Government officials debated how the Southern states that seceded from the United States would be readmitted to the nation. These debates and implementation of the actual policies would take from 1865, the Civil War's end, to 1877, the year that President Rutherford B. Hayes assumed office. In the end, the federal government permitted Southern states to rejoin the Union as equals with the Northern states.
Abraham Lincoln was the first president to present a plan for Reconstruction. He proposed a lenient policy that would allow Southerners to rejoin the Union quickly. In December 1863, he offered full pardons to Confederates, other than a few high-ranking leaders. To receive the pardons, Southerners would have to swear their allegiance to the United States and agree to the end of slavery. Once ten percent of the voting population of a seceded state took the oath of allegiance, Lincoln authorized these individuals to form a state government that was loyal to the United States government. States like Louisiana and Arkansas, where Union troops had firm control, quickly applied for readmission to the Union. By pursuing a relatively lenient policy towards the seceded states and former Confederates, Lincoln tried to persuade reluctant Confederates to return to the United States. He hoped to bring the Civil War to an early conclusion.