Carpet Baggers

Carpet Baggers

Carpetbaggers and Scalawags

After the Confederate States lost the Civil War, the southern states were flooded with northerners. These northerners were businessmen and politicians. These individuals were called Carpetbaggers by people who lived in the southern states. The Carpetbaggers entered the south during the Reconstruction Period after the Civil War. The Carpetbaggers traveled to the southern states with a cheap cloth type carpetbag or suitcase containing their personal belongings.

Another group of people that appeared in the south after the Civil War were called Scalawags. These individuals were politicians that sided with the Republican party of Abraham Lincoln. The Scalawags were sympathetic to the Federal Reconstruct effort and plans.

Carpetbaggers and Scalawags Facts

  • Carpetbaggers were businessmen and politicians that went to the South during Reconstruction. More times than not, they plundered and looted money.
  • Scalawags were white southern people that supported Reconstruction and aligned themselves with the Republican Party.
  • Carpetbaggers owned businesses that sought funding from the federal government for Reconstruction projects.
  • Carpetbaggers supported abolitionist views towards freed slaves, which included public schools, equality, and economic development.
  • Scalawags and Carpetbaggers held over 60 seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate. They helped Congress and the Republican Party to pass many portions of Reconstruction laws.
  • Many of these individuals were elected to offices like governor and mayor of southern states and towns.
  • Many of Carpetbaggers were found guilty of corruption and buying votes.
  • Scalawags and Carpetbaggers were prime targets for the Klu Klux Klan, an organization that was pro-slavery and anti-minority.


Carpetbaggers went to the southern states during the Reconstruction Period to gain wealth and expand equality to African American slaves. Most Carpetbaggers were former abolitionists that wanted to improve democracy and the modernization of the southern states. They also felt strongly about civil rights, establishing public schools, and economic development of the southern states during the Reconstruction Period.

White southern people felt the Carpetbaggers wanted to loot and plunder the southern states for profit. The Carpetbaggers took advantage of recent laws during the Reconstruction Period in opening businesses directly linked to funding from the federal government’s new programs. In addition, many of the Carpetbaggers were elected into political offices in the south after the Civil War.


Scalawags were white southern people who favored Reconstruction Period policies. Many of the Scalawags believed the best route was to side with the Republicans and their Reconstruction efforts after the Civil War. The Scalawags also ran for political offices in the south after the Civil War. Many Scalawags experienced white backlash from the Klu Klux Klan and other anti-black groups.

Political Impact of Carpetbaggers and Scalawags

The political impact made by Carpetbaggers and Scalawags was astonishing. During the Reconstruction Period, these two groups of people were elected to Congress as Republicans. Over 60 white men, freed blacks, and slaves won a seat in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Many Carpetbaggers and Scalawags were also governors and mayors of southern states and towns. Their presence in Congress enabled the passing of Reconstruction laws and funding projects easier.

Famous Carpetbaggers and Scalawags

There were several Carpetbaggers and Scalawags that became famous. Union General Adelbert Ames from Maine became the governor of Mississippi. He was also one of the founders of the Republican Party in Mississippi. Another was Daniel Henry Chamberlain, a New Englander, who was an officer in the United States Colored Troops. He became the Attorney General in South Carolina and the governor of South Carolina. Other prominent Carpetbaggers who won political office include Henry C. Warmoth, governor of Louisiana; George E. Spencer was a Senator for Alabama, and Tunis Campbell, a black businessman from New York, became a state senator and the head of an African-American militia which opposed the Klu Klux Klan.

Unfortunately, many of the more famous Carpetbaggers and Scalawags were caught in scandals, accused of embezzlement, or caught buying votes from white southerners and freed slaves.


  1. Carpetbaggers were businessmen from what portion of the Union?
    Northern states
  1. What name was given to white southerners that supported Reconstruction?
  1. Most Carpetbaggers aligned themselves with which group of people?
  1. What type of political offices did Carpetbaggers and Scalawags hold during the Reconstruction Period?
    Members of Congress, governors, and mayors of southern states and towns
  1. Besides equality for freed slaves and economic development, what other program did Carpetbaggers support?
    Public schools