I had a question about the fate of the Southern planter class following the American civil war. The question was sparked by W.E.B. Du Bois's Black Reconstruction in America.
Du Bois argues that they disappeared as a class. I highlighted the major point below:
With the Civil War, the planters died as a class. We still talk as though the dominant social class in the South persisted after the war. But it did not. It disappeared. Just how quickly and in what manner the transformation was made, we do not know. No scientific study of the submergence of the remainder of the planter class into the ranks of the poor whites, and the corresponding rise of a portion of the poor whites into the dominant portion of landholders and capitalists, has been made. Of the names of prominent Southern families in Congress in i860, only two appear in 1870, five in 1880. Of 90 prominent names in 1870, only four survived in 1880. Men talk today as though the upper class in the white South is descended from the slaveholders; yet we know by plain mathematics that the ancestors of most of the present Southerners never owned a slave nor had any real economic part in slavery. The disaster of war decimated the planters; the bitter disappointment and frustration led to a tremendous mortality after the war, and from 1870 on the planter class merged their blood so completely with the rising poor whites that they disappeared as a separate aristocracy. It is this that explains so many characteristics of the post-war South: its lynching and mob law, its murders and cruelty, its insensibility to the finer things of civilization.
Is it really accurate that the planters were decimated as a class? It's common to read that Johnson restored the planters to their plantation by offering a pardon to wealthy planters who were willing to at least say they were loyal to the Union. One would expect, then, that major parts of the planter class would survive into Reconstruction. What is the evidence for and against Du Bois's claim that the planter class was decimated?