Throughout the War, most soldiers never stopped dreaming
of the day when they would finally lay down their arms and return
to their families. For veterans in the North like A.P., homecoming
lived up to their grandest expectations. The soldiers returned to
brass bands and crowded receptions. In May, the nation's capital
held a magnificent two-day victory parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
With the crowds cheering them on, the veterans, lean and tan, marched
in rows of sixty, proudly wearing ragged blue uniforms and carrying
flags shredded by gunfire. Families of freed slaves trooped close
Meanwhile Confederate soldiers had the sad task of returning to
a war-torn region. Because Union forces had destroyed vital railroad
lines in their march across the South, thousands of men were forced
to straggle home by foot. And since the Confederacy had run out
funds to pay all the wages it owed, many soldiers were penniless
and left to depend on the kindness of strangers for room and board
as they traveled.
Some soldiers felt their bitterness toward the North deepening on
their journey home. Along the way, they passed the blackened ruins
of once-grand cities like Richmond and Charleston, where homeless
citizens wandered through streets filled with rubble. In the countryside,
cotton fields were choked with weeds and plantation homes stood
sagging and empty.
In areas close to the battle zones, many veterans returned to find
their homesteads devastated, with failing crops and missing livestock.
Even worse, some discovered that their wives and children had fled
from the threat of the invading army, leaving no message about where
they had gone.