After reading "Gods and Generals" by Jeff Shaara (now a motion-picture), I remembered having read this essay which goes perfectly with that book-
The speaker has drawn for you of the North, with a master's hand, the picture of your returning armies. He has told you how, in the pomp and circumstance of war, they came back to you marching with proud and vicious tread, reading their glory in a nation's eyes! Will you bear with me while I tell you of another army that sought its home at the close of the late war-- an army that marched home in defeat and not in victory, in pathos and not in splendor, but in glory that equaled yours, and to hearts as loving as ever welcomed heroes home? Let me picture to you the footsore Confederate soldier, as, buttoning up in his faded gray jacket the parole which was to bear testimony to his children of his fidelity and faith, he turned himself southward from Appomattox in April, 1865. Think of him as ragged, half-starved, heavy-hearted, enfeebled by want and wounds; having fought to exhaustion, he surrenders his gun, wrings the hands of his comrades in silence, and, lifting his tear-stained and pallid face for the last time to the graves that dot the old Virginia hills, pulls his gray cap over his brow and begins the slow and painful journey. What does he find-- let me ask you who went to your homes eager to find in the welcome you had justly earned full payment for four years sacrifice-- what does he find when, having followed the battle-stained cross against overwhelming odds, dreading death not half so much as surrender, he reaches the home he left so prosperous and beautiful? He finds his home in ruins; his farm devastated; his slaves free; his stock killed; his barn empty; his trade destroyed; his money worthless; his social system, feudal in its magnificence, swept away; his people without law or legal status; his comrades slain; and the burdens of others heavy on his shoulders. Crushed by defeat, his very traditions are gone; without money, credit, employment, material, or training; and beside all this, confronted with the gravest problem that ever met human intelligence-- the establishing of a status for the vast body of his liberated slaves.
What does he do; this hero in gray with a heart of gold? Does he sit down in sullenness and despair? Not for a day. Surely God, who had stripped him of his prosperity, inspired him in his adversity. As ruin was never before so overwhelming, never was restoration swifter. The soldier stepped from the trenches into the furrow; horses that had charged Federal guns marched before the plow; and fields that ran red with human blood in April were green with the harvest in June. Never was nobler duty confided to human hands than the uplifting and upbuilding of the prostrate and bleeding South,-- misguided, perhaps, but beautiful in her suffering; and honest, brave, and generous always. In the record of her social, industrial, and political evolution we wait with confidence the verdict of the world.