Marching Home

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 behind.

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.

Dear Sister Emma | A Principle of Duty | Sickness and Suffering | Please Write Soon
I hope some day to return | Take good care of it...

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Last updated:
October 14, 2003

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