“Genl. Lee has surrendered! I pray God, that I may yet live to see his vengeance exercised against our enemies; & that I may live to see our brave, our noble army rise up from the ashes of our burning homes, and yet avenge the death of our heros slain.”
These words were written by a teenage resident of Fredericksburg on April 12, 1865. Sixteen years old when she began her diary, Lizzie Alsop recorded her experiences living in Civil War Virginia. On April 22 she continued her lament: “The shock is over, but the weight remains heavily pressing upon our hearts. The past two or three weeks seem like a dream, & yet I feel as if they had been years in length; events, so unexpected, have crowded one upon another -first we heard of the “Evacuation of Richmond,” then The ‘Surrender of Lee’s Army’; & next of ‘Lincoln’s & Seward’s assassinations’ — & that too upon the night of the 14th of April, four years from the time the first shot was fired upon ‘Fort Sumpter.’ Truly God putteth the wicked in power, & pulleth them down as he willeth. Mr. Lincoln expired upon Saturday the 15th, the very day appointed as a time of rejoicing for our misfortunes. Does it not seem as if Providence was visiting their sins upon their own heads; their joy has been turned into mourning; but ‘who can stay his hand or say unto Him, what doest thou?’“
Union soldiers were shocked by the hatred and bitterness expressed by Confederate women. Harsh words and actions from Southern women went against what Union soldiers understood as proper womanhood. In some cases, northerners found the women worse than the men they met while fighting in the southern states. The venom continued after hostilities ceased, especially with the rise of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the passing of sentiments to the next generation who came of age during Reconstruction (or their children).
It is interesting that those who actually fought accepted reconciliation earlier and easier than those who stayed on the homefront. Of course, there was a closed period immediately after the war as the healing process began, but eventually soldiers from north and south came together in ceremonies of reconciliation. Although part of the politics of reunion, many soldiers genuinely connected with the men who they once faced on the battlefield. They understood each other because they knew the same experiences. Some historians even argue that soldiers on opposite sides felt more connected to each other than the citizens at home, because of those shared experiences. Former Confederate and Union soldiers knew war; they could respect each other as fellow combatants. Those who had stayed at home could only see victory or defeat and the impact of the war on their lives.