A New South Begins to Emerge: Reconciliation and Reunion
For years after the guns had cooled, many white southerners felt no interest nor desire to be reconciled to the victorious North. The decades of bitterness from the 1830s to the end of the War were nourished by the real as well as the perceived wrongs perpetrated upon the South by the Reconstruction governments. Perhaps these feelings are even captured a century-and-a-quarter later by the bumper stickers that can be found along the southern Interstate Highways: "Forgit, Hell No!" uttered by a rough-looking Confederate soldier caricature. A genuine southern hero, General Fitzhugh Lee wrote to a friend in Kentucky: "Don't care a damn to vote--am glad I have sinned beyond forgiveness . . . and in the language of the 'old rebel,' 'am glad I fit agin it, only wish I'd won; and aint gwine to ax no parding for anything I've done'."1
The mood in the North toward the "old rebel" was not magnanimous either. Writing from Cambridge, Massachusetts in July 1865, a Confederate veteran, George Daniel Farrar, wrote to his father, "There is no one here who has any feeling but the bitterest hostility towards any one who bears the name of Southerner."2
The defeat suffered by the South was total: military, economic, social, and perhaps, most important, spiritual. They had gone to war sure in the belief that right--even God Himself--was on their side. They limped away from the devastation bitter, uncertain, and unreconciled to their conqueror.
There were, however, some southerners who longed for national harmony and an end to the animosity and that number grew with each passing year. As C. Vann Woodward points out, "The South was American a long time before it was Southern in any self-conscious or distinctive way."3 The Virginian, Patrick Henry, reminded his colleagues in the debates over the ratification of the national constitution, "I am a lover of the American Union. . . . The dissolution of the Union is most abhorrent to my mind."4