Excluding the Rebel
The months of May and June were the chaotic period of the returning Rebel States. All men were overwhelmed and prostrated under the sudden stroke of a calamity which the fewest number had anticipated. Many had believed the war hopeless, but nearly all had thought their armies strong enough, and their statesmen skillful enough, to extort from the North terms that would soften away, if not conceal, the rugged features of utter defeat. They expected the necessity of a return to the Union, but they hoped to march back with flying colors, with concessions granted and inducements offered that would give them the semblance of a victory. Studious encouragement had been given from the Rebel capital to such hopes; and outside of Virginia there were scarcely a dozen men in a State who comprehended the straits to which the Confederacy was reduced in the winter of 1864-65, or were prepared for the instantaneous collapse of the spring.
The first feelings were those of baffled rage. Men who had fought four years for an idea, smarted with actual anguish under the stroke which showed their utter failure. Then followed a sense of bewilderment and helplessness. Where they were, what rights they had left, what position they occupied before the law, what claim they had to their property, what hope they had for an improvement of their condition in the future -- all these were subjects of complete uncertainty.
Here was the opportunity for a statesman to grasp. I speak advisedly, and after a careful review of our whole experiences through the months of May and June, in all the leading centers of Southern influence, when I say that the National Government could at that time have prescribed no conditions for the return of the Rebel States which they would not have promptly
WHITELAW REID, After the War: A Southern Tour, May , 1865-May 1, 1866 ( New York, 1867), Chs. xxx,xxxi,xliii, xliv.
Reid, Ohio journalist, traveled south in search of economic opportunities. His report of Southern conditions and the temper of Southerners contributed to the development of the Radical program of reconstruction, and conditioned his readers to accept the leadership of Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner.