Southern whites had to blame someone for their misery, and the former Rebels blamed the Northerners. They said that everything that went wrong after the war was the Northerners' fault. And as for the Civil War itself, all they had tried to do, they said, was form their own nation. How could they forgive the North for stopping them? Many Northerners were angry too. After all, the South had started the war. And it had been more terrible than anyone could have imagined. Should the South be punished? Some said that since the Rebel leaders were traitors, they should be hanged . But President Lincoln had felt differently. He had said, "Enough lives have been sacrificed. We must extinguish our resentments if we expect harmony and union."
The fierce northern General William T. Sherman had once visited Abraham Lincoln in the White House. He remembered it this way: "I inquired of the President if he was all ready for the end of the war. He said he was all ready; all he wanted of us was to defeat the opposing armies, and to get the men composing the Confederate armies back to their homes, at work on their farms, and in their shops. I was more than ever impressed by his kindly nature and his deep and earnest sympathy with the afflictions of the whole people. His earnest desire seemed to [be to] end the war speedily, and to restore the men of both sections to their homes ."
What of the four million black Southerners who were now freed men and freed women ? What were they to do now? Where were they to go ? Should they be paid for all their years of work ? Should the government give them land of their own and mules, as General Sherman himself once promised ? Millie Freeman was a former slave. She wrote: "It seemed like it took a long time for freedom to come. Everything just kept on like it was. We heard that lots of slaves was getting land and some mules to set up for theirselves. I never knowed any what got land or mules nor nothing ."