When General Sherman captured Atlanta it reassured the reelection of Lincoln,the most hated man by the Confederacy. When John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln in Ford Theater, it assured that the South would suffer severely, and for a long and hard duration. Booth, killed the best friend the South had at that time.
Abraham Lincoln, gave us hints to his plans for the South in his second inauguration.
"On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came."
"One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it."
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
The death of Abraham Lincoln was tragic in ways beyond the obvious. Before his death, Lincoln had proposed a series of very lenient measures to restore peace and the status of the seceded states during the post war era. His "10 percent" plan would allow a state to be recognized with the full rights of any state if 10% of the voting population agreed to abide by federal regulations and to support the Constitution. With Lincoln's death, a less popular and weaker President Andrew Johnson was unable to control the Radical Republicans who would hold out for a far more punitive Reconstruction plan. The Reconstruction Acts of 1867 were passed on March 7th over Johnson's veto. The congressional plan, which held that the southern states had committed "suicide," set a harsh agenda for their return to the Union.
Under the first of the Reconstruction Acts, the South was divided into five military districts with a U.S. Army general in charge of each. The South was essentially under martial law. Generals John Schofield, Daniel Sickles, John Pope, Eward Ord, and Philip Sheridan held nearly dictatorial powers over their military districts. To preserve order and carry out the dictates of Congress there were nearly 200,000 U.S. Soldiers stationed throughout the South.
In the aftermath of war, many of the "best and brightest" on both sides, the young men who would have been expected to lead their country into the future, had been killed or disabled. Beyond the horrific number of deaths and crippling wounds, much of the South was left in smoldering ruins. The southern economy was nearly completely destroyed, the dollar value of the destruction was staggering. Even though cotton once again took it's significant position almost immediately, it was another twenty-five years before the number of livestock in the South returned to the pre-war levels. The regional rancor that had recently boiled over into war was replaced by the bitter hatred by the defeated for the victor. For millions of now free blacks, as well as their previous masters their worlds were turned upside down.
With the destruction of the assets of the South, it was going to be a tough road back no matter what. However, when Lincoln died, the one man who could have protected them and helped bring them whole more quickly was gone. When it was a Southern assassin who killed Lincoln, it gave easy ammunition for those who were then in power to take revenge on the South, and punish them men, women, and children.
It turned out that the South's greatest friend, was who they saw as their greatest enemy.