Congress had no firm plan on how to handle the demobilization, or the reduction of troops and arms, after the American Civil War was over. Demobilization was slow and scattered, and very different in the North than it was in the South.
Ex-Union Soldiers: Union soldiers were greeted with parades. Union armies marched through the street of Washington D.C. to the sounds of cheers. In May, 1865, the Union army had over one million soldiers. Some troops were sent to the South, to keep order during reconstruction. Most were sent to discharge camps. It was boring, waiting to be discharged. Some men left their camp without pay in order to get home sooner. About three months after the end of the war, over 700,000 Union soldiers had been discharged and sent home. Many reentered life pretty much where they left it.
Ex-Confederate Soldiers: Demobilization of the Rebel army was quiet. It consisted of issuing pardons and telling the men to go home. Lee's army stacked their arms. They were supposed to sign a statement saying they would not take up arms against the government of the United States. In exchange, they would be given a pardon and their pay. Some simply left. Some waited to be paid. Some were disappointed to learn that money had run out and no more pay would be issued. Rebel prisoners were released from the Union prison camps. Many of these men were ill, but little help was offered to get them home safely.
When Southern men reached home, they were greeted with the sight of miles and miles of ashes, where once homes stood. Cities, towns, and villages were in ruins. Banks were closed. Families were scattered. The few farms that had not been burned stood empty. It was a shocking sight. They knew things were bad at home, but they had no idea how bad things had become. They had no money. They had no idea where their families had gone. They were disheartened, hungry, exhausted, and defeated. The South's revival would be long and difficult.