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Scarlett’s child is born during a period of unusual tension in Atlanta. A black had been arrested and held in jail for raping a white woman, but members of the KKK broke into the jail and killed him to keep the woman from having to testify. Consequently, the Yankee soldiers have been making multiple arrests in an attempt to wipe out the Klan. Scarlett is thankful that none of her men are involved with the Klan. When she is finally able to return to work, she discovers that Frank has locked up her horse and buggy in a livery stable and has taken her store of money and put it in a bank account under his own name. Furious, Scarlett goes to Melanie and threatens to walk to the mills if she has to.
Melanie is in the habit of letting homeless soldiers and various beggars sleep in her basement. One day she takes in an old man with a wooden leg who gives his name only as "Archie." Melanie sends Archie to Scarlett to serve as a driver and bodyguard. Archie hates blacks, (who fear and avoid him) Yankees and women, but he needs money. Soon he is not only driving Scarlett but also the other women of Atlanta who have been virtually imprisoned in their own houses by the unsafe conditions around Atlanta.
While driving with Archie to her outer mill, Scarlett again brings up the notion of hiring convicts. Archie warns her that he will quit driving for her on the day she leases convicts. Then he tells her his own story. He was a convict himself for 40 years, serving a life sentence for killing his wife when he caught her sleeping with his brother. He was released with other Milledgeville convicts when Sherman came through and the Confederacy was desperate for soldiers. He lost a leg and an eye to the Confederate cause.
Antagonism among all factions in Atlanta is exacerbated when the legislature votes against allowing blacks to vote. Later, Scarlett follows through on her intentions to hire convicts in spite of all the objections. As he promised, Archie refuses to drive her buggy. In fact he won’t even drive the other women if Scarlett is present.
Scarlett does not understand the significance of a black vote. The legislature of Georgia at this time is still held by southerners. They refuse to pass some of the bills that the Yankee occupation wants, one of them being the right for blacks to vote. If blacks could vote, then they would vote Republicans (Yankees) into office, who could pass other measures to further disenfranchise the southerners. After this legislation was voted down, Washington set out to punish Georgia by taking away her statehood and declaring the state a military province and forcing martial law onto the people. Thus the blacks are at least temporarily given the vote in spite of the legislature. They listen to the Yankees who tell them they have the right to take anything they want. The result is a reign of terror for the people of the old South.
In Scarlett's defense, she doesn't see the difference between using black slaves and using convicts. She does not know that the convicts are often starved and abused; if they die, it's easy enough to get more, so the employers have no motivation beyond their own sense of human decency to treat them humanely.