A pause in the data-flow regarding thoughts about Civil War sentiments in the Shenandoah Valley

Posted on April 4, 2008 by

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Since I’m unable to find the next set of stats that I had planned to post today, I figured that this was a good opportunity to pause a bit and reflect on what I’ve put online and what is yet to come.

About two years ago, when I was compiling data for my thesis, I looked at the referendum numbers and, naturally, the number of Southern Claims Commission applications immediately “sent up red flags.” It seemed like the next most logical step to take was to look at the voting records – both the 1859 gubernatorial vote and the 1860 presidential vote. While the numbers represented in these two votes helped to make things a little more clear, the results weren’t as satisfying as I would have liked them to be. The most obvious thing to come out of the research was that raw numbers by themselves mean very little and are deceiving if taken into consideration solely by themselves, which regretfully, a number of people, when reflecting on the Confederacy as a whole, take too much to heart.

Then too, there is the unknown factor that still plagues this research. For example, how many people were quiet Unionists and left not a trace of evidence to let us know?

Guerrillas, Unionists, and Violence on the Confederate Home FrontI think Daniel E. Sutherland took all of this into consideration when he put together his contribution to his larger collection of works titled, Guerrillas, Unionist, and Violence on the Confederate Home Front. A part of his chapter on Culpeper County can be found in the partial limited preview that is available through Google Books. Of course, Culpeper is east of the Valley and is not Page County (the focus of my thesis), and, in turn, Page County is not the rest of the Shenandoah Valley. This is to show that each county needs to be examined on a case by case basis. Throw in the numbers of Confederate deserters (which Sutherland did in his analysis as well) from units from the respective counties (and other related data) and the thing becomes even more of a tangled mess to understand.

However, all in all, I think that’s a good thing – to add confusion to the mix (uh oh, sounds like I’ve incorporated too much from my hypertext theory course lately, especially when it comes to “chaos theory“) – as we need to get the point across that the idea of sentiments during the war (especially when ideas are touted that there was a “Solid South” behind the idea of Confederacy) is an extremely sticky point to wrap one’s head around. What’s even more interesting, if you look at the numbers in the Valley, you have to wonder, considering Stonewall Jackson’s famous saying, “If the Valley is lost, Virginia is lost,” if he understood that losing the Valley to incoming Union armies was not the only thing that he had to worry about in “holding the line” there.

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