…for all the talk in Civil War “memory” about how wicked and oppressive the men in blue were, there seems to be convenient forgetfulness when it comes to how wicked and oppressive the men in gray could be. What is it that is said? For one finger pointing outward, indicating blame, there are usually three fingers pointing back?
Ultimately, opportunity existed for those with such inclinations, no matter the side. Granted, what follows isn’t about just that, but also includes perspective of Confederate impressment… yes, even as early as 1861.
From the August 7, 1861 issue of the Hagerstown Herald of Freedom and Torch Light…
THE FLIGHT OF UNION MEN. – The Union men of the border counties in Virginia continue to seek refuge in Maryland from the frightful tyranny which the rebels are practicing in that State. – Within the last week upwards of fifth have crossed the river from Berkeley and Morgan counties, leaving behind them their families and homes, to avoid being pressed into service. One of the number brought with him the following notice which he took from a blacksmith shop in Morgan county: -
NOTICE. – All the militia belonging to the 89th Regiment V.M., are ordered to meet at Oakland, on Monday next, as early as they can, in order to march to head-quarters, Winchester, forthwith and I would make a friendly request of those men that failed to go before for them to turn out now, like true-hearted Virginians, and what they have done will be looked over, but if they do not regard this call they will work their own ruin. They can never be citizens of Virginia, and their property will be confiscated. The General will send troops of horse to Morgan as soon as we leave, and all those men that fail to do their duty will be hunted up, and what the consequences will be I am unable to say.
July 24, 1861 Col. 89th Regiment V.M.
Just one isolated incident? Not quite.
Consider also the account left to us by Briscoe Goodhart of Loudoun County.
Less than half of the Waterford company obeyed the call to be mustered into rebel service. The company at Lovettsville sent ten men, and but four men went from the Hoysville company. Those that refused to array themselves under the rebel banner were Union men and courted the displeasure of the secessionists, and must be severly disciplined. A bitter war of ostracism and revenge was resorted to. Quite a number of Union men had been particularly demonstrative and had not hesitated to express themselves for the Union and its flag on every occasion. This class was threatened with punishment or arrest.
It will be remembered that a large portion of the citizens of Loudoun County were intensely loyal to the National Government. Many of them were willing to and some did suffer death rather than take up arms against the United States. They were generally comfortably situated, by industry and economy had accumulated a fair share of this world’s goods, and in maintaining their unswerving loyalty to the Union necessarily indicated a self sacrifice on their part of their property.
From Union citizens, who preferred to leave the State and all that was near and dear to them rather than go into the rebel army, their property, excepting their lands, was generally taken by that army.
They left their families in Loudoun, and if ever found visiting them they would be arrest and cast into a Southern prison, where their chances of lifer were very poor.
In December, 1861, William Smith, Armistead Magaha, Emanuel Ruse, and Isaac C. Slater had come from Maryland to visit their families, and on returning had got to the ferry opposite Berlin (now Brunswick), where they were arrested as spies, taken to Richmond and confined in Libby prison, where they almost starved to death. Slater, who was young and delicate, was reduced almost beyond recognition, and was years after his release regaining his health and strength.
In April, 1861, the galling yoke of secession was made still more oppressive to the Union citizens of Loudoun. The Loudoun Cavalry (Confederate) visited the farmers in the German and Quaker settlements, taking teams for the Confederate army. From many farmers a team of four horses and a wagon were taken, but where farmers were found with less than that number, one or two horses, or even one horse would be taken, and a wagon from others; thus making a complete four horse team from one or two small farmers. This property was taken with the promise that it would be returned, but this promise, like other promises of the Confederacy, was never fulfilled, neither did any of the citizens receive any compensation for the property thus taken, and taken at a time when the Confederacy had money to pay for supplies, if they had been actuated by honest motives.