Winchester, Virginia and sentiments… Secesh vs. Unionism…

Posted on March 11, 2012 by

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First, yes, I know… it’s been a while. Relocating is going to string me out a bit between now and June, but I need to remember to feed the blog in the in-between.

In fact, the warmer it gets, the more motivated I am to get things done on the inside of the house, so I can get on the outside… and I don’t mean the yard. Nooooo… rather, I feel the pull of Jefferson County and Harpers Ferry lately, although, I need to comment on some Sesqui-related stuff happening in my own (new) backyard… in Winchester. Indeed… 150 years ago today, for example, old Jack evacuated Winchester. I think I just might have a few things down in the bag that would be worth writing about, in relation to the events that took place 150 years ago, this month… around Winchester.

Yes, as Jackson left Winchester,  Cornelia McDonald recalled that on the night of March 11 “there were hurried preparations and hasty farewells, and sorrowful faces turning away from those they loved best, and were leaving, perhaps forever.” Then, of course, as reported in a Franklin County, Pennsylvania newspaper on March 19, the Union arrival in Winchester, Virginia was greeted with “a warm welcome by the townspeople… Two-thirds of the people in the area are supposed to be Unionist, but have been compelled to bow to secession pressure. as one Hagerstown newspaper noted, when Union troops arrived.”

This is something that has certainly caught my attention… the varied reports of Unionism in Winchester.  By contrast, though I can’t recollect the source, I do recall, at some point in the war, a Union soldier noting that the ladies of Winchester were so full of secesh spirit that it would probably challenge the secesh spirit of Charleston, South Carolina. For that matter, contemporary interpretation suggests that… well, take Rebecca McPherson Wright, for example… according to recently written interpretation, “Her family was one of the few in Winchester who supported the Union”. Really? [Some will recall that I wrote about her story as well, in Southern Unionists Chronicles).

While I have no doubt that there were many with strong secessionist sentiment in Winchester, I feel a need to challenge just how “few” were in Winchester, who supported the Union. I think back, also, to a flag I saw at the West Virginia battle flags exhibit in Wheeling, a couple of years ago… made by the Loyal Ladies of Winchester.

There will be more to follow on this… including one piece about a particular house on the Kernstown battlefield in which lived yet another Unionists woman…

"Market-Place at Winchester, Rendezvous of the Rebel Militia of the Valley of the Shenandoah." From Harper's Weekly. New York, September 7, 1861

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