Civil War History Month in Virginia… coming for 2011

Posted on September 24, 2010 by

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Virginia’s Gov. Bob McDonnell just did the right thing… not the PC thing, but the right thing. Now, here’s hoping that his next proclamation recognizes ALL of Virginia’s population in the war; the division within, the diversity and the varied sentiments, from Confederates to slaves to free blacks, from Southern Unionists to leave-aloners. Here’s hoping…

*Update: I figured I should have looked over at The Sable Arm to see if Jimmy Price posted something about Gov. McDonnell’s statement. Here’s Jimmy’s post, made live from the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission’s Signature Conference at Norfolk State University… just a few minutes ago.

** Just thinking back to what I transcribed from D.H. Strother’s recollections just a short time back… and yes, he too was a Virginian…

Yesterday I was a citizen of the great American republic. My country spanned a continent. Her northern border neared the frigid zone while her southern limit touched the tropics. Her eastern and her western shores were washed by the two great oceans of the globe. Her commerce covering the most remote seas, her flag honored in every land. The strongest nation acknowledged her power, and the most enlightened honored her attainments in art, science, and literature.

Her political system, the cherished ideal toward whose realization the noblest aspirations and efforts of mankind have been directed for ages. The great experiment which the pure and wise of all nations are watching with trembling solicitude and imperishable hope. It was something to belong to such a nationality. Something to be able, in following one’s business or pleasure, to travel to and fro without question or hindrance, to take red-fish in the Mexican Gulf or trout in the great lakes, to chase deer in the Alleghanies or adventure among grizzly bears in the Rocky Mountains, and every where to remember, as you inflated your lungs with the free air, “This is my country!”

It was something, when questioned of one’s nationality in foreign lands, perhaps by the subject of a petty monarchy or obscure principality, the impoverished and degraded fraction of a once powerful empire, ruined by the madness of faction, local ignorance, and secession. It was something, in replying to such inquiry, to feel one’s heart swelling with imperial pride such as moved the ancient Roman in the days when he could quell the insolence of barbaric kings with the simple announcement, “Civis Romannus sum.”

This was yesterday. To-day, what am I? A citizen of Virginia. Virginia, a petty commonwealth with scarcely a million of white inhabitants. What could she ever hope to be but a worthless fragment of the broken vase? A fallen and splintered column of the once glorious temple.

… and also recalling this account that I found from a Virginia Fugitive,

Dare I be so presumptuous as to address you in regard to a few things with which I have been conversant? Know, then, I am one of those whom Secession denominates “traitors,” merely because I, being a Virginian, refused to think as Virginia’s tyrant master (Jeff. Davis) thinks, and act as he dictates. For this cause, I have been pursued by his minions and well-nigh was captured. Not satisfied with neutral sentiments – I being a Virginian, I could not take up arms against her – they sought to compel me to shoulder a musket and march to Winchester, to be drilled by militia officers as ignorant in the tactics as myself. having refused to go I was threatened with death, in consequence of which a band of four determined to escape to a free land. Accordingly, on Wednesday last we started for the mountains, the Valley being filled with Rebels, and by noon reached the summit of North Mountain, where we rested to drink some of the best water this earth can produce. – Resting here, with the beautiful valley spread out beneath us, and sheltered by the luxuriant canopy of the mountain oak, we dreamed as the ancient Greek:

“Our land was free once more.”

Yet, alas! the illusion, though bright and glorious, was transient as the dew, and we awoke to the knowledge that we were aliens from our own dear homes. Away in the distance we could see those homes seemingly reposing in peace, but between us roamed bands of drunken soldiers, whose acts of atrocity excelled the damning deeds of the midnight robber. Such men are invariably chosen to impress men there, as they are callous to all appeals of mercy, and gloat with fiendish exultation over the miseries of the Union army. They prowl around our dwellings in the midnight hour and bind and drag off our citizens as criminals. They enter our houses and demand food with an insulting authority, and if refused, plunder you of all they want. – They seek to take liberties with females and shoot down the father who dares to protect his household. They have taken nearly all the horses from our county (Berkeley) for the purpose of hauling stolen goods from our county-seat [Martinsburg], and threaten all who do not uphold them in their acts. In short, they have ruined our farmers, robbed our merchants, impressed our mechanics, insulted our females, and now, with an unparalleled impudence, they demand our strength to be wasted upon Secession altars. But to my story.

After having refreshed ourselves, we started through those mountain fastnesses on a direct line to the river, where we arrived after twelve hours of fatigue and constant walking. We came to the river at Cherry Run, but could not get over as those living there are tainted with secession. Two miles farther on we were refused again by a Secessionist constable, John S. Miller by name, who is there in the capacity of a spy and reporter for the Secessionists. Two miles beyond that we prevailed upon a Union man to take us over, and were soon landed upon the soil of Maryland. Oh! what thrilling sensations we felt when standing once more upon free soil! Proud and glorious Maryland, if ever happiness was envied it is now by the groaning thousands in Virginia who, like Moses upon the mount, dare look upon the promised land, yet dare not possess it. How strong the pulse beats when the lungs are fed on free air, and how sparkling does the eye become when gazing upon free things! We, the brothers of the sons and daughters of Maryland, suffer now in sight of kindred, and yet seemingly, beyond their reach. – All the luxuries of life are taken from us, and we are ever deprived of the comforts of a common life. salt is a rarity and very high, as one sack was sold for twenty-five dollars and another offered for forty dollars. Sugar can sometimes be had at thirty cents per lb., and coffee at sixty cents. Our farmers refuse to thresh their grain, for fear of its being taken, they swearing they will sooner burn it. Those in the habit of cultivating over one hundred acres in wheat annually, will not now cultivate thirty acres. They will not fatten their hogs, as they can get no salt to cure the meat. – And yet how long is this to continue? Berkeley county has proven her loyalty to the Government by a voice of eight hundred of her citizens, and yet she must suffer thus. Daily and hourly are prayers offered from her soil for the success of the Federal army, yet no Havelock is found to free another Lucknow.

Soldiers of Maryland, our citizens are willing to join you, so soon as you give them proofs of protection! In God’s name, come quickly and well. Not as the timid Patterson, who showed us the tempting fruits of freedom but would not give them; but as the victorious McClellan in Western Virginia – and we will wreathe your brows with laurel. And never, no never, as you value peace, happiness and prosperity, follow poor Virginia to the hell of Secession to find comforts and rights, lest you weep and groan beneath miseries worse than ours.

… and these stories I wrote about Virginians Noah Thornton, Chrisley Nicholson, Jack” Dogans, Henry “Hiram” Meadows, Elder John Kline, and so many others whose stories, documented and undocumented—as Virginians in the Civil War—have been obscured through the years.

Yes Virginia, your Civil War History is more than just Confederate… the story of your people at war is more than a “Confederate people” at war.

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