Enter… the Confederate army of occupation

Posted on April 28, 2011 by


It’s difficult for some Southerners to see it that way, but, in fact, that is the way that some Southerners felt in 1861. As Craig points out in his post, from April 26, some folks and communities are starting to take note of the fact that not everyone in Virginia embraced the Confederacy. That’s recognition that is long past due, but many folks, such as myself, are happy to see it isn’t getting lost in the shuffle of the Sesquicentennial.

While we take note of such events and people, it’s important that we take the time to learn about their perspectives in the affairs of the day. Of course, I’ve been following Virginian David Hunter Strother, but there are other Virginians (more than some may realize) who have also left the written word, from which we can gather a better understanding of life as Southern Unionists.

Take, for example, Briscoe Goodhart. Of course, I’ve featured one passage from him, in a post in December, here (his opinion on “States’ Rights”).

Goodhart, in the 1920s.

Goodhart was born a Virginian, in Taylorstown, Loudoun County, on May 5, 1845 [he’s one day short of having 120 years on me:)]. His father farmed sixty acres on the Catoctin Mountain, while his mother, a devout Methodist, was “the moving spirit” in establishing the nearby Mt. Pleasant Church, and given the honor to name it.

One of the most delightful parts of the the 1985 reprint of Goodhart’s book, is reading the stories that his granddaughter, Rosalie Goodhart Deitz, wrote about him. Her’s could just as easily been the reflections of a granddaughter of a Confederate soldier, who was also born and raised nearby.

My fondest memories of Grandpa Goodhart were staying with him in his daughter’s mountain top house above Taylorstown in northern Loudoun County, Virginia. His daughter, Anna, had built the house about 1909 on part of the old Goodhart farm. To the east and west there were wide stone porches where you could swing in the hammocks and see four states. On clear days, we could pick out the Washington Monument. We gathered blackberries and picked Grandpa’s famous white peaches. There was no running water, but lots of rain barrels where my brother and I were bathed on Saturdays – sooner if we really needed it! Grandpa was much too dignified to be subjected to that! Water was carried to an upstairs “bathroom” for him.

It was a treat to go “up the mountain” in the summer’ Every day we walked through the front field down to the mail box. The biggest treat, however, was to walk down to the mountain, past Mt. Pleasant Church, to Hickman and Slater’s Store in the heart of Taylorstown. There were benches and chairs around a pot-bellied stove where many of Grandpa’s cronies from the Loudoun Rangers passed the time…

I can only imagine the stories that must have been told among the veterans who sat near that stove, and what the children nearby learned, perhaps, only when passing through, while the old fellows spoke. Of course, there certainly must have been talk about the days after Virginia’s secession, and the meaningless promise of the referendum that was to follow, in late May, 1861.

We may not have the environment of that country store, but Goodhart still left us his story, in his book, History of the Independent Loudoun Virginia Rangers. If only we can imagine the story being told, in that store, around that pot-bellied stove, as Goodhart reflected…

Richmond was in the hands of the mob and ready to do their bidding. Meanwhile the system of intimidation and bribery had its effect; ten of the union delegates, apprehensive of the dangers that were threatening them, left the city for their homes. April 17 the convention in secret session passed the ordinance of secession by a vote of 88 to 55 on condition that it should be submitted to the people for their approval or rejection, at an election to be held the 23d of May, 1861, for that purpose. Alexander H. Stephens and other Southern leaders were prolific with opinions that the action of the convention was final; that the State had already seceded, and that it did not require the action of the people further. The convention, however, insisted that the people must approve or disapprove the action already taken, and the election should be held for that purpose. The Southern leaders fully determined to stultify the voice of the people by ordering 50,000 rebel troops into Virginia to assist the dear people in making up their minds how to vote; and as by these troops the United States Government property at Harper’s Ferry had been seized and the immense navy yard at Norfolk had been destroyed, this canvass and election as conducted was a mockery of justice. Many Union people had been driven from the State, or prohibited from voting; a number of citizens of Loudoun County sought refuge in Maryland; those that remained and insisted on voting ran great risk of personal injury.

Though just beyond the typical scope of this blog, across the Blue Ridge, and out of the Shenandoah Valley, I’ll be discussing more of Goodhart’s reflections in weeks to come.