Virginia Unionist Goodhart continues: more on the referendum on secession

Posted on May 23, 2011 by


Picking up from yesterday’s post on the referendum, and, as promised in a post a few weeks back, more about the referendum on secession in Virginia from Briscoe Goodhart…

… 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 had sought refuge in Maryland; those that remained and insisted on voting ran great risk of personal injury. There was some disturbance at the polls at Lovettsville and Lincoln. A gentleman living near Leesburg and voting the Union ticket against secession was treated to a bath in a mud hole. Several were thrown in the Potomac River for the same offense, practically prohibiting the opposition from making a canvass. The result of the election was an endorsement of the action of the State convention in passing the ordinance of secession, the vote standing, for secession 125,950; against secession, 20,373. At this time the State contained over one million and a half population, and if an honest and fair election had been held should have polled at least 300,000 votes, but there were was cast less than half that number. In these piping times of peace much is heard of the monstrosity of troops at an election. Bayonets at the polls should be used sparingly, and only to secure an honest expression of the will of the people. In this case they were used to prevent an honest expression of the will of the people. In Waterford, Lovettsville, Hoysville, and Neersville a majority was given against secession. This election was Virginia’s first Appomattox, and for the honorable name she held in the sisterhood of States proved to be hundred-fold more disastrous than the last Appomattox, when her shattered armies lay bleeding at every pore.

When it comes to the votes gathered from Virginia’s militiamen in the field, it’s particularly interesting to note that the Unionists in the ranks, such those with whom David Hunter Strother had spoken on May 2, 1861 (and, again, keep in mind that Virginia’s militia in the field at the time was NOT an all volunteer force after secession, but only a force of men who had volunteered prior to secession, and had been “activated” into service following the convention’s vote in favor of secession), were not given the chance to represent themselves.

A sample of Confederate election returns taken from the Confederate archives is presented:

Richmond, Va., May 30, 1861.
Col. F.H. Smith, Richmond, Va,:

COLONEL: I submit below the information you ask for the council. It is, of course, not strictly correct, though I think it is not far out of the way. it is impossible to get returns from these volunteers:

Norfolk, no returns, 7,000 conjectured; Jamestown Island, no returns, fifteen companies, 1,050; Williamsburg and Yorktown, no returns, 3,500; Gloucester Point, no returns, 600; West Point, 250; Richmond, including Ashland and the Confederate States troops, 5,500; Fredericksburg, including counties on the lower Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers, number not known, 2,700; Manassas Gap, no returns, 6,000; Leesburg, no returns, 500; Harper’s Ferry, excluding Maryland troops, not known, and excluding Point of Rocks, 5,500; Grafton, no returns, 1,000 conjectured; Kanawha Valley, no returns, 1,100; Abingdon no returns, 500 conjectured; Lynchburg, no returns, 1,000 conjectured; besides a few companies supposed to be at Staunton, Charlottesville, &c. Total, 36,200.

I am, sir, very respectfully, &c,
Adjutant General

General Garnett was killed at Gettysburg, and, of course, his secret of counting election returns is lost to posterity.

Whether any of the troops voted against the ordinance of secession we do not positively know; but we do know if they did it was not counted, as 36,200, the number of State troops in the field at that time, are returned as voting solidly for the ordinance of secession. it is known, however, that in some of the troops that were recruited in the Shenandoah Valley [again, remember Strother from May 2], there was a majority of some commands that vigorously opposed the ordinance of secession before and after the election.