The Fourth of July in the Shenandoah… in 1862

Posted on July 4, 2012 by


I looked through a few of the resources I have at my disposal, for accounts of Union soldiers who remained in the Shenandoah Valley, and were still present here, on July 4, 1862. Regretfully, I could only come up with two accounts that were either written on that day, or described, in brief, what happened that day.

Lt. Robert Gould Shaw, then near Front Royal with the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry, wrote a letter to his mother that day. As interesting as the letter is, it has nothing in it discussing any celebrations held that day.

On the other hand, John Mead Gould, of the 10th Maine Infantry, also near Front Royal, noted that, despite the pleasant and cool day, there was nothing more than a firing of guns and ringing of the Warren County Court House bell. As there was little recognition of the day around Front Royal, he imagined larger celebrations in the towns and cities of the North. It only served to turn Gould’s mood even more blue than it already was.

He had also given considerable thought to the war, on that day, especially with the recent string of defeats in both the Shenandoah Valley and Seven Days battles. Gould was feeling worn-down; weary of war, and growing skeptical of the rightness of the Union cause. He also resented the treatment of the Southern people he had encountered, despite what he considered, “kindness” of Union soldiers toward those same people. With all of this in mind, he began to reconsider the approach… a much harder war began to seem necessary…

While Jackson had not really cleared the Valley of Union forces, nor had he “conquered the Valley”, he had subdued effective resistance, both tactically, and mentally… for a while.

Yet, through soldiers like Gould, we can also see how defeat served to increase the resolve of many a Union soldier. I imagine that, at the time, Gould couldn’t possibly imagine that what he was thinking would unfold a mere two years later, in the next Valley Campaign.

Moving the clock forward, I regret to say that all is NOT pleasant and cool(!) in the Shenandoah, on this 150th anniversary of Gould’s comments. Still, here’s wishing all my readers well, on this 4th of July. I hope that all have enjoyed the day, so far, and look forward to an entertaining conclusion to fill the skies.

An image I found on the Web seemingly fitting image from the blog post of the Saturday Evening Post, July 3, 2010.