A Shenandoah Valley man for Lincoln

Posted on July 12, 2012 by

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The phrase “Lincoln’s Loyalists” always bothers me.

Theoretically, yes, Southern Unionists were Lincoln’s loyalists, but that’s not to say they were all necessarily dedicated to Lincoln. I can imagine, for example, that the slave-holding Unionists remained worried over which way the institution might go under his administration.

Still, yes… some really were supporters of Lincoln.

In the Shenandoah Valley, despite Southern Unionists throughout the area, only one county – Shenandoah County – reflected any votes for Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election. Was that because all the other counties didn’t allow Lincoln on the ballots? We just don’t know, but… the total who voted in favor of Lincoln in Shenandoah County numbered thirteen.

One of those men was Silas Munch.

Image believed to be that of Silas Munch.

Munch, a farmer and native (2nd generation Valley-born*) of Shenandoah County, was a 47-year-old resident of Powell’s Fort* when he cast his vote. As might be expected, that decision to vote for Lincoln would haunt him in the coming years… especially when it came time for Virginia’s referendum on secession, in May, 1861.

I was one of thirty [actually, only thirteen] [who] voted for Mr. Lincoln for President in 1860 in this County. I was threatened for that, which made me vote for the Ordinance of Secession. After the Ordinance of Secession I was still a Union man.

From the beginning of the war to the end, I desired to see the U.S. Govt put down the rebellion and I always thought they would. I was willing to do all in my power to that end.

Indeed, in August 1872, when he submitted his Unionist claim, it was for supplies he had provided to Gen. Nathaniel Banks Union forces, in the Spring of 1862.

A portion of one of the receipts issued to Munch.

But, that one instance was likely the last straw from those with opposing sentiments.

Providing testimony on Munch’s behalf, Watkin James stated:

I think he left here because he considered it not safe to remain. I left for the same reasons. He was such a prominent Union man that there was no safety for him here.

Without a doubt, a swift departure was likely an excellent idea. As John W. Wayland points out in A History of Shenandoah County, Virginia (1927), one area Unionist was killed in June…

A tragedy of the Civil War occurred in the Fort when several of its prominent citizens were taken from their home and bushwhacked (murdered in the woods) because they sympathized with the Federal government. Absalom Clem was killed and left in the mountains in June, 1862, and Tasker was shot or murdered at Tasker’s Gap in May preceding.

Postwar image believed to be that of George W. Munch.

On June 25, 1862, Munch left his home for Ohio (where he may have actually had a few Munch cousins who had relocated there, in years prior), taking his son, George Washington Munch, with him. That George accompanied his father seems quite intentional, as, at the time, the young man was between the ages of 17 and 18, making him the prime age for conscription in the Confederate army.

In his refugee years in Ohio, Silas continued to make his living in farming. In 1863, however, he did make an effort to return to his home in Powell’s Fort. After a visit of no more than three weeks, he determined that it was still not safe to remain, and returned again to Ohio. Sometime within those years in Ohio, his son George took the next step in Unionism, and volunteered for service with Co. I, 95th Ohio Infantry (and also on record with Co. D, 65th Ohio Infantry). George Munch later (1889) applied for and received a pension for his service.

G.W. Munch’s pension index card. As the card indicates, he died on August 1, 1905, in Falls Creek, Pennsylvania. He was buried in the Rumbarger Cemetery, in Dubois, Clearfield County, Pa.

With the close of the war in 1865, Silas Munch returned to Shenandoah County.

I took the amnesty oath after the war at Woodstock, Va. in this county. I had nothing to be pardoned for.

Within the year, Silas and his wife would have another son, and, as a continuation of his loyalty to the man who had earned his vote in 1860… named the child Lincoln Munch.

As for the Claims Commission application filed in 1872, it appears the decision of the commission was easy.

The conduct of Munch both before and after his vote for secession clearly show that it was not in any sense a voluntary act… but that being conspiring as a Union man & Lincoln voter  – his life would have been in danger if he had acted otherwise. Loyalty proved.

Silas Munch died August 24, 1893, and was buried in the family cemetery at Seven Fountains, in Powell’s Fort.

Notes:

* Silas Munch was a grandson of Philipp Simon Munch/Muench, born in Freisbach, Germany, in 1728.

* Powell’s Fort was later well described by Eugene Hale Munch (1877-1974), a grand-nephew of Silas

Powell’s Fort is not an artificial stronghold of stone and steel, but a valley enclosed by mountains, near the center of the Shenandoah Valley. It is a gem within a gem. Commencing behind Signal Knob, near Strasburg and Waterlick, on the northeast, it extends almost to New Market Gap on the southwest. The valley is 22 or 23 miles long and about 5 miles at the widest point, near Cross Roads, measuring from the top of the Woodstock Mountain, near the viewing tower, to the top of the Page Mountain, through Milford Gap.

* Silas had two brothers (Enoch/Enock and Addison) in what he referred to as the “reserves of the rebel army”… and, as stated in his claims application, he “furnished nothing to any brothers, either in equipments, money, or clothing.”

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