“You must choose & choose at once.”

Posted on August 15, 2012 by


Back, just an hour or so ago, from a pleasant evening drive… prompted by the writing of this post. I realized that the Southern Unionist at the center of this post rests in a cemetery not terribly far from my home. So, I ventured out… and visited Daniel and Mary Brindle.

Headstone of Daniel Brindle, located in the Salem Church of the Brethren Cemetery, Stephens City, Virginia

Daniel was Pennsylvania-born, but having moved to the Valley and making his home here, in 1848, he came into a dilemma at the beginning of the war. Like many others, he, apparently a pre-war militiaman, was called into the service of Virginia… and was among those on the rolls of the 51st Virginia Militia. On August 6, 1861, he expressed his concerns, in a letter to Gov. John Letcher…

I have seated myself to address you a few lines. Although I am a stranger to you but you ain’t to me but I hope you will excuse me for to assume so much liberty as to write the reason for me to write to you is this that I am in a very hard place. I am called from home here to the place with the Militia. I have no person at home but my wife and a few small children to take care of my farm and stock but that is not the hardest. Several years ago I left Cumberland County, Pa and bought a home here and I always felt it [in my?] interest in had it [?] warm feeling for my old home were my *Father and Mother – Brothers Sisters and Great many other relatives that are living there and some of them still would pay me a visit and I would visit them. I have only one Brother in this state [George, who also moved to the Valley in 1848] and he is exempted from military duty and I also have a cousin [Daniel Baker, 1st cousin] here the next of connections are to stay in the north… my interest is here and I do not wish to do any thing against the South, [but] Fight my near friends which you no doubt will admit that it is a hard matter. I wish you would let me know if I could not be exempted from military duty by paying a fine. Please and let me know it and if it could be how much of a fine. I am in my 43 yr and am no stout man please and write to Newtown Stephensburg Post office Frederick County Va by so doing will oblige

Your Friend and Well wishes,

Daniel Brindle.

To Hon John Letcher

It was not Letcher, but his Aide-de-Camp, S. Bassett French, who replied…

Executive Department
Richmond August 9, 1861


We are not going to fight the north, the north is coming to fight us. We are simply defending our own soil against the — attacks of our enemies. You by serving Virginia are defending your own wife and children – and property. If your friends whom you are lost to meet in the conflict of arms, shall leave their homes volunteering to deprive you and your neighbors of these all – they give but small evidence of any consideration of you. This is no day of neutrality. You are for us or against us. If for us show it by your acts. Shoulder your musket and meet the enemy at the threshold. If against us you lose all you have here and will be duly taken care of by the proper authorities. Virginia cannot afford to give … to you. Exempt you from the duty of defending her … while you give such evidence of unwillingness to aid her. You must choose & choose at once. You will not be permitted to remain at large in Virginia unless you render the state the service she may demand at [?] hands

This letter will be forwarded to you though Brig. Genl. Carson Commdg at Winchester.

I am very respectfully,
Yr obt servt,
S. Bassett French
Aide de Camp to Gov of Va

Portion of letter from S. Basset French.

Despite the situation, it appears that Brindle may have inevitably evaded service based on his age… at least through 1864. By the fall of that year, however, with the ever-expanding age range under Confederate conscription acts, Brindle was at risk again. Though personal items were taken with the arrival of Gen. Philip Sheridan, in August, 1864, it may have seemed like the best opportunity to slip out of the Confederacy and into Pennsylvania… back to family in Cumberland County, at least until the war closed. The advantage, it would seem, would be to make the journey under the protection of the Union army. Still, this offered no greater assurances of safety. In fact, as can be seen in the following, items 5 and beyond were taken from the family as they left the Valley in a wagon train… by Federal troops.

The Brindle family returned after the war, but, due to an accident, Daniel died in August 1866. His wife, Mary M. Wise Brindle, applied for a Southern Loyalist Claim. The commission, however, felt that she provided insufficient evidence of loyalty, and the claim was denied. She died in June 1883, and was buried near her husband… a child buried between them.

While I don’t mention it above, what may have also rested at the root of Brindle’s dilemma was that he was a member of the Church of the Brethren. Cousin Daniel Baker, in his testimony of support, appeared to indicate objection based on religion, but did not come out and say so specifically. As we’ve seen with others, the very idea of secession and the Confederacy was something which was not in harmony with their faith.


* In fact, with the exception of brother George, Daniel’s parents and siblings still resided in Pennsylvania during the war. His youngest brother, Abner, was even called into the service of Pennsylvania, and served in the 49th Pennsylvania State Militia. A six-month regiment, the 49th remained watchful along the Pennsylvania border, from Dec. 1862 until May 1863, but saw no action.