News in the Valley: The Army of Northern Virginia’s need for shoes

Posted on February 3, 2014 by


Ever since Craig posted about shoes last week, I’ve been thinking about posting something that might add another perspective on the need for shoes within the Army of Northern Virginia.  As Craig’s post points out, Lee was in need of leather, and if he could get the amount he needed, he could employ 500 from the ranks, in the business of making shoes. What I wish Lee would have elaborated on, in some way, was where he hoped to employ those shoemakers… in the field, with the army… at home… or in the major production centers. From what I’ve seen, it was not good practice to send men away from the army for such purposes. Let’s just say… a good many had a tendency not to come back.

That said, consider some pieces from the Staunton Spectator, between Jan. 19 and March 1, 1864… just to give you a better idea on just how bad the shoe (and socks, and coats, etc.) crisis was…

From January 19:


Then, from March 1, we have this letter from Gen. John A. Walker, of the Stonewall Brigade, focusing specifically on the problem within his brigade:

Camp Stonewall Brigade,
Feb. 20th, 1864.

"Stonewall Jim" Walker

“Stonewall Jim” Walker

ED. SPECTATOR: Allow me a short space in your columns, to acknowledge the receipt of 50 pairs of shoes, a gift from Mr. Wm. B. Gallaher, of Waynesboro, to the refugee soldiers of the “Stonewall” Brigade, and 50 pairs of socks from his mother.

Such generous conduct speaks for itself, and no words of mine can do it justice.

Is it not a shame, Mr. Editor, that there are at least two hundred soldiers in this brigade still barefooted, without either shoes or socks to protect them from the cold weather? Surely the good people of the Valley, whose peculiar pride it is to have furnished the “old Stonewall Brigade” to the country, do not know this, or they would strive with each other who should first come to their relief.

To the people of Augusta, particularly, whose homes have never been polluted by the presence of the invader, and whose means of liberality have not been dimished [sic] by the war, I would appeal for aid. Remember Cross Keys and Port Republic; and remember that more than one barefooted man in this brigade can show scars which they received as they stood on the very border of your county, perilling [sic] their lives to keep the enemy from your homes!

How many gentlemen and ladies of Augusta county will follow the example set them by Mr. and Mrs. Gallaher, and deliver to Col. Nadenbousch, Commanding the Post at Staunton, similiar [sic] donations to be forwarded to the brigade?

I am, Mr. Editor,
Very Respectfully,
Brigadier General.

The Spectator responded to the letter by appealing to the local population:

The good people of this county will be greatly astonished, as we were, to learn from the communication published in this issue, of Brig. Gen’l J.A. Walker, commanding the “Stonewall Brigade” that there are two hundred of the gallant soldiers of that famous Brigade who are without shoes and socks. With Gen. Walker, we think it a “shame”, that such should be the fact, but we are sure that the good people of this county would not have suffered such a state of things to exist if they had been apprised of the fact that shoes and socks were needed, had it been possible for them to supply the need. We do not know whether they could have supplied shoes, but socks, they could, and would have supplied with pleasure, if they had been apprised of the need for them. The Government should have supplied these necessary articles, but if it had been known in this county that the Government could not, or had, by mismanagement, failed to furnish them, we know that the citizens of this county would have done all in their power to have the gallant soldiers of the illustrious “Stonewall Brigade” properly shod. Think of it, the thermometer standing at zero, and two hundred soldiers of the “Stonewall Brigade” without shoes and socks!!! This is truly a “shame,” but the culpability does not attach to the patriotic and benevolent citizens of this county. If the Government will furnish the yarn, we promise that the fair ladies of “Augusta” will supply, in a remarkably short time, the whole Brigade with good socks knit by their own fair hands. They do not regard working for the soldiers as a labor, but a pleasure. For that burpose [sic] they work con amore, it being with them a labor of love, and we can assure them it will not be “Love’s labor lost.” As we had heard no complaint from the army this winter of the want of proper clothing we had supposed that the soldiers had been amply supplied by the Government, and consequently we made no appeals to our citizens to supply their wants in that respect. If we had been apprised of the fact that our soldiers were suffering for the want of shoes and socks we would have appealed to our citizens to supply them, and we are satisfied, from their promptness in the past, that the appeal would have been responded to with promptness and cheerfulness. Now that our citizens know the wants of the soldiers in the “Stonewall Brigade,” we are sure that they will exert themselves to have their wants supplied. The noble example of Mr. Wm. B. Gallaher and his mother is worthy of emulation, and we hope that it will not be long before the General Commanding the Stonewall Brigade will have the pleasure of acknowledging similar donations from other persons in this county. It is not expected that single individuals shall make such large donations, as but few have the means to do so, but even larger can be made by associated action. Large donations are composed of many small amounts, and if each will give but little the aggregate will amount to a large sum. Even small donations, will be recieved [sic] with gratitude, and, like the widow’s mite, will be abundantly blessed. It requires but a short argument to establish that the citizens should contribute liberally to the support of the wants of the soldiers. If our cause shall be successful, it will be due to the efforts and sacrifices of the soldiers, and as they will save our property and make our money good, we should be willing to pay a portion for their comfort. If in spite of their heroic efforts, our cause be destined to fail, then the money will be worth nothing, and the contributor will have lost nothing whilst he will have the consolation to know that he did a good act, and promoted the comfort of the suffering soldiers who freely spilt their blood in defence of his rights and property.

I’m curious, however, as to the status of tanneries in the Valley at this time. As I noted in a post back in December, a particularly active tannery (with no shortage of contracts from the Confederate government), in Page County, had been destroyed (and would be rebuilt to be destroyed yet again). Yet, there was also another tannery, right in Staunton, that was being considered in 1860, and specifically for the production of shoes and boots. Despite the $20,000 in capital stock invested by April, 1860 (and with John D. Imboden as one of its directors), it may have never materialized. The other tannery in Augusta County was actually in Waynesboro, and, as of November, 1860, had been sold by Hugh L. Gallaher, to his son, William B. Gallaher… hence the source of the 50 pairs of shoes provided by… Mrs. William B. Gallaher.