|Appalachia's Civil War|
|The war brought violence and poverty to western Virginia. Foraging, impressment, conscription, bushwhacking, and constant campaigning led to untilled fields, hunger, and despair. At the beginning of the war, the population of southwest Virginia was divided. They loved Mother Virginia and opposed secession. Strongly Anti-Federalist, they opposed the Republican agenda. However, Richmond was viewed as representing the eastern plantation owners and ignored the mountaineers problems. None owned slaves, most had no money and used whiskey for trade, some earned a few dollars each year collecting "sang".
In the 1850s, Temperence movements of the "Knownothings" created caricatures of ignorant "hillbilly moon-shinners" propaganda, after Ohio and New England Knownothings had been tarred and feathered during temperance campaigns. Most hoped merely to escape the hostilities and survive, as war became a everyday reality on our front door steps. Moreover, the bitter guerrilla war and feuding convinced many outsiders that mountain people were savages. Yet, "no man could remain neutral".
|Yankees developed a fierce hatred for the Confederate Bushwhackers. Richmond regarded these men as "partisan rangers," whose mission was to harass the yankees, raid supplies, and capture horses.
Rev. W. Slease of the 14th Penn. Cav. described the guerrillas as "cowardly assassins, and cruel freebooters who hid in mountain passes and sent murderous shots into our ranks from positions where pursuit was impossible."
In 1861 General George Crook, fresh from western service against the Indians, authorized retaliatory measures harsher than those he used out west. Crook wrote approvingly, "when an officer returned from a scout he would report that they had caught so-and-so, but in bringing him in he slipped off a log while crossing a stream and broke his neck, or that he was killed by an accidental discharge of one of the men's guns, and many like reports. But they never brought back any prisoners. Webster was so bad that we had to burn out the entire county." Crook admitted that in fighting bushwackers, his men burned out Webster County, killed random civilians in Greenbrier County, and methodically "spread terror" throughout the region.
|Union soldiers' accounts of western Virginia, and more generally all of the southern mountain region, contain degrading depictions of mountain people, far exceeding anything written by the antebellum Knownothings. J. D. Fox of the 16th Illinois Cavalry dismissed mountaineers generally as "trash." F. H. Mason of the 42nd Ohio Infantry, serving with Garfield along the Virginia-Kentucky border, wrote of "primeval barbarism," as ignorant and crude as "the happy barbarians of the Pacific Isles." Crook called them "counterfeiters and cut-throats." Hayes, wrote, "What a good-for-nothing people the mass of these western Virginians are! Unenterprising, lazy, narrow, listless, and ignorant. Careless of consequences to the country if their own lives and property are safe. Slavery leaves one class, the wealthy, with leisure for cultivation. They are usually intelligent, well-bred, brave, and high-spirited. The rest are serfs."|
|There is chasm between what soldiers really experienced and what we now perceive to be the war. When the war ended veterans entered roughly fifteen years of "hibernation," during which they repressed their memories of war. In 1880s interest in the war revived, a few officers began to write memoirs and regimental histories, altered to fit the flagwaving, popular stereotype readers expected. The veterans surrendered the war they had fought to the war civilian society insisted they had fought."
In 1886, Major Benjamin Eakles, Greenbrier Cavalry, was asked by Bachelder to provide information about Jenkins Brigade at Rummels Barn, Gettysburg. Eakles writes back, "I have been struggling for 20 years for an existence and have tried to think as little about our struggles and the incidents connected with it as possible, and being in public business scarely even allow myself to talk about it.... I was so badly wounded there myself, that I never knew much what happened....."
|Subjects||Edited & Amended: Appalachia's Civil War Genesis||Family & Places|