Category Archives: Civil War-Related Posts

- Dear Governor

Note: This stack of envelopes from the Gravely Family Papers (Acc. 34126) is used as an illustration for this post. Actual letters from Governor Letcher's papers are scanned below.

Editor’s Note: Guest contributor Brent Tarter offers the following post, pointing out some interesting finds made by the creators of the Library of Virginia’s Union or Secession exhibition.

During Virginia’s secession crisis in the winter and spring of 1860-1861, men and women across the state wrote to Governor John Letcher to comment on public affairs. They wrote to tell the governor what to do, to ask for help, to offer advice and assistance, or to get something off their chests. While researching in preparation for the Library of Virginia’s exhibition, Union or Secession: Virginians Decide , we spent time looking through the letters received by Governor Letcher. Like the records of every Virginia governor since 1776, the letters are preserved in Record Group 3 of the state’s archives in the Library of Virginia. The Governor’s Office records are an extremely rich source for the beliefs and words of ordinary Virginians.

During 1860 and 1861 the governor received letters from men and women in every part of the state who expressed every possible opinion and political allegiance. “I would like to Know from you what is to prevent me from Voting for Lincoln,” Giles County resident John M. Smith asked Governor Letcher in September 1860. “As he is the man I prefer. the reason of this letter is that there is a great deal of threatning … read more »

- First L.A., then Manhattan. LVA Staff in the News.

Two Library of Virginia staff members were mentioned in recent newspaper stories in both the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.

 Edwin Ray, Reference Services Librarian, was featured in a Wall Street Journal story about the recent rethinking of accepted Civil War casualty figures. Ray is the driving force behind the Virginia Military Dead database which draws from 937 different  sources to document the death of Virginia soldiers in service to Great Britain, the United States of America, and the Confederates States of America. The database is an ongoing project and should prove useful to historians and genealogists.

 A Los Angeles Times story gave a touching account of the CW 150 Project’s visit to Warrenton. Renee Savits, Senior Project Archivist, is part of a team that is travelling the state to digitize Civil War-related documents that have, until now, remained hidden from public view in family hands. We are so happy to know that these stories will be preserved for future generations.

 -Dale Dulaney, Local Records Archival Assistant.… read more »

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- CW 150 coverage from the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Check out this video of the CW 150 Legacy Project in action here at the Library of Virginia. It’s provided courtesy of the Richmond Times Dispatch. The accompanying newspaper story is here.… read more »

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- CW 150 in Print and on Television.

In case you missed it the CW 150 Legacy Project ‘s visit to the Campbell County courthouse in Rustburg was featured recently in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and on WSET-TV which covers Lynchburg, Danville, and Roanoke. See the newspaper story here and the video here. Both stories cover the project’s continuing mission to to locate Civil War-era materials held by private citizens, digitize them, and place them online.… read more »

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- The secession crisis: A Frenchman’s view of the “whirlwind”

Report, 8 December 1860, of consul Alfred Paul in Richmond to the French government, discussing growing tensions and the threat of civil war in the United States. Page 1. (Alfred Paul Reports, Accession 22992).

“The indecision and the absence of energy in the convention of Virginia which does not dare proclaim itself either for or against secession have ended by making the situation intolerable for everyone,” wrote Alfred Paul, the French consul in Richmond, in March 1861.  “This lack of spontaneity after the inauguration of the new administration destroys the sympathies of the two sections, North and South, toward Virginia.”  Paul closed his report of 9 March thusly:  “all that the convention has done up to the present can be summed up in three words or in a single word: nothing, nothing, nothing.”

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the secession crisis and the commencement of the Civil War.  Among The Library of Virginia’s many collections concerning secession and the war is the Alfred Paul Reports, 8 December 1860-9 March 1861 (Accession 22992).  Paul proved to be a keen observer of events in Virginia during the Winter of 1860-1861, providing the French government with valuable analysis of the state’s actions during the secession crisis.  [Note: The original reports are written in French; English translations are provided by the Library.]

Southerners, Paul stated, “want secession.”  South Carolina seized on the election of Abraham Lincoln to leave the Union, even though Lincoln had been “called to the presidency of the United States…in a general election, regular, legal, constitutional, in … read more »

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- Conserving the Documents of “Union or Secession”

   

Have you ever wondered how fragile or damaged documents are repaired or preserved?  Check out this behind-the-scenes look at preservation efforts undertaken to conserve one of the documents used in the new “Union or Secession: Virginians Decide” exhibition at The Library of Virginia (LVA). Visit the innovative online classroom to see more about the people, events, and documents that were a part of this crucial time in Virginia history. The exhibition is open now until October 29, 2011. For more video created by LVA staff, see our YouTube channel.… read more »

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- Have scanner, will travel

As you may have heard from this blog and other sources, the CW 150 Legacy Project: Document Digitization and Access  is an effort to locate Civil War-era materials held by private citizens, digitize them, and place them online.  It is a joint project between the Library of Virginia (LVA) and the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission.

Now that the project is underway, the motto “Have Scanner, Will Travel” aptly applies to my colleague Renee Savits and me. We are the CW 150 Legacy Project archivists, often seen in the LVA building rolling large plastic travel boxes containing our scanners, loading up our vehicle for the latest event. Renee is responsible for the project’s Eastern Region, and I am responsible for the Western Region.

In September, Renee and I hit the road, beginning what will be nearly two years of traveling across the commonwealth in search of these materials. We knew people would be interested in the project, but the level of interest we are encountering is beyond our expectations. At most of our events, all appointment slots are filled. We meet wonderful people who are excited to have the opportunity to share their items with us.  A story about the project in the Washington Post in November generated even more interest.

A typical scanning event is scheduled through a given locality’s Civil … read more »

- Reunion of The Class of 1865

The Robertson Hospital Reunion Register dated 30 June 1896.

Love and respect for one remarkable woman drew Civil War veterans from across the United States to Richmond during the summer of 1896. The occasion was a reunion of soldiers who spent time in the care of Captain Sally Tompkins and the staff at the Robertson Hospital.

The hospital reunion register, recently cataloged here at the Library of Virginia, records the names, signatures and, occasionally, military units of former soldiers who attended a patient reunion during the Grand Confederate Reunion of 1896. Some wives’ names are also listed. The attendees came from at least nine states, from as far away as New York and Texas, further testimony to the respect and love that soldiers on both sides felt for the care Tompkins bestowed on all. Their admiration was not one-sided; Tompkins paid for the party herself, renting a house and providing food and drink for the entire company.

Tompkins was the only female commissioned officer in the Confederate army. She was born 9 November 1833 in Poplar Grove, Mathews County, Virginia. She moved to Richmond following the death of her father before the Civil War and used her considerable inheritance to open a private hospital at the outbreak of the war in April 1861. It stood at the corner of 3rd and Main Streets at the home of Judge John Robertson, thus giving the … read more »

- Hope, Grief, Despair: The Emotional Impact of the Civil War

Illustration of a grieving Civil War-era woman, holding an open letter in her hand. Image credit: “News from the War” by Winslow Homer (detail). Wood engraving. LVA Special Collections; West Side; AP2 .H32.

Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.  The war’s effect on the people of Virginia was immense – especially to those families who lost loved ones in battle.  The pain, grief, and other emotions felt by these families are witnessed by reading the letters contained in the many Civil War collections housed at the Library of Virginia.

One such collection is the Hughes-Ware Family Papers (Accession 37961).  Mary Elizabeth “Bess” Hughes (1838-1912) married Cincinnatus  J. Ware (1839-1864) of Gloucester County, Virginia, and they settled in Richmond. “Natus” and his brother William S. Ware, Jr. (1842-1909), or “Dinkey” as he was known, would later serve together in the 5th Virginia Cavalry.

Natus was wounded in action at Newtown, in Frederick County, Virginia, on 12 November 1864, and died a short time later.  The collection contains various poignant letters written by his brother and their father, as well as a comrade, to Bess.  The first letter, written by another member of the 5th Virginia Cavalry, tells of his hopes for Natus’ recovery after being shot.  The second letter, written by William, informs Bess of the death of his brother.  The third letter is written by their father, William S. Ware, Sr., and reveals the difficulty he is having accepting his son’s death.

These letters tell the emotional side … read more »

- “General”John Salling : Virginia’s Last Confederate Veteran?

The front page of the program for the dedication of memorial marker for John Salling in Scott County, Virginia. The monument was erected by the Virginia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

John Salling of Slant, Virginia, in Scott County, was long recognized as Virginia’s last surviving Confederate veteran.  In recognition of his service, the state of Virginia issued him a pension from 1933 until his death in 1959, at which time Salling claimed to be 112 years old. Doubt was first cast on Salling’s credibility upon his application for a state pension. When Pension Clerk John H. Johnson was unable to find evidence of Salling’s war record at the Virginia State Library (now the Library of Virginia) which maintained the records of the Department of Confederate Military Records, he required Salling to provide a sworn statement of his service to the Pension Office. Salling submitted an affidavit before a notary public of Scott County certifying that he enlisted in Company D, 25th Virginia Regiment, under Capt. James R. Collins. Salling also stated that he was detailed throughout the war to work in the saltpeter mines in the Dekalb District of Scott County. Salling’s application was approved in April 1933 and he received a monthly pension of twenty-one dollars. In his February 1991 article “The Great Imposters” in Blue and Gray Magazine, Civil War historian William Marvel invalidates John Salling’s claim using census records which place his birth in 1858, not 1846 as Salling long maintained.  Additionally, Life Magazine ran an article in 1953 featuring Salling … read more »