Tag Archives: Civil War

- The Ordinance of Secession Coverage From the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Check out this video of our own Tom Camden, Special Collections Director, discussing a rarely seen copy of the Ordinance of Secession at the Library of Virginia. It’s provided courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.… read more »

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- Virginia Signs Off

Strong's dime caricatures presents a Northern point of view about secession in 1861. See the link in the comments section to decode the abundant imagery in this political cartoon. Image Courtesy Library of Congress.

(Note: Guest contributor Mari Julienne joins us this week with some timely background information on a pivotal document in the state’s history.  Virginia’s signed Ordinance of Secession will be on display at the Library of Virginia on Saturday, 16 April 2011. See our schedule for other events related to the Library’s exhibition, Union or Secession: Virginians Decide.)

17 April 1861. While meeting in secret session, the Virginia Convention took a vote on whether to secede from the United States. Two weeks earlier, on 4 April, the convention delegates rejected a resolution to secede by a vote of 90 to 45. The convention, which was called to consider Virginia’s response to the secession crisis, had been meeting in Richmond since 13 February. The delegates had spent many weeks debating whether secession was legal, wise, or in the state’s best interest. Following the surrender of Fort Sumter on 13 April and President Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops on 15 April, the question facing the delegates became which side to take: to fight with or against the new Confederate States of America. Late in the afternoon on 17 April, the convention chose the Confederacy and voted 88 to 55 to submit an ordinance of secession to the voters in a referendum. On 23 May, Virginia voters approved the Ordinance of Secession, which repealed Virginia’s 1788 ratification of … read more »

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- 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 on … 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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- 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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- 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 and other … read more »

- A surveyor’s view of wartime Virginia

Sketch, entitled "Fredericksburg," from B. Lewis Blackford Sketchbook (Acc. 22177c) 

In May 1863, a team of Confederate topographical engineers surveying and mapping Louisa County were surprised by Union cavalry.  All but one of the team were captured.  B. Lewis Blackford managed to escape, despite losing everything except his horse.  “Among his losses,” his brother Charles Minor Blackford later stated, “was his note book, in which he kept copies of poems and other clever things he had written to various girls, all of which were published in full subsequently in the New York Herald, to whom they were furnished by their captor.  His note book was very handsomely illustrated also, as he was a good sketcher and drew exquisite caricatures.”

Seemingly undaunted by the loss of his notebook, Blackford in June 1863 began a new sketchbook, which eventually found its way into the Personal Papers Collection at the Library of Virginia (Accession 22177c).  The small (4”x 6 ½”) book contains 20 pencil and ink sketches.  Some are outlines and rough sketches of people and landscapes, while others are more polished. The finished sketches of members of Blackford’s company catch their personalities.  Blackford also captured the poignancy of war in his sketches titled “Fredericksburg” and “Chancellorsville.”  The first simply depicts a skull and bone and the second the ruins at the tiny crossroads.

Benjamin Lewis Blackford was born 5 August 1835 in Fredericksburg, to William Mathews Blackford (1801-1864) and Mary Berkeley Minor Blackford (1802-1896), … read more »

- Don’t Throw That One Out!

Harper’s Weekly, 21 July 1866. "Taking the Oath."

Sometimes an archivist must be a detective looking for things everyone else missed.

As part of an appraisal project in local records, I reviewed blank volumes sent to the Library of Virginia from county courthouses searching for entries that may have been overlooked in their initial description.  Several volumes that were described as blank actually contained information, most notably a large bond book from Frederick County.

The book was in pieces, tied together with string, with only one of its leather covers remaining.  The pages printed with executors bonds—outlining the obligations of individuals carrying out the directions and requests in wills—were completely blank.  However, the back of some of the pages were filled with faint, but legible, writing.

The book was used not for its original purpose, but instead was used to record loyalty oaths after the Civil War.  These oaths, dated 1865–1866, consisted of statements signed by residents of Frederick County in which they promised to “support the Constitution of the United States and the laws made in pursuance thereof as the supreme law of the land.”  Each oath recorded the individual’s name, age, and sometimes his profession (for example, Henry Brent was a cashier at the Bank of the Valley of Virginia, and C. Lewis Brent was a lawyer).  The volume also contains an alphabetical index that the record keeper crafted by tracing lines … read more »

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