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Virginia at War, 1864

Virginia at War, 1864

William C. Davis
James I. Robertson
Series: Virginia at War
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Virginia at War, 1864
    Book Description:

    The fourth book in the Virginia at War series casts a special light on vital home front matters in Virginia during 1864. Following a year in which only one major battle was fought on Virginia soil, 1864 brought military campaigning to the Old Dominion. For the first time during the Civil War, the majority of Virginia's forces fought inside the state's borders. Yet soldiers were a distinct minority among the Virginians affected by the war. In Virginia at War, 1864, scholars explore various aspects of the civilian experience in Virginia including transportation and communication, wartime literature, politics and the press, higher education, patriotic celebrations, and early efforts at reconstruction in Union-occupied Virginia. The volume focuses on the effects of war on the civilian infrastructure as well as efforts to maintain the Confederacy. As in previous volumes, the book concludes with an edited and annotated excerpt of the Judith Brockenbrough McGuire diary.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7355-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. Land Operations in Virginia in 1864: The Tightening Noose
    (pp. 1-14)
    Richard J. Sommers

    Strategic stalemate still settled over Virginia as 1864 began. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac glowered across the Rapidan River from their respective winter quarters in Orange and Culpeper counties. All other Virginia fronts continued comparably quiescent.

    Two Yankee raids in February achieved nothing. Isaac Wistar’s raid from Williamsburg toward Richmond, February 6–8, could not even cross Chickahominy River, and Federal diversions on the Rapidan gained nothing, either. Judson Kilpatrick’s strike southward from Culpeper, February 28–March 4, actually reached Richmond’s northern defenses. He, however, did not press the attack;...

  5. Politics in Civil War Virginia: A Democracy on Trial
    (pp. 15-34)
    Aaron Sheehan-Dean

    If war is really “the continuation of politics by another means,” as Carl von Clausewitz said, then Virginia found war and politics so intertwined by 1864 that one could hardly be distinguished from the other. “We appeal to the voters to give their support to... good men and patriots... [who are] best suited to the respective stations required to be filled,” declared a Richmond editor the year before.¹ At first blush, such an appeal sounds like standard fare for mid-nineteenth-century America. Readers could be expected to know whom the paper meant by “good men” because papers existed to advance partisan...

  6. A “Patriotic Press”: Virginia’s Confederate Newspapers, 1861–1865
    (pp. 35-50)
    Ted Tunnell

    Neither war nor politics in Virginia—or anywhere else in the divided nation—could escape being inextricably intertwined with the banner of any free society, the press. At the time of the Civil War newspapers were vital to the American way of life, and by 1864, late in the war, Virginians turned to them for signs of hope even as the press was itself the principal conduit of the unrelentingly bad news from the war fronts.

    In Virginia, as in the nation, almost every small town had at least a weekly newspaper. Richmond, a city of nearly 39,000 in 1860,...

  7. Clinging to Patriotism: The Fourth of July in Civil War Virginia
    (pp. 51-64)
    Jared Bond

    It is ironic that the press unwittingly did so much to discourage confidence in the Confederate government, while all the time protesting its patriotic motives. Confederates wanted to be patriotic over their new nation, as they demonstrated from the outset, and as they would continue to do even as the darkening days of 1864 made it increasingly difficult to stave off gloom. Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that in doing so, Virginians and their fellow Confederates clung to the most iconic of all of the old Union’s patriotic symbols, the Fourth of July.

    The nineteenth-century celebration of the...

  8. Trains, Canals, and Turnpikes: Transportation in Civil War Virginia, 1861–1865
    (pp. 65-80)
    Bradford A. Wineman

    By 1864 a passenger fare on a Virginia railroad cost as much as twenty-five times what it had in 1861. The state’s canal system was in a fatal downward spiral, and even the roads had been reduced to rutted wastes by the armies’ traffic. Transportation had become almost a nightmare, crippling military and civilian movement alike. Yet Virginia’s storied role as the central battle-field in the American Civil War has obscured how its transportation system played a critical part in the conduct of military operations, the welfare of the Confederacy’s most populous state, and even in the politics of forging...

  9. “We are all good scavengers now”: The Crisis in Virginia Agriculture during the Civil War
    (pp. 81-98)
    Ginette Aley

    As 1864 approached, a poor woman in Richmond applied to a Carey Street merchant to buy a barrel of flour. He demanded $70. “My God!” she exclaimed, “how can I pay such prices? I have seven children; what shall I do?” “I don’t know, madam,” he coolly replied, “unless you eat your children.”¹ At the same time, a waggish city newspaperman suggested that the poor be fed with worthless Confederate paper money, and that certain classes of merchants and society should subsist by eating each other.² Three years of war, with no end in sight, had turned a state that...

  10. The Struggle to Learn: Higher Education in Civil War Virginia
    (pp. 99-120)
    Peter Wallenstein

    It is somehow fitting that the best-known episode from the story of higher education in Civil War Virginia took place not in the classroom but on the battlefield, when the cadets of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) marched north in mid-May 1864 to engage Union forces in the battle of New Market. Cadets from that military school marched in a body, nearly 250 strong, to contribute to Confederate efforts to secure the Shenandoah Valley. One objective was to maintain control of an important source of food supply for the Confederate military as well as for Virginia civilians. Another was to...

  11. Words in War: The Literature of Confederate Virginia
    (pp. 121-138)
    William C. Davis

    “We have yet to form a literature,” Samuel D. Davies wrote in theSouthern Literary Messengerin October 1863. He called on fellow Virginians—and Confederates—to “regulate our literature by according to the principles of good taste and sound morality.” More than that, he said, “there is no want of a disposition to write and publish, and this disposition was perhaps never so strongly and so generally felt as it is at the present time.”¹

    Even in the crisis, Virginians were mindful of the importance of reading. Indeed, articles appeared in the press linking reading to mental health, and...

  12. Rehearsing Reconstruction in Occupied Virginia: Life and Emancipation at Fort Monroe
    (pp. 139-158)
    J. Michael Cobb

    In 1864 Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler commanded the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, headquartered at Fort Monroe, a formidable and strategic Union stronghold in eastern Virginia. Butler was known for his inability to manage his Army of the James in the field, and he was repeatedly criticized.¹ However, Butler spent much of the war as an administrator, with tours of duty at Fort Monroe before and after one in New Orleans. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant said that “as an administrative officer,” Butler “has no superior”; when there was “a dissatisfied element to control, no one could manage...

  13. Diary of a Southern Refugee during the War, June 1863–July 1864
    (pp. 159-224)
    Judith Brockenbrough McGuire

    The thirteen months in this installment of Judith McGuire’s diary give a revealing picture of a Confederacy losing the Civil War while with equal slowness falling apart internally. In July, following the battle of Gettysburg and a Union raid on her temporary home at Ashland, Mrs. McGuire wrote of the war: “Sometimes I wish I could sleep until it was over—a selfish wish enough; but it is hard to witness so much sorrow which you cannot alleviate.”

    Suffering among Virginia citizens was widespread by the midway point of the conflict. In this portion of the McGuire diary are four...

  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 225-236)
  15. Index
    (pp. 237-242)