Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Scenes in Virginia 1861

Ever wonder about the visual scenes in Northern Virginia and Washington around the breakout of the Civil War?   Constance Cary Harrison recounts her observations in an article in the Century War Book:

Her family was the first family in the state to "manumit" slaves.  (I had to look this word up) It means to "free from bondage".  Her family lived in the same neighborhood as Colonel Robert E Lee.  In the holiday season of 1860, friends and neighbors were very reluctant to accept the notion of war breaking out in the Union. Holiday parties were scheduled as usual.

The annual Holiday (Christmas) get together in the neighborhood at Plantation Vauclause was held and the reality of impending war was observed yet the celebrations proceeded as planned.  Egg nog and apple toddy's were in ample supply and enjoyed by all.    All the youth attending the party eventually became a part of the Confederate forces.  A year later, Vauclause Plantation did not exist. Surrounding trees were cut down and used to construct a fort to defend Washington.

Once the war was declared imminent, the women and children were relocated to Manassas for safekeeping.   Constance observed one neighborhood family burying their family silver in boxes in their yard for fear the possessions would be stolen by looters.  After the war, she observed the silver lying loose in the soil, the boxes having long rotted away.

 The women and children that were relocated to Manassas, recalled saluting each passing train as the rail cars moved soldiers from one point to another in preparation for battle with Union troops.

On 7/18/1861 the first guns at Manassas were heard at Blackburns Ford.  As the day wore on no word arrived until the slow trickle of wounded soldiers began.  Some wounded soldiers were treated on site, others were taken to the hospital in nearby Culpeper.  Some soldiers appeared with notes attached to their clothing explaining the status of various soldiers to their loved ones.  One mother heard, in regards to her 15 year old son, that due to extreme fatique he lay sound asleep on the battlefield with guns blasting all around him.

Constance and her cousins were summoned to make the first 3 battle flags for the Confederates.  One flag was for General Johnston, one for  General Beauregard and the last for General Van Dorn.  When the latter died in Tennessee, the battle worn flag was returned to Constance.  Today the flag rests in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia.

The Maryland Historical Society @ 201 W Monument Street, Baltimore MD (410-685-3750) has a 5000 square foot exhibition describing the three phases of the Civil War. (http://www.mdhs.org/)  $6 admission ($5 seniors, $4 3-18, free for those 2 and under

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