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James W. (James William) Head.

History and comprehensive description of Loudoun County, Virginia [electronic resource] online

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Online LibraryJames W. (James William) HeadHistory and comprehensive description of Loudoun County, Virginia [electronic resource] → online text (page 15 of 15)
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mothers wept for the lost darlings asleep in their unmarked
graves. The women and children, hearing with a shock of
the surrender, experienced a terrible dread of the incoming
armies. The women had been enthusiastic for the Confeder-
ate cause; their sacrifices had been incalculable, and to many
the disappointment and sorrow following defeat were more
bitter than death. The soldier had the satisfaction of having
fought in the field for his opinions and it was easier for him
to abide by the decision of arms.

But the terms of peace had scarcely been signed when the
great popular heart of the State swelled with generous and
magnanimous rivalry in an effort to repair the past. The
soldiers who had fought and striven under the successful
banners of the Union came back with no bitterness in their
hearts, with no taunts on their lips. The war-worn exiles of
the Southern army, long before formal permission had been



180 HISTORY OF

given by either the State or Federal Government, were sum-
moned home and received with open arms and affectionate
greetings by both the Union and States-rights men. The peo-
ple of the entire State seemed to remember with sorrowful
pride the noble men who had died gallantly in the ranks of
either army. Over their faults was thrown the mantle of the
sweet and soothing charities of the soldier's grave; and, on
all sides, there was manifested unstinted admiration for the
valor with which they had borne the dangers and privations
of the war.

RECONSTRUCTION.

After the Surrender.

If the era of Reconstruction which followed the tragic
drama of civil war lacked the fierce element of bloodshed, it
was none the less painful and protracted. It was a gloomy
period through which the people of Loudoun, in common
with other communities of the Southland, were compelled to
pass, and there was no appeal and no alternative save
submission.

The conditions in the South in this decade were radically
different from those in the North. As a result of the war, the
markets of the South were destroyed, investments in slaves
were lost, and land improvements deteriorated. The close of
the war found the planters bankrupt, their credit destroyed,
and agriculture and all business paralyzed by lack of working
capital. Vast areas of land went out of cultivation, the re-
ported acreage of farm land in all the Southern States was
less in I87O than in i860, and the total and average values of
land everywhere decreased.

The paroled Confederate soldier had returned to his ruined
farm and set to work to save his family from extreme want.
For him the war had decided two questions — the abolition of
slavery, and destruction of State sovereignty. Further than
this he did not expect the political effects of the war to
extend. He knew that some delay would necessarily attend



LOUDOUN COUNTY, VA. I8l

the restoration of former relations with the central govern-
ment, but political' proscription and humiliation were not
anticipated.

No one thought of further opposition to Federal authority;
the results of the war were accepted in good faith, and the peo-
ple meant to abide by the decision of arms. Naturally, there
were no profuse expressions of love for the triumphant North,
but the people in general manifested an earnest desire to leave
the past behind them and to take their places and do their
duty as citizens of the new Union. Many persons were dis-
posed to attribute their defeat to the will of the Almighty.
Others believed that fate, destinj^ or Providence had frowned
upon the South, and this state of mind made them the more
ready to accept as final the results of the war.

Such was the state of feeling in the first stage, before there
was any general understanding of the nature of the questions
to be solved or of the conflicting policies. News from the
outside world filtered through slowly; while the whole County
lay prostrate, breathless, exhausted, resting. Little interest
was evinced in public questions; the long strain had been
removed, and the future was a problem too bewildering even
to be considered yet awhile. The people settled down into a
lethargy, seemingly indifferent to the events that were crowd-
ing one upon another, and exhibiting little interest in govern-
ment and politics.

There was a woeful lack of good money in the County and
industry was; paralyzed. The gold and silver that remained
was carefully hoarded, and for months none was in circulation
except in the towns. The people had no faith in paper money
of any description and thought that greenbacks would become
worthless in the same way as had Confederate currency. All
sense of values had been lost, which fact may account for the
fabulous and fictitious prices obtaining in the South for sev-
eral years after the war, and the liberality of appropriations
of the first legislatures following the surrender.

With many. persons there was an almost maddening desire
for the things to which they had once been accustomed, the



182 HISTORY OF

traders and speculators now placing them in tempting array
in the long-empty store windows.

People owning hundreds of acres of land often were as
destitute as the poorest negro. The majority of those having
money to invest had bought Confederate securities as a patri-
otic duty, and in this way much of the specie had been drawn
from the County.

Nearly all the grist-mills and manufacturing establishments
had been destroyed, mill-dams cut, ponds drained, and rail-
road depots, bridges, and trestles burned. All farm animals
near the track of the armies had been carried away or killed
by the soldiers, or seized after the occupation by the troops.
Horses, mules, cows, and other domestic animals had almost
disappeared except in the secluded districts. Many farmers
had to plough with oxen. Farm buildings had been dis-
mantled or burned, houses ruined, fences destroyed, corn,
meat, and other food products taken.

In the larger towns, where something had been saved from
the wreck of war, the looting by Federal soldiers was shame-
ful. Pianos, curios, pictures, curtains, and other household
effects were shipped North by the Federal ofl&cers during the
early days of the occupation. Gold and silver plate and
jewelry were confiscated by the "bummers" who were with
every command. Abuses of this kind became so flagrant that
the Northern papers condemned the conduct of the soldiers,
and several ministers, among them Henry Ward Beecher,
rebuked the practice from the pulpit.

The best soldiers of the Federal army had demanded their
discharge as soon as fighting was over, and had immediately
left for their homes. Those who remained in the service in
the State were, with few exceptions, very disorderly and
kept the people in terror by their lobberies and outrages.

Land was almost worthless, many of the owners having no
capital, farm animals, or implements. Labor was disorgan-
ized, and its scant product often stolen by roving negroes and
other marauders. The planters often found themselves amid
a wilderness of land without laborers.



IvOUDOUN COUNTY, VA. iS}

'■?■ p^Frotn this general gloom and despair the young people soon
partially recovered, and among them there was much social
gayety of a quiet sort. For four years the young men and
young women had seen little of each other, and there had
been comparatively few marriages. Now that they were to-
gether again, these nuptials soon became more common than
conditions seem to have warranted.

This revival of spirits did not extend to the older people,
who were long recovering from the shock of grief, and strain
of war, much that had made life worth living being lost to
them forever.

Co7iduct of the Freedmen.

Nearly every slaveholder, returning home after the fall of
the Confederacy, assembled his remaining negroes and for-
mally notified them of their freedom, and talked with them
concerning its entailed privileges, responsibilities, and limi-
tations. The news had, of course, reached them through
other channels, but they had loyally awaited the home-com-
ing of their masters, to whom they looked for a confirmation
of the reports. Steady employment at a fixed wage was
offered most of them, and, except in the vicinity of the towns
and army posts, where they were exposed to alien influences,
the negroes usually chose to remain at their work.

Many were satisfied with the old slavery quarters while
others, for the taste of freedom that was afforded, established
homes of their own at near-by points. There were two things
which the negroes of the South felt must be done before they
could be entirely free: They must discard their masters' names
and leave the old plantations if only for a few days or weeks.

Among the most contented and industrious there was much
restlessness and neglect of work. Hunting and fishing and
frolics were the order of the day. Nearly every man acquired,
in some way, a dog and gun as badges of freedom. It was quite
natural that the negroes should want a prolonged holiday for
the enjoyment of their new-found freedom; and it is really



184 HISTORY OF

Strange that any of them worked, for there obtained an al-
most universal impression— the result of the teachings of the
negro soldiers and Freedmen's Bureau officials— that the
Government would support them in idleness. But in the re-
mote districts this impression was vague. The advice of the
old plantation preachers held many to their work, and these
did not suffer as did their brothers who flocked to the towns.

Neither master nor freedman knew exactly how to begin
anew and it was some time before affairs emerged from the
chaotic state into which the war had plunged them. The aver-
age planter had little or no faith in free negro labor, yet all
who were now able were willing to give it a trial. The more
optimistic land-owners believed that the free negro could in
time be made an efficient laborer, in which case they were
willing to admit that the change might prove beneficial to
both races. At first, however, no one knew just how to work
the free negro; innumerable plans were devised, many tried,
and few adopted.

The new regime differed but little from the old until the
fall of 1865, when the Freedmen's Bureau, aided by the negro
soldiers and white emissaries, had filled the minds of the
credulous ex-slaves with false impressions of the new and
glorious condition that lay before them. Then, with the ex-
tension of the Bureau and spread of the army posts, many
of the negroes became idle, neglected the crops planted in the
spring, and moved from their old homes to the towns or
wandered aimlessly from place to place.

Upon leaving their homes the blacks collected in gangs at
the cross-roads, in the villages and towns, and especially near
the military posts. To the negro these ordinary men in blue
were beings from another sphere who had brought him free-
dom, a something he could not exactly comprehend, but
which, he was assured, was a delightful state.

Upon the negro women often fell the burden of supporting
the children, to which hardship were traceable the then
common crimes of foeticide and child murder. The small
number of ^children during the decade of Reconstruction was



LOUDOUN COUNTY, VA. l85

generally remarked. Negro women began to flock to the
towns; how ihey lived no one can tell; immorality was
general among them. The conditions of Reconstruction were
unfavorable to honesty and morality among the negroes, both
male and female.

Their marriage relations were hardly satisfactory, judged by
white standards. The legislatures in 1865-1866 had declared
slave marriages binding. The reconstructionists denounced
this as a great cruelty and repealed the laws. Marriages were
then made to date from the passage of the Reconstruction
Acts. As many negro men had had several wives before that
date they were relieved from the various penalties of deser-
tion, bigamy, adultery, etc. Some seized the opportunity to
desert their wives and children and acquire new help-meets.
While much suffering resulted from the desertion, as a rule,
the negro mother alone supported the children better than
did the father who stayed.

Negro women accepted freedom with even greater serious-
ness than did the men, and were not always, nor easily,
induced to again take up the familiar drudgery of field labor
and domestic service. To approximate the ease of their
former mistresses, to wear fine clothes and go often to church
were their chief ambitions. Negro women had never been as
well-mannered, nor, on the whole, as good natured and cheer-
ful as the negro men. Both sexes, during Reconstruction,
lost much of their native cheerfulness; the men no longer
went singing and shouting to their work in the fields; some
of the blacks, especially the women, became impudent and
insulting in their bearing toward the whites.

As a result of certain pernicious alien influences there soon
developed a tendency to insolent conduct on the part of the
younger negro men, who seemed convinced that civil be-
havior and freedom were incompatible. With some there was
a disposition not to submit to the direction of their employ-
ers, and the negro's advisers warned him against the "efforts
of the white man to enslave" him. Consequently, he very



186 ' HISTORY OF LOUDOUN COUNTY, VA.

often refused to enter into contracts that called for any as-
sumption of responsibility on his part, and the few agree-
ments to which he became a party had first to be ratified by
the Bureau. As he had no knowledge of the obligation of
contracts, he usually violated them at pleasure.

The negroes, massed in the towns, lived in deserted and
ruined houses or in huts built by themselves of refuse lumber.
They were very scantily clothed and their food, often insuffi-
cient and badly cooked, if cooked at all, was obtained by
begging, stealing, or upon application to the Bureau. Taking
from the whites was not considered stealing, but was "Spilin'
de Gypshuns. ' '

The health of the negroes was injured during the period
I865-I875. In the towns the standard of living was low,
sanitary arrangements were bad, and disease killed large num-
bers and permanently injured the negro constitution.

Following the military occupation of the State the negroes,
young and old, were seized with an overmastering desire for
book learning. This seeming thirst for education was not
rightly understood at the North; it was, in fact, more a de-
sire to imitate the white master and obtain formerly forbidden
privileges than any real yearning due to an understanding of
the value of education. The negro hardly knew the signifi-
cance of the bare word, but the northern people gave him
credit for an appreciation not yet altogether true even of
whites.

CONCLUSION.

No occurrences of extreme historic value mark the career
of Loudoun since the days of Reconstruction, and the seem-
ingly abrupt conclusion to which the reader has now arrived
is not thought incompatible with the plan of this work, which
in no single instance has contemplated the inclusion of any
but the most momentous events. Besides, existing conditions
have received protracted mention in the preceding descriptive
and statistical departments where appear evidences of the
County's present vast wealth and resources, numberless
charms and recent marvelous development.



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Online LibraryJames W. (James William) HeadHistory and comprehensive description of Loudoun County, Virginia [electronic resource] → online text (page 15 of 15)