“The Volcanic upheaval of the nation”

—Walt Whitman, Specimen days, 1882


Mollie Poage, Letter to her sister Mary Hinchman George, 25 January 1862.
Gift of Edgar E. Noel (MSS 13371)

Poage, writing from Beaver Creek, Va. (later West Virginia), describes for her sister the conflict between Unionists and Secessionists, relating disturbing accounts of men taken from their homes in the dark of night and killed.

Sigismunda Stribling Kimball, Diary, 1860-1863.
Gift of Lucy Kimball (MSS 2534)

With the men of the household dispatched to battlefields, Virginia women took on additional roles on the home front. Sigismunda Kimball was left to manage the family’s Shenandoah County farm when her husband joined the Confederate Army. Although her diary consists largely of farm reports, she also discusses social and church events, and an occasional visit with her husband when his unit is nearby. In her March 12 and 14, 1862, entries, she describes her first encounter with Yankee soldiers.

Ladies’ Relief Society of Albemarle County, To the citizens of Albemarle[Charlottesville, 1862?]
(Broadside 1862 .L23)

As the conflict wore on, Virginians prepared for an extended, difficult struggle. In this broadside, the Ladies Relief Society announce the need for donations to support "our soldiers amidst the dangers and sufferings of the field and the rigors of approaching winter." The group held its organizational meeting at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph L. Cabell. Dr. Cabell taught at the University of Virginia.

Confederate impressment document, 23 August 1862.
Associates Endowment Fund (MSS 13186)

The Confederacy, in critical need of labor to support its defenses and military industries, relied heavily on the impressment, or seizure, of slaves. This document orders the impressment of one-quarter of the adult male slaves in Amherst, Buckingham, Cumberland, and Nelson Counties to work on fortifications near Richmond. The document lists the rate of pay and outlines plans to reimburse owners for any slaves killed or injured during their employment.

John Esten Cooke, Scrapbook, ca. 1860-1865.
Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature (MSS 5295-e)

Scrapbooks such as this one, belonging to the Virginia novelist, biographer, and Confederate officer John Esten Cooke, provide fascinating and unique evidence of the varied experiences of soldiers at war through official documents, printed ephemera, letters, clippings, and annotations. Of particular interest here, Cooke notes that he drew the original battle map on which this printed copy is based.

Grand military ball. Richmond, Va.: Dispatch Steam Press, [1862]
Deposit of Mrs. Robert J. Main (Broadside 1862 .C5)

Even as the war was taking its toll, Virginia residents and soldiers engaged in moments of frivolity. Confederate army units wintering near Manassas, Va., in 1862 issued this invitation to a “Grand Military Ball” to be held at Camp Carondelet on February 25th. The list of managers shows how many regiments from throughout the South were in the area.