“Such was the war. It was not a quadrille in a ball-room.”

-- Walt Whitman, Specimen days, 1882


Promissory note hiring slaves, Petersburg, Va., 2 January 1865.
Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund (MSS 14585)

Just four months before the war’s end, James B. Hamlin hired out two of his slaves, Henrietta and her son David, for $250 to Mrs. L. W. Dove of Petersburg. The terms specify that Mrs. Dove will have use of the two slaves for one year and will pay for their services in two installments, the first on July 1, 1865, and the second on January 1, 1866. Slavery was abolished in April 1865; it is unclear whether she ever paid for their services.

Bill of sale for the slave Jefree, Richmond, Va., 10 February 1865.
Associates Endowment Fund (MSS 13747)

Only two months before General Ulysses S. Grant and his Union forces captured Richmond, slavery still flourished in the Confederate capital. Here William M. Wilkins, acting for William Green, attested that he had received $3,950 from J. M. C. Haden & Co. for the sale of Jefree. He also guaranteed that Jefree was “sound and healthy.”

Thomas Birmingham, Authorization for the return of two slave children to a former master, 15 September 1865.
Associates Endowment Fund (MSS 11821)

Months after the war had ended, Captain Birmingham of the U.S. Army found two neglected children, described as “twin colored children,” in Covington, Va. Concluding that they were not being properly cared for, he authorized their return to their former master, Christopher Damron, who promised to provide for them.

Mechanics’ Hall! Petersburg Varieties. Acting and Stage Manager, W. E. Wallace. Grand bill to-night! Monday evening, January 2nd, 1865. New songs, new dances, and new burlesques!! Petersburg, Va.: John B. Ege, printer, [1865]
Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund (Broadside 1865 .M43)

General Robert E. Lee’s army spent the winter of 1864-1865 in Petersburg, Va., a city under siege by the Union Army since June 1864. Although the bombardment of the city had been suspended for the winter, many residents, both civilian and military, suffered from a scarcity of food, clothing, and firewood. Despite the shortages, people tried to lead normal lives by attending church, celebrating Christmas, and socializing. The variety show was one of several attempts to brighten an otherwise grim season for everyone.


Confederate States of America. Congress Senate. Senate Bill No. 155. A bill to regulate the pay and allowances of certain female employees of the government. [Richmond, Va., 1865]
Tracy W. McGregor Library (A 1865 .C642 B5 Jan. 5c)

As this bill indicates, not all Virginia women were home managing the farm or doing volunteer work. Many women and children entered the work force as government employees, serving as clerks, nurses, seamstresses, and even working in munitions factories. In March of 1863, an explosion at the munitions factory on Brown’s Island in Richmond had killed 44 people and wounded many others. Nearly all of the dead were women or young girls, with at least one as young as 14.