The Road Back
Loudoun County and the Civil War
A History and Guide
By the Virginia Civil War Centennial Commission,
County of Loudoun, Commonwealth of Virginia. Text by John Divine,
Wilber C. Hall, Marshall Andrews, and Penelope M. Osburn. Edited
by Fitzhugh Turner. Published by the Virginia Civil War Centennial
For many years, Civil War buffs have been busy with research on that
war. A wide variety of skills have produced an outpouring of books
for avid readers. Some of the writers such as Dr. Douglas Freeman
and Kenneth P. Williams, author of Lincoln
Finds a General, are
men of great scholarship.
In contrast, the true story of the South in the years following the
war has had too little research, and the period is in need of further
study and scholarly research. A copious amount of source material
One school of historians has been sweeping the dregs of Southern
history under the rug for the past hundred years. The result is that
this country abounds in liberal-minded and improperly informed newspaper
and politicians who have very much the sound of Harriet Beecher Stowe
trying to save Little Eva when they write or speak about contemporary
southern problems. It might be well to lift the rug and examine some
of these dregs of history by tracing the road back to recovery in
Loudoun, one Virginia County.
This is not with the aim of rekindling old animosities. People today
are passing through a very critical period of our nation's history,
a period that requires certain very definite personal qualities.
This sketch of the road back is given to show the kind of qualities
by southern men and women in order to bear the trials and tribulations
that came to them day by day for many years. But they bore them and
they recovered-without the benefit of any Marshall Plan.
Following the war, travelers from the North came into the South like
a swarm of locusts. What many of them knew of the South was based on
Mrs. Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. What they saw, they interpreted with
the prejudiced viewpoint of Mrs. Stowe and the abolitionist press.
Many of 'those who came were convinced that the economic ills of the
southern Negro could be cured with "forty acres and a mule."
Much is said today about the redistribution of land in underdeveloped
countries. It was tried in the South during reconstruction. Many
of the travelers wrote voluminously about conditions in the South and
many present day viewpoints are traceable to the writings of this group.
In order to see the post-war picture of Loudoun in the best perspective,
it will be necessary to recall certain dates and review the existing
conditions. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General U. S. Grant
on April 9, 1865. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated April
14, 1865 and Andrew Johnson succeeded him as President. Johnson wanted
to continue Lincoln's policies with the South, policies based on
the speediest possible way to secure reconciliation and the restoration
of Federal authority with the least possible Federal intervention
the State concerned.
Congress was under the domination of radical Republicans and they
did not intend to accept Lincoln's and Johnson's policies of moderation.
Congress passed a series of Acts that were planned to place the South
under Republican domination:
- by disenfranchisement of a large portion of southern whites
- by granting suffrage to all Negroes regardless of qualification
and limitations suggested by Lincoln
- by declaring the Southern
States out of the Union until they would accept or ratify conditions
laid down by Congress.
The four years of fighting had reduced the defeated South to various
grades of poverty. These acts were to be the source of more bitterness
and hatred than
the four years of fighting.
Congress passed the much hated Reconstruction Act in 1867, and under
its provisions Virginia became Military District No. I under the command
of Major General John
M. Schofield. Virginia was exceedingly fortunate in Schofield's selection as
he appears to have followed Lincoln's attitude of moderation. However, he was
powerless to protect the State from the vicious and retaliatory Acts passed
General Eppa Hunton became a warm friend of Schofield and the two
men seem to have regarded each other with mutual respect and friendship.
Writing of Schofield
in his autobiography, Hunton had this to say:
Fortunately for us, the commanders in this district were good men-not
disposed to oppress us-and we had several years of fairly good military
Virginia. Our military Judge was Lysander Hill. We had great apprehensions
of him as our circuit judge when he took the place of Judge Henry E.
Thomas of Fairfax,
but Hill turned out to be a first-rate man and a fine judge. He was the best
listener I ever addressed on the bench. He certainly was not influenced in
the slightest degree by politics on the bench. Schofield tried in every
way to mitigate
the hardship of our situation and gave us the best government that was possible
under the circumstances.
Six southern states were re-admitted to the Union in 1868. Alabama.
Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina. Georgia,
and Virginia remained out of the Union until 1870.
General Grant became President in 1869 and in his first message to
Congress called attention to the fact that Virginia was ready for re-admission
to the Union and
was ready for the action of Congress. However, General Butler, who was chairman
of the Committee on Reconstruction, refused to countenance the admission until "further
conditions were met". Virginia met the conditions, largely concerned with
the rights of voters and office holders. By a close vote in both the House and
the Senate, the State was finally re-admitted to the Union on January 26, 1870
by an Act of Congress. Military District No. 1 ceased to exist, and reconstruction
of the state was complete.
The Restored County Government
Several factors made recovery come to Loudoun with more ease and
speed than was possible in some sections of the South. Among them were:
1. While Loudoun had suffered from Major General Wesley Merritt's
burning raid, she had not been subjected to the scorched-earth policy
that was part of the
Union strategy in some parts of the South. Loudoun suffered severely, but she
was not prostrated.
2. Before the war started, Loudoun was enjoying a flourishing agricultural
economy. The products of Loudoun agriculture, wheat, corn, cattle,
sheep, hogs and horses,
did not require the use of as many slaves as were needed in the cotton and
tobacco-growing counties. In I860, some 670 slave owners in Loudoun
held 5,501 slaves, or an
average of 8-plus slaves per owner. In Charlotte County, 659 slave owners held
9,238 slaves, or 14-plus slaves per owner; in Mecklenburg County, 760 owners
held 12,420 slaves, or 16-plus slaves per owner. When the slaves were freed
by the Emancipation Proclamation, individual owners in Loudoun did
not suffer the
economic loss felt in some other places.
3. For the reason just given, the reformers and exploiters did not
find Loudoun a likely place in which to operate, so Loudoun was saved
the interference from
Northern "carpetbaggers" and southern "scalawags" in local
politics. This was the thing that hampered the transition into a new way of life
in the South for several generations.
As the defeated and bedraggled troops began to return to their homes,
they found the women and the old folks tired and exhausted. But some
kind of effort had
to be made to get their lives back into working condition, as far as this was
One of the first necessary objectives was to get their County government
back into operation. At the time, the affairs of a Virginia County
were in the hands
of a bench of "gentlemen justices" headed by a presiding justice. These
justices had administrative as well as judicial duties. It was necessary to hold
an election to select the justices and other officers of the restored government.
Many of the County officers who had held office before the war had fought in
the Confederate forces and for this they were disenfranchised. They could neither
vote nor hold office.
Who could vote in the election? Among the Confederate sup- porters,
those men who were too old to have borne arms could vote. All those
who had not borne arms,
such as the Quakers, could vote. All the men who had served in the Union forces
and those sympathetic to the Union cause could vote. A majority of the eligible
voters in Loudoun were those who were in favor of the Federal government.
It will be recalled, that in the referendum on secession held in
Loudoun, the two precincts voting against secession were Waterford
and Lovettsville. Generally
speaking, the people in these areas remained loyal to the Union. It should
be noted, however, that within each group were those who tried to maintain
position. To-day, the popular word is "uncommitted." It was from this
group that many of the officers of the restored government came. These people
must be given the credit for easing the Reconstruction years in Loudoun. While
those who had supported the Confederacy felt Some animosity towards them, the
local County officers kept to a minimum the tensions and strife suffered in some
Several writers of Loudoun history have commented on Brigadier General
Thomas Devin and his Federal Brigade that: occupied the Lovettsville
area around Christmas,
1864. During the winter of 1864-65. Devin's troops occupied all sections of
Loudoun County. In spite of all the strain and hatred that was usually
forces. Devin's troops seem to have had fairly good relations with the people
of the County. There are indications that this officer demonstrated to those
who were to be the future officers of the County how to show and attitude of
compassion to a defeated people.
When Devin left Loudoun on February 24, 1865, the County had been
occupied by Federal troops exactly three years to a day. General John
W. Geary's forces had
entered Loudoun on February 24, 1862.
The election of County officers was held on June 1, 1865 and the
first post-war County Court was held July 10, 1865. The gentlemen justices
who had been elected
and commissioned by the Governor of Virginia, and who met at the Court House
on that: July day, were George Abel, R. M. Bentley, Francis M. Carter, John
Compher, Thomas Cost, John D. Deny, Enoch Fenton, Herod Frasier, Fenton
Furr, Henry Gaver,
John Grubb, Charles Manitin, Asbury M. Nixon, Basil Shoemalcer, John L. Stout,
Mahlon Thomas. Lott Tavenner, Henry S. Taylor, Michael Wiard, John Woolford,
Thomas Burr Williams, James M. Wallace and William H. Gray.
William H. Gray
(1805-1880) was selected Presiding Justice. The fact that Gray was
elected is rather remarkable, as he was a supporter of
the Confederate government.
It must be taken as a tribute to him and shows the esteem in which he was
Other County officials who were elected and who took office the same
day were Charles P. Janney, clerk of the court, Samuel Luckett, sheriff;
William B. Dowdey,
commonwealth's attorney. The commissioners of revenue for the three districts
were Samuel Ball, Hiram Tavenner and James T. Newman.
Charles P. Janney was
a nephew of John Janney, one of Loudoun's representatives to the
Secession Convention and the presiding officer of that important meeting.
While an officer in 'the Presbyterian Church, Mr. Janney came of Quaker heritage
and had taken no part in the war. He was one of those who, like his uncle,
tried to maintain a neutral position. Something of his nature is
in the fact
that he appointed as his deputy George K. Fox, Jr., who held the office before
The records were back in the Clerk's Office, the County officials
had been elected and the County government was back in operation.
On August 14, 1865, this order was recorded in the Minute Book:
J. Mortimer Kilgour, John S. Mosby and George A. Thacker, who have
been duly licensed to practice the law, on their motions are permitted
to practice in this
court, whereupon they took the several oaths prescribed by law.
was not wasting much time setting back into the practice of law. He inserted
this notice in the local paper:
John S. Mosby
Warrenton, Fauquier County, Virginia
Practices in the Courts of Fauquier, Loudoun and Prince William