For the last few months I've been scanning documents from the Pocahontas County Historical Society's archives. I'm still working my way through the William T. Price family collection. The oldest material I've worked with is from the 1840's, and it does give a glimpse of our local area at that time--not an easy or comfortable time and place.
This week, Reverend Price's Civil War journal, which he published in 1901 as "On to Grafton," is "serialized" on our Pocahontas County History web site. Rev. Price was a Virginian, and like most of the people in this area, approved of secession. Here's what he had to say about "The Cause" on his second day out on the Grafton campaign:
Early in the afternoon I reached Huttonsville in Randolph County where I found the people much excited and worried, and wearied to the verge of exhaustion by attention to soldiers a day or two before. Some persons seemed very desponding of the final outcome....I tried to cheer them up by saying to them that the cause of Virginia is a just one, such as the God of Hosts would approve. We might be slain in battle but never conquered....The question then was whether we should sustain the usurption of power and draw the sword against our friends, or whether it should be resisted and stand on the defensive. If let alone no blood would be shed, but if assailed then battle for all that is near and dear to the noble heart.
Moreover in my table and fireside conversations I tried to impress the minds of all that the question now is whether Virginia shall have the privilege of self government and regulate our taxes according as our interests and social institutions require, or whether we are to have our laws made for us, and enforced by rulers, whose popularity at home is in direct proportion to their hatred of us and abuse of our social and political institutions.
As a seminary trained minister, Rev. Price's opinion on which side the Lord of Hosts would approve must have carried some weight. I find myself anachronistically despondent reading (and transcribing) all the pre-battle puffing up. I want to tell them, "No! Don't! Just stay home--it's going to be worse than you can even imagine." There is, of course, no talk of slavery at all. It appears that it was not considered polite to mention it. Rev. Price and all the other writers of this time use the word "servant" when they must talk of people owned as chattel. It's a nicer word, and it's in the Bible, so it must be OK.