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Civilian Life

Scene in Pleasant Valley, Maryland. October, 1862The Civil War had a profound effect on the life of civilians living in the areas of conflict, as well as those who had to scrape out a living while family members were at war. The Library's holdings include numerous diaries, ledgers, and letters detailing the effects of the war on the home front. Additional sources relating to women and the family can be found under the subject, Women.

How to Search the Catalogs:

Conduct a keyword or subject search heading in the catalog using the following examples of Library of Congress subject headings.

Economics Virginia Civil War, 1861-1865
Plantations Virginia History Civil War, 1861-1865
United States History Civil War, 1861-1865 Public opinion
Virginia History Civil War, 1861-1865
Virginia History Civil War, 1861-1865 Destruction and pillage
Virginia Social life and customs Civil War, 1861-1865

Selected Published Resources


Ayers, Edward L. In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859–1863. New York: W. W. Norton, 2003. Web site for the Valley of the Shadow Project: http://valley.vcdh.virginia.edu/.

Blair, William Alan. Virginia’s Private War: Feeding Body and Soul in the Confederacy, 1861–1865. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Faust, Drew Gilpin. This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

McFall, F Lawrence. Danville in the Civil War. Lynchburg, Va.: H. E. Howard, Inc., 2001.

Mobley, Joe A. Weary of War: Life on the Confederate Home Front. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2008.

Neely, Mark E. Southern Rights: Political Prisoners and the Myth of Confederate Constitutionalism. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999.

Tripp, Steven Elliott. Yankee Town, Southern City: Race and Class Relations in Civil War Lynchburg. New York: New York University Press, 1996.

Selected Manuscript Collections

Josiah L. Baker Damage ClaimJosiah L. Baker. Damage claim, undated. Accession 43667.
Damage claim, 1 leaf, undated, of Josiah L. Baker (b. ca. 1827) of Frederick County, Virginia, concerning destruction done to his property by the Confederate army. Includes a list of the types of damages, and the estimated value of the items destroyed.

Henry M. Bowden Papers Henry M. Bowden Papers Henry M. Bowden. Papers, 1862–1866. Accession 42640.
Papers, 1862–1866, of Henry M. Bowden (1819–1871) of James City County and Norfolk, Virginia, including accounts, appointments, correspondence, election results, oath of allegiance, and passes. Most of the letters written by Bowden relate to the hardships he endured by staying loyal to the United States government and his efforts to obtain employment and monetary reparations for lost property. Of note are appointments and letters to and from Union major general Benjamin F. Butler, 1864, in which he obtained a post of financial clerk for the Provost Marshal. Also of note is a letter, 11 October 1865, to Major General Oliver O. Howard from Bowden, asking for reparations for his home and property lost.

Bryan Family. Papers, 16791943 (bulk 1800–1910). Accession 24882.
Papers, 1679–1943 (bulk 1800–1910), of the Bryan family of Fluvanna, Gloucester, and Henrico Counties and Richmond, Virginia. Included are the papers of Joseph Randolph Bryan (1806–1887), who served under the command of John S. Mosby during the Civil War. Topics of his letters include slavery, Virginia politics before and after the Civil War, Mosby's Rangers, and the Richmond Howitzers. The business records, correspondence, essays, and poems relate the families experience during the Civil War and the effects of the war on the families' fortunes.

Letter of Lucy Williamson Oliver Cocke, 1865 April 1 Letter of Lucy Williamson Oliver Cocke, 1865 April 1, page 2 Letter of Lucy Williamson Oliver Cocke, 1865 April 1, page 3 Letter of Lucy Williamson Oliver Cocke, 1865 April 1, page 4 Lucy Williamson Oliver Cocke. Letter, 1 April 1865. Accession 29881.
Letter, 1 April 1865, to Lucy Williamson Oliver Cocke (1816–1898) of Bremo, Fluvanna County, Virginia, from her sister Mill at Mildendo, in Halifax County, Virginia, recounting the privations of war and the last ditch attempts to preserve property and the Confederate government. She mentions raids conducted by the Union army under General Philip Sheridan and General Robert E. Lee's efforts to prevent them and to protect the Danville Railroad. Mill also mentions Union troops moving through Bremo and John Hartwell Cocke (1780–1866).

Ida Dulany. Diary, 18611865. Accession 42246.
Diary, 25 July 1861–29 January 1865, of Ida Dulany (b. ca. 1835). At the time of writing, Dulany was running the family's Fauquier County, Virginia, plantation while her husband Henry "Hal" Dulany (ca. 1833–1888) performed Civil War service with the 6th Virginia Cavalry Regiment, Company A. Ida Dulany's frequent, detailed entries document nearly every aspect of life on the plantation, as well as the progress of the war. Topics include domestic responsibilities and social encounters, increasing deprivation, news of distant battles and eyewitness reports of fighting in the neighborhood, and the vandalism and plunder of her home by successive raiding parties of Union soldiers in the late winter of 1864. Portions of this diary were reprinted in abridged form in the book Scraps of Paper, by Marietta Minigerode Andrews.

Moses F. T. Evans. Letters, 18611865. Accession 25643.
Letters, 1861–1865, from Moses Evans (1820–1877) to his sister, Mary Stockton, regarding issues related to the Civil War. In the first letter, 30 April 1861, Evans expresses his opinion regarding the outcome of the Civil War and describes the military build-up of the South and Virginia, in particular. In the second letter, 14 June 1865, Evans relates personal opinions about the war, including the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the treatment of Federal prisoners, the Battles of Seven Pines and Fair Oaks, and slavery. He also describes in detail the arrival of Federal forces in Amelia County, Virginia, their behavior, and the pillaging of residential homes.

Letter of Maria Louisa Wacker Fleet to Alexander F. Fleet, 1862 Nov. 17 Letter of Maria Louisa Wacker Fleet to Alexander F. Fleet, 1862 Nov. 17, page 2 Letter of Maria Louisa Wacker Fleet to Alexander F. Fleet, 1862 Nov. 17, page 3 Letter of Maria Louisa Wacker Fleet to Alexander F. Fleet, 1862 Nov. 17, page 4 Maria Louisa Wacker Fleet. Letters, 1862. Accession 43042.
Letters, 1862, from Maria Louisa Wacker Fleet (1822–1900) at Green Mount in King and Queen County, Virginia, to her son Alexander Frederick Fleet (1843–1911) while he was serving with Company I (Jackson Grays) of the 26th Virginia Infantry at Gloucester Point. Topics include her gratification at receiving his letters, visits with family and friends, inquiries regarding his health, troop movements in the area, business activities of her husband Dr. Benjamin Fleet (1818–1865), military confiscation of the family's property, her caring for ill soldiers at the family home, and her willingness to do more to aid in the war effort.

Powell-Drewry family. Papers, 18281934 (bulk 18601885). Accession 37124.
Papers, 1828–1934, of the Powell and Drewry families of Fluvanna and Henrico Counties and the city of Richmond, Virginia. The bulk of the collection covers the years 1860 to 1885. The majority of the collection consists of letters written by various members of the Powell and Drewry families to Blanche Norment Powell Drewry (1849–1909). There are a number of letters from her parents giving her encouragement and advice on schoolwork, manners, and habits, and expressing their concern over her health, as well as safety during the Civil War. Much of the correspondence details events of the war, including battles fought, troop movements, personal opinions, deaths of relatives and acquaintances who served, as well as her brother Junius Powell's service in the Signal Corps.

Sims Family. Papers, 18631865. Accession 30910.
Papers, 1863–1865, of the Sims Family of Halifax County, Virginia, demonstrating the effect of the Civil War on local citizens who unfortunately lived near actual fighting. Includes correspondence relating to William Sims's work as Company Agent, his family relations, and his objection to certain army policies relating to the occupation of his plantation. Also includes a letter from John C. Coleman, serving with Fitzhugh Lee, and receipts for slaves and beef procured for the Confederacy.

Sally Lyons Taliaferro. Diary, 18591864. Accession 24311.
Diary, 1859–1864, of Sally Lyons Taliaferro (1828–1899) of Gloucester County, Virginia, detailing her life at Dunham Massie, her home in Gloucester County, including family and social life, gardening, housekeeping, and the weather. The diary contains accounts kept by Taliaferro and the family, including clothing for slaves. It provides a detailed account of how the Civil War affected Gloucester County, primarily occupation by the Union army and slaves leaving their masters for the Union lines. Taliaferro also records several wartime trips to her father's home, Laburnum, in Richmond, Virginia. Diary includes two anecdotes concerning Taliaferro's silver and her confrontation with a Union raiding party as well.

Katherine Waring Hoskins Warner. Reminiscences, 1932. Accession 24458.
Reminiscences, 14 March 1932, of Katherine Waring Hoskins Warner (1854–1933) of Essex County, Virginia, regarding life at the Hoskins home, Midway in Essex County, during the Civil War. The house often served as a hospital for sick and wounded Confederate soldiers, and as storage space for Confederate wheat.