“Here is war, real war.”

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On December 13, 1861, John H. Worsham, Co. F. of the 21st Virginia, saw one of his most startling examples of the impact of the Civil War on civilians. The regiment was marching down the Shenandoah Valley to join Stonewall Jackson’s command then stationed in Winchester. Worsham recorded the episode in his memoir, One of Jackson’s Foot Cavalry:  

In our march on the third day after leaving Staunton, we met a woman riding a horse; she had five children on this same horse. She had large bags, fastened together after the fashion of saddle bags, on the horse behind the saddle, and a child’s head was looking out on each side of the horse, two children were on the horse behind her, and a baby in her arms. When she came into our midst, and realized that the war was actually going on, she broke down and commenced to cry. One of our officers rode up to her, hat in hand, and with the politeness of a Virginian, said some pleasant word to her. This, and the respect shown her by the passing men, soon restored her. She said her husband was in the army, and she, fearing to stay at their home by herself in the lower valley, was going to her mother’s higher up, where she hoped to be out of reach of the enemy, in case the lower valley should be abandoned by our army. She would have to travel about fifty miles. The children seemed to be in splendid spirits and to enjoy our passing. Although this was a sight none of us ever saw before, every one treated her with the respect due the first lady of the land. Here is war, real war. Such scenes as families leaving home with nothing but what they could carry on their person, was witnessed many times by the writer.

from John H. Worsham. One of Jackson’s Foot Cavalry: His Experience and What He Saw During the War 1861-1865 (New York: The Neale Publishing Company, 1912), 54-55.

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1 Response to “Here is war, real war.”

  1. John Pryor says:

    Great post. It is always the experiences of the children and wives that break your heart.

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