Transcribed: the end of the Civil War in Loudoun County
Updated: Oct 18, 2022
There are a number of diaries, letters, and other firsthand accounts written by civilians during the Civil War. In the Loudoun Museum collection, however, we've recently acquired an account of the end of the war in Loudoun County, found in a c. 1850s-1860s ledger from the Gristmill of Moses Pascal Watson in Lincoln, VA.
Moses Pascal Watson (1807-1870) was a resident of Lincoln, Virginia. He operated a gristmill in the area to grind the wheat, corn, rye, and other grains of local customers, many of whom were his neighbors.
Though Watson himself was a slaveholder, we can see from the ledger that many of his Quaker, Unionist, and staunchly abolitionist neighbors were his customers. Underground Railroad Conductor Yardley Taylor, for example, is featured several times throughout the ledger's many pages of transactions. Further demonstrating the economic and social ties of Lincoln's residents, Watson included births and deaths of relations and acquaintances on blank pages of his ledger.
This ledger, according to historical accounts, was saved from the Burning Raid of the Loudoun Valley in 1864. The Burning Raid was a military tactic used by Union General Philip Sheridan to destroy supplies foraged by the Confederate Mosby's Rangers, and to discourage civilian Confederate sympathizers.
Though it was a Union campaign aimed at the South, it negatively impacted many Unionists in the Loudoun Valley, including many of Watson's neighbors whose property and livelihoods were destroyed.
According to tradition, this ledger, with pages beginning in the mid-1850s, was preserved from the flames by Watson's wife, Lucinda, who hid it in a doghouse during the fire. The rest of Watson's Mill was destroyed.
Found at the back of the ledger was a sheet of paper dating to 1865. Dated April 13th, it was written four days after the surrender at Appomattox and the day before the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Presumably written by Watson, it describes the end of the US Civil War in Loudoun County, specifically what he observed going on and how many of his neighbors and peers reacted to the end of the conflict.
The author does not disclose his own feelings and opinions about the Civil War outright, but documents the reactions of others and hints at some of the implications it had up to that point, and would continue to have on his life.
Watson names names in the document, and we know quite a bit about a few of the people that he mentions as pertains to the Burning Raid the ledger was spared from:
Lot Tavenner-(c.1809-1890) A local Quaker and farmer. His name is included in an 1871 bill to reimburse "loyalists" from Loudoun County for stock taken from them by General Sheridan during the Civil War. The bill indicates he was owed $970 (equivalent to over $18,000 in today's money).
Asa M Janney-(1802-1877) In 1864, he lost his flour and saw mill along with 3,000 bushels of wheat in Sheridan's Burning Raid. Following the war, he travelled west as an Indian Agent at the Santee Sioux Reservation in Nebraska.
Samuel M Janney- (1801-1880) The brother of Asa M. Janney, Samuel was a religious and social leader in his community. He was a minister at the local Quaker Meeting House and proprietor of the Janney Store. Though he pushed for neutrality early in the war, once the conflict began he was arrested by the Confederates for sneaking into Maryland without permission to attend the Friends Yearly Meeting in Baltimore. In 1863, he met with President Lincoln to negotiate the release of two Quaker hostages, who were being held by the Confederates in hopes of a prisoner exchange. In the 1864 Burning Raid, the US Army spared his barn and took only $350 in livestock from him (around $6,600 today). Janney travelled to Washington, DC, to ask redress for himself and his neighbors, and helped several Quaker families submit their Burning Raid claims to Congress. In 1873, Congress awarded $60,000 to petitioners for livestock, but returned none of the value of their destroyed property.
Like his brother, Asa, he went west after the war for a time. President Grant appointed him a "Superintendent of Indian Affairs" in 1869, and he returned to Loudoun just a few years later.
Henry S Taylor b. 1799 During the Burning Raid his barn was spared due to concerns that the fire would spread to his house, however his brothers Yardley and Bernard both lost barns and livestock. Taylor wrote of the Union participants in the raid: "I do not care if I do not see any more for a few days, if their organs of destructiveness are as plainly developed as these that passede through." He estimated his neighbors suffered $80,000 (over 1.5 million today) in losses from the raid.
The following is an exact transcription of the document, including spelling and punctuation errors and inconsistencies:
Thursday April 13th 1865 There is great Rejoicing with the Union People in regard to the Fall of Richmond and the Surrender of General Lee.
It is said Saml M Janney had the old gobelar killed and invited many of his union frineds to eate and be merry William Tate Shut him self up in a room and laughed his fill Joseph Nichols has been riding hunting hands to go to his house and drink Cider get drunk and be merry.
Bill Lemmon and Lot Tavenner is gone fishing to day they say the work is done / Thornton Whitacre say the Back-bone of the Confederacy is Broken and the war is about over-/ it is the prevailing opinion that the South Can Fight no longer. Buck Bolon has a heep of fun a bout my Negroes. He askid me if I did not think them very valuable if I would not like to sell them and what I asked for Negroes Now / (Henry S Taylor says the Secesh augh never to be allowed to vote again and aught to be made to eate with a Iron spoon the balances of their life and not to be allowed to hold any office of any kind [illegible]
Eliza Marlow says Binja [Benjamin] Birdsall and others talk of going to Upperville to haul the corn away that Mosebys men impressed
April 15th Asa M. Janey says he intended to Rebuild his Mill as soon as he herd of the fall of Richmond he told Saml Purcel yesterday that he was going to work at it once and would have his Saw Mill Running in a bout two weaks the Rebellion is Now over and the Negros is all free/ Pursel asked him what would be done with them- he said they would be left With us / the Women and Children that could not support them selves would have to stay with their owners Until they was able to support them selves. the owners being compelled to maintain them.
After taking a break of several months, Watson resumed his account of post-war observations on the back side of the page in June of 1865, detailing the beginnings of education for Black people in the area as something he was entirely unfamiliar with:
Sunday June 25, the Contraband or a Negro School Convened at Goose Creek this day Eliza Janney, Saml M Janney, Asa M Janney and Davis is Teachers. this is the first Negro school I have herd of being in Virginia.
For More Information:
Chamberlain, Taylor, and John M. Souders. Between Reb and Yank. McFarland & Company, 2011.
"CPI Inflation Calculator." https://www.in2013dollars.com/us/inflation/1864
Friends of Thomas Balch Library. "Black History Education Resources." https://balchfriends.org/black-history-education-resources.
Janney, Samuel MacPherson. Memoirs of Samuel M Janney, Late of Lincoln, Loudoun County, Va. Philadelphia Friends Book Association, 1881. https://archive.org/details/memoirsofsamuelm00jannrich.
Lawrence, Lee. Nest of Abolitionists. https://lincolnquakers.com/
Lincoln Preservation Foundation. https://www.lincolnpreservation.org.