A Pure and Dignified Society

Illustration of the Old Market at Lynchburg, by James Wells Champney, from Edward King’s The Great South, Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Co., 1875.

Something of the old Scotch and English manners are still perceptible among the people in this part of Virginia; and there are bits of dialect and phrase which show how little the communities have been affected during the last century by the influences which have so transformed the populations of other sections of America. While England has gone on from change to change, and has even been capable of complete revolution in certain matters, Virginia has altered but little. Until now immigration has had no inducements to come and unlock the treasure-house of the grand mountains of the South-west, and so the people have lived under pretty much the same laws and customs that prevailed in England two centuries ago. Yet the absence of the rushing, turbulent current of immigration has had its compensating advantages in allowing the growth of families in which the hereditary love of culture and refinement, and the strictest attention to those graces and courtesies which always distinguish a pure and dignified society, are preeminently conspicuous.

Edward King, The Great South; A Record of Journeys in Louisiana, Texas, the Indian Territory, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland, Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Co., 1875.

By the Numbers: Lynchburg, Virginia, 1843

A view of Lynchburg, Virginia, in Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Virginia, Charleston: Babcock, 1852.
A view of Lynchburg, Virginia, in Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Virginia, Charleston: Babcock, 1852.

The census of 1840, showed a population of upwards of five thousand. Since that time, there has been a considerable accession to the number of buildings; from which we may safely assume that our present population reaches, if it does not exceed 6,000. The extent of the tobacco trade of Lynchburg may be judged of from the fact that upwards of fifteen thousand hogsheads have already been inspected here the present year–a number which far exceeds all previous calculation. We have about 30 tobacco factories and stemmeries, giving employment to about 1000 hands; three flouring-mills, manufacturing, I am told, about 20,000 barrels of flour annually; 1 cotton factory, operating 1,400 spindles; iron foundries, which consume, probably, 100 tons pig-iron annually. More than 100,000 bushels of wheat are sold here yearly. 300 tons bar-iron; 200 tons pig metal, sold to the country; 1000 tons plaster of Paris. About 50 dry-goods and grocery stores–selling, in the aggregate, more than one million of dollars worth of goods. Some of our stores are so extensive and elegant, as not to suffer by a comparison with those of Philadelphia and New York.–4 apothecaries and druggists; several cabinet manufactories; 4 saddle and harness manufactories; 10 blacksmith-shops; several excellent hotels; 5 jewellers’ establishments; 2 printing offices.

There are here branches of the Bank of Virginia, and the Farmer’s Bank of Virginia, and also 3 Savings’ Banks. Seven flourishing Sabbath-schools, with from 700 to 1000 scholars. One debating society, with a library of several thousand volumes, &c. &c. &c. From the hasty view I have presented, and which by no means does justice to the industry and enterprise of our citizens, it will be seen that we have already the elements of a flourishing city. But I have said nothing of the magnificent line of canal now in the “full tide of successful experiment,” between this place and Richmond, from which we are distant 147 miles by water. This splendid work, the pride and boast of Virginia, opens to Lynchburg the brightest era which has ever yet dawned upon her fortunes; securing to us a safe, speedy, and cheap navigation for the immense produce shipped annually to Richmond and the north–and destined, as the writer believes, to furnish a great thoroughfare fpr the countless thousands of produce and merchandise for the western and southwestern part of our state, as well as Tennessee, Alabama, &c.

A sketch of Lynchburg, Virginia, by its statistics, as published in a communication to the Lynchburg Republican, in 1843.

An Almost Boundless Panorama

View of the Peaks of Otter from just south of the town Liberty (Bedford), in Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Virginia, Charleston: Babcock, 1852.
View of the Peaks of Otter from just south of the town of Liberty (Bedford), in Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Virginia, Charleston: Babcock, 1852.

After riding about a mile and a quarter, we came to the point beyond which horses cannot be taken, and dismounting our steeds, commenced ascending on foot. The way was very steep, and the day so warm, that we had to halt often to take breath. As we approached the summit, the trees were all of a dwarfish growth, and twisted and gnarled by the storms of that high region. There were, also, a few blackberry bushes, bearing their fruit long after the season had passed below. A few minutes longer brought us to where the trees ceased to grow; but a huge mass of rocks, piled wildly on the top of each other, finished the termination of the peak. Our path lay for some distance around the base of it, and under the overhanging battlements; and rather descending for awhile until it led to a part of the pile, which could with some effort be scaled. There was no ladder, nor any artificial steps—and the only means of ascent was by climbing over the successive rocks. We soon stood upon the wild platform of one of nature’s most magnificent observatories—isolated, and apparently above all things else terrestrial, and looking down upon, and over, a beautiful, variegated, and at the same time grand, wild, wonderful, and almost boundless panorama. Indeed, it was literally boundless; for there was a considerable haze resting upon some parts of “the world below;” so that, in the distant horizon, the earth and sky seemed insensibly to mingle with each other.

I had been there before. I remember when a boy of little more than ten years old, to have been taken to that spot, and how my unpractised nerves forsook me at the awful sublimity of the scene. On this day it was as new as ever; as wild, wonderful, and sublime, as if I had never before looked from those isolated rocks, or stood on that lofty summit. On one side, towards eastern Virginia, lay a comparatively level country, in the distance, bearing a strong resemblance to the ocean; on the other hand, were ranges of high monntains, interspersed with cultivated spots, and then terminating in piles of mountains, following in successive ranges, until they were lost also in the haze. Above and below, the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies ran off in long lines; sometimes relieved by knolls and peaks, and in one place above us making a graceful curve, and then again running off in a different line of direction. Very near us stood the rounded top of the other peak, looking like a sullen sentinel for its neighbor. We paused in silence for a time. We were there almost cut off from the world below, standing where it was fearful even to look down. It was more hazy than at the time of my last visit, but not too much so to destroy the in-
terest of the scene.

There was almost a sense of pain, at the stillness which seemed to reign. We could hear the flapping of the wings of the hawks and buzzards, as they seemed to be gathering a new impetus after sailing through one of their circles in the air below us. North of us, and on the other side of the Valley of Virginia, were the mountains near Lexington, just as seen from that beautiful village—the Jump, North, and House Mountains succeeding each other; they were familiar with a thousand associations of our childhood, seeming mysteriously, when away from the spot, to bring my early home before me—not in imagination, such as had often haunted me when I first left it to find another in the world, but in substantial reality. Further on down the valley, and at a great distance, was the top of a large mountain, which was thought to be the great North Mountain, away down in Shenandoah county—I am afraid to say how far off. Intermediate between these mountains, and extending opposite and far above us, was the Valley of Virginia, with its numerous and highly cultivated farms. Across this valley, and in the distance, lay the remotest ranges of the Alleghany and the mountains about; and I suppose beyond the White Sulphur Springs. Nearer us, and separating eastern and western Virginia, was the Blue Ridge, more than ever showing the propriety of its cognomen of the “backbone;” and on which we could distinctly see two zigzag turnpikes, the one leading to Fincastle, and the other to Buchanan; and over which latter we had travelled a few days before. With the spyglass we could distinguish the houses in the village of Fincastle, some twenty-five or thirty miles off, and the road leading to the town.

Turning towards the direction of our morning’s ride, we had beneath us Bedford county, with its smaller mountains, farms and farm-houses—the beautiful village of Liberty, the county roads, and occasionally a mill-pond, reflecting the sun like a sheet of polished silver. The houses on the hill at Lynchburg, twenty-five or thirty miles distant, are distinctly visible on a clear day, and also Willis’ Mountain away down in Buckingham county.

I had often visited Bedford, and had been more or less familiar with it from childhood; but at our elevation, distances were so annihilated, and appearances so changed, that we could scarcely recognise the most familiar objects. After some difficulty, we at length made out the residence of Dr. M., we had that morning left, and at that moment rendered more than usually interesting, by containing, in addition to the other very dear relatives, two certain ladies, who sustained a very interesting connexion with the doctor and myself, and one of whom had scarcely laid aside the blushes of her bridal hour.

I then saw it from the Peaks of Otter: but it touched a thousand tender cords; and I almost wept when I thought, that those I once there loved were far away, and that the scenes of my youthful days could not return.

A little beyond this, I recognised the former residence of a beloved sister, now living in a distant southern state. It was the same steep hill ascending to the gate, the same grove around the house, as when she lived there, and the same as when I played there in my boyhood. And it was the first time I had seen it since the change of owners. I then saw it from the Peaks of Otter: but it touched a thousand tender cords; and I almost wept when I thought, that those I once there loved were far away, and that the scenes of my youthful days could not return.

Myself and companions had, some time before, gotten on different rocks, that we might not interrupt each other in our contemplations. I could not refrain, however, from saying to one of them, “What little things we are! how factitious our ideas of what is extensive in territory and distance!” A splendid estate was about the size I could step over; and I could stand and look at the very house whence I used often to start in days gone by, and follow with my eye my day’s journey to the spot where, wearied and worn down, I dismounted with the setting sun. Yet I could look over what seemed so great a space, with a single glance. I could also look away down the Valley of Virginia, and trace the country, and, in imagination, the stage-coach, as it slowly wound its way, day and night for successive days, to reach the termination of what I could throw my eye over in a moment. I was impressively reminded of the extreme littleness with which these things of earth would all appear, when the tie of life which binds us here is broken, and we shall be able to look back and down upon them from another world. The scene and place are well calculated to excite such thoughts.

It is said that John Randolph once spent the night on these elevated rocks, attended by no one but his servant; and that, when in the morning he had witnessed the sun rising over the majestic scene, he turned to his servant, having no other to whom he could express his thoughts, and charged him, “never from that time to believe any one who told him there was no God.”

I confess, also, that my mind was most forcibly carried to the judgment-day; and I could but call the attention of my companions to what would, probably, then be the sublime terror of the scene we now beheld, when the mountains we saw and stood upon, should all be melted down like wax; when the flames should be driving over the immense expanse before us; when the heavens over us should be “passing away with a great noise;” and when the air beneath and around us should be filled with the very inhabitants now dwelling and busied in that world beneath us.

— A Ride to the Peaks of Otter, in Bedford County, Virginia, Southern Literary Messenger, December, 1841.

A Wide and Impassable Gulf Between Us

Obelisk monument to Lt. General Jubal A. Early, erected 1919, situated at the intersection of Fort Avenue and Memorial Avenue, Lynchburg, Virginia.
Obelisk monument to Lt. General Jubal A. Early, erected 1919, situated at the intersection of Fort Avenue and Memorial Avenue, Lynchburg, Virginia.

There were men born and nurtured in the Southern States, and some of them in my own State, who took sides with our enemies, and aided in desolating and humiliating the land of their own birth, and of the graves of their ancestors. Some of them rose to high positions in the United States Army, and others to high civil positions. I envy them not their dearly bought prosperity. I had rather be the humblest private soldier who fought in the ranks of the Confederate Army, and now, maimed and disabled, hobbles on his crutches from house to house, to receive his daily bread from the hands of the grateful women for whose homes he fought, than the highest of those renegades and traitors. Let them enjoy the advantages of their present positions as best they may! for the deep and bitter execrations of an entire people now attend them, and an immortality of infamy awaits them. As for all the enemies who have overrun or aided in overrunning my country, there is a wide and impassable gulf between us, in which I see the blood of slaughtered friends, comrades, and countrymen, which all the waters in the firmament above and the seas beneath cannot wash away. Those enemies have undertaken to render our cause odious and infamous; and among other atrocities committed by them in the effort to do so, an humble subordinate, poor Wirz, has been selected as a victim to a fiendish spirit, and basely murdered under an executive edict, founded on the sentence of a vindictive and illegal tribunal. Let them continue this system! they are but erecting monuments to their own eternal dishonour, and furnishing finger posts to guide the historian in his researches. They may employ the infamous Holt, with his “Bureau of Military Justice” to sacrifice other victims on the altars of their hatred, and provost marshals, and agents of the ”Freedman’s Bureau” may riot in all the license of petty tyranny, but our enemies can no more control the verdict of impartial history, than they can escape that doom which awaits them at the final judgment.

Lt. General Jubal A. Early, A Memoir of the Last Year of the War for Independence in the Confederate States of America, Lynchburg: Charles W. Button, 1867.

George Dance

Photograph of reunion of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest's Escort, Lynchburg, Moore County, Tennessee, circa 1900.
Photograph of reunion of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Escort, Lynchburg, Moore County, Tennessee, circa 1900. Note the presence of George Dance (1 January 1842 – 12 November 1924) [far right], a slave of Dr. Stephen Edward Hinton Dance, who was the Chief Surgeon of the 8th Tennessee Infantry. George Dance applied for Confederate pension number C46 at Moore County, Tennessee, receiving ten dollars a month for his service. “Uncle George” was a regular fixture around Fayetteville and Lynchburg for years, and can be found in many period photographs.

Not Unworthy of Our Lineage

Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag.

Rather let the flames envelope our dwellings, and our fields be gleaned with fire and sword; than that the one shall furnish shelter for the armed incendiaries who invade us, or the other yield him food. If we must, after being overborne, retire to cave and mountains, we shall at least perpetuate the forms of freedom under which we were born; keep alive the sacred fires of liberty, and retain the proud satisfaction of knowing that we are not unworthy of our lineage … Let us show by the alacrity with which we respond to the call of our country in the hour of her extremity, that we are worthy of the aid we seek, and it will assuredly be given. Volunteer! Volunteer!! Volunteer!!! Let all who can volunteer.

Editorial,The Daily Virginian (Lynchburg, Virginia), 14 February 1862.

An Odious Northern Despotism

Old Courthouse, Lynchburg, Virginia.

“ … The struggle on our part is for existence itself, and the question is, whether the Confederate States shall remain free, self-governing communities, or become territorial appendages of an odious Northern despotism, — ruled by Northern governors, and overrun by Northern tax gatherers and escheators. In this struggle, we will most assuredly prevail. The duration of the struggle, however, and the amount of suffering consequent on it, will depend on the promptness with which the people will respond to the call of the Government for troops. To stand aloof in this struggle is to give aid and comfort to the enemy … (signed) J.A. Early, Brig. Gen. (Army of the Potomac)”

— Excerpt of recruitment letter, The Daily Virginian, 22 February 1862.