More about the Virginia Home Front
Why do some native Virginians still passionately remember the Civil War, 150 years after it started? I’ve heard that question asked, particularly by people who live outside the state or have moved here. The answer is that their forebears suffered extraordinary hardships. The entire state was in one way or another engulfed, parts of it for five years, and people almost everywhere saw their lives change. “We shall never any of us be the same as we have been,” wrote young Lucy Buck of Front Royal in 1862. Stories like hers should be remembered.
Almost one hundred home front objects are displayed in An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia, the blockbuster exhibition installed in our galleries. They tell a sizeable portion of the home front story, but not all of it. Places like Culpeper, Norfolk, and Wytheville, for example, were literally overrun, and—search as we did—little or nothing was to be found that would do much to recount the unusual experiences there.
Rich written accounts, however, survive, and by electronic means we are able to bring some of them forward. We have placed online a relatively comprehensive examination of “Life on the Virginia Home Front.” This web exhibit expands the shorter version of the audiovisual that is currently on view in An American Turning Point. Online, it’s easy to navigate electronically. Just select a region and learn more about it. You will find actual period accounts written by the people who witnessed what was happening. Check out the fifteen regions we have selected.
We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg with this web resource. If you want more information, you can start with the bibliography of published sources that trails it. Do you know of unpublished Virginia Civil War accounts? If so, tell us about them. Share the stories with us so that they can be remembered.
William M. S. Rasmussen is Lead Curator and Lora M. Robins Curator at the Virginia Historical Society.