A bugler, at bottom right, blows on his horn and cheers ring out on the streets of Winchester, Virginia, as the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment marches off to nearby Bunker Hill in 1861. This regiment was part of General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's Valley District command headquartered in Winchester.
With its proximity to railroads and its strategic location as a staging point in the Shenandoah Valley, Winchester became the most contested town in the Confederacy during the Civil War, changing hands more than seventy times and earning its reputation, in the parlance of a British observer, as the "shuttlecock" of the Confederacy.
Although the citizens shown here in 1861 were bursting with Confederate fervor, the war would take a terrible toll on the town. Like most of that portion of the Shenandoah Valley, Winchester was devastated by four years of active warfare. In the town and its immediate surroundings, more than 200 homes were destroyed; a hundred more were transformed into stables and hospitals, suffering considerable damage in the process. A postwar editorial reported that "every building that survived the torch, both in the city and county, was more or less out of repair." Winchester gradually recovered from its wartime ordeal but never regained its prewar prominence in the region.
This pencil and watercolor wash drawing was made by Alfred Wordsworth Thompson, an artist for Harper's Weekly, and was one of nineteen drawings concerning Virginia that he created during the opening months of the war.