Author: Jonathan M. Berkey

an assistant professor of history at Concord University in Athens, West Virginia. He is completing a study examining how civilians in Virginia's lower Shenandoah Valley shaped their Civil War experience

Winchester during the Civil War

Located in the Shenandoah Valley, Winchester was the most contested town in the Confederacy during the American Civil War (1861–1865), changing hands more than seventy times and earning its reputation (in the words of a British observer) as the shuttlecock of the Confederacy. Three major battles were fought within town limits and four others nearby. In 1862, Confederate general Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson won a victory there during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign that solidified his reputation as the Confederacy’s first hero. Following Jackson’s death in May 1863, Richard S. Ewell took over his corps and, on the way to Gettysburg, scooped up the Union garrison at Winchester, suggesting to many that he might have the stuff to replace the fallen Stonewall. The Third Battle of Winchester (1864) was a Union victory, part of Union general Philip H. Sheridan‘s successful Valley Campaign against Jubal A. Early. The war, meanwhile, brought huge changes for the town’s residents, including rampant inflation, often harsh measures imposed by occupiers, and the destruction of slavery. By 1865, the town was largely destroyed.


Rockingham Rebellion

The Rockingham Rebellion in April 1862 occurred when several militiamen from Rockingham County, Virginia, violently resisted their incorporation into the Confederate army during the American Civil War (1861–1865). The incident came at a time when the Confederacy faced a crucial manpower challenge, but not all members of the state militia, in particular the German Baptists of the northern Shenandoah Valley, agreed with an executive order from Virginia governor John L. Letcher forcing them into Confederate service. Confederate general Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson dispatched troops from his Valley Army to crush the rebellion, which they did after briefly shelling the militiamen’s hiding place at Swift Run Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Jackson had a reputation for discipline, but, more important, the incident marked the Confederacy’s willingness to use force against dissidents, in some instances even going after civilians who were harboring deserters.


John S. Carlile (1817–1878)

John S. Carlile was a member of the Convention of 1850–1851, the U.S. House of Representatives (1856–1858), the Convention of 1861, the First and Second Wheeling Conventions of 1861, and the United States Senate (1861–1865). As an active and outspoken participant in the Convention of 1850, he supported democratic reforms that invested western Virginia with more political power. In Congress, he supported the rights of slave owners, but as a delegate to the state convention during the secession crisis of 1861, he vehemently opposed leaving the Union, calling secession “a crime against God.” The convention voted to secede anyway, and during the American Civil War (1861–1865), Carlile became a U.S. senator representing the Restored government of Virginia. In Washington, D.C., he helped shepherd the West Virginia statehood bill through Congress, only to vote against it in 1862, citing the bill’s requirement that the new state adopt a plan of gradual emancipation. While Carlile remained in the Senate until 1865, he had so angered—and confused—his new West Virginia constituents that his political career was largely over. He died on his farm near Clarksburg in 1878.