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By His Flaming Proclamations


From the National Archives:

A close look reveals that this impassioned 1861 broadside [dated this day in 1861—Ed.] refers to western Virginia, not the American West. It was issued in Augusta County, Virginia, by Michael G. Harman, a wealthy hotel owner, planter, and slaveholder. He was also the quartermaster and chief recruiter for western Virginia. Many volunteers from Augusta County formed the 52nd Virginia Infantry. Early in the war, men volunteered for political reasons. As the war dragged on, the armed services resorted to financial incentives, the draft, and recruiting agents.

Major Harmon was one of five brothers who served as officers in the Confederate army. When the former Unionist John Brown Baldwin was appointed the Confederacy’s inspector general, he named Harmon, his neighbor from Staunton, as his assistant. Not everyone in teh Shenandoah Valley was thrilled about this. Writes the historian Ed Ayers:

Harman, a self-made entrepreneur, hotel owner, planter, large-scale slaveowner, and prominent Douglas Democrat, had already been made quartermaster general for western Virginia. It was over his name that recruiting posters went out all over the Valley. “By his flaming proclamations,” the Rockbridge man [who wrote a sarcastic letter to a local paper] caustically observed, Harman had already “made himself familiar as household words to all the people of West Augusta and a thousand other Western places besides, under his stirring appeals and over his flaming signature of ‘Quartermaster and Major Commanding.'” Now Harman had been given another plum position, “so that Mike can rise in his stirrups, mount a new shoulder strap and equestrianize through the thoroughfares of Staunton with Ostrich feather streaming out behind and a longer title floating out before.” Why not go the whole way, the critic asked, and make Mike Harman “revered as Lord of Augusta and Duke of Staunton?”

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