Few communities suffered more in the face of war than did Spotsylvania County. For two years armies traversed, occupied, or fought over this ground. Most residents simply tried to stay out of the way; a few left altogether. Virtually every farm in the northern half of the county suffered damage - vandalized houses, pillaged pantries, burned fences, stolen livestock. There is no peace in living in this God forsaken country?
Most white Spotsylvanians owned small farms of a few hundred acres. More than 6,000 slaves - half the county's population - toiled on these farms, usually in groups of two or three, often alongside their owners. With war, most white men left to fight. A few quietly supported the Union, and two - Isaac Silver and Ebenezer McGee - secretly spied for the Union army.
With the coming of war most white males left to serve the Confederacy. When the Union army arrived for the first time in 1862, slaves fled to freedom by the thousands. Farming came to a virtual halt. The women, older men, and children left behind suffered hunger and hardship, tending small gardens and sharing as best they could. Some became refugees - to Richmond, Charlottesville, or southwest Virginia. If and when they returned, they found a shattered community facing decades of recovery.
(Picture caption, top left): In 1860 half the population of Spotsylvania was enslaved, living in meager quarters with little hope for freedom. This image shows a slave family living near Spotsylvania Court House.
(Picture caption, top center): The Morrisons, wartime residents on the Salem Church Battlefield, hosted Union veterans in 1892.
(Picture caption, top right): Most homes in Spotsylvania suffered from foraging soldiers, both Union and Confederate. This image shows a house surrounded by a military camp.
We are suffering from such lawless times as existed in the dark ages?.
Katherine Couse, Spotsylvania resident, May 1864.
(Picture caption, bottom): Though the ruins of the Chancellor house came to symbolize the plight of white Spotsylvanians, in fact few homes in the county suffered outright destruction. Most homes suffered from foraging soldiers, both Union and Confederate.