A four-part lecture series on the Civil War in Southwest Virginia begins Thursday, Feb. 6 with a lecture by historian James Hagy on “Life in Washington County during the Civil War.” It will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the executive auditorium of the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center and is free of charge.
This is the fourth year that there has been a lecture series on the Civil War in Southwest Virginia, which has followed the sesquicentennial years. The concentration this year is on 1864, when major military actions came to the area for the first time.
Hagy’s lecture will give an overview of the range of issues that caused so much suffering and misery in the county during the war. Topics will include the extent of slavery in Washington County, the decision to go to war, the initial enthusiasm for war, the volunteer units, conscription, desertion, disease, fears of insurrection, speculators, near starvation, impressment of food and slaves, the burden of Confederate troops in the area, two Federal incursions in 1863, marauders in the mountains, the imposition of taxes, the massacre after the First Battle of Saltville followed by the murders at the Emory hospital, Stoneman's raid and the aftermath of the fighting.
Hagy is a retired professor of history at the College of Charleston and is the author of History of Washington County, Virginia to 1865.
On Feb. 13, Mike Shaffer will discuss the overall military actions during 1864 to provide a context to the military actions in the region during that year. Shaffer says, “Military action in the Old Dominion would, at long last, bring the hard hand of war to Washington County. Shaffer is the assistant director of Kennesaw State University's Civil War Center, and the author of Washington County Virginia in the Civil War.
The lectures on Feb. 20 and 27 will focus on salt production in Saltville and the saltworks’ importance to the Confederacy. Harry Haynes, the manager of the Museum of the Middle Appalachians, will give an overview of salt production in the Saltville Valley for more than 230 years, with an emphasis on the Civil War period. Then Cliff Boyd, a professor of anthropological sciences at Radford University, will describe how the strategic importance of the saltworks also led Union forces to attempt the capture of Saltville on two occasions in late 1864. This presentation describes the industrial process of salt manufacture through the use of historical records and archaeology and the sequence of events and consequences of the two battles for Saltville.
The series is part of the community cultural outreach of Virginia Highlands Community College, in collaboration with the Washington County Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee.