previous next

Letter from Western Virginia.

[correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch]
Greenbrier (Va.) White Sulphur
Springs, Oct. 7th, 1863.
Having recently come to this county, I propose to give some account of my trip for the benefit of your readers. You are aware that the cars now run only to Milton, which makes some twenty miles more of staging to Lewisburg. Nevertheless one can make the trip from Staunton — by way of the Bath Alum and the Warm, Hot, and Healing Springs — in thirty-six hours. These watering-places, and especially the one from which this letter hails, present, as you may suppose, a striking contrast to their appearance before the war. Then, even out of the springs season, they afforded evidence of the gay crowds which had but lately thronged them; now, they vie with the surrounding mountains in a solitude which is painfully oppressive. For a couple of days the Hot Springs was an exception to this remark, being the scene of a large sale of personal property, the premises having recently changed hands at the price of $200,000. On this occasion bidders were present from the region around and even from Richmond, and furniture was sold at fabulous prices.

The mere springs-goer, who frequents these watering-places to escape the heat of the lower country, to whirl in a fashionable throng, or to use the healing waters, whatever other object he may secure, cannot fully appreciate the true beauty and glory of mountain scenery. To do this one must spend the first days of October amid the mountains. Then, and then alone, do those grim piles attire themselves with a gorgeousness which might befit an Easter a queen.--For man to die is to become loathsome, but Nature is most beautiful in her dying hours. And this is specially true in the mountains. Certainly nowhere else is the autumnal foliage so varied and so glorious in its hues. Whether it is due to the peculiarity of the trees or of the climate, I do not know; but though I have often in Eastern Virginia enjoyed the scenery of autumn, I have never witnessed such glories as now surround me. Yonder is a tree which is not unlike a large bouquet. Its symmetrical form is varied with emerald, and golden, and purple. Methinks a giant need not desire a better bouquet to present to his lady-love; but he must be a huge one, indeed, for the tree towers with a majesty scarcely inferior to its brilliant beauty. And look at you mountain side. It is a wall of foliage of every hue, and looks as if dressed with myriad flowers. Well may the clouds be excused that they have come and nestled so lovingly on its crest. At every turn you have a scene the same, and yet new. I am but a poor word painter, but he who has painted these mountains has varied and ample colors, and has made such pictures as to be appreciated must be seen. How lavish the power which creates such scenes in these solitudes, and to pass away even while one gazes at them in wonder and admiration !

As I passed the scene of the Dry creek fight, I could see in the trees and houses and fences the evidences of its spirited character. A very intelligent lady at the tollgate, who witnessed the whole, showed us where the different forces were stationed, and described the events with considerable navaid. From the accounts of prisoners the intention of the enemy was to destroy the White Sulphur. You will perceive how narrow was the escape when I tell you that the enemy had advanced from Callaghan's, blockading the road behind, and had gotten within a mile of Dry creek, when our troops came into the turnpike at Dry creek by the Anthony's creek road, quite unaware that the enemy were in such close proximity.--Had they been a few moments later the enemy would have passed, and probably would have accomplished their fiendish purposes. As it is, a few of them are here as wounded prisoners. Everybody out here expresses chagrin at the escape of the Yankee force. They had to open the road which they had blockaded, their ammunition was exhausted, they were weary and dispirited, fully expected to be captured, and had a white flag ready to haul up at the first approach of our men. Every one is asking why Imboden and Wharton did not come up.

I have been out as far as the Blue Sulphur, the seat of a new college. It escaped the ravages of the enemy who visited it, but has been sadly injured by some of our own troops. Notwithstanding the main building had been burnt the year before the war, Col. French suffered his cavalry to burn fences, negro cabins, the flooring from the pavilion over the spring, and even the rails of a large number of bedsteads, the posts being used to picket the horses with. Such wanton destruction of the property of a suffering institution of learning cannot be too severely reprehended. I am glad to know that the General commanding is determined to put the seal of condemnation of such conduct. I learn that it is proposed during the war to pay for the property, and have the institution ready to go into operation when peace comes. Rev. Mr. Walton is now prosecuting successfully in Greenbrier an agency for the college. You are probably aware that Gov. Wise earnestly recommended the Blue as the seat of a great Western Virginia College.

I have been exceedingly gratified at the spirit of this people. There may be some Unionists in Greenbrier, but they are in a miserable moral and numerical minority. On the other hand, the loyal citizens are erect with hope and courage. I asked a good many what they thought of the new State. The reply generally was, "It is impossible." Two officers, at different times, used substantially this language: "Were a peace declared which recognized the division of the State, the fighting would still go on. I would still fight for my home and my freedom." Noble sentiment, say I. Never must Virginia consent to her own dismemberment. Never must she give up the coal, and oil, and iron, and salt, and the rivers with which Western Virginia grounds. Then were she indeed shorn of her strength and glory. The idea is preposterous. We must prevail, or be overcome. If we are overcome we lose everything. If we succeed we will claim our own. I am thankful that Virginia and the Confederacy have thus declared, and specially am I proud that she who has suffered most has the least thoughts of abating her claims. The people, too, are waked up on the subject of resisting raids, and I venture the prediction that if the Yankees again penetrate this country they will not only meet a stern, organized resistance, but be bush whacked as they never have been before during the war.

Fruit through this region is abundant. The soldiers here can have for the gathering what those in Eastern Virginia could not buy for their wages. Everywhere one sees the loaded apple trees, and witnesses the operations of cider-making and boiling apple butter. Nor will these sweet- toothed farmers suffer from the fall of Vicksburg. They have their apple molasses, their maple sugar, and their Sorghum, and it is indeed pleasant to see them thus cheerfully and earnestly returning to the simple, self-reliant habits of their forefathers.

I have noticed and admired one feature in the relations between the army and the people here. The soldiers, to a very great extent, are employed by the citizens at liberal wages to do their farm work. This has been a great accommodation to the latter and a great benefit to the public, in the present scarcity of labor and of provisions, while to the soldiers it has afforded a relief from the annul of camp life, and has supplied many of the comforts and pleasures of home, Possibly some soldiers from other regions might sneer at this; but I confess I like it, and think that one of these heroes of many battles, devoting a leisure interval to the useful and peaceful culture of the soil, might adopt as his appropriate seal the figure of an expanding between a plough and an a liar with the words "paratus ulra."

Prodigies still abound in Greenbrier. I met the other day a lady who was sanguine of an early peace, and gave as her reason a large while flag which had been seen in the heavens. So mote it be.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
West Virginia (West Virginia, United States) (3)
Virginia (Virginia, United States) (2)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Wise (1)
Wharton (1)
Walton (1)
Unionists (1)
Milton (1)
Imboden (1)
Seth B. French (1)
Callaghan (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
October 7th, 1863 AD (1)
January, 10 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: