I'm reading an interesting book on Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign. Since moving to the Valley in 2002, I'm fascinated by its history which attracted me to Stonewall in the Valley by Robert Tanner when I was browsing the shelves of our little independent library in Woodstock. Initially I just planned to look up all the entries on Woodstock, but when I read the first chapter I was hooked.
One paragraph that leaped out at me referred tangentially to slavery. It described Jedekiah Hotchkiss, the famous mapmaker of the Confederacy. If you've ever seen samples of his maps you were no doubt impressed by their accuracy. A satellite map can hardly compare. The man had a great gift for "seeing" the lay of the land. A few years ago, Larry and I saw a display of his work at Winchester's Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. Wow! How could anyone on horseback with little opportunity for a bird's eye view make maps so detailed and so accurate? And to think it was a hobby. At any rate, Hotchkiss's profession was education and he began a number of schools in the Valley, the New Yorker's adopted home.
Here's the paragraph that impressed me:
Hotchkiss was representative of the Shenandoah in two other respects: he abhorred slavery and stoutly opposed secession. Slavery had long been declining throughout the Valley, and what few slaves remained were among the best treated of the South. Concerning disruption of the Union, the Shenandoah consistently opposed it. When the Union began to fragment, the people of Staunton pledged their loyalty to it en masse. Every county of the Valley rejected disunion with a majority of votes for the southern moderates John C. Breckinridge or John Bell in the presidential election of 1860. Even so, the Valley never doubted that it belonged to Virginia and Virginia to the South. The South, commented the Winchester Virginian, was "one family...and if South Carolina secedes, and thus inaugurates a final issue with the North, we are necessarily forced to stand in defense of our homes, interests and people"
Most people have a black and white view of slavery. The Civil War was necessary to end slavery. Really? So over 600,000 casualties were "necessary" to end an institution that died naturally everywhere else on the planet. (Well, actually slavery continues today but you'd never know it from the ho-hum attitude of many who would gladly argue about slavery and the evil South.)
Whenever I point out that the Jesus did not condemn slavery or demand its immediate end, nor did the early Church, some people act like I'm a rabid slaver with horns. I'm certainly not saying the Church approved of slavery; that would be untrue. But the Church accepted a societal condition and worked independently to ameliorate and reduce the institution. Paul told slaves to be faithful to their masters and they treated as equals in the Christian community. Christians also ransomed and freed slaves, but the Church never advocated rebellion or revolution to end the practice.
Slavery was on the way out. Its days were numbered. It was economically unfeasible and ended in other places through compensated emancipation. Was ending it a few years earlier really worth 600,000 dead men, poisoned race and North/South relations due to draconian "reconstruction," and the creation of a Leviathan, out-of-control central government? What do you think?