June 23, 1862
As we mentioned yesterday morning, Gov. Peirpoint arrived hom Monday evening from his trip to Washington and Eastern Virginia. A letter which we published on our first page yesterday, afforded our readers an account as to how a portion of him time was spent. The Governor visited Alexandria and some parts of Fairfax county. He also visited Norfolk, Portsmouth, and the country up in the Peninsula. He was pleased to find a considerable and a growing Union element in Alexandria. He found, however, that there was much disloyalty, mostly of a covert kind. Some parties there who were doing business without having taken the oath, the Governor had arrested. He visited the hospitals and adds to the exceedingly flattering account which Mr. Hornbrook gave in yesterday’s paper, as to the condition and treatment of the sick and wounded, and the elegance and comfort with which the buildings and grounds are kept. The Governor says it is almost a temptation to be sick at one of these hospitals.
Considerable trouble has been experienced by the Union men of Loudon County at the hands of the Secessionists, who continue to expect Jackson’s army there, and are consequently loud mouthed and overbearing. Owing to the representations made to him, the Governor sent a note by a messenger from Washington to John Janney, the President of the Richmond Convention that passed the Ordinance of Secession, informing him unless these abuses were put a stop to, and unless the Secessionists and Secession sympathizers exerted themselves to that end, he would arrest the most prominent of them, take them out of the county and detain them till after the war. This message had the effect of astonishing the old man a good deal. Beside being the first one of any kind that he had ever received from the new Governor of Virginia, he was a good deal put out at the idea of being suddenly abstracted some day from his bed and board. He went off into quite a pet about it, the messenger said, but finally settled down into the belief that he had better throw his influence in the right direction, and we suppose that hereafter he will do so.
The Governor met with Judge Bondee, a sterling Union man, a citizen of Williamsburg, and one of the most prominent lawyers of that country. He had to leave at the time the rebels came down the Peninsula, and only escaped by hurrying over the bay in a boat. All his personal property and effects had been confiscated by the rebels, and he was left in rather a destitute condition. It is expected that the Judge, in consideration both of his fine talents and acquirements, together with his unwavering loyalty, will be made the United States Judge of the Eastern District.
The country all along the Peninsula is nearly deserted by its inhabitants, except some negroes who hand around the farm houses, and even they are shoving out from time to time. The crops are coming on without any fostering hand to look after them. Wheat in many places was ripe, but there was no one to cut it. The corn had been planted here and there, but had not been worked. The houses were closed, no stock or life or motion was visible on many of the plantations. The tornado of war had swept over the country and left its blast behind.
At Portsmouth the Governor found a decided and demonstrative Union sentiment. He thinks it is in the majority there. It will be remembered that Portsmouth stood up quite strongly against the ordinance.—Colonel, then Capt. Watson had a company organized for the United States service just after the ordinance passed the Convention, and before it was voted upon by the people. Before he could get it mustered in, the rebellion swept down over that country from Richmond, and the company was forcibly disbanded. The same person, Col. Watson, is now raising a regiment, and the Governor made him out a commission, authorizing him to do so. He had several hundred men enlisted. Norfolk had furnished it appears nearly two thousand men to the Confederate army, and the consequence is that the town is left rather bare of soldier material. The friends of these men remain behind, that is very many of them do, and they of course still sympathize with the rebellion. This gives a secession air to the town, although a very quiet and subdued one. Many of the houses are closed from morning till night, their occupants apparently having turned recluses, devoting their time to cursing the abolitionists and praying for the rebels, most likely. The Union men are quiet for the most part. They don’t feel that they are out of the woods yet, and therefore they are careful. Hon. John Millson leads a quiet, retired life, taking no part in the new order of things, although a Union man, just as he took no part in the secesh regime. He is an invalid, anyhow, and no doubt feels as if he would rather devote his remaining days and strength to his family and family cares, than to the stirring scenes of such times as are upon him.
The Governor appointed Dr. Watson (who was Senator here from Accomac and Northampton,) to take charge of the Lunatic asylum at Williamsburg, a very large concern, accommodating three of four hundred patients. The Doctor was instructed to administer the oath to all employees about the establishment. This he did, and all who would not take it he promptly and energetically hustled out, much to their disgruntlement. The College at Williamsburg, the famous old William and Mary’s, is deserted. “Inter arma silent leges,” and this old traditional seat of learning and of law is closed for the second time amidst the din of foes fighting for the soil on which it stands. The Governor intends to appoint a new board of visitors, by whom a new and different set of men will be chosen to the various professorships.
At Washington Gov. Peirpoint met with the famous Porte Crayon—a loyal Virginian of the strictest and straightest sect. He is serving on Gen. Banks Staff, and is one of the most thorough and unconditional fighting men of the war. He entertained the Governor’s company with some fine sketches of Virginia history and life—not such as he used to embody in his sketches for Harper, fine as they were—but with solid, practical stateman like portraitures. He is devoted to Virginia and especially to the idea of her regeneration. He believes in her capacity for a newness of life beyond that of any State in the Union, provided only that the old, corroding and withering policy of the past can be forever broken in this war. Said he at the close of one conversation: “I have traveled in every civilized country in the world, and I have been in every State in this Union. I know what their capacities are for the sustenance of population—for the accumulation of wealth—the enjoyment of health—the beauties of nature—the development of art, science, industry and enterprise of every possible sort, and I tell you that Virginia as she could be, and as she will be, exceeds them all—immeasurably exceeds them.”
“But we have labored under a curse from the dawn of our existence. As a State we have talked politics—wrote politics—dreamed politics—sublimated politics—abstractionized politics—just as John Smith’s men at Jamestown “dug gold—washed gold—refined gold and shipped gold”—and starved at least, because their gold was not gold, but only counterfeit trash. So with us. We have politicalized the life and marrow and fatness and capacity of the State away, and depended all the while on the nigger to make a living for us, and to achieve the work that none but Anglo-Saxons can achieve. All this is changing at race horse speed, said he, and the change will soon be complete, despite all the cries of nigger! Nigger! In the mouths of blatant Secession sympathizers, and out of the charge will come forth, like pure gold from the fiery ordeal, a great State, ready for a great future.”
Governor Peirpoint had many interviews with Congressmen at Washington on the subject of the new State. There was a general disposition on the part of the Republicans to put it right through for us. The strongest enemies we had were the Vallandighammers, who oppose us just as they have opposed everybody and everything of a loyal kind through this war. It is to be hoped that the memorial of our Commissioners will be reached this session, but the governor considers it doubtful if Congress adjourns early, as they talk of doing.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: June 1862