Patrick County, Virginia and the Civil War, 1860-1880

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Virginia Tech


In 1860, Patrick County. like the rest of Virginia and much of the South. wavered uneasily on the brink of secession. In a county where large planters were few, secession was not overwhelmingly popular. Slaveholding families, however, constituted almost one quarter of the white population in Patrick, as they did across the South, and when Virginia seceded. Patrick Countians flocked to serve in the Confederate Army.

Although situated in Virginia, Patrick managed to escape physical decimation from war. In fact, no battles occurred in the county and Federal troops only invaded the county once in four years. Nevertheless, the Civil War came home to Patrick in a variety of ways: men were killed, livestock and crops impressed, and farms destroyed. With its prosperity of the 1850's disrupted by the war. Patrick's agricultural output dramatically decreased, industry failed, and labor shortages ensued.

Despite the changes the Civil War brought to Patrick, the highest echelon of Patrick's social structure changed little. Those white men who had been well off before the war continued to flourish and continued to own the most and most valuable real estate. Small farmers before the war generally remained small farmers. Free blacks did not gain much status over the decades, and freedmen owned scarcely any land nor personal property; neither group by 1880 had achieved literacy. In Patrick County the rich stayed rich and the planters remained the most influential.