Connecting the Past to the Present
Loudoun had 5,501 slaves by the 1860 census, 27% of the total population of 21,774. Understandably, John Brown’s Raid and attempted slave insurrection at nearby Harpers Ferry in 1859 terrified Loudouners. A captain of the newly formed Loudoun Artillery roared to a crowd in 1860, "We are armed to the teeth and ready for war! Being determined to defend our institution from all assaults of abolitionists, if need be, at the point of bayonets and cannon's mouth . . .”
When the war came, for many Loudouners, it simple: the federal government had invaded us, so we would fight to defend our homes. For others, it was a wrenching time of weighing Virginia ties versus national ties to Union. For African-Americans, it represented a fearful opportunity—a chance for freedom yet inherently fraught with huge risk and potential destruction.
The war ended in unmitigated defeat, destruction, and disaster for the Confederate government and the Commonwealth that had sided with it, whatever character and heroism had been shown on the battlefield. This is indelibly stamped on Virginia’s character, that the state took this fatal stand and suffered defeat. It came to be glorified by the late 19th century as “the Lost Cause.” For Loudoun’s Unionists, the destruction of the Southern Rebellion meant the saving of the United States as we know it, and all that the nation stands for. Yet for African-American families in Loudoun, the War brought “the Day of Jubilee”—freedom, THE event in American history. These feelings continued as Loudouners sought to understand and remember our past while striving together —North and South, black and white, native-born and naturalized citizen—to move forward as a proud community.