The War Divides
Amanda loved Glade Springs, meeting her husband, John, there almost twenty years ago and married now, the small town was located in the fertile valley of the Powell River in Virginia, a beautiful land to farm and raise a family. It was surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains in western Virginia.
The peaceful community was suddenly split when the Civil War began, dividing the country and its people. Glade Springs was important to the Union and Confederate armies. It was uniquely centered between both Union and Confederate strongholds. Both armies foraged in the area to supply their troops, as it was difficult to transport in supplies. It was only a matter of time before they would meet each other in battle.
While Glade Springs was part of the Confederacy, the town’s people were split, though not evenly. There was a small holdout that couldn’t or wouldn’t support slavery. Amanda and John found themselves in the minority and that was increasingly becoming a problem that they couldn’t ignore any longer. Friends became enemies and even the ones that put up with them did it begrudgingly.
John feared for their safety, especially for his wife and eighteen-year-old daughter, Phebe. Amanda was a beautiful woman and Phebe took after her. There was talk of Union soldiers taking advantage of women after capturing Confederate territory. With the Confederate soldiers and townspeople hostile toward them, he feared the same from them. It seemed that they were no longer welcome in their town, no matter which side took it. Phebe had a hard time finding a beau; most of the eligible men were Confederates and didn’t take lightly to a Union sympathizer, no matter how beautiful she was.
They had talked about it many times, but it was time for a serious discussion. There was talk of Union troop buildup nearby and the Confederates began to mobilize. If they were going to do something, it would have to be now. Otherwise, it might be too late.
John looked over at the barn and saw Amanda walking out with a bucket of milk. She didn’t look much different than she did over twenty-two years ago when he first set eyes on her. She was only sixteen at the time, but she was every bit a woman even back then. It would be two years after he met her that he finally got permission from her father to marry her. Her honey blonde hair was longer now, but that was what first caught his eyes. He walked out to meet her and helped her carry the bucket.
John walked toward her, not sure why. He had a look in his eyes and that made her nervous. She had heard the sound of gunfire in the morning, wondering if he was going to bring up moving once again. She knew it was inevitable, but it was hard to give up the farm, where they had raised Phebe, for some unknown place far out west. As much as the town became inhospitable to them, it was still their home. John was big and muscular from working on the farm over the years, but brute strength wouldn’t stop the soldiers if they came.
“Hello, husband. Are you here to help your wife carry the milk?” She loved to tease him, more than capable to do it, but he liked to think he was indispensable.
She handed him the bucket. “Yes, it looked heavy.” He walked beside her as they went up to the house. He didn’t say anything to her yet; he would wait until they were inside and they could sit down to discuss it.
She poured the milk into containers and sat the bucket on the floor, knowing John was waiting.
“Sit down, Amanda.”
She knew it was serious when he said her name like that. She sat next to him at the kitchen table.
“I think it’s time,” sure that she knew what he meant.
“Are you worried about the gunfire this morning? We’ve heard it before, it never amounted to much.” She wanted to delay the inevitable as long as possible. Maybe the two sides would come to their senses and it would end.
“Yes, but it’s more than that. They are recruiting anyone that can handle a rifle to join the Confederates to stop the Union soldiers from taking the town. You know I can’t do that and I’ve already raised the ire of too many people, important people. If we don’t do something now, the farm might be taken from us. At least we have a chance of selling it and getting a good price. It’ll give us a stake to go out west.”
She knew that once John made up his mind that was it. She could argue and try to cajole him, but it wouldn’t do any good. “What about Phebe?”
“She’s getting older and should have a beau by now, but in this town, she is shunned by many of the men, and the ones interested in her only want to get her into bed.”
Amanda knew he was right. She was eighteen, the same age Amanda was when she married John. “Where will we go?”
John was glad that she finally reconciled to the fact that they would leave. Her parents had moved away a year ago, getting older and unwilling to suffer the hardships. They had gone up north to Baltimore. His parents had passed over five years ago. There was nothing holding them to the land any longer. “California.”
“You going to dig for gold, is that what we’ll do?” She didn’t want to raise a family in a mining camp. Gold had been discovered in California and many had sought out their fortunes, but the camps were wild places, not fit for a family.
“No, we’ll farm just like we do now. I hear that Sutter’s Fort has nice farmland, flat land and lots of water. We can buy a plot of land and build a new house. It’ll be hard for a while, but were strong and we can build a new life.” They were still in their prime and could live through a few hard years until they were settled.
“Do you think you can sell the farm and get enough money so we can get there and still buy the land?”
“Yes, Chester asked me about it the other day, if we’d be willing to sell the farm.” Chester was the bank president. He was a Confederate and knew John’s leaning toward the Union, but he was a decent man.
So, John had been planning this more than she thought. She knew the decision was made. “If you think its best, I’ll support you. When do you think we’ll leave?”
“I suspect a week or so. Not much longer. It’s gonna get worse real soon and I want us out of here before it does.” He didn’t tell Amanda that Chester already had a buyer; they just had to agree on price.
“So soon?” Amanda was surprised. She hoped for weeks or months, not next week. There was so much to do and he gave her little time. They hadn’t even talked to Phebe to see what her reaction would be.
“We won’t take much with us; we’ll sell most of the furniture. We can keep the things that are dear to our heart but nothing else.”
She never thought of that. It would be hard to give up most of what they had accumulated over the years. This was going to be more difficult than she expected. What else don’t I know about or expect?