Winchester "A Regular Shuttlecock"
Before the Civil War, Winchester, VA, was a prosperous little town with a population of 4,400. It was surrounded by fertile farms whose limestone-rich soil provided lush fields of wheat and abundant pasture-land for for thousands of fat cattle and sheep. Located in the northern part of the Shenandoah Valley, Winchester lay at the juncture of several well-travelled roads and was a commercial center as well as the home of many artisans and merchants. The original 18th century settlers were non-slaveholding Scots and Germans from Pennsylvania who had few political and cultural ties with the part of the state east of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
During the secession crisis of 1861 most of Winchester's citizens supported the Union, until President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the "rebellion." Then, said one of the town's women, "Lincoln's awful proclamation has made secessionists of us all." Upon Virginia's leaving the Union, local citizens went to Harpers Ferry to seize the federal armory and to guard the lower end of the valley. Four companies were formed from local volunteers, men and boys who would soon become a part of the famous Stonewall Brigade.
Winchester has the distinction of having changed hands during the war more than any other town in the North or the South. Some sources say military control of the town switched hands 52 times during the 48 month war; several sources say 100 times. Some of the changes in possession consisted of little more than a troop of cavalry riding through town, and sometimes forces from opposing armies would travel through in the same day.
British observer of the Civil War Col. Arthur Fremantle visited Winchester in 1863 and noted that the town had "been made a regular shuttlecock by the constant armies... I understand that Winchester used to be a most agreeable little town, and its society extremely pleasant. Many of its houses are now destroyed or converted into hospitals. The rest look miserable and dilapidated."
Fascinating Fact: Formal occupation of Winchester by opposing forces has recently been calculated to have happened 14 times during the Civil War.
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