I’ve never been able to figure out the big deal about the American Civil War. I’ve felt it should have been more important in my life, but it just never was. I’ve lived in an area more connected to southern Confederate sympathies than the northern Union side most of my life.
Benjamin Warden (B.W.) McKeever, my Great Grandfather, bought my farm from the John M. Hopewell family, who owned Big House during the Civil War. An old story in the Moorefield Examiner describes an incident when a visiting unnamed Confederate soldier was kept hidden in crawl space beneath the dining room floor after passage down through a hidden trap door. B.W. was an ex-soldier for the Confederacy, who came here from the Shenandoah Valley around Singer’s Glen area
B.W. was a store keeper / business man and later a member of the Hardy County Court. He served when covered bridges were built beside my farm over CaCapon River and across Lost River at the gap where Lost River sinks. He also was part of the court which sponsored the detailed survey of boundaries between Hardy and Hampshire counties.
The story surrounding the “trap door soldier” claims a Yankee patrol riding up CaCapon Valley stopped for lunch at Big House where they ate in the room over the hidden soldier’s head. My father introduced me to the tricky trap door at least fifty years ago. I crawled down into deep dust, found several skulls of small animals which died there, came out and have never gone back. The hole has been on display during several Heritage Weekends Mom opened the house for tour. I’m writing this column in that room perhaps ten feet from the hidden trapdoor.
[private] Civil War wasn’t really discussed much around our Big House home. Maybe Mom and Pap avoided the subject. My Sister, Eleanor, while living with my Grandmother Cook in Ohio has seen pictures of her Great Grandfather Fernandez and his brother standing proudly for the camera in their Union uniforms. I never learned much about them, but hard evidence exists that my family was split in sympathies.
So maybe the split family and lack of discussion is why I could never get excited about the war. Perhaps my main reaction to celebrating has been that the only side which really seems to celebrate is the South, the side which lost the war. It’s just never seemed exactly right to me to commemorate and re-enact losing.
Activities commemorating the Civil War have offered opportunities for fun hobbies. Camping out in hand made period clothes, authentic arms stacked beside tents with bubbling pots over wood fires all lend authenticity to social gatherings. Mock attacks on trains, plays and productions, historical research into genealogy, metal detecting for relics, all draw upon the Civil War for background.
I’ve been associated with folks who took part in those activities. I don’t remember any discussion demeaning African Americans or their subjugation as slaves. I think folks who do such activities gain appreciation for hardships under which their ancestors might have lived, but don’t really dig into reason’s they lived that way.
I truly do not believe my ancestors fought specifically to preserve slavery or specifically to free the slaves. I have no evidence that either Great Grandfather owned a slave. I think they simply fought “for the cause” whatever their families and friends thought that cause to be.
I went to fight “for the cause” in Vietnam. To this day I have no real idea what that cause was. Come to think of it, we lost the Vietnam war too. Does that mean the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C. will need to be destroyed by some idiot group and their pandering politicians some future day?