Last week I was working an educational program and I had the opportunity to tell one of my favorite local stories from the Civil War – the story of the Waterford News. Little did I know that it would lead me down another research rabbit hole.
I’ve mentioned the paper before, but for those unfamiliar the Waterford News was an underground, pro-Union paper published in Confederate Virginia. What makes the story even more interesting are the paper’s writers and editors – three young (and very feisty) Quaker women. The village of Waterford, Virginia was primarily inhabited by Quakers and the descendants of German immigrants, attracted by the fertile soils of the Loudoun Valley. Their religious and cultural beliefs often set them at odds with their neighbors to the east and south – many of whom descended from the old English families of the tidewater. The Quakers in particular were singled out for their opposition to slavery and a number of Loudoun Quakers were arrested in the antebellum years for their abolitionist activities (1). These fissures erupted in the spring of 1861, and when Virginians voted on secession the people of Waterford voted 221-30 against leaving the Union. For the next four years the people of Waterford would suffer for their loyalty, caught between both north and south.
Waterford became a welcome place for northern soldiers, and sisters Lizzie and Lida Dutton would often sit outside of their home and cheer them as they passed by. Their father, John Dutton, was one of the most outspoken union men in the county and was forced so spend much of the war across the river in Maryland for his safety. Many of their neighbors would do the same, out of fear that they might be conscripted by Confederate authorities. Other young men put aside their religious objections and joined the Loudoun Rangers – a Union partisan unit commanded by Waterford’s own Samuel Means. Some Waterford men ended up enlisting in Maryland regiments – brother James Dutton served in the Purnell Legion Cavalry from 1862-1865.
Left behind in Waterford the Dutton girls and their cousin Sarah Steer suffered – as did all of Waterford – at the hands of rebel partisans who came to “collect the tithe” of food and other goods. They suffered equally as badly from the Union blockade, which cut them off from almost all trade with the north, despite their loyalty. Still, throughout it all the three Quakers girls kept up a defiant spirit. Both Lizzie and Lida met and became engaged to Union officers. They keep autograph books full of signatures from the soldiers that passed through town. They offered up what meager food and comfort they could to the northern soldiers so far from home. When Union soldiers arrived in November 1864 with orders to torch nearby mills and barns Lida sat outside waving a flag and ordering the men to “Burn away, burn away, if it will keep Mosby from coming here” (2).
Isolated in Confederate Virginia the girls were determined to get their story out to their countrymen north of the Potomac. Thus was born the Waterford News. From the spring of 1864 until the end of the war these three young women wrote a paper, smuggled the copy north, and had it published and sold in Maryland for ten cents a copy. The paper was an instant success among the soldiers guarding the river and the sales funded over $1,000 in relief for wounded soldiers. President Lincoln himself even had a few copies, sent by admiring Marylanders.
The Waterford Foundation has been able to track down copies of every issue and offers them for sale in a bound pamphlet. Having talked about the girls the other day I wanted to go back and reread their paper. I was immediately struck by how entertaining it is. There’s a lot of information on the war and the sufferings of the people of Waterford, but all of that is interspersed with poetry and jokes. A wanted ad appears in the first issue for “A few stores, with Dry-Goods, Molasses Candy and other stationery, suited to the tastes of the community. Young and handsome Clerks not objectionable (3). The same issue features a story on a growing pothole in the middle of Second Street. The paper calls on the ladies of the town to “meet at the first opportunity and lend their mutual aid in filling a large mud hole with stone…being fearful that the gentlemen will get their feet muddy, the ladies will try and remedy it” (4). There’s a real sense of humor in the face of all of the privations and uncertainty.
One of the more entertaining columns in the News is the marriage section. For most of the paper’s run it was conspicuously empty, despite the entreaties of the editors. “Young men, will you see this ‘should be interesting’ place vacant, when you couls so easily remedy it?” reads one issue, while another simply reads “Words are inadequate to express our feelings on the subject” (5). Again many of the local men had fled to avoid conscription or were off with the Loudoun Rangers, so there wasn’t much to report on the marital front.
So what does this have to do with the Potomac Home Brigade? Surely the Duttons were no strangers to the Home Brigade, particularly to Cole’s Cavalry. It was the girls’ father, John, who helped smuggle Captain Hunter out of Virginia after the New Years debacle in 1864. The soldiers of the Home Brigade no doubt knew of these plucky young ladies as well, spending much of the war along the Potomac where their paper was distributed, particularly at Point of Rocks. Going back to the marriage column there was one other Home Brigade connection that I found.
Issue 8, published on April 3rd, 1865, is one of the few that contains an actual marriage announcement:
On the 2d of March. at the residence of the bride’s father, by Rev. Alfred Baker, James Sharon, Orderly Sergeant Co. H. 3d P. H.B., to Annie F. eldest daughter of Robert Russel, Esq. (6)
So who were these people? Sharon was a native of Morgan County, (West) Virginia, the son of an Irish immigrant who worked on the B&O Railroad. When the war began James left his work as a farm hand and enlisted in the 3rd PHB Infantry at Cumberland in December 1861. Despite his young age – he was only 19 – he was enlisted as a corporal and was subsequently promoted to 1st Sergeant. He served out his entire enlistment with the 3rd and reenlisted as a veteran volunteer in late 1864. As a result of his reenlistment he was granted a furlough in February, 1865 and was provided transportation from Clarksburg back east to Martinsburg.
Only a few short days later he was on a train back to his command in Clarksburg. It was during this short furlough that Sgt. Sharon married Annie Russel.
Anne had been born in Virginia, but her father’s sales business brought the family north to Maryland. In 1850 they were living in Carroll County, and by the start of the war they were in Baltimore. I’m not sure if the wedding took place in Baltimore or not – I haven’t found any records for sure.
Regardless, after the war the young couple moved north to Pennsylvania. They settled in the northeast corner of Codorus Township, in York County. James found work as a boss at the local coal yard and the two of them raised five children.
Unfortunately the couple didn’t live happily ever after. Sometime between 1900 and 1910 James was admitted to the Pennsylvania State Lunatics Asylum in Harrisburg. He would die there on March 18th, 1913 of “manic depressive psychosis and exhaustion” (7).
Anne had died the previous year, and following his death James was reunited with her at the Mount Prospect cemetery in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania. Next time I pass through that part of the world I’ll be sure to stop by and pay them a visit.
- See Between Reb and Yank by Taylor M. Chamberlin and John M. Souders as well as
Quakers Living in the Lion’s Mouth: The Society of Friends in Northern Virginia, 1730‑1865 by A. Glenn Crothers
- Chamberlain, Souders, and Souders, ed. The Waterford News. Waterford Foundation. p 1-4. Emphasis mine
- Ibid pp 5-4, 1-3
- Ibid pp 8-4
- 1910 Federal Census Susquehanna, Dauphin, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1337; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 0114; Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.