Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It was a Hot and Miserable Summer in 1861….

written by Kellee Blake

At Ker Place on Tuesday, August 30, at 7:00 pm, historian Kellee Green Blake will share true stories of the Shore from the momentous summer and early fall of 1861. This will be the first in a series of lectures planned by the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. The Historical Society’s new exhibit of local Civil War artifacts coupled with the Virginia Historical Society’s Panel exhibit will be the perfect backdrop for attendees to spend a night immersed in an exciting chapter of our past.

During this talk, Mrs. Blake embraces questions that Shoremen were asking themselves during the hot and miserable summer of 1861- where crops rotted in the fields and lighthouses stood dark. The Shore was awash in rumor: rumor that the Federals would soon invade; rumor that the Confederate Army would come from Norfolk to reinforce them; rumor that the enslaved people planned a mass exodus. The people of the Shore did not know what to believe or which neighbors to trust. Those on Chincoteague and the islands poised themselves for an attack from either side. Others dared believe for freedom. Loyalties on the Shore were passionately divided, local leaders burned in effigy, and Shoremen vigorously collided in this period characterized as a “reign of terror.” In truth there were many small battles on the Shore, many quiet human struggles no less worthy of our notice. Who would ultimately prevail? Who would win this “war” on the Eastern Shore?

The answers will surprise you and transform your thinking about the vital role of these uniquely positioned Virginia counties- Accomack and Northampton. The days of believing that little happened here during the war are at an end.

Ms. Blake is the retired Director of the National Archives – Mid Atlantic Region in Philadelphia. She is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of Mary Washington College and received her graduate degree in American History from Villanova University. She has processed, researched, and administered thousands of documents from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries including the papers of Aaron Burr, Roger Taney, Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, H. R. Haldeman, and the Robert Kennedy Assassination Files. Kellee has been a regular speaker at national genealogical and historical conferences and is the author of multiple articles on wartime loyalties, the law practice of Abraham Lincoln, and the Federal Census. She has been working on a book about the Federal occupation of the Shore for the better part of four years. Kellee and her husband Tom divide their time between an 18th century home in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, and their cottage on Hunting Creek.

Excerpt from the 2012 Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society Newsletter

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