Civil War – Background information for COMPENSATION LETTERS by Judy C. Ware

Josiah Ware –
Background information for COMPENSATION LETTERS
By: Judith C. Ware
© September 2008

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The following attachments contain information concerning Josiah Ware’s property that was lost during the Civil War. There were many occasions during that time period when both the Union and Confederate forces camped on Springfield – Josiah’s plantation. With food and rations in short supply for the Confederates, Josiah often fed the men from his own resources.
During the first few years of the war, public relations with civilians remained oddly cordial between both the North and the South. It was not unusual for a southern family to offer (not that they had much choice in the matter) their home as headquarters for enemy troop leaders and in exchange, those same generals would often extend immunity from some of the harsh treatment that befell others. It was this very situation that helped preserve Josiah’s home from being burned during the terrible rampage of Sheridan through the Shenandoah Valley. General Merritt of the Union army was so grateful for the kind hospitality extended to him by the Ware family that he promised that no harm would come to Springfield. Although Federal troops would, indeed, try to fire the home at a later date, it was this very safeguard from Merritt that ultimately saved the house. The following is an excerpt from the book entitled Old Jube which was written by Millard Kessler Bushong:

“General Merritt was more considerate of a particular homestead on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Clarke County. This one, named “Springfield,” belonged to Colonel Josiah W. Ware, a paroled Confederate prisoner of war. When Merritt encamped on the estate, Ware displayed true Southern hospitality by inviting the Federal officer to be his guest at the mansion-house. Ware had to inform his guest that because of the scarcity of food, the federal officer would have to furnish his own provisions. Merritt accepted this offer but graciously informed his host that he and his family must be his guests in turn.
Thus a bargain was struck. With supplies from the Union commissary brought to the Ware kitchen, the family entertained the Federal officer in the beautiful dining-room. This arrangement proved so satisfactory that when Merritt had to leave a few days later, there was sincere regret on both sides. Before departing, he informed Colonel Ware that he would take steps to see that the property was not molested by Union soldiers.
The Ware family did not realize at the time how much this parting promise would mean to them. Not long afterwards some of Mosby’s men killed a Union picket, and the order was given to destroy four of the most imposing homes in the vicinity. The Ware home was one of those on the list.
The Union soldiers approached the house while Colonel Ware was absent and immediately set fire to it. Mrs. Ware sent for the officer in command and informed him of General Merritt’s guarantee of protection. The officer asked to see the paper but was told that the guarantee was verbal. When the mistress of the house offered to try to find Merritt to procure a written statement, the Federal officer replied, “Madam, the word of a lady is sufficient.” Not desiring to burn the home but merely carrying out his orders, he was glad to escape from his unpleasant duty. It took only a moment to give the necessary orders to extinguish the fires and thus save the house from destruction.” (ref.#1)

During those early years, this kind of courtesy even extended to other supplies, food, or horses. If such items were pilfered by enemy soldiers, it was quite possible for the wronged landowner to approach the nearest campsite of opposing forces and demand his property be returned. Although hard to believe when compared with the harsh treatment that would soon ensue, the stolen properties would, indeed, be returned if proper identification was produced. Sometimes all it took was the word of a “gentleman.” The following is a quote from one of Josiah’s letters to his eldest son, James, who was serving in Texas. The letter was written in 1863, and gives a good example of what some people referred to as a “gentleman’s war” during the onset of hostilities. Unfortunately, conditions were destined to change drastically before the war was over.

“I (Josiah) followed them on to Banks’ headquarters at Middletown with a letter from General John P. Hatch, chief of cavalry – to Major Perkins, chief of Banks’ staff – who ordered the officer in command (when my mares were stolen) to report himself to him at once. He told me he wanted no evidence from me – they should furnish it. The officer he asked said he knew nothing about it. I never heard any man receive such a cursing. Perkins called him a damned liar, a damned horse thief (all of them were so) and damned cowards. When fighting was to be done, they were all off and if the mares were not brought to him the next morning by 9 o’clock, he would have him branded as a horse thief and drummed out of camp. They were there by 8 o’clock and Perkins gave me a statement that they were stolen from me and restored by General Banks’ orders and they were not to be disturbed again. I brought them home. I found my wagon (that Book stole) in the streets of Winchester in the Yankee army & went to Col. Batchelder of Massachusetts (Banks’ chief Provost Marshall in Winchester) about it, and he had it delivered up to me.” (ref. #2)

By the summer and fall of 1864, such courtesies had long since stopped. General Grant decided that the fastest way to end the war was to break the back of the South by any means possible. His policies now helped define a new way of attaining victory, and his “war of attrition” left little doubt as to the outcome. The “gloves were off” (so to speak) and the South was to face not only the destruction of their soldiers; but their livestock, their property, their food supplies, and their very homes. “The scorched-earth policy, a radical departure from the more or less gentlemanly type of war that had been waged by both sides during the first three years, was now the way of convincing the people of the South that war is certainly Hell.” (ref.#3)
It is interesting to read how dramatically circumstances changed over the years. There was a time when Josiah was actually invited to a Yankee horse race as a guest. Yet, by the end of the war, he was forced to watch the destruction of all of his life’s work. In a letter (dated 1864) written by his wife Edmonia, she wrote:

“Your Pa bears his losses without a murmur but, to be candid, I think his long confinement in prison and his efforts at home to make and save something have told considerably on his appearance and you must expect to see him looking older than when you left.” (ref.#4)

His daughter, Elizabeth Alexander Ware McGuire, wrote a letter in 1870 that gave even further insight.

“You may imagine how the stealing of his crops, having to see all his fine blooded horses led out, his magnificent “Cotswolds” sheep that had cost thousands of dollars slaughtered on the lawn to feed the soldiers, and he carried to the Old Capital prison in Washington where no charges were ever brought against him, but where he remained until wrecked physically and mentally. . . and when he got home, to find his home threatened and eventually sold over his head – property that had been in the family over five generations.” (ref. #5)

Things had, indeed, changed and the war that started in 1861 was not the same war that ended in 1865!

Judy C. Ware


1. Old Jube – A Biography of General Jubal A. Early written by: Millard Kessler Bushong, PhD., White Mane Publishing Company, Inc. copyright 1955 page 271

2. Long Letter written from Josiah Ware to his son, James Alexander Ware, on January 7, 1863 Original letter owned by James & Judith Ware

3. Sheridan in the Shenandoah by: Edward J. Stackpole Published by Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, copyright 1992 page 142

4. Letter from Edmonia Ware (Josiah’s wife) to her stepdaughter Elizabeth Alexander Ware Britton written in1864 Original letter owned by James & Judith Ware.

5. Letter written from Elizabeth Alexander Ware Britton McGuire (daughter of Josiah) to her nephew, Sommerville Ware, on March 8, 1870. Original letter owned by James & Judith Ware.


Civil War – Background information for COMPENSATION LETTERS by Judy C. Ware — 1 Comment

  1. This form of imprisonment was same in LA, where Wm. F. Griffin, Lt Gov. & General of Militia, my ancestor was, with 500 other non combatants, imprisoned in the New Orleans prison, without charges, half were dead within a year. Denied all contact with family. They were without food. He was only member of the Confederate Gov. who remained in LA, all others fled. He directed the defense of the Red River.

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