*Note in our March newsletter we promised that 2019 would be devoted to highlighting important works related to the Shenandoah Valley’s Civil War era story published in the conflict’s immediate aftermath.
Clifton Johnson, a prolific author, conducted dozens of interviews in the early 1900s with various individuals who experienced some of the Civil War’s most significant engagements. Of the 54 chapters in Clifton Johnson’s “Battleground Adventures,” five deal with arguably the most significant military action fought in the Shenandoah Valley—the Battle of Cedar Creek. The interviews Johnson conducted with five residents of Middletown, Virginia, deepen not only our understanding of the battle, but the manner in which the war in the lower Shenandoah Valley impacted civilians. His interview with Mary Stickley, whose family home served as a hospital during the engagement, offers insight into how a young girl dealt with war in her backyard. Additionally, Johnson’s “Battleground Adventures” offers an important glimpse into the conflict’s impact on African Americans. Three of the five interviews are with African Americans, providing a window into the lives of a population that was long overlooked, even as it comprised nearly one-fourth of the Valley’s populace. From Johnson’s interviews with African Americans one gains a better understanding of the challenges African Americans confronted from soldiers of both armies as well as how enslaved people reacted to news of the conflict’s end.
Copies of “Battleground Adventures” have been reprinted over the years, but is easily accessible online through Google Books. For those interested in Cedar Creek, the war’s impact on civilians, and the ways in which African Americans dealt with all the war brought, Johnson’s volume proves a valuable published primary source.