Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia

Union or Secession
  • "At the Service of the State"
Militia companies and owners of slaves offered their services and labor to the governor in April 1861.
Related documents:
  • "Pay Roll of Slaves Employed by the Commonwealth"
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"At the Service of the State"

Daily Richmond Enquirer, April 18, 1861.

Militia companies in many parts of Virginia formed or reorganized following John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry in October 1859. In the spring of 1861 many of them mustered and offered their services to the governor in the event Virginia seceded and civil war began. During the latter half of April and early in May 1861, Governor John Letcher also received several offers from owners to slaves to allow enslaved laborers to be employed in defensive work, and some reports circulated in the press that free African Americans were also willing to take part in defending Virginia in the event of civil war.

Daily Richmond Enquirer, April 18, 1861.

At the Service of the State.
The Chesterfield Cavalry, Company A, Capt. Cox, Lieut. Mason and Lieut. Lindsay, tendered their services to the Governor of Virginia yesterday for any emergency.
Col. W. F. C. Gregory, of the Amelia Regiment, (1st of Virginia Militia,) with four volunteer companies attached, Capt. S. S. Weisiger, (Cavalry,) Capt. J. E. Fergusson, (Rifles,) Capt. Wm. M. Miller, (Rifles) Capt. A. V. Scott, (Rifles,) yesterday tendered service to the Executive, prepared to march on earliest orders. All of the above companies being daily drilled and the Cavalry in camp at Amelia Court House.
A gentleman, well known to us, yesterday tendered to the Executive twenty-five negro men to work on fortifications wherever ordered. As he lives about one hundred and fifty miles from Richmond, his example deserves to be followed, and we have no doubt will be by those who live nearer. There are not less than one thousand negroes in and around Richmond who could be well engaged at this time.