Madison and the Civil War

Madison and the Civil War

Before the Civil War began, Madison’s economy was almost entirely based on small, family-run farms, the average farm size being three hundred and five acres. The population was somewhat stagnant, remaining about the same or dropping from 1830 to 1880. Since recent mechanical farming innovations had yet to become widespread, work was completed using manual labor, nearly all of it provided by slaves. There were approximately 4,400 of these slaves in Madison in 1850, making up about half of Madison’s population. There is evidence that colonists first imported slaves before the Revolutionary War, though exact dates are unknown (Davis, 1977) .

The physical destruction after the Civil War devastating, prompting former Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens to write, “The country between Alexandria and Charlottesville was horrible to behold.” Battles had severely damaged local transportation infrastructure and farmland, compounded by the near- constant presence of troops in Madison. Because neither the Union nor the Confederacy had reliable supply lines in the area, soldiers would often take food from locals’ homes, in some cases violently.

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