“The Devil Let Loose Generally”: James W. Hunnicutt’s Conceptualization of the Union in Fredericksburg

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Excerpt: Fredericksburg buzzed with excitement on 29 August 1862. The end of four months of federal occupation was imminent, and the town’s mostly pro-Confederate residents rejoiced over the rumored approach of soldiers in gray. Around 5 p.m., a panicked horseman sped through the town’s dirt roads to the home of James W. Hunnicutt, a forty-seven-year-old Baptist minister and newspaper editor whose stern features, wrinkled brow, and graying hair lent to an already strong physical resemblance to abolition zealot John Brown. Both Hunnicutt and his friend knew that the restoration of Confederate control meant trouble for the clergyman. Hastily, the editor gathered what few items he could carry and left his wife and children. Elvira Samuel Hunnicutt promised to “pray constantly” for her husband without knowing when—or if—she might see him again. Few of his white neighbors shared her concern. Men and women, even children, shouted “Traitor!”, “Abolitionist!”, “Submissionist!” as Hunnicutt and roughly fifty other residents fled across a temporary bridge with the retreating Federals [...]