As soon as the Confederates left Stafford, the Union forces arrived. They came three different times:
The first Federal Occupation was from April – September 1862 and lasted 5 months
The second Federal Occupation was from November 1862 – June 1863 and lasted 7 months
The third Federal Occupation was only for a month, from May – June 1864.
Thus, Confederates occupied Stafford for 12 months while Union troops were in the county for 13. At various times during these 25 months there were at least 212,484 Union soldiers and 9,407 Confederates. Considering that the 1860 census recorded Stafford as having only 8,633 citizens, this was quite an influx during any of these occupations. Today’s population of Stafford is approximately 138,000, not even close to that of the Union occupation. The soldiers of both sides changed the landscape of Stafford for decades. The after-effects of the Civil War were evident until World War II.
During the next several months there will be detailed exhibits about each of the four occupations, both North and South. There will be information about Stafford being the “turnaround” point of the Civil War during the “Valley Forge” period – after constant Union defeats and 200 desertions a day, the Federals left Stafford and won at Gettysburg. There will also be details about Stafford being the “Gateway to Freedom.” During the Union’s occupation in the county, over 12,000 slaves felt free to self-emancipate. Keep looking at this website for informative facts and interesting Civil War stories.
[In the above picture, the 110th Pennsylvania soldiers are practicing drilling during the Second Federal Occupation.] (photo: Library of Congress)