Was Stafford Worse Off Than Other Southern Places?
Historian Mark Grimsley relates Union military policy affecting Southern civilians was divided into three overlapping phases: Conciliatory Period – based on the mistaken view that Southerners were pro-union but “misled” by their leaders – from 1861 to the summer of 1862 (fully ended by the first enunciation of the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862); the Pragmatic Period — a mix of continuing conciliatory measures and slightly harsher measures based on experience – from the summer of 1862 to 1864; and the “Hard Hand of War” Period – conscious direct action against Southerners with the goal of demoralization by destroying economic infrastructure in parallel with greater military success — from 1864 to 1865.
Stafford’s First Federal Occupation (April-September 1862) was at the end of the Conciliatory Period. Interestingly, Union troops noted the county’s poor condition as they arrived and as the Confederates withdrew. The Second Federal Occupation (November 1862-June 1863) was during the Pragmatic Period. The Third Federal Occupation ended before the “Hard Hand of War” Period policies went into effect. Thus, although it undoubtedly experienced great devastation from 25 months of Confederate and Union occupations, Stafford was not among the worst-hit Southern places — especially compared with those totally devastated in 1864 (e.g., Georgia and the northern Shenandoah Valley) and Richmond during the first half of 1865.