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Valley of the Shadow

Staunton Spectator: October 27, 1863

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-Page 01-

Description of Page: Page contains various advertisements and is partly illegible.

General Assembly
(Column 5)
Summary: Details a series of actions taken by the Virginia Legislature, including a long discussion of the debate about the desirability of regulating prices, which appears to have been defeated in the Senate. In addition, the legislature passed a joint resolution in favor of raising the pay of soldiers and continued its debate on the militia bill.
The English Press On The Battle of Chickamauga
(Column 7)
Summary: After noting the positive effect on the Confederate bond rating in London, this article goes on to sample the various editorial opinions of English newspapers on the implications to be drawn from the recent Confederate victory at Chickamauga.
Revolution In Ladies Fashion
(Column 7)
Summary: A detailed description of the latest in women's fashion from Europe.
Means And Resources
(Column 7)
Summary: Basing his assessment of the potential taxable property in the Confederate States on the 1860 census and taking into consideration the loss of property and the inflated prices of the day, the author argues that there is a sufficient tax base to meet all foreseeable needs of the war effort, as long as the currency is protected from "suffocation."
"Monsieur Tonsin Come Again"
(Column 7)
Summary: An account of a particularly hostile letter sent to the Cincinnati Commercial newspaper by a Parson Brownlow advocating the complete "subjugation or extermination" of all "rebels."
Origin of Article: Cincinnati Commercial
Editorial Comment: "The Immortal Parson Brownlow has turned up again--this time in a letter to the Cincinnati Commercial, breathing fire and destruction upon the 'rebels.' He says:"
The Reason
(Column 7)
Summary: Attributes the inflated prices of consumer goods to the desire of wealthy individuals to possess merchandise regardless of the price requested.
Full Text of Article:

The men who are making the money don't stand on price.--They pay whatever price is asked for any article they may want, and the man who has plenty of money want a great many things. This is one reason--the principal one, we imagine--why prices are so inflated. The reason why every other article of consumption has been run up to ten, fifty, or an hundred prices, is because some crazy people are always found to buy them, and others in consequence [sic] are compelled to do so.

The "Pierpont Government"
(Column 7)
Summary: Lists the officials in the pro-Union government of West Virginia, which claims to be the true government of Virginia.
(Names in announcement: Governor F. H. Pierpont, Lieutenant-Governor P. G. Cowper, Secretary of State L. A. Hagass, Treasurer N. P. Smith, Auditor L. W. Webb, Adjutant General N. P. Foster, Attorney-General P. R. Bowden)
Editorial Comment: "The Northern papers say 'the formation of the State Government of Virginia is now complete.' The following are the names of the 'State officers:'"

-Page 02-

Description of Page: Also miscellaneous advertisements and announcements

Exorbitant Prices
(Column 1)
Summary: The Spectator criticizes the government's policy of impressment, which has the unintended effect of repressing production. The paper believes that this policy has caused prices to rise rapidly.
Full Text of Article:

We were surprised to learn that flour had suddenly risen in Staunton to $50. per barrel. There certainly can be no sufficient reason for this rapid increase. Although the last wheat crop was not a large one, it was not much below the average, and there ought to be a considerable surplus in Augusta. Bad as our currency is, it would not, of itself, warrant so great a rise--other causes must have contributed to it.

In this crisis of our affairs the policy of our Government should be directed to stimulate productions, and to diminish consumption. But by some strange infatuation, our official act as if they were influenced by an opposite purpose.

The administration of the impressment law tends directly to repress production. No man knows when he sows his crop, whether he will be allowed to reap and market it. The act regulating impressment seemed to be very fair on its face. It provides, while property might be taken at schedule prices, in the hands of speculators, it could only be taken at a fair impressment value in the hands of the producer. This was fair and right, and farmers were content with it. The discrimination was formed in sound policy. But by a system of indirection, the law is practically set aside. When a farmer's grain or cattle is taken now, and valued by disinterested parties, if the valuations be higher than the schedule, an appeal is taken by the Government agent to the Commissioners, and they cut down the price to the schedule [illegible]. The speculator thus fares better than the farmer, for he gets his pay promptly, while the producer gets the same pay after a long delay, and some [illegible] heavy expense, in trying [illegible] his rights.

[illegible] system of mal-administration dis- [illegible] the farmer, and tends directly to diminish productions.

There is another matter connected with the food question which merits attention. A great parade was made two years ago, about suppressing the distillation of grain. Crude laws were passed, by which most of the distilleries were stopped; and a monopoly given to the favored few. We doubt not that whiskey was necessary for the medical bureau, but we are not satisfied that the law was sufficiently guarded in reference to the quantity to be made, or the grain to be used. We are of the opinion that the distillation of wheat should have been prohibited altogether. Wheat is the staff of life, and should be kept for the sustenance of the people. If whiskey must be made, it should be made of the coaser [sic] grains. This is a more serious matter than may be at first supposed.--We have one distillery in our suburbs which is reported to consume 100 bushels of wheat per day. If this be true, it is equivalent to abstracting from the food of the people, 20 barrels of flour per day, and about 50 bushels of offal.--In a year this would be over 7,000 barrels. It is a fair estimate to say, that 10 barrels per year, will supply a family of seven persons, and consequently that amount distilled here would supply bread to about five thousand people.--There are other distilleries in the county, which, in the aggregate, probably use as much as the larger one here.--Thus wheat enough to supply ten thousand people, near half the population of this county, is annually consumed in the distilleries.

If corn and rye were used, the damage would be much less, for these grains are not so important for bread, and the swill serves to fatten hogs.

Should not the Legislature take this matter in hand?

But there are other measures tending to discourage production. The practice of withdrawing, every now and then, hundreds of our stoutest and most athletic negroes from farming operations, to work on the fortifications near Richmond, is a serious evil. These negroes are our best farm hands, and for every one so withdrawn, the production of grain is diminished several hundred bushels. Why cannot the deserters, and other wrong-doers, be taken from Castle Thunder, and put to work on the fortifications? Where too, are the idlers about Richmond, and the conscripts of Camp Lee? We think this system of employing negroes ought to be stopped.

Finally, the militia bill, we fear, is to be one of the most unfortunate measures yet adopted, for the agriculture of the State--every boy over 16, and every old man under 55, is liable to be called into the field. If you take all who can plow, and sow and reap, how is grain enough o be raised for consumption of the people? We have men enough, between 18 and 45, to fight our battles.--The fear is not of a deficiency of men, but of provisions.

We throw out these suggestions for the consideration of the public. But we do so with little hope of their having any good effect. When the popular fervor is up, reason is unheeded.

From Lee's Army
(Column 1)
Summary: The current positions of Gen. Lee's and Gen. Meade's forces is such that any attempt to dislodge either side would result in losses disproportionate to any advantage gained. As a result, there is little activity to note.
Legislative Tinkering
(Column 2)
Summary: The Spectator disparages the idea of the legislature attempting to regulate prices. Rather than pursing this wrongheaded approach to lowering elevated prices, the paper urges the legislature to reduce the amount of currency in circulation which, it is believed, is the real reason for the inflation of prices. A "P. S." added at the end of the column adds that after the article was set in type, the paper was notified that the legislature had defeated the proposal to regulate prices by a large majority.
Full Text of Article:

We perceive that some of those members of the Legislature who are particularly wise in their own conceit, but in the estimation of nobody else, are tinkering with the question of prices. They would be better employed in seeking to regulate by law, the drift of the clouds, or the flow of the tides. In the latter case, they would, at least do no mischief. But we fear, that in the former, they may do great harm.

The idea of regulating prices by act of Legislature, is not only absurd, but is positively mischievous. These quack legislators, ignore the teachings of history, as well as the deductions of reason. This same experiment has been tried, over and over again, in other countries, and always failed. Our fathers attempted it in the revolutionary struggle, and Washington admonished them, if they did not stop it, they would starve the army.

We say that the whole thing is simply absurd. Prices depend on the condition of the currency, and the rates of supply and demand.

What is the price of anything? It depends on its relation to the currency for the time being. When gold and silver are the circulating medium, it means the amount of gold and silver for which the whole can be exchanged. So when gold and silver are abandoned, and paper substituted as a currency, it means the amount of paper for which it can be exchanged. If the render money plenty, prices will be high--if you render it scarce, they will be low. Here is the whole matter in a nutshell. Before the war, gold was the standard of value, and wheat would bring one dollar, and corn half a dollar per bushel.--Since the war, we have adopted paper as the currency, and we have ten times as much paper as we had gold. As a matter of course, prices have risen to ten times their old rates, and wheat now brings near ten dollars and corn five.--The only practical way of bringing down prices, is by reducing the amount of currency. Retire half the currency, and you will reduce prices one half.--Double the currency, and you will double the prices.

But to talk of leaving the currency as it is, and then, arbitrarily requiring certain classes of people to sell their commodities for one-half the present rates, is so preposterous, that we wonder how sane men can entertain the proposition for an instant.

Let us look at it for a moment. Shoes are now worth $35. Suppose Legislature provides that no man shall sell shoes for more than $12.50, under a heavy penalty; what will be the result? Will it cheapen shoes? Unquestionably not, for no man can afford to make and sell them for that price. He will therefore not sell at a loss, but close up his shop. So with the blacksmith, the tailor, and the weaver. The moment that they find they are required to sell at a loss they will stop work. Instead of high priced goods, we will have none.

How will it be with the farmer? It formerly cost a farmer about $300 to hire and maintain a hand. He could then afford to sell flour at $5. Now his expenses, in the depreciated currency, are ten times as great, and of course he must have ten times as great, and of course he must have ten times as much for his flour. When you say to him by law you must not sell your flour for more than five dollars, and if you do, you must go to jail, he will say, "very well! I shall not violate your law by selling at more than $5--I will not sell at all--I will keep what I have for my own use, and in future, I will raise no more than is necessary for my family consumption." What will be the effect? Production will stop and starvation will follow. Instead of high priced grain, we will have none!

These silly legislators are very innocently, but very ignorantly, striving to aggravate the very evil of which they complain. They will shut up all the workshops and stop all production of agricultural productions, and what they? Scenes of unparalleled distress will ensue, followed by mobs, anarchy and bloodshed! People will take by force, if they cannot buy for money. They will not see their wives and children starve.

We earnestly hope the legislators will have common sense enough to reject these demagogue ideas. Let them strike at the root of the evil. Reduce the currency. Put that on a secure foundation, and prices will soon adjust themselves.

But, if in spite of all warnings, they are determined to plunge the community into the vortex of anarchy and suffering, we beg our readers to remember, that we entered our earnest protest against it; and if violence follows, we hope it will be directed against the authors of the mischief--the solid legislators, who from stupidity or a selfish desire to gain notoriety, have brought these calamities on the country. If any are to be roughly handled, let it be the guilty, and not the innocent.

P. S.--Since the above was put in type, we are pleased to see that the Senate, upon the matter being brought to a test vote, has had the good sense to defeat the bill by a considerable majority.

From Charleston
(Column 2)
Summary: The Union forces continue to strengthen their fortifications at Charleston to the degree that according to the Charleston Mercury "the Yankees may be looked on as a 'permanent institution,' at least so far as any efforts on our part to dislodge them." At the time, however, the situation remains calm, although the article adds the ominous note that "stormy times may be looked for soon."
Heavy Cavalry Victory In Tenn.
(Column 2)
Summary: During a recent cavalry raid outside Philadelphia, Tennessee, the Southern forces successfully captured a large cache of supplies, over one hundred prisoners, and numerous horses and mules, all without any loss to their forces.
Gen. Imboden's Recent Capture
(Column 3)
Summary: Provides a detailed description of a recent military clash in Charlestown, West Virginia. According to an eyewitness, Gen. Imboden arrived to find the town controlled by members of the 9th Md. Infantry and a battalion of cavalry and demanded their surrender. Upon their refusal he initiated a bombardment of the town, which resulted in the Union forces attempting to escape by horse and foot. This attempt was frustrated and resulted in the capture of a large number of prisoners and munitions.
Editorial Comment: "We have received from a correspondent, the following graphic account of the recent brilliant exploit of Gen. Imboden in the capture of a Yankee regiment at Charlestown, with their arms, ammunition train, &c. The prisoners arrived here Saturday, and have been sent to Richmond:"
Latest Northern News--Removal Of Rosencrans
(Column 3)
Summary: Northern newspapers have reported that Gen. Rosencrans has been removed from command in the west as a result of charges that "he had fled from the field in the crisis of the battle." Other reports indicate that Gen. Meade may also have been removed from command.
From Tennessee
(Column 3)
Summary: Based on dispatches from the western theater, it appears that General Wheeler has been successful in his cavalry actions behind the enemy lines in disrupting the supply of goods to the Union troops.
The Kanawha Valley
(Column 3)
Summary: It appears that there is only a token Union presence in the Kanawha Valley, West Virginia, as most of the Union troops have been transferred to Tennessee. The article expresses the hope that the Confederate forces in the Kanawha Valley will soon completely clear the area of enemy troops.
Origin of Article: Lynchburg Republican
Exchange of Prisoners
(Column 3)
Summary: Notice is given that, as a result of a recent exchange agreement, all soldiers, except those captured at Vicksburg, are now expected to return to duty.
From East Tennessee
(Column 3)
Summary: Reports that the Union retreat towards Knoxville is continuing and mentions the continuing apprehension on the part of the Union troops that a large engagement is imminent.
Origin of Article: The Lynchburg Republican
Another Cavalry Victory
(Column 3)
Summary: General Stuart is credited with another cavalry victory. This time he is reported to have attacked the Union forces at Buckland and succeeded in driving them back to their infantry support at Gainsville. This action has resulted in the capture of over three hundred prisoners, along with "horses, arms, equipment, and eight wagons and ambulances."
Labor and Capital
(Column 4)
Summary: While conceding that poverty "is sometimes the result of the dispensation of Providence," the author of this long and detailed piece argues that "extreme poverty is the result of a criminal indulgence of the animal propensities of our nature of idleness, of intemperance, of immorality." Since poverty is largely the result of character rather than fate or circumstance, it is wrong for the poor to envy the rich. In particular, the author argues that any call for the redistribution of capital accumulated during the period of conflict must be resisted since "[a]ll capital represents labor and self-denial somewhere." Later, while applauding "christian charity" as "one of the most ennobling principles existing in human nature," the letter warns that "the improvident portions of our race can never be wholly supported by the charity of others, without a consequent increase of demoralization requiring a still further expenditure, and if pursued to its utmost limit the final ruin of any nation." Finally, the author states that "no hardship that can be endured constitutes a sufficient guarantee for disturbing the social order, or for violating the rights of property."
(Column 5)
Summary: A jeremiad against the popular culture of the day, with a focus on the proclivity of the public to prefer the "novel and the strange" to the more noble truths of science and religion. This article continues the theme from the previous letter and argues that this proclivity on the part of the public arises from a widespread "natural tendency to lethargy and indolence of mind, as well as of body." Works of fiction and dramatic performance are believed to reinforce this predisposition to lethargy by presenting alluring distractions from the consideration of the sublime truths available only through extended effort.
The Yankee General Thomas
(Column 6)
Summary: Reports an anecdote about Union General Thomas, who was from Southampton County, Virginia. When General Thomas returned from the Mexican War, the ladies of the county presented him with a dress sword. After he decided to cast his lot with the Union, General Thomas wrote his sister requesting her to send him the sword. Declaring that no sword presented by the women of Virginia could be used against their "brave fathers, sons, and brothers," the general's sister refused the request. Furthermore, she added "that instead of sending the sword she would rather prefer to see it thrust through his traitorous heart."
Origin of Article: Spirits of the Age
The Virginia Salt Works
(Column 6)
Summary: Reassures readers who had heard rumors of raids upon the salt works in southwestern Virginia that the works remain secure. Given the natural terrain and the presence of a strong Confederate military force, the salt works will remain safe barring "an advance of the enemy in force."
Origin of Article: The Lynchburg Virginian
Escape of Rucker
(Column 6)
Summary: It is noted that Wm. P. Rucker has escaped from Pittsylvania County. The Governor has offered a reward for the recapture of the fugitive. It is also opined that "it would be a great pity if he should go unwhipped of justice, which would be the case if he should succeed in escaping to the Yankees."
(Column 7)
Summary: Notice of the marriage of Rev. George R. Jefferson and Sarah M. Whitmore on October 15th at the residence of the bride's father, near Parnassus. The services were officiated by the Rev. D. W. Arnold.
(Names in announcement: Rev. D. W. Arnold, Rev. George R. Jefferson, Sarah M. Whitmore)
(Column 7)
Summary: An obituary for Laura T. Cline, the daughter of Capt. Joseph E. Cline, who died of diphtheria at the age of three years eight months.
(Names in announcement: Laura T. Cline, Capt. Joseph E. Cline)
(Column 7)
Summary: Continuing the sad news of the Cline family, it is reported that Capt Cline's infant son Samuel died just four days before his father's death at the age of twenty-nine years and six months.
(Names in announcement: Samuel M. T. Cline, Capt. Joseph E. Cline)