Imagine more than 100,000 soldiers camped out all over Culpeper County. That's exactly what local folks contended with 150 years go during the 1863-64 encampment of Union forces here during the Civil War.
"A Yankee Village" is how Donald Sutherland described the scene in his book, "Seasons of War."
"The whole country, besides the mud, is now ornamented with stumps, dead horses and mules, deserted camps, and thousands upon thousands of crows," complained one Union officer of the hordes of black birds feasting on the entrails of slaughtered animals, writes Sutherland of the scene in Culpeper.
A March, 1864 photo from the Library of Congress depicts the headquarters in Fleetwood Hill in northern Culpeper of the 3rd Army Corps. Handwritten on the mount was "Mr. Miller's house," according to the LOC.
"Culpeper's dwindling civilian population witnesses ... the establishment of the Union camps in stunned belief. It is bad enough that much of their surviving property is taken and their timber cut down for Yankee shelter, but they are cast into despair when forced to watch neighborhood churches, fences, outbuildings, slave quarters and the unoccupied houses of absent neighbors torn down for their lumber. The number of people remaining to bear these insults is difficult to judge.
"One Federal soldier estimates that no more than 80 people now inhabit the county. The Court House, in particular, is a dismal place. The courthouse building and slave pen have been transformed into prisons for Confederates," writes Sutherland of the months leading up to the Winter Encampment.