Date of Award:

12-2018

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

History

Advisor/Chair:

Kyle T. Bulthuis

Abstract

The story of the rural soldiers and militiamen of Virginia that served in the American Revolution remains open to historical research and exploration. Recent scholarship of Virginia’s military contribution to the Revolution focuses heavily on relationships of power among social groups that operated within the colony’s hierarchy, concluding that a lack of white, lower-class political and economic representation disabled mobilization among the Old Dominion’s more settled regions. My study emphasizes the revolutionary backcountry’s story by using Fauquier County, Virginia as a case study.

A study of Rural Virginia during the Revolution presents scholars with significant challenges. Literacy rates among the general population were meager, meaning that Virginians in the backcountry left few letters and diaries for historians to interpret. Further complicating the reconstruction of Virginia’s rural revolutionary past were the destructive events of the nineteenth century. The tumults of the Civil War destroyed many Revolutionary War records of several Virginia counties, erasing much of what the Old Dominion’s revolutionary generation documented. For these reasons, Fauquier County represents an ideal subject of study. Court minutes, tax records, property records, and even a few letters and diary entries survived history’s fires to provide enough data from which to synthesize a social history to explore rural Virginia’s revolutionary story and mobilization patterns.

The revolutionaries in Fauquier County were not always in concert with those throughout the rest of the colony. In contrast to most of Virginia, the county rallied enthusiastically to pre-Declaration calls for companies of minutemen. Hundreds of rural farmers from Fauquier across the socioeconomic spectrum served in the most successful of Virginia’s fleeting minute battalions known as the Culpeper Minutemen. These men defined themselves as backcountry Virginians against their more cosmopolitan peers from the longer-established eastern settlements. As the war matured and exacted its toll, however, fault lines between the local gentry and local yeomen widened, and the county settled into a recruiting pattern like most other Revolutionary Virginian counties. Understanding the issue of representation and its effect on how communities respond to a crisis remains a highly relevant topic that continues to challenge the public and its elected representatives to this day.

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