Like most Southern counties, Floyd County, Virginia, enthusiastically supported the Confederacy at the outset of the Civil War. But by the end of the war, more than 25% of the Floyd County soldiers had deserted, a number that was more than twice the national average. However, what really set Floyd apart from the rest of the South was its inhabitants' willingness to hide and protect deserters, even those who hailed from outside of their county. In the fall of 1864, a regiment of Confederate reserves marched into Floyd County, under orders to capture or drive away as many deserters as it could. By then, hundreds of local soldiers had run away from their units and returned home. Confederate officials believed that most of the county's residents had joined a secret Unionist peace society called the Heroes of America. Guerrilla warfare between Confederate sympathizers, Unionists, and deserters had plunged the county into near anarchy. The district was widely known as "Sisson's Kingdom" in recognition of the two brothers who commanded its largest deserter gang.
Meticulously researched and masterfully written. Rand Dotson gives us a fascinating glimpse into the unusual history of Floyd County, Virginia.
Rand Dotson is editor in chief at LSU Press and the author of Roanoke, Virginia, 1882-1912: Magic City of the New South.