Valley of the Shadow
The War Years
Spring 1861–Spring 1865

Letters & Diaries


Joseph Waddell (1861-1865)

The Waddell family lived in Staunton in Augusta County, Virginia. Joseph Waddell, along with his uncle Lytletton Waddell and later his brother Legh, purchased the Staunton Spectator in 1848, but Joseph sold his interest in 1860. Joseph married Virginia McClung in 1853 and soon after set up their household on the farm of the widower William M. Tate. Tate’s children, Jimmy, Nanny, and Mattie, became the Waddell’s adopted children and moved with them to town when the Waddells purchased a house in 1857 with Joseph’s sister Kate. The Waddell family owned a few slaves, including their cook Selena, her husband Philip, and her daughter Jenny. Though several members of the Waddell family saw battle in the Confederate military during the Civil War, Joseph remained in Staunton, performing work for the Quartermaster Department. After the war, Joseph Waddell became active in local politics, opposing black suffrage and “negro domination.” Selena and Philip Brown remained in the Waddell household as domestic servants and Kate Waddell left to marry William M. Tate.

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Waddell Household

During the war years, Joseph A. Waddell recorded his views on slavery, abolition, politics, secession, and the war in his diary with great detail and clarity. His commentary ranged from perceptive political observation to extensive battlefield rumors. Surrounded by hardship and tragedy, he expressed anxiety for loved ones separated by war and gratitude for those close at home. He bemoaned the institution of slavery, but feared for the fate of an inferior people left to their own devices. Through the war, Waddell remained a believer in the Confederate cause, but became increasingly depressed about its chances of success.