Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Fascinating Map

I located the above map of Virginia on the Library of Congress website. It was published on June 13, 1861, less than two months after the Old Dominion seceded from the Union. Using figures from the preceding year's census it shows the enslaved population percentage for each county. Virginia had more slaves than any state in 1860. Of course, being that it was compiled in 1861, two years before West Virginia was formed by the western counties, it includes them in its figures, too.

What I found most fascinating about the map was the numerous counties that had populations of almost half, half, or more than half enslaved. Fifty-one counties had at least forty-five percent of their populations enslaved. Two counties consisted of more than seventy percent slaves: Nottoway, just to the west of Dinwiddie; and Ameilia, adjacent northwest to Dinwiddie. Nineteen counties had sixty percent or more. Eighteen counties had fifty percent or more.

Forty-five counties had five percent enslaved or less; most of which were in the more mountainous counties that broke away in 1863 to form West Virginia or in the hilly country of the Old Dominion. Only two county's populations in what would become the "Wild and Wonderful" state approached or exceeded ten percent. This geographical disparity in slave population goes a long way in explaining the difference in politics and culture that led to West Virginia's secession from the mother state.

Another intriguing feature of the map is the band of higher slave populations that extend down the Valley of Virginia, especially those counties in the far southwest. Mountains on either side limited the appeal of slavery to counties such as Floyd, Carroll and Grayson to the east, and Scott, Wise, Buchannan, and McDowell to the west. But those counties in between; especially Washington, Smyth, Wythe, Pulaski, and Montgomery mostly had fifteen percent or more enslaved among their population. However, some mountain counties in the Old Dominion had fairly high slave populations, too, including Russell, Tazewell, Greenbrier and Monroe.

If you want a closer look at the map a "zoom-in" version is here.

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