Caroline Heater of Middletown Virginia

In an effort to pay homage to local women of history I have copied this text from The National Parks Service.

Caroline Heater of Middletown, VA was originally from Pennsylvania and “violently opposed to slavery.” Her husband was from Loudoun County, Virginia, but the couple brought no slaves to their farm and never used slave labor. They and their three sons prospered and nearly doubled the original 274-acre farm to 540 acres. When the slavery debate reached a boiling point in 1860, the residents of the Shenandoah Valley were split on the question of secession.

The Heater family felt the divide just as many of their neighbors did. Solomon was a Virginian and sided with his native state. Having emigrated from Pennsylvania, Caroline had no such loyalty. She was nervous about the coming war and the destruction it was sure to bring. “We shall have graveyards at every door. My husband and I had some discussion in regard to the merits of the war at the beginning. He was a Virginian and perhaps his sympathies were more for Virginia than for the North, but he never voted for the ordinance of secession. I was not a Virginian and opposed to secession,” she later remarked. Against her wishes, Caroline’s two sons fought for the Confederacy, neither would return home alive.

Caroline’s youngest son, Charles, was eight years old when the war broke out. He recalled, “My mother said she wished she had her way with the hotheaded fanatics of the south and she was violently opposed to Jefferson Davis.”

Armies from both sides marched through the Shenandoah Valley almost constantly, seeking food, supplies, firewood, and anything else they needed to survive. Caroline and Solomon Heater opened their doors to countless Union troops. One citizen of Middletown recalled, “She entertained not only the officers, but many of the privates and fed them from her own table to the very best of her ability.”

The Heater Farm, like most of those in the Valley, was left in ruins. Caroline Heater had allowed Union troops the use of her home, but they did not treat the property kindly. Soldiers took oats for their horses, food for themselves, fences for firewood, and livestock for subsequent meals while on the march. Farm implements, horses, wagons, cows and hogs were all gone.

Hoping to be compensated for their loss, the Heaters applied to the Southern Claims Commission in 1871 for restitution in the amount of $12,993. The commission was formed to aid Union loyalists whose property was taken by Union troops. Local citizens attested to Caroline’s allegiance. “We were all straight up and down before the war, but when the war commenced some went one way some the other. Mrs. Heater and myself [sic] would talk very freely on the subject. She always avowed to me her preference to the Union,” one resident testified.

Despite these affidavits, both Solomon and Caroline died (he in 1872 and she in 1892) before any restitution was paid.

Travel Theme: Women

More information about the Heater family and thier home can be found here:A House Divided


One thought on “Caroline Heater of Middletown Virginia

  1. Pingback: Best of the Week: A Return to The Heater House | The Day After

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