Shenandoah University launches Civil War journal

WINCHESTER — When Jonathan Noyalas took his job as the director of the McCormick Civil War Institute at Shenandoah University in January, he said he was told to raise the profile of the institute.

“I started thinking about ways that I could do that,” Noyalas said. “And I think within the academic community, nothing raises a profile more than having a publication.”

So Noyalas took off and started getting an academic journal devoted to the Shenandoah Valley ready for publication. Recently, the institute published that journal, called “Journal of the Shenandoah Valley During the Civil War.”

Noyalas said that the journal fills in a gap in Civil War historical research. Over the past decade, he said, there were only two articles in Civil War journals that were devoted to the Shenandoah Valley–and Noyalas wrote one of them.

That is not enough, he said.

The Shenandoah Valley was tactically important for the Confederate Army; the path to Washington, D.C. was through the Valley.

“The Valley basically is one of those things that kind of keeps the Confederate war effort going,” Noyalas said.

But the Shenandoah Valley was also important simply because of how often the battles came. Over the course of the four year war, Noyalas said, there were 326 different military actions.

“The people who live here–whether you’re white, black, Unionist, Confederate, indifferent–you’re impacted by that in some way,” Noyalas said. “The Valley is one of those regions where the war really doesn’t go away at all.”

Noyalas hopes that the new journal can help historians dig up more information about a region that faced a constant onslaught of battles for four years.

He hopes, too, that the journal can bring out the history of the region historians have not yet told.

There will not be many pieces about the campaigns of Stonewall Jackson, Noyalas warned.

“I think a good journal tries to find articles that fill gaps, and I think that’s what we’ve done with the first volume,” Noyalas said.

For instance, in the first volume, there are two pieces about African-Americans during and shortly after the war.

One is a collection of excerpts, edited by Noyalas, about the Freedman’s Bureau that reunited newly freed slaves with their families and helped African-Americans find jobs after the end of the Civil War.

In the Shenandoah Valley, former Confederates met the Freedman’s Bureau with heavy resistance, threatening African-Americans in the region, as well as the teachers who educated them.

“[The papers] tell such a powerful and tragic story about how African-Americans were trying to make it after the war and how the federal government was trying to help them, but then there was all kinds of issues of angry Confederates after the conflict,” Noyalas said.

Historian Kenneth Koons, meanwhile, wrote about slaves in Clarke County during the war.

In the future, Noyalas hopes that the annual journal makes people view the McCormick Civil War Institute as “the go-to Civil War institution for the scholarly study of the Civil War Institute in the Valley.”

And he thinks that is already beginning to happen.

“I can see a little bit already within the academic community, just a kind of excitement about it,” Noyalas said of the journal. “And I think that as more and more people are aware that it exists, it will hopefully inspire people to write, to research, to dig into the deep recesses of the past and bring things to the forefront that people really haven’t discussed yet.”