Editorial: Carpetbaggers, welcome!
Almost a century and a half ago, there was nothing more hated in the states of the former Confederacy than the image of the carpetbagger on his way to buy up once-great plantations at fire-sale prices.
Fast forward to 2011. Virginia is eagerly anticipating the arrival of another type of carpetbagger. As the nation prepares to mark the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, interest in this event is sure to bring greenbacks into the state’s coffers in the form of tourism dollars.
Instead of carpetbags, the visitors from the north (and west and south, for that matter) will be carrying their belongings in Samsonite and Louis Vuitton bags as they take in the sights of the Old Dominion.
More major Civil War battles were fought in Virginia than in any other state. Virginia was home to the Confederate capital and many leaders, both North and South. History buffs are fascinated with the details of the campaigns, strategies and personalities of this conflict—and they are sure to be coming to Virginia in the months and years ahead, as the state commemorates this national turning point.
According to the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the impact of tourism on Gloucester County for 2009 was slightly over $37 million. In Mathews, that number was $27 million. Those figures represent the direct spending by domestic travelers including meals, lodging, public transportation, auto transportation, shopping, admissions and entertainment.
Our area has a rich story to tell. While there were no major engagements in Gloucester or Mathews, the counties are filled with historic sites and fascinating personalities. Gens. William B. Taliaferro and James H. Lane, Medal of Honor winner Pvt. James Gardiner of the 36th U.S. Colored Troops, and Sally Tompkins, who operated a successful hospital in Richmond and was only female commissioned officer in the Confederacy, are but a few of those who called Gloucester and Mathews home.
Sesquicentennial committees for the two counties have been busy making plans to mark the occasion. In May, Gloucester will commemorate the first shots of the Civil War in Virginia at the Gloucester Point Beach. In June, Mathews will hold a re-creation of the first enlistment of soldiers into Confederate service. A steady stream of events will be held in the months and years to come.
America was forged in the crucible that was the Civil War. It is fitting and proper to remember this crucial time in our nation’s history. We welcome those who will visit us to join us in this remembrance.