The Second Battle of Manassas to
August 9–November 18, 1862
The Boys are all Sick and tired of Maryland . . .
—William Cowan McClellan
On July 26, Thomas Joyce McClellan had left Athens for Richmond, Virginia, on business, which included visiting William during the first week of August. The visit from his father was a surprise and a morale booster for a young man who had found it difficult to get a furlough to return home. The family of Capt. Thomas Hubbard Hobbs,1 who had died on July 22 from wounds inflicted at Gaines’s Mill, waited in Athens, Alabama, for confirmation of his death.
By the end of August, the Union army had pulled out of Huntsville (though it would return in July 1863). Behind them they left stripped and devastated homes and plantations. As the Union army left the area, 1,500 slaves in Madison County left with them.2 In addition, the Union occupation had set the local population against each other as Unionists had come out in support of the occupation. Now those people faced the wrath of the Confederate guerillas and the Confederate supporters in town.
The harsh reality of war had come to northern Alabama, and the war was now a part of their daily lives. While prospects remained good for Confederate success, individual spirits fell with every Federal intrusion into Limestone County. Union troops continued to march through Limestone County on their way to other battlefields, so the area experienced random burning of stores, looting of homes, destruction of crops, and killing of livestock. Confederate cavalry and infantry also passed through Athens in route to raids and battles in other parts of Alabama and Tennessee, but they were unable to provide much protection for the local citizens.
When the Union army moved out of Athens and Limestone County in August, the morale of the loyal Southern citizen had risen, and many of the openly professed Union sympathizers left town. Most Union sympathizers, however, maintained a quiet allegiance to the Union and were under suspi