The Civil War interrupted the routine on the Burroughs farm, when all of the sons left to fight for the Confederacy. James Burroughs, the father and master of the farm died in 1861, leaving the supervision of daily farm activities to the Burroughs women. Shortages of luxury goods and certain food items were common during the war years. Washington recalled that the white people suffered from the lack of products they were accustomed to. However, the war did more than create shortages and hard economic times. Only two of the Burroughs sons survived the war physically unscathed.
With the southern defeat in 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation issued in 1863 was enforced to free southern slaves. Washington remembered listening to a Union soldier read the document on the porch of the Burroughs house. After receiving the joyous news, his mother Jane took her three children to West Virginia to be reunited with her husband who worked there in the salt mines.
The southern economy suffered tremendously after the war and the Burroughs were not spared from economic and social turmoil. The emancipation of the slaves reduced the Burroughs family's net worth by one half. Post-war land values also plummeted. Since none of the children desired to farm the Franklin County property, Elizabeth Burroughs, James' widow, unsuccessfully attempted to rent or sell it for several years. In 1893, the family sold the property to John Robertson and his family.