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Virginia in 1863


Antietam campaign
Antietam campaign

Because of Virginia’s prestige, the Confederate capital was moved on May 21, 1861, from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond. The move was an error from a military point of view, because it placed the capital too near the enemy and made it vulnerable to attack. Virginia was a major theater of the American Civil War (1861-1865). The two largest armies were always on its soil except for two brief respites, the Antietam campaign in Maryland in September 1862, and the Gettysburg campaign in Pennsylvania in June and July 1863.

The 50 counties west of the Alleghenies remained loyal to the Union. They were occupied by the Union Army by July 1861, and formed a separate government. On June 20, 1863, they officially seceded from Virginia and began functioning as the separate state of West Virginia. This removed from Virginia one-third of its land, a quarter of its population, and most of its mineral resources.

The greatest Confederate victories occurred in Virginia, including the First and Second Battles of Bull Run (also called Manassas), July 1861 and August 1862; the campaigns of Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, May and June 1862; Major General Robert E. Lee’s defeat of the Union Army on the outskirts of Richmond in the Seven Days’ Battle, June and July 1862; the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 1862; and the Battle of Chancellorsville, May 1863.

However, Lee’s outnumbered army lost many men in bloody clashes with the Union forces of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant in the Wilderness campaign, May and June 1864, and the ensuing nine-month siege of Petersburg. Finally, driven from Petersburg and cut off from supplies, Lee surrendered his exhausted and starving troops at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

Another noteworthy Virginia battle was the naval engagement between the ironclad warships Monitor and Virginia (also known as the Merrimack) that took place on March 9, 1862, in Hampton Roads. In the Shenandoah campaigns of Union Major General Philip Sheridan, in 1864, the fertile valley was put to the torch and devastated. Much of Richmond was destroyed by fire during the Confederate evacuation in April 1865. "Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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