Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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Civil War Begins

Union or Secession
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  • Engravings of Virginia Capitol in <em>Daily Richmond Enquirer</em>, April 17, 20, 26, 1861,
    Flags as symbols
  • Convention between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Confederate States of America, April 24, 1861, Virginia Convention (1861: Richmond), Records, 1861–1961, Acc. 40586, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 93, Library of Virginia.,
    A speedy union with the other slave states
  • David Hunter Strother, <em>Recruiting for Virginia</em>, Pierre Morand Memorial, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.,
    Recruiting for Virginia
  • <em>Daily Richmond Enquirer</em>, April 18, 1861.,
    "At the Service of the State"
  • Telegram, T. H. Campbell to Governor John Letcher (dated
    "Hold themselves ready"
  • Three items from the <em>Alexandria Gazette</em>, April 24, 1861.,
    Three news items, April 24, 1861
  • Richmond <em>Daily Dispatch</em>, April 29, 1861.,
    "Thanking God that I have a son to offer"
  • Pay Roll of Slaves Employed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, for Coast, Harbor and River Defenses, on the Defensive Works at Gloucester Point in the Month of April 1861, Slave Rolls, May–October 1861, Records of the Engineer Department, 1861–1865, Record Group 46, Library of Virginia.,
    "Pay Roll of Slaves Employed by the Commonwealth"
  • <em>Charleston (S.C.) Mercury</em>, May 1, 1861, reporting news from a lost issue of the Norfolk <em>Herald</em>.,
    "Affairs at Norfolk and Portsmouth"
  • Undated paragraph from a lost issue of the Charleston <em>Kanawha Republican</em> reprinted in the <em>Lynchburg Daily Virginian</em>, May 9, 1861.,
    "Now on the verge of a bloody civil war"
  • Robert Johnston to Governor John Letcher, May 9, 1861, Executive Papers of Governor John Letcher, Acc. 36787, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.,
    "Willing to act as well as to vote"
  • Excerpt from the May 9, 1861, sermon of Wesley Smith at the Fourth Street Methodist Episcopal Church, in Wheeling, as printed in the Wheeling <em>Daily Intelligencer</em>, May 10, 1861.,
    "You must choose sides"
  • Fredericksburg <em>News</em>, May 10, 1861.,
    "100 at least, in each county"
  • Report in the <em>Parkersburg News</em> of May 2, 1861, reprinted in <em>Lynchburg Daily Virginian</em>, May 11, 1861.,
    "A Voice from North Western Virginia"
  • <em>Staunton Spectator</em>, May 21, 1861.,
    "If we should be attacked"
  • Extract from an unsigned letter, dated at Shiloh, King George County, May 16, 1861, printed in the <em>Alexandria Gazette</em>, May 22, 1861.,
    "The spirit of determined resistance"
  • Pattie B. Cowles to George S. Bernard, May 27, 1861, George S. Bernard Papers, Acc. 31760, Library of Virginia.,
    "The ladies of Petersburg"
  • <em>Wellsburg Herald</em>, 31 May 1861.,
    "The Hancock Union Guards"
  • Pattie B. Cowles to George S. Bernard, June 5, 1861, George S. Bernard Papers, Acc. 31760, Library of Virginia.,
    "The ladies home guard"
  • George H. Thomas to Governor John Letcher, March 12, 1861, Executive Papers of Governor John Letcher, Acc. 36787, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.,
    "It is my purpose to remain in the Army"
  • John Rogers Cooke, to Flora Cooke Stuart,  June 15, 1861, photostatic copy, Cooke Family Papers, 1855–1871, Acc. 23896, Library of Virginia.,
    "Every thing here in the greatest confusion"
  • Washington <em>Daily National Intelligencer</em>, June 21, 1861.,
    "I owe Virginia little; my country much."
  • Statue of Robert E. Lee by Rudulph Evans, 1931, State Artwork Collection, Library of Virginia.,
    Robert E. Lee
  • Sarah A. Logan to Governor John Letcher, April 20, 1861, Executive Papers of Governor John Letcher, Acc. 36787, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.,
    What a woman can do for her country
  • Two items from the <em>Alexandria Gazette</em>, April 22, 1861.,
    "Military Enthusiasm Among the Ladies"
  • Transcription of trial record in the case of the <em>Commonwealth</em> v. <em>Sam (a slave)</em>, Mecklenburg County, May 21, 1861, Executive Papers of Governor John Letcher, Pardons, May 1861, Acc. 36787, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.,
    "We will all be free pretty soon"
  • Transcription of trial record in the case of the <em>Commonwealth</em> v. <em>Reuben</em>, Greenbrier County, May 27, 1861, Executive Papers of Governor John Letcher, Pardons, June 1861, Acc. 36787, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.,
    "They could take Lewisburg"
  • <em>Lynchburg Daily Virginian</em>, June 25, 1861.,
    "Patriotic and accomplished daughters"
  • Excerpt from editorial in <em>Daily Richmond Enquirer</em>, July 4, 1861.,
    July 4, 1861
  • Harrisonburg<em> Rockingham Register</em>, July 5, 1861.,
    "Proud spirited" ladies
  • William T. Sutherlin to Benjamin Franklin Gravely, July 9, 1861, Gravely Family Papers, Acc. 34126, Library of Virginia.,
    "Lincolns message is war enough"
  • John P. Pleasants and Sons to Benjamin Franklin Gravely, May 13, 1861, Gravely Family Papers, Acc. 34126, Library of Virginia.,
    "We are now short of Cash"
  • Samuel Ayres and Son to Benjamin Franklin Gravely, May 18, 1861, Gravely Family Papers, Acc. 34126, Library of Virginia.,
    "No more licorice"
  • <em>Charleston (S.C.) Mercury</em>, June 1, 1861, reprinting two paragraphs from the lost issue of the Norfolk <em>Argus</em>, May 31, 1861.,
    "Federal troops marched into Hampton"
  • Two paragraphs from a lost issue of the Woodstock <em>Tenth Legion</em>, printed in Harrisonburg <em>Rockingham Register</em>, June 7, 1861.,
    "Virginia Invaded"
  • <em>Staunton Vindicator</em>, June 7, 1861.,
    "Our North Western border"
  • Article reprinted from the <em>Staunton Spectator</em> in the <em>Warrenton Flag of '98</em>, June 27, 1861.,
    "The heroic conduct of these ladies"
  • Pattie B. Cowles to George S. Bernard, June 28, 1861, George S. Bernard Papers, Acc. 31760, Library of Virginia.,
    "You are subject to all these hardships"
  • Christopher. L. Wingfield to Benjamin Franklin Gravely, July 8, 1861, Gravely Family Papers, Acc. 34126, Library of Virginia.,
    "We have commenced drilling"
  • Unsigned letter to the editor, dated at Clarksville on July 14, 1861, and printed in the Clarksville <em>Tobacco Plant</em>, July 19, 1861.,
    "A capital fortification"
  • "Fight at Bull Run,"  1861, Broadside, 1861 .F47 FF, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.,
    Sanguinary battle at Bull Run
  • William T. Sutherlin to Benjamin Franklin Gravely, July 22, 1861, Gravely Family Papers, Acc. 34126, Library of Virginia.,
    "We have at great cost won a victory at Manassas"
  • "In Memory of William E. Woodward. . . .," 1861, Broadside, 1861 .I35 FF, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.,
    In Memory of William E. Woodward
  • Leesburg <em>Democratic Mirror</em>, July 23, 1861.,
    "The Yankees Repulsed and Driven From the Field"
  • Governor Francis H. Pierpont to President Abraham Lincoln, September 3, 1861, Letter Book (1861–1864), 31–32, Executive Papers of Governor Francis H. Pierpont, 1861–1865, Acc. 36928, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.,
    To call out the militia in West Virginia
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Civil War Begins

Robert E. Lee took command of Virginia's defense forces at a session of the Virginia Convention in the Capitol in Richmond on April 23, 1861. The convention organized the state's defenses and prepared for war. It ratified the Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States on April 25, invited the Confederate government to make Richmond its national capital on April 27, and elected Virginia's representatives to the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America on April 29. President Jefferson Davis arrived to a triumphal reception on May 29. The decision to make Richmond the capital of the Confederacy was as important as the decision to secede because it made Virginia the principal and most bloody battleground of the war. The Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America met for the first time in the Capitol on July 20, 1861, one day before the first great land battle of the war in which Confederate forces routed Union forces at Manassas Junction, in northeastern Virginia.

Virginians Prepare for War

Early in April 1861, even before the convention in Richmond had voted to secede, Virginia militia companies from many counties east of the mountains offered their services to the governor.

Virginia Soldiers Make Hard Decisions

United States Army officers from Virginia had to choose whether to remain in service to their nation or to fight with their native state.

Virginia Civilians Make Hard Decisions

Decisions about war and peace, more dramatic than decisions about most political questions, involved all members of society and all members of every family.

Civil War Begins

Confederate and Union forces clash in Virginia beginning in June 1861.

Featured Biographies:

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  • John Rogers Cooke (1833-1891)
  • Philip St. George Cooke (1809-1895)
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