Civil War in Virginia

Confederates built winter quarters and stayed at Manassas/Centreville until March, 1862
Confederates built winter quarters and stayed at Manassas/Centreville until March, 1862
Source: Frank Leslie's Illustrated History of the Civil War (p.452)

Ambrose Bierce may not have uttered the sardonic comment, "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography," but the quote is still relevant to the study of Civil War places in Virginia.1

Many people get introduced to Virginia geography when examining how their ancestors moved through the state in a Civil War unit. Sometimes, what appears to be obvious is not correct. The names of some places highlighted in the The War Of The Rebellion: A Compilation Of The Official Records Of The Union And Confederate Armies have changed. For example, Stonewall Jackson's march in August 1862 through "Salem" refers to modern-day "Marshall" in Fauquier County, not to the city of Salem next to Roanoke. Genealogists studying family members who served in 1861-65 must match historical maps with historical events, before getting in the car to visit sites of interest.

More recent satire in the New York Times highlights how time and places can be juxtaposed by suburban sprawl, by using a mock battle report from Union General Irvin McDowell to illustrate the impact of modern suburban development on the historical setting at Manassas:2

Hdqrs. Department of Northeastern Virginia
Business Center, Radisson Hotel
Reagan National Airport
Arlington, Va., Aug. 4, 2011

Colonel: I have the honor to submit the following report of the battle of the 21st of July, near Manassas, Va.

...The First Division (Tylerís) was stationed on the north side of the Warrenton turnpike and on the eastern slope of the Centreville ridge just north of Centreville Crest Shopping Center, where an advance guard raided a Five Guys, then requisitioned disinfected bedrolls from Body & Brain Yoga/Tai-Chi/Meditation, where they encountered little resistance....

the 1861 farmland between Centreville and Bull Run has been transformed into suburban housing developments, plus rock quarries
the 1861 farmland between Centreville and Bull Run has been transformed into suburban housing developments, plus rock quarries
Source: ESRI, ArcGIS

The physical geography of Virginia affected where the armies marched, where they camped, and where they fought. Efforts of slaves to achieve freedom, and of local residents to just survive, are recognized by numerous plaques on the roadsides and by including in the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

The war made many locations in Virginia special, even "hallowed." Efforts to preserve those special places have shaped the geography of tourism, as well as the conservation of historic sites in Virginia.

Union troops marching through Mount Jackson in 1862
Union troops marching through Mount Jackson in 1862
Source: Frank Leslie's illustrated history of the Civil War (p.220)

On to Richmond in 1861

Map of the Virginia Railroads at the Start of the Civil War

Northern Virginia After First Manassas

Yorktown in the Civil War

Site of Civil War Hospital in Mount Jackson, between Winchester and Staunton
Site of Civil War Hospital in Mount Jackson, between Winchester and Staunton
(most Civil War hospitals were in areas remote from fighting but near railroads,
which brought the wounded and supplies... but Mount Jackson was in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley battles in 1864)

Links

by 1864, defenders built extensive forts and trenches whose remnants still dot the Virginia landscape
by 1864, defenders built extensive forts and trenches whose remnants still dot the Virginia landscape
Source: Library of Congress, Bermuda Hundred, Va. Federal earthworks on left of the line, near Point of Rocks

aerial reconnaissance was used in the Civil War by both sides, but the Union had more resources to build balloons
aerial reconnaissance was used in the Civil War by both sides, but the Union had more resources to build balloons
Source: Library of Congress, Professor Lowe in his balloon (Fair Oaks, 1862)






Confederate Cemetery - Manassas National Battlefield Park
(click on images for larger versions)

References

1. "He Never Said It," The Ambrose Bierce Site, http://donswaim.com (last checked January 18, 2014)
2. "The First Battle of Manassas, 2011," New York Times, July 24, 2011, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/the-first-battle-of-manassas-2011/ (last checked January 18, 2014)


The Military in Virginia
Virginia Places