Virginia at War, 1862

Virginia at War, 1862

Virginia at War, 1862

Virginia at War, 1862

Synopsis

As the Civil War entered its first full calendar year for the Old Dominion, Virginians began to experience the full ramifications of the conflict. Their expectations for the coming year did not prepare them for what was about to happen; in 1862 the war became earnest and real, and the state became then and thereafter the major battleground of the war in the East. Virginia emerged from the year 1861 in much the same state of uncertainty and confusion as the rest of the Confederacy. While the North was known to be rebuilding its army, no one could be sure if the northern people and government were willing to continue the war. The landscape and the people of Virginia were a part of the battlefield. Virginia at War, 1862 demonstrates how no aspect of life in the Commonwealth escaped the war's impact. The collection of essays examines topics as diverse as daily civilian life and the effects of military occupation, the massive influx of tens of thousands of wounded and sick into Richmond, and the wartime expansion of Virginia's industrial base, the largest in the Confederacy. Out on the field, Robert E. Lee's army was devastated by the Battle of Antietam, and Lee strove to rebuild the army with recruits from the interior of the state. Many Virginians, however, were far behind the front lines. A growing illustrated press brought the war into the homes of civilians and allowed them to see what was happening in their state and in the larger war beyond their borders. To round out this volume, indefatigable Richmond diarist Judith McGuire continues her day-by-day reflections on life during wartime. The second in a five-volume series examining each year of the war, Virginia at War, 1862 illuminates the happenings on both homefront and battlefield in the state that served as the crucible of America's greatest internal conflict.

Excerpt

Virginians emerged from the year 1861 in much the same state of uncertainty and mild confusion as the rest of the Confederacy. One major battle at Manassas or Bull Run and a smaller affair at Ball’s Bluff in October had both been crushing Southern victories, and humiliating defeats for the Union. Except for for Ball’s Bluff, the last five months of the year had been a time of inaction and waiting, a “phony war” in later terms. While the North was known to be rebuilding its army, and building it up to epic proportions, still no one could be sure if the Northern people and government were willing to continue to prosecute a war. Even from the western Confederacy, west of the Appalachians extending to the Mississippi, there had been little real activity, and certainly nothing that could be interpreted as decisive.

And so Virginians had cause to hope for the best, side by side with reason for apprehension. Their expectations for the coming new year did not prepare them for what was really coming, however, for quickly the war became earnest and real, and the Old Dominion itself became then and thereafter the major battleground of the war in the East. the landscape and the people of the state were a part of that battleground, and as the essays comprising this second volume of Virginia at War attest, no individual and no aspect of Virginia life escaped the impact of the contest. As was stated in the preface to Virginia at War, 1861, this series will largely stay off the actual battlefield itself. Military accounts of the generals and campaigns and battles in Virginia are almost innumerable, and every year more and better ones appear. There is simply no point in trying to compress that vast story into yet another synthesis of it in these pages. Consequently, while each volume of the series contains an essay providing a succinct military overview of that year’s action, it is solely for background and context to illuminate the essays that will follow. Nevertheless, because of the special circumstances of the topics at hand and the year 1862 itself, this current volume does offer rather more in the military line than the other volumes preceding and to come.

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