The Civil War

Events Leading to the Civil War

The Civil War was fought between the northern and southern states of the US because there were many things they disagreed on.

Differences between northern and southern states:

  • The economy in the northern part of the United States was based on factories, while the economy in the southern part was farm-based and relied on slave labor

  • Northern states wanted new states to be “free states,” while the southern states wanted new states to be “slave states”

Southern states began to secede, or break away, from the Union.

Events leading to secession and war:

  • Abolitionists campaigned to end slavery

  • Harriet Tubman supported secret routes (the Underground Railroad) that slaves used to escape to the North

  • John Brown led a raid at Harpers Ferry (in present day West Virginia) and tried to start a slave rebellion, but he was captured

  • Abraham Lincoln, who opposed slavery, was elected president of the United States in 1860

  • Some southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America, which Virginia later joined

Creation of West Virginia

  • Conflict grew between the eastern counties of Virginia that relied on slavery and the western counties that did not favor slavery

  • Many disagreements between the two regions of the state led to the creation of West Virginia

Virginia's Role in the Civil War

Virginia played a significant role in the Civil War and became a major battleground between Union and Confederate troops.

Major Civil War battles fought in Virginia

  • The First Battle of Bull Run (also known as the First Battle of Manassas) was the first major battle of the Civil War, and Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson played a major role in this battle by refusing to retreat

  • A sea battle between the Monitor (Union) and the Merrimack (Confederacy), two ironclad ships, took place in Virginia waters near Norfolk and Hampton and ended in a draw

  • General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Confederate Army, defeated Union troops at Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1862

  • Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, fell to the commander of the Union Army, Ulysses S. Grant, in April 1865

  • The Civil War ended at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, where the Confederates surrendered to the Union

Roles of American Indians, whites, enslaved African Americans, and free African Americans during the Civil War:

  • Many American Indians did not take sides during the Civil War

  • Most white Virginians supported the Confederacy

  • The Confederacy relied on slaves to raise crops and provide labor for the army

  • Many slaves sought freedom by following the Union Army, where many found work

  • Some free African Americans joined the Union Army and Union Navy


Reconstruction - the period following the Civil War during which the country rebuilt itself and southern states rejoined the Union

Problems faced by Virginians during Reconstruction:

  • Hundreds of thousands of freed African Americans needed housing, education, clothing, food, and jobs

  • Virginia’s economy was in ruins:

    • Money had no value

    • Banks were closed

    • Railroads, bridges, plantations, and crops were destroyed

    • Businesses needed to be rebuilt

Measures taken to resolve problems:

  • Freedmen’s Bureau - a federal government agency that provided food, public schools, and medical care for freed African Americans and others in Virginia

  • Sharecropping - a system in which freedmen and poor white farmers rented land from landowners by promising to pay the owners with a share of the crops

Jim Crow Laws and Segregation

Segregation - the separation of people, usually based on race or religion

Discrimination - an unfair difference in the treatment of people

After Reconstruction, “Jim Crow” laws were passed by southern states, making segregation legal.

Effects of “Jim Crow” laws on the lives of African Americans and American Indians included:

  • Unfair poll taxes and voting tests that prevented them from voting

  • Difficulty holding public office

  • Being forced to use separate drinking fountains, restrooms, and restaurants

  • Attending separate schools

  • Difficulty getting jobs