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Virginia Studies 7 (VS7) Notes

VS7a (part I) Differences between the Northern & Southern States

Even though they were part of the same country, the North and the South were very different. These differences caused disagreements and eventually the South seceded, or withdrew, from the United States.

One of these differences was in the area of economy. The economy of an area has to do with how people make a living and how they spend their money. In the North, the economy was more based on industry. They built factories and manufactured products to sell to other countries and to the southern states. They did not do a lot of farming because the soil was rocky and the climate made for a shorter growing season. Most people in the North worked in factories or owned their own businesses. They also planted small farms or gardens to help feed their families. Without big farms to run, the people in the North did not rely on slave labor very much.

In the South, the economy was based on agriculture. The soil was fertile and good for farming. They grew crops like cotton, rice, and tobacco on small farms and large plantations. The many large farms and plantations required thousands of workers. Because of this great need, farmers depended more on slave labor.

Another difference between the North and South had to do with the new states forming in the western territories. The North wanted the new states to be “free states.” Most northerners thought that slavery was wrong and many northern states had outlawed slavery. The South, however, wanted the new states to be “slave states.” Cotton, rice, and tobacco were very hard on the southern soil. These plants soon took all of the nutrients out of the soil. Because of this, the Southern farmers wanted to move west into the new states and take the enslaved African Americans with them.

These differences began to divide the northern and southern states. Virginia was also divided. The people who lived in the western counties of the state were against slavery and sided with the North. The people who lived in the eastern counties of the state depended on slavery and sided with the other southern states. Many disagreements between the two regions of the state led to the formation of West Virginia. The coming war was about to divide Virginia and the new nation in two.

VS7a (part II) Five Events Leading to War

Five important events led to the South’s secession from the Union and war.

1. One of the issues that divided Virginians was the issue of slavery. Many of the western Virginians, and some eastern Virginians, felt that slavery was cruel and wanted to see it abolished. A few African slaves were growing impatient. In August 1831, a slave by the name of Nat Turner led a revolt against plantation owners in Virginia. For two nights Turner and 60 to 70 slaves roamed the countryside killing white men, women, and children as they slept. Turner was eventually captured and put to death.

2. The Nat Turner uprising created more arguments about slavery. Some people across the country campaigned to end slavery. They were called abolitionists. They believed that slave owners were criminals. Abolitionists wanted laws passed that would force slave owners to free their slaves.

3. One famous abolitionist was a runaway slave from Maryland by the name of Harriet Tubman. She helped enslaved African Americans travel north to freedom on an escape route known as the “Underground Railroad.” This “railroad” was actually a secret network of safe houses where runaway slaves could stay on their journey north. For 10 years she risked her life leading hundreds of enslaved African Americans to freedom.

4. John Brown was another well-known American abolitionist. He was raised in the free state of Ohio and believed strongly that slavery was wrong. In 1859, Brown and 21 followers captured the United States Armory (Arsenal) at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Brown hoped that this attack would start a slave rebellion. Brown was captured, tried, convicted of treason, and hanged.

5. The death of John Brown caused more hard feelings between the North and South. Many southerners hoped that the presidential elections of 1860 would solve their problems. They wanted a president who would favor slavery. Instead, a Northerner by the name of Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States. The South feared that slavery would be abolished, and within two months, seven southern states seceded from the Union and formed the “Confederate States of America.” Later, Virginia seceded and joined them.

VS7b,c Virginia’s Role in the Civil War

On the morning of April 12, 1861, Confederate cannons fired on the flag of the United States as it flew above Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. As the North and South prepared for the bloodiest and most tragic war ever fought by American soldiers, Virginia’s men and women took sides in the fighting.

Most white Virginians supported the Confederacy. Enslaved African Americans raised crops and provided labor for the Confederacy in many different ways. Some free African Americans felt their limited rights could best be protected by supporting the Confederacy. Most American Indians, however, did not take sides during the Civil War.

During these four bloody years, Virginia became a major battleground between Union and Confederate troops.

The first Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas) was the first major battle of the Civil War. Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson played a key role in this battle. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson earned his nickname when he was shot in the hand but continued to shout orders as the firing continued. Another Confederate general who was retreating with his men under the heavy Union fire called out, “Look yonder! There’s Jackson standing like a stone wall!”

Like Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Robert E. Lee was a general in the Confederate army. Before the fighting started, he was asked to lead Union forces against the South but refused. Even though he was against slavery he said, “I could take no part in an invasion of the Southern States.” Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia and defeated Union troops at Fredericksburg, Virginia. In February 1865 he was named general-in-chief of all Confederate armies.

The Union had its share of war heroes. One such hero was Ulysses S. Grant. President Lincoln gave General Grant command of all Union troops. Near the end of the war, the Confederates evacuated Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. Grant led the Union army into the burning city.

Important battles also occurred at sea. President Lincoln used the Union navy to blockade southern ports. A major sea battle between two ironclad ships, the Monitor (Union) and the Merrimack (Confederate), took place in Virginia waters near the present day cities of Norfolk and Hampton. The battle was fought to a draw.

The Civil War ended at Appomattox Court House, Virginia in April of 1865. Confederate General Robert E. Lee sadly surrendered his beloved Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. When Grant heard the artillery booming to salute the victory over Lee, he sent orders for it to stop saying, “The rebels are our countrymen again. We can best show our joy by refusing to celebrate their downfall.”

 
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