Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Crucible of the Civil War

Crucible of the Civil War: Virginia from Secession to Commemoration

Edward L. Ayers
Gary W. Gallagher
Andrew J. Torget
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 240
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Crucible of the Civil War
    Book Description:

    Crucible of the Civil War offers an illuminating portrait of the state's wartime economic, political, and social institutions. Weighing in on contentious issues within established scholarship while also breaking ground in areas long neglected by scholars, the contributors examine such concerns as the war's effect on slavery in the state, the wartime intersection of race and religion, and the development of Confederate social networks. They also shed light on topics long disputed by historians, such as Virginia's decision to secede from the Union, the development of Confederate nationalism, and how Virginians chose to remember the war after its close.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3049-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Andrew J. Torget
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    Gary W. Gallagher

    Virginia offers a feast of subjects for anyone interested in exploring the Confederate experience or the Civil War more broadly defined. The state endured a bitter internal debate about secession in 1861 that eventually led to the loss of its mountainous western counties, which joined the United States as West Virginia in 1863. Yet even as their western brethren departed, most citizens in Confederate Virginia overcame prewar divisions to achieve a striking sense of national purpose. Armies campaigning within the state’s borders fought a number of the most famous battles in American history, slaughtering each other in profusion and creating...

  5. Unions of Slavery Slavery, Politics, and Secession in the Valley of Virginia
    (pp. 9-34)
    Andrew J. Torget

    Abraham Lincoln took great care in crafting his message to the special session of Congress on July 4, 1861. More than simply recounting the momentous events that had occurred since his inauguration, Lincoln wanted to explain why the nation’s legislature had “convened on an extraordinary occasion.” Lincoln blamed the secession crisis on a minority of Southerners who had overtaken their respective state governments, reiterating his position that the Union was older than the states and indissoluble. Rebels unsatisfied with a fair election, he insisted, had created the crisis and purposefully forced the Federal government into a war. “The assault upon,...

  6. “I Owe Virginia Little, My Country Much” Robert E. Lee, the United States Regular Army, and Unconditional Unionism
    (pp. 35-57)
    Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh

    Douglas Southall Freeman, perhaps Robert E. Lee’s greatest biographer, has called Lee’s decision to wage war against the Federal flag he had so faithfully served before the Civil War the “Answer He Was Born to Make.” Freeman’s biography remains a monumental work of scholarship, and popular perceptions of Lee’s secession rarely deviate from Freeman’s unquestioning acceptance of Lee’s decision. For example, on January 19, 1907, Charles Francis Adams, son of the wartime American minister to England and himself a former officer in the Army of the Potomac, delivered to Washington and Lee University an address marking the centennial of Lee’s...

  7. “It Is Old Virginia and We Must Have It” Overcoming Regionalism in Civil War Virginia
    (pp. 58-79)
    Aaron Sheehan-Dean

    The unity of the American South was a product of the Civil War, not a precedent for it. Before the war, every Southerner recognized differences between lowcountry and upcountry folk, between coastal regions and the Black Belt. Antebellum leaders could not even assume unity within individual states. Among the most problematic states was Virginia, which distinguished itself as a place where regional tensions, predicated on an east-west division dating to the earliest days of European settlement, presented serious obstacles to political and social unity. From the 1830s through the 1850s, state leaders struggled to resolve the contradictory trends in the...

  8. Defining Confederate Respectability Morality, Patriotism, and Confederate Identity in Richmond’s Civil War Public Press
    (pp. 80-105)
    Amy R. Minton

    On March 19, 1862, theDaily Dispatch,Richmond’s most widely circulated newspaper, presented a question to its readers. It encouraged Richmonders to look around at their neighbors and “ask why it is that, with scarcely an exception, the best members of society are the most loyal in their devotion to the South; whilst those who are doubtful are, with scarcely an exception, men who are doubtful in the relations of social life, who are dissolute, or dishonest, or false in their private character, or, if not absolutely vicious, who are weak minded, eccentric, and unstable?” In posing this query, the...

  9. The Slave Market in Civil War Virginia
    (pp. 106-135)
    Jaime Amanda Martinez

    In January 1864, a young girl named Nelia remarked in a letter to her cousin Bettie that “Pa bought five negroes the other day (two men one woman and two children) he gave eleven thousand and eight hundred for them.”¹ This quick sentence in the midst of Nelia’s stories of holiday festivities and the approaching school year indicated that slave sales in Virginia were both important and commonplace occurrences, even in wartime. This sale was important enough to Nelia that she reported it to a disinterested party, in a letter filled with references to family and friends. The purchase was...

  10. Race, Religion, and Rebellion Black and White Baptists in Albemarle County, Virginia, during the Civil War
    (pp. 136-164)
    Andrew Witmer

    The reminiscences of Horace Tonsler, born into slavery in Albemarle County, Virginia, in 1857, offer a revealing glimpse into the structure of race relations in central Virginia churches during the Civil War period. “When we git to de church,” Tonsler recalled, “de white folks would go inside, an’ de slaves would sit round under de trees outside. Den de preacher git de white folks to singin’ an’ shoutin’, an’ he start to walkin’ up an’ down de pulpit an’ ev’y once in a while he lean out de winder an’ shout somepin’ out to us black folks.”¹ Relegated to the...

  11. “The Right to Love and to Mourn” The Origins of Virginia’s Ladies’ Memorial Associations, 1865–1867
    (pp. 165-188)
    Caroline E. Janney

    Less than a month after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, the first Ladies’ Memorial Association in Virginia organized to eulogize and praise the fallen South.¹ The spring of 1865 had brought peace to the state, but the scars of war remained quite visible in the quaint town of Winchester. Graves of Southern soldiers had been scattered across the lower Shenandoah Valley, and with each passing month residents uncovered more bodies as farming activities resumed. One Winchester woman, Mary Dunbar Williams, was greatly disturbed by the lack of proper burials for the Confederate soldiers who had so ardently defended the...

  12. Reconciliation in Reconstruction Virginia
    (pp. 189-208)
    Susanna Michele Lee

    Once the fighting on the battlefield ended, black and white Virginians turned their attention to adjusting to the changes wrought by the Civil War. In the aftermath of the conflict, Virginians confronted the monumental tasks of reconfiguring race relations without slavery, restoring farms and businesses to their former productivity, and renewing relations with the federal government. While undertaking these tasks, Virginians reflected upon the war in light of their postwar circumstances. Confederate defeat, the preservation of the Union, and the abolition of slavery prompted Virginians to assess their opinions on the war and decipher its ultimate meaning.

    How did Virginians...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 209-212)
    Edward L. Ayers

    Like flanking maneuvers on Civil War battlefields, these essays attack questions from surprising directions, exposing sides to problems and opening up opportunities we had not expected. The questions are the same ones that always concern historians of the Civil War, especially those of Virginia. How did this state, so central to the building of the United States, come to secession? What motivated men such as Robert E. Lee, who had dedicated their lives to the United States and its defense, to renounce their loyalty? What held the Confederacy together across its divides of class, locality, gender, ethnicity, and political division?...

  14. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 213-214)
  15. Index
    (pp. 215-226)