"In the Beginning, all America was Virginia."
William Byrd II
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Civil War Gallery

Virtual Tour of The Civil War Section of the Story of Virginia
Take a virtual tour of this gallery by clicking on the buttons above to move left, right, up, down, or to zoom in. Select "Scenes" to see other sections of the Story of Virginia exhibition.
Why did the Civil War Happen?
"Why Did the Civil War Happen?" is the subject of the introductory video for the VHS blockbuster show, "An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia." Slavery caused the war, but the war did not begin to free the enslaved. Throughout the 1850s, slavery had kept the free North and the slaveholding South on a collision course that could end in dissolution of the Union or a war to preserve it. "An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia," was a free exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, that was on display at the Virginia Historical Society from February 4 to December 30, 2011.
Libby Prison Window
In this video, Exhibit Coordinator for "Virginia's Civil War" Andrew Talkov discusses Civil War prisons in the Virginia Historical Society's long-term exhibition "The Story of Virginia, an American Experience."
Grant verse Lee: The Wilderness to Petersburg
The video is from the 2007 Lee-Grant Exhibition at the Virginia Historical Society and looks at Grant versus Lee, the Wilderness to Petersburg.
Battle of the Ironclads
This video describes the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. On March 8, 1862, the world's first ironclad ship, CSS Virginia, destroyed two wooden-hulled U.S. warships at Hampton Roads. This battle revolutionized naval warfare by proving that wooden vessels were obsolete against ironclads. The next day the Union's first ironclad—the USS Monitor—arrived and fought the Virginia to a draw, ensuring the safety of the Union blockade fleet.
Robert Edward Lee Enter Fullscreen More information
Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870)
When Virginia left the Union in April 1861, Gen. Winfield Scott offered Lee principal command of the U.S. Army, but Lee maintained that he could not bear arms against his native Virginia. He submitted his resignation and became the commander-in-chief of the military and naval forces of Virginia. Lee was given command of the Army of Northern Virginia in June 1862 and from then until the summer of 1863, he led the army in a series of brilliant campaigns. After suffering defeat at the battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, he adopted a largely defensive strategy. In 1864, Lee tried desperately to hold a larger Union army at bay in a series of bloody battles from the Wilderness to Petersburg. The end came when his weakened forces surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's army at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. After the war, he devoted the rest of his life to serving as president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. He died in October 1870. (VHS accession number: 1957.29)
Winfield Scott Enter Fullscreen More information
Winfield Scott, by Miner Kellogg
Winfield Scott (1786–1866) was born in Dinwiddie County, near Petersburg. He attended the College of William and Mary for two years and later studied law in Petersburg. Seemingly destined for a career as an attorney, Scott instead was commissioned in the Army in 1808, thus beginning a remarkable military career of fifty-three years. He fought with distinction during the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. Promoted to general-in-chief of the army, Scott held influence over many young officers—northerners and southerners alike. Although many of his fellow Virginians sided with the South in 1861, Scott refused to fight against the United States. He devised the famous "Anaconda Plan," which in essence became the overall Union strategy for winning the war. Because of his age and infirmities, and the jealousy of rising star Gen. George B. McClellan, Scott retired from active service in October 1861 and died in 1866. (VHS accession number: 1965.9)
Dixie's Land Enter Fullscreen More information
"Dixie's Land" by Daniel Emmett
"Dixie's Land," handwritten copy by Ohio composer Daniel Emmett (1815–1904), who composed it as a "hooray" song for a minstrel show. He wrote it in New York City while thinking "I wish I was in Dixie." It took the South by storm after its southern debut in New Orleans in 1861 in the play Pocahontas. (VHS call number: Mss2 Em645 a 1)
Confederate First National flag or "Stars and Bars" Enter Fullscreen More information
Confederate First National flag or "Stars and Bars"
The Confederate First National Flag, called "the stars and bars," was reputedly the Confederate headquarters flag during the first battle of Manassas, July 21, 1861. (VHS accession number: 1958.42)
Tredegar Iron Works envelope Enter Fullscreen More information
Tredegar Iron Works envelope
Detail from envelope depicting Tredegar Iron Works; the other side of this hand-stamped envelope is postmarked Richmond June 15, 1861. By then, Virginia has seceded but did not yet have its own postage. The first Confederate adhesive stamp would appear in October 1861. (VHS accession number: 1997.174)
The Battle Between the Monitor and the Merrimac Enter Fullscreen More information
The Battle Between the Monitor and the Merrimac
The painting, entitled The Battle Between the Monitor and the Merrimac, by Xanthus Smith (1839–1929) was completed about 1880. It depicts the famous sea battle between the USS Monitor and the USS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimac) at Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862. (Lora Robins Collection of Virginia Art; VHS accession number: 1998.53)
"Coming into the Lines" by Edwin Forbes Enter Fullscreen More information
"Coming into the Lines" by Edwin Forbes
Slaves often took advantage of the presence of Union troops nearby to escape bondage. In "Coming into the Lines," Edwin Forbes (1839–1895), special artist for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, showed a family of Virginia slaves crossing into Union lines and freedom. (VHS accession number: 1994.83)
Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson Enter Fullscreen More information
Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson (1824–1863)
"Could I have directed events, I should have chosen for the good of the country to be disabled in your stead," wrote Robert E. Lee to Thomas Jonathan Jackson (1824–1863) after learning that Jackson had been wounded by friendly fire at Chancellorsville. A native of Clarksburg (now West Virginia), Jackson earned his nickname "Stonewall" at the first battle of Manassas. (VHS accession number: 1946.41)
Battle of Savage's Station Enter Fullscreen More information
Battle of Savage's Station
Savage's Station on the Richmond and York River Railroad was the headquarters of Gen. Samuel P. Heintzelman's Union Third Corps in June 1862 and the site of a disorganized action on June 29 during Gen. George B. McClellan's withdrawal from the Peninsula. This watercolor is the work of Pvt. Robert K. Sneden (1832–1918), a topographical engineer in the 40th New York Volunteers. (VHS call number: Mss5:1 Sn237:1 Vol. 3 p. 55)
United States flag Enter Fullscreen More information
United States flag
This United States flag of thirty-one stars was one of the first to fly over captured Richmond after Union troops arrived on April 3, 1865. It descended in the family of Frederick Martin, brevet lieutenant colonel of volunteers, captain 1st Eastern Virginia Volunteers, who worked for the U.S. army in Richmond until 1866. (VHS accession number: 1992.189)
Window from Libby Prison Enter Fullscreen More information
Window from Libby Prison
This window is from Richmond's notorious Libby Prison, where an estimated 125,000 Union soldiers were confined throughout the war. The former tobacco warehouse was being leased by Libby and Sons when the Confederacy took it over in 1862 to house Union prisoners. After the war, an Illinois syndicate razed the building and then reconstructed it in Chicago as the National War Museum. After the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, the building was again demolished, this time permanently. David W. Sutherland of Chicago acquired the window and gave it to the local Union veterans' organization of the town of his birth, Pittsford, New York, near Rochester. It was presented to E. J. Tyler Post 288, Grand Army of the Republic, at a ceremony attended by two former inmates of the prison. In 1915 the GAR donated it to the Rochester Municipal Museum, now the Rochester Museum and Science Center. In 1990, the museum gave the window to the VHS. (VHS accession number: 1990.100.481)
Silk Confederate Dinwiddie flag Enter Fullscreen More information
Silk Confederate flag from Dinwiddie County, Va.
Silk flag made and "Presented by the Ladies of Dinwiddie County, V.A.," probably at the outset of the war. The eleven stars represent Confederate states. The central motif is from the Virginia state seal. (VHS accession number: 1990.100.481)
Light Union artillery jacket and forage cap of James Lowell Enter Fullscreen More information
Light Union artillery jacket and forage cap of James Lowell
This light Union artillery jacket and forage cap were worn by James Lowell (1846–1919) of the 7th Maine Battery. Lowell enlisted at age seventeen and first saw action at the Wilderness in May 1864. His last action was the siege of Petersburg in 1865. (Gift of Athena Lowell; VHS accession number: 1993.86.a–c)
The Battle of Five Forks Enter Fullscreen More information
The Battle of Five Forks by Paul Dominique Philippoteaux
“The Battle of Five Forks,” by French artist Paul Dominique Philippoteaux (1846–1923), captures a scene from the April 1, 1865, battle. Charging Union cavalry, led by a flag-waving Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, are shown slamming into a wall of Confederate defenders near the important crossroads west of Petersburg. The scene represents a dramatic moment in the pivotal battle of the last major campaign of the war in Virginia. The fighting ended after the Union troops successfully overwhelmed both flanks of the southern line, which was centered on the crossroads that gave the battle its name. Lee's last major supply route had been broken. The next day, after suffering an all-out assault against the remaining Confederate positions around Petersburg, his army began a march that would end at the small village of Appomattox Court House. “The Battle of Five Forks” was given to the VHS in memory of Peter Charles Bance, Jr., by his mother and father. (VHS accession number: 2006.190)
"Let Us Have Peace" by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris Enter Fullscreen More information
"Let Us Have Peace" by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
"Let Us Have Peace" by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris depicts the surrender of Lee to Grant at Appomattox. The high tone of the occasion—the nobility of Lee in defeat and the magnanimity of Grant in victory—began the long process of reconciling Virginians to their former identity as Americans. (VHS accession number: 1996.172.1)
Virtual tour of the Civil War gallery of the Story of Virginia
Virtual Tour of The Civil War Section of the Story of Virginia
Why did the Civil War Happen?
Libby Prison Window
Grant verse Lee: The Wilderness to Peters
Battle of the Ironclads
Robert Edward Lee
Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870)
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott, by Miner Kellogg
Dixie's Land
"Dixie's Land" by Daniel Em
Confederate First National flag or "Stars and Bars"
Confederate First National flag or "S
Tredegar Iron Works envelope
Tredegar Iron Works envelope
The Battle Between the Monitor and the Merrimac
The Battle Between the Monitor and the Mer
"Coming into the Lines" by Edwin Forbes
"Coming into the Lines" by Edwin
Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson
Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jack
Battle of Savage's Station
Battle of Savage's Station
United States flag
United States flag
Window from Libby Prison
Window from Libby Prison
Silk Confederate Dinwiddie flag
Silk Confederate flag from Dinwiddie Count
Light Union artillery jacket and forage cap of James Lowell
Light Union artillery jacket and forage ca
The Battle of Five Forks
The Battle of Five Forks by Paul Dominique
"Let Us Have Peace" by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
"Let Us Have Peace" by Jean Leon