Civil War and Reconstruciton I. Differences between north & south, & between va and w. Va?

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Civil War and Reconstruciton


Question: What are the key geographic differences between North and South, and between Virginia and West Virginia? What role did these differences have in the eventual splits that arose between them?

  1. LAND AND CLIMATE- The southern United States had warm weather, flat floodplains, and fertile soil near rivers for plantation crops such as tobacco and cotton. The Northern states had colder weather, rocky soil, and were better suited to timber, shipping, and food production industries. In the south, Virginia’s coastal plain and piedmont regions were well suited to plantation-type agriculture, while the mountainous land of West Virginia was not. The rivers in Virginia’s eastern regions provided reliable method of transportation of goods, whereas the rivers in West Virginia areas were fast-running and mountainous.

    1. Types of Economy- The southern states developed economies based on agriculture, while the northern states’ economies often developed more industries such as textiles and shipbuilding. Southern agriculture also, was often plantation agriculture from cash crops. Virginia’s economy was based on plantation agriculture- especially when compared to areas of West Virginia, whose mountains, land, and climate did not lend themselves to plantation systems.

      1. Connection to Slavery- Because of geographical and climatic conditions, the economy in the south needed lots of people to work and harvest their plantation-style agriculture. They chose to meet their needs for labor by engaging in the slave trade with Africa and the Caribbean. Northern and West Virginia economies did not have this labor need, and thus did not develop a trade in human beings. As the country grew and developed over time, northern states (including most of West Virginia) did not favor slavery and the slave trade, and southern states grew to depend on it. So, when the country began to grow and take over new territory to the west, the north wanted the new lands to be “free” and the southern states wanted new lands to be “slave” territory. This issue caused serious conflict between regions of the United States, and played a large part in the eventual outbreak of the Civil War, as did these people and events.

        1. Nat Turner, an African American slave, led a revolt against plantation owners in Virginia. Many northerners were sympathetic to him.

        2. Abolitionists (mostly in the north) campaigned to end slavery, and even helped anti-slavery activist in the south. Northerners also helped Harriet Tubman as she guided many enslaved African Americans to freedom in Canada along the “Underground Railroad”- the secret route and set of anti-slavery activists in the north who hid African Americans as they escaped to freedom.

        3. John Brown, a white man, led a raid on the U.S. Armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. He was trying to start a rebellion of enslaved African Americans. He was captured and hanged. Money for his attempts had been supplied by northern abolitionists.

        4. After Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, some southern states seceded from the Union and formed the “Confederate States of America.” Later, Virginia seceded and joined the CSA.

        5. The different outlooks and economies of Virginia and West Virginia led to the formal creation or West Virginia as a state in 1863.


Question: What made Virginia such a central geographic location for the events leading up to and surrounding the Civil War?


  2. RAILROADS- Though the south in general did not have as many miles of R.R. track as the north, Virginia had more than other southern states, and thus was an important link in the transport of goods in the south.

  3. PORTS- Virginia had excellent natural harbors on the Chesapeake Bay and the eastern shore. Virginians shipped much of their tobacco and cash crops to Europe in trades, so their ports were well established.

  4. THE LOCATION OF 2 CAPITALS: WASHINGTON, D.C. AND RICHMOND- Since Virginia was so important to the Confederacy, its capital was made the capital of the CSA: Richmond. Richmond and Virginia, being located so close to the federal capital of Washington, D.C., made it only natural that Virginia would have many important military operations and battles during the war.

    1. Battles in Virginia:

      1. The first Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) was the 1st major clash of the Civil War. Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson played a major role in this battle.

      2. General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, defeated Union troops at Fredericksburg, VA.

      3. Richmond was the CSA capital. It fell to General Ulysses S. Grant (Union commander) and was burned near the end of the war.

      4. Lincoln used the Union Navy to blockade southern ports. An important sea battle between the Monitor (Union) and the Merrimack (Confederate), to iron-clad ships, took place in Virginia waters near Norfolk and Hampton. The battle was fought to a draw.

      5. The Civil War ended at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, where Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in April, 1865.


    1. Most white Virginians supported the Confederacy.

    2. The Confederacy relied on enslaved African Americans to raise crops and provide labor for the army, so African Americans were forced to do this work. A small number of African Americans felt their limited rights could best be protected by supporting the Confederacy, and therefore worked for CSA forces. Most African Americans who could escape slavery, however, or who were free men, chose to join the Union Army or help the Union cause.

    3. Most American Indians did not take sides during the Civil War.

III. RECONSTRUCTION: MOST PEOPLE NEED ECONOMIC HELP- “Reconstruction” is the period following the Civil War in which Congress passed laws designed to rebuild the country and bring the southern states back into the Union. Many people in the south were ruined by the war; they had no place to live, no job, and nowhere to go.

Question: What were the economic and political problems that remained in Virginia after the Civil War? Why did these problems persist?

  1. POLITICAL RIGHTEST TO AFRICAN AMERICAS; ECONOMIC PROBLEMS REMAIN- Wherever the Union Army was in charge, things improved for African Americans in the south. Since African Americans could now vote and run for office, some got elected and gained some power in the government. However, many problems remained: millions of freed A.A. needed housing, education, clothing, food, and jobs. Virginia’s economy was ruined: CSA money had no value, banks were closed and could not make loans, RRs, bridges, plantations, and crops were destroyed

    1. How to Fix This?

      1. Freedman’s Bureau= a government agency that provided food, schools, and medical care for freed A.A. and others in VA and the south.

      2. Sharecropping= a system common in VA after the war in which freedmen and poor white farmers rented land from a landowner by promising to pay the owner with a share of the crop grown

    2. Times are Still Tough: Resentment and Jim Crow

      1. Economic difficulties for all people in the south caused whites to feel resentment toward A.A. who were also trying to survive. So when the Union Army was not running things in the south, A.A. were victims of segregation- which was the separation of people based on race- and discrimination, which is an unfair difference in the treatment of people. Segregation and discrimination were “codified” into laws by whites in power. These laws were called “Jim Crow” laws. Examples of these laws:

        1. Unfair poll taxes and voting tests to keep A.A. men from voting

        2. A.A. found it very difficult, because of threats or rights denied, to vote or hold public office

        3. A.A. were forced to use separate poor-quality services such as drinking fountains, restrooms, restaurants, and schools.

    3. Economic Redevelopment- VA cities began to grow in many areas after the Civil War and Reconstruction. VA’s cities grew with people, businesses, and factories, and the demand for more and better roads increased.

      1. Railroads- a key to the expansion of business, agriculture, and industry. They facilitated the growth of small towns to cities.

      2. Coal- deposits were found in Tazewell County, and became a source of industry and business.

      3. Tobacco- farming and tobacco products became important VA industries.




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