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Crucible of the Civil War

Virginia from Secession to Commemoration

edited by Edward L. Ayers, Gary W. Gallagher, and Andrew J. Torget

Publication Year: 2006

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.

Published by: University of Virginia Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This volume originated in the graduate history program at the University of Virginia. While working on an essay about Virginia’s decision to secede from the Union, I found myself struck by how little attention the state had received in the literature on the American Civil War. Despite an overwhelming number of books on the battles, leaders, and armies that ...

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pp. 1-9

Virginia off ers a feast of subjects for anyone interested in exploring the Confederate experience or the Civil War more broadly defined. Th e 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 ...

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Unions of Slavery: Slavery, Politics, and Secession in the Valley of Virginia

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pp. 9-34

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 ...

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“I Owe Virginia Little, My Country Much”: Robert E. Lee, the United States Regular Army, and Unconditional Unionism

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pp. 35-57

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 ...

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“It Is Old Virginia and We Must Have It”: Overcoming Regionalism in Civil War Virginia

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pp. 58-79

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, ...

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Defining Confederate Respectability: Morality, Patriotism, and Confederate Identity in Richmond’s Civil War Public Press

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pp. 80-105

On March 19, 1862, the Daily 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 ...

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The Slave Market in Civil War Virginia

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pp. 106-135

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 ...

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Race, Religion, and Rebellion: Black and White Baptists in Albemarle County, Virginia, during the Civil War

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pp. 136-164

The reminiscences of Horace Tonsler, born into slavery in Albemarle County, Virginia, in 1857, off er 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 ...

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“The Right to Love and to Mourn”: The Origins of Virginia’s Ladies’ Memorial Associations, 1865–1867

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pp. 165-188

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 ...

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Reconciliation in Reconstruction Virginia

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pp. 189-208

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 ...

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pp. 209-212

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 ...

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 213-214


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pp. 215-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780813930497
E-ISBN-10: 0813930499
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813925523
Print-ISBN-10: 0813925525

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 5 maps & graphs, 1 table
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 755623752
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Crucible of the Civil War

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Virginia -- Race relations -- Political aspects -- History -- 19th century.
  • Virginia -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Social aspects.
  • Virginia -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.
  • Confederate States of America -- Historiography.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Social aspects
  • Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877) -- Virginia.
  • Memory -- Social aspects -- Virginia.
  • Slavery -- Virginia -- History -- 19th century.
  • Group identity -- Virginia -- History -- 19th century.
  • Secession -- Virginia.
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