Williamsburg, VA  - Vacation Travel Guide

  View Mobile Site | Advertise With Us |  OTHER DESTINATIONS
Sunny Day
Coupons
Free Guide
Check the local...
Attractions & Activities
Nightlife
Restaurants & Dining
Shopping
Stay local...
Bed & Breakfasts 
Campgrounds & RV Parks 
Hotels & Motels 
Resorts 

Get Local Coupons

download coupons

 

Williamsburg Area Features

Civil War in Hampton Roads

  By: Jacquelyn Eurice

Many of the stories that relate to the founding and building of America took place right here in Hampton Roads. Most often, visitors are often regaled with the history of Jamestown and stories about Pocahontas or Captain John Smith. They also hear about Williamsburg’s cries for independence that led to the American Revolution and the resolving battle in Yorktown. Yet the area saw history in the making once again when The American Civil War erupted in the region.

The state of Virginia witnessed more Civil War battles than any other state. Less than two months after the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, the war came to the Virginia Peninsula at the Battle of Big Bethel. On June 10, 1861, 4,700 troops converged in the Blockade of the Chesapeake Bay campaign. The Confederate army, led by Colonel John B. Magruder, was outnumbered three to one, but persevered in withstanding the first of many Union attacks in Hampton Roads.

Almost a year later, the ironclad CSS Virginia (made from the hull of the USS Merrimac) made its debut in local waterways. On March 8, 1862, the Confederates used its ramming ability to sind the USS Cumberland and run aground the USS Congress. The Congress was then bombarded until the haunting glow of a burning ship illuminated the region. This was the bloodiest loss to the U.S. Navy until the Japenese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Meanwhile, the Union army had deployed its own ironclad vessel, the USS Monitor from Brooklyn, N.Y. On March 9, the Monitor arrived in Hampton Roads and was first fired upon by the Virginia. The two ships bombarded each other for for hours, eventually ending in a draw wehn the Virginia retired from the battle. This famous Battle of Hampton Roads was a turning point in nautical warfare. It was the first time two iron hulled ships faced each other in combat.

On land, Union Major General George B. McClellan had been assigned to lead the Army of the Potomac in the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. Its goal was to take Richmond by sailing to Fort Monroe then advancing to the capital of the Confederacy along the Virginian peninsula.

In April, McClellan’s army encountered Major General Magruder’s rebel forces in Yorktown. McClellan was wrongly convinced that his army was outnumbered, so he delayed his attack to petition Lincoln for reinforcements that he would never receive. In actuality, his army greatly outnumbered the Confederate forces in Yorktown but Magruder was successful in deceiving McClellan through the use of theatrics. Plus, McClellan or "Little Mac" as he was called, was often slow to take action--much to the North's disadvantage. President Lincoln allegedly commented, “If General McClellan does not intend to use his army, may I borrow it?” During the month the Northern army occupied Yorktown, they only attacked the Rebels on occasion, April 16, but they could not vanquish the enemy. On the night of May 4, the Confederate forces evaded the Union army by relocating to Williamsburg under the cover of darkness.

Over 40,000 soldiers in blue met 31,000 troops in gray on May 5 in the Battle of Williamsburg--the first major land battle of the Peninsula Campaign. The federal troops attacked (what is currently known as) Fort Magruder while General Winfield S. Hancock attacked the Confederate's left flank. Because it was the South's goal to delay Union forces long enough to build defenses around Richmond, neither side won this bloody battle. Yet, Williamsburg was left in ruin and much of the town including the Wren Building at William & Mary were burned by Union troops.

Confederate forces continually fell back while the U.S. Army of the Potomac advanced toward Richmond. Finally, Confederate General Robert E. Lee managed to defend the capital in the last engagements of the Seven Days Battles, June 25-July 1, 1862. When Stonewall Jackson's army arrived, the federal army was driven from Richmond, Sadly, the American Civil War continued to rage for three more years.

Throughout the area, history enthusiasts can visit several historical places that memorialize the sacrifice of our American compatriots. Lee Hall served as Magruder’s headquarters. The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News houses the Monitor’s revolutionary turret. At the Casemate Museum in Fort Monroe, one can view the quarters occupied by the imprisoned president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, or learn about Robert E. Lee’s service there. Parts of Fort Magruder can still be seen, and there are countless monuments and tombstones honoring the men who fought.

 

Get Connected
Find Us On Facebook  Follow Us On Twitter  Follow Us On YouTube  Find Us On Facebook  Find Us On Pinterest