During the American Civil War, the city of Richmond played a vital role in both the Union and Confederate war machines. Since it was the capital of the Confederacy, Union soldiers were constantly attacking the city’s defenses. From the start of the war to the fall of the city, Richmond and the surrounding countryside were at the center of fierce fighting. Richmond was militarily important during the Civil War due to its significant political and economic advantages.
Prior to the Civil War, Richmond was a large city that played a major factor in the economies of both Virginia and the United States. It was filled with diverse industries, such as grain and iron production, including the massive Tredegar Ironworks. The factory was one of the largest ironworks in the South and employed over 700 white and black workers. The major economic role that Richmond played helped grow the city, and by 1860, it was the 25th most populated city in the U.S., with a population of 37,910. However, the population of Richmond would be decimated by the effects of the war.
When the Southern states considered succeeding from the North, Richmond, like most southern cites, opposed succession. The city’s government claimed that secession would hurt its economy due to the fact that its merchants sold goods, such as iron, grain, and tobacco, to Northern factories and stores. Richmond, as well as the state of Virginia, adopted a cooperationist stance, and waited for the North to make the first aggressive move. However, when President Abraham Lincoln resupplied Fort Sumter and requested 75,000 ninety-day volunteers, the Virginia Convention, which was convened in Richmond, voted to secede on April 17, 1861. This was the start of a long and torturous journey for Richmond citizens.
The first reason why Richmond was militarily important was due to its political significance. In 1861, the Confederate government voted to move the capital of the Confederacy from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond. This move was done, according the Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens, as a way of drawing hesitant Virginians towards the Confederate cause. However, the move also placed the Confederate capital just one hundred miles from the Union capital, Washington, D.C. The Union commanders realized that if they could capture Richmond, then the South’s war machine would grind to a halt. For the majority of the war, the Army of the Potomac tried repeatedly to overrun the city. At one point, after marching up the York Peninsula, the Union army stood only 4 miles from the city before being turned away. Eventually, the Union army succeeded in capturing Richmond after the 9 ½ month long siege of the city and neighboring Petersburg.
 Mary DeCredico & Jaime Amanda Martinez, “Richmond In The Civil War,” Encyclopedia Virginia, July 12, 2009, accessed November 25, 2015, http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/richmond_during_the_civil_war.
 “A Guide to the Tredegar Ironworks,” Library of Virginia, 2004, accessed November 25, 2015, http://ead.lib.virginia.edu.ezproxy.vccs.edu:2048/vivaxtf/view?docId=lva/vi00494.xml;query=;.
 “Population of the 100 Largest Urban Places: 1860,” U.S. Census Bureau, June 15, 1998, accessed November 25, 2015, https://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0027/tab09.txt.
 DeCredico & J.A. Martinez, Richmond in the Civil War.
- Quote paper
- George Sandridge (Author), 2015, The Military, Economic and Political Importance of Richmond during the U.S. Civil War, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/315887