What did the Civil War mean to Virginia - and what did Virginia mean to the Civil War? On the eve of secession, Virginia had by far the largest population in the South, as well as the greatest number of slaves. A sea change in state politics after Fort Sumter led to the Commonwealth's seceding from the Union, joining the Confederacy, and bringing a large portion of its tremendous human and material resources to the Confederate side, Richmond became the capital of the Confederacy, and much of the war's fighting took place on Virginia soil. While military matters have attracted great interest, remarkably little sustained research and writing has focused on the Virginia home front during the Civil War. The twenty essays collected here explore the Virginia story throughout the Civil War era. Some contributors examine Robert E. Lee and the issues confronting his men, such as soldier morale and religious conversion. Others emphasize the wartime home front - in some cases reexamining its connection with the battlefront - or explore questions of gender, race, or religion. Several essays extend the story into the postwar years and consider various Virginia individuals or groups in the context of the conflict's aftermath. Building on current knowledge, but often contesting conventional thinking, the essays give the most comprehensive view yet of Civil War Virginia and suggest avenues of inquiry that remain to be explored.
Peter Wallenstein teaches history at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and is the author of Blue Laws and Black Codes: Conflict, Courts, and Change in Twentieth-Century Virginia (Virginia). Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Richard J. Milbauer Professor of History at the University of Florida, is the author of The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-1880s.