The Civil War Comes to Williamsburg
Williamsburg Travel Blog› entry 21 of 28 › view all entries
Colonial Williamsburg is always associated with Colonial-era America and with the Revolutionary War. But after the Revolution, the town continued on and was witness to more events. On May 5, 1862, the Civil War caught up with Williamsburg when the Battle of Williamsburg took place just south of town.
Susan and I had decided on the weekend of May 5-6 for a return visit to Williamsburg, where we had not visited, well, since the previous Williamsburg journal entry in this blog! :) When we arrived in the historic district, we noted several ladies dressed in 1860s attire, not colonial dresses! What was up? We soon found out. Williamsburg was commemorating the 150th anniversary of the battle this very day! What historial kismet!
Soon we heard the sound of a band in the distance.
After a time, both the Union and Confederate reenactors assembled on Courthouse Green for the battle sesquicentennial commemoration program. A speaker, Civil War historian James Robertson Jr, spoke on the impact and meaning of the Civil War for Virginia and the United States. The address could be heard over most of the hsitorical area. Susan and I took the opportunity to walk around a nearly empty Colonial Williamsburg, a rare event on a weekend.
Historical notes. Williamsburg was solidly in the Confederate camp during the Civil War. (A prominent citizen who continued to support the Union found he had to leave town.) In mid-April 1862, Union forces based around Hampton Roads began moving up the Virginia Peninsula, defined by the York and James Rivers. Their objective was to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital. This action is known as the Peninsula Campaign. Yorktown was captured on May 3. The Confederates began to retreat back from the "Warwick Line" defenses across the Peninsula (now within the city limits of Newport News) to regroup to defend Richmond. Reargard troops were left behind to delay the Union Army. Union and Confederate forces clashed on the morning of May 5, 1862 along the Williamsburg Road (now US Highway 60) just outside the town. The Battle os Williamsburg was indecisive, but losses were significant, 1,682 Confederate casualties and 2,283 Union casualties. The Confederates withdrew further up the Peninsula and the Union Army occupied Williamsburg.