Civil War

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Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia largely escaped the combat violence and property destruction suffered by regional neighbors in the Valley, Northern Virginia, and Richmond during the Civil War in which the Confederacy rebelled against the United States. Charlottesville specifically was spared from potential destruction in 1865 when city leaders surrendered to General George Custer.[1]

During the Civil War, Charlottesville was home to the Charlottesville General Hospital, with 500 beds, that treated over 22,000 wounded soldiers. The hospital was run by Dr. James L. Cabell, a professor of medicine at UVa[1].

The Confederacy used several buildings in Scottsville as hospitals[2].

Many citizens of the area joined the Confederate 19th Virginia Infantry Regiment, which fought as part of the Army of Northern Virginia, originally named the Confederate Army of the Potomac.[1][3]

A mill owned by the Marchant family was destroyed in 1865 by Union forces. The Charlottesville Manufacturing Company had been manufacturing uniforms for Confederate soldiers[1].

African Americans composed the majority of the town and county’s population; in 1860, Albemarle County had 12,103 white residents in comparison to the 13,916 non-white enslaved people and 606 free people of color. Thousands of white men left the area to serve the Confederacy over the course of the next four years, which resulted in an increasing percentage of Black Charlottesville residents and white fear. White citizens weaponized their fear of Black equality to inflict even harsher laws and regulations restricting the movements and livelihoods of people of color.[4] Both enslaved and free African Americans alike were the subject of heightened white fears of violence.[1] The Confederate Army and the City of Charlottesville impressed African Americans into service. As a result, racial violence and rules by white citizens against African Americans were at a high. For most of the war, white Charlottesville enforced a curfew for Black Charlottesvillians.[1][5]

The University of Virginia was rare in the fact that it remained open and in operation throughout the war, although the military used the buildings for their own military-related and adjacent purposes. Approximately 4,000 of the University’s 8,000 pre-1865 alumni fought for the Confederacy. An unknown number of University students fought for the Union; Charles Augustus Briggs of New York and Bernard Farrar, Jr., of Missouri are among the very few documented examples.[6]

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March 15, 1861: A Confederate battle flag is raised on the dome of the Rotunda by students at the University of Virginia, signaling support from within the University of the pro-slavery Confederate effort. In a letter to the editors of the Baltimore Exchange, students said that "The spirit of Secession is rampant here."[6]

April 17, 1861: The Virginia Convention voted to secede from the Union. The delegates passed the Ordinance of Secession with 88 “yea” and 55 “no” votes. Albemarle delegates votes were split: University of Virginia law professor James P. Holcombe voted for secession while prominent local lawyer Valentine Wood Southall voted against it.[6]

April 1861: Four infantry companies—two each of town and university men—organize into the Charlottesville and University Battalion.[1]

May 23, 1861: The secession decision was ratified by a vote of the state’s white male population. Virginia joins the Confederacy and Richmond becomes the capital. Both aforementioned Albemarle delegates, Thomas Jefferson’s grandson George Wythe Randolph, and former U.S. president John Tyler voted to secede; future Confederate general Jubal Early continued his opposition to secession.[6]

May 1861: The 19th Virginia Infantry Regiment is formed mostly out of Charlottesville and Albemarle County recruits, with University of Virginia and West Point graduate Philip St. George Cocke as its colonel.[1]

July 1861: Charlottesville General Hospital, a sprawling Confederate military medical facility, opens in Charlottesville and takes over various public and private buildings throughout the town, including hotels, churches, and facilities belonging to the University of Virginia. Its first patients are Confederate soldiers wounded at Manassas.[1]

November 1861: Dr. Orianna Moon, Charlottesville General Hospital's superintendent of nurses, relocates to Richmond, having married her hospital colleague Dr. John Summerfield Andrews.[1]

November 26, 1861: The West Virginia Constitutional Convention opens in the city of Wheeling.[6]

1862—1864: Approximately 940 enslaved African Americans are impressed into labor by Confederate authorities in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Free blacks between the ages of fifteen and fifty were required to report to the courthouse, where a doctor from the Charlottesville General Hospital forcibly examined them and then determined how and where they should work. Black residents of Charlottesville who did not report were taken by gunpoint. Against the protestations of their owners, the Confederacy took enslaved people from their homes and forced them to work as well. Between 1862 and 1864, the Confederacy in Charlottesville impressed about 940 slaves. It is unknown how many free Black people the Confederacy impressed locally.[1]

1862: The 19th Virginia Infantry's regimental band, formerly the Charlottesville Silver Cornet Band, dissolves.[1]

June 1862: Major General Stonewall Jackson led his army through Albemarle County via Brown's Gap Turnpike on his way to join the Confederate defenses in Richmond[7].

September 17, 1862: The 19th Virginia Infantry, composed mostly of men from Charlottesville and Albemarle County, suffers more than a 47 percent casualty rate at the Battle of Antietam.[1]

1863: An African American man named Jackson who had been living on University of Virginia property is removed on the grounds that he is married to a white woman.[1]

1863: Four enslaved African Americans in Charlottesville murder a Confederate officer attempting to impress their labor for the war effort.[1]

April 20, 1863: The March 16 petition by black congregants of Charlottesville's First Baptist Church to establish the Charlottesville African Church is accepted by white church leaders.[1]

January 1, 1863: The Emancipation Proclamation is issued by President Lincoln, freeing the three million people enslaved in the Confederacy. The proclamation also ordered the Union Army to "recognize and maintain the freedom of" the former slaves, and authorized the enlistment of black soldiers in the U.S. armed forces.[6]

June 20, 1863: West Virginia is admitted into the Union.[6]

July 3, 1863: The 19th Virginia Infantry, comprised mostly of men from Charlottesville and Albemarle County, suffers a 60 percent casualty rate and loses its flag during Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.[1]

1864: John A. Marchant sells the Charlottesville Manufacturing Company, which operates a cotton and woolen mills, to his son, Henry Clay Marchant. The factory is burned by occupying Union forces the following year.[1]

February 29, 1864: Union general George A. Custer menaces Charlottesville and Albemarle County as part of the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid on Richmond. On this day, he lead a diversionary raid and crossed the Rivanna near Earlysville, launching a surprise attack on the Stuart Horse Artillery Battalion. He was repulsed by local militia in a short skirmish in the Battle of Rio Hill.[1]

April 18, 1864: In an essay, Basil L. Gildersleeve, a University of Virginia professor of Greek and Hebrew, speaks out against miscegenation, claiming that to prevent it is to guarantee white supremacy.[1]

March 2, 1865: The Third Battle of Waynesboro, in which General Sheridan encountered the last remnant of Confederate Gen. Jubal Early’s Valley army. More than 1,500 Confederates surrendered. Early and a few of his staff evaded capture.[1][8]

March 3, 1865: Charlottesville was occupied by Sheridan’s Cavalry, U.S.A., arriving March 3rd, 1865, and leaving on the 6th. Their entry was from the West, and troops encamped in many sections of the town: “above the University,” South of the University (Piedmont), Belmont, Park Street, what is now Locust Grove, etc.[9] Charlottesville and University of Virginia officials surrender the town to Union generals Philip H. Sheridan and George A. Custer. Union forces burn the Charlottesville Manufacturing Company.[1]

March 6, 1865: Union soldiers crossed the James River at Scottsville on their way to join General Ulysses Grant at Petersburg. They destroyed canal locks and buildings.[2]

April 2, 1865: The Confederates evacuate Richmond ahead of the arrival of Union troops. [6]

April 6, 1865: The 19th Virginia Infantry, comprised mostly of men from Charlottesville and Albemarle County, surrenders its thirty remaining men to Union forces following the Battle of Sailor's Creek.[1]

April 9, 1865: Confederate General Robert E. Lee formally surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, formally ending the Civil War. The United States wins.

May 5, 1865: Jefferson Davis formally dissolves the Confederacy. He is arrested for treason shortly after.[10]

Liberation of Charlottesville

Union troops approached Charlottesville in early 1865, arriving on the morning of March 3. Propaganda and fearmongering convinced many white Charlottesvillians that the troops would burn the University of Virginia, which was treating Confederate soldiers in their hospital for battlefield wounds and illnesses.[11][5] During the course of the Civil War, about 22,500 wounded Confederate soldiers and a few captured Union soldiers were tended to at the University-run 500-bed Charlottesville General Hospital. The superintendent was professor and doctor J.L. Cabell.[1]

The University also had produced over one thousand Confederate soldiers for the pro-slavery effort, second only to the Virginia Military Institute, which had been ransacked and burned by Custer’s troops en route to Charlottesville.[11] Charlottesville Mayor Christoper L. Fowler decided to surrender. The University of Virginia, represented by law professor John Barbee Minor, chairman of the faculty Socrates Maupin, and rector Thomas L. Preston, surrendered to the Union.[5] They argued that the University had been founded by President Jefferson and would be a benefit to the entire nation, not just the Confederacy.[11][1][5]

The major target was the iron railroad bridge that carried the Virginia Central Railroad over the Rivanna River, was destroyed. The Union troops burned about a dozen warehouses storing foodstuff and military supplies, along with Woolen Mills.[1][5] A mill owned by the Marchant family, which had been producing Confederate uniforms, was destroyed. The Union also ransacked-- but didn't torch-- some homes in Charlottesville. Houses outside the city limits generally fared worse. Monticello, a tourist destination for Union troops during occupation, was unharmed.[1][5]

Over half of Albemarle County was liberated from slavery that day as the Union line reached them, including the hundreds of people held in captivity by the university's professors, students, and the school itself.[11][1] Most chose to seek safety with the Union troops and followed them as the army moved east toward Richmond. The continuing Union occupation of Virginia meant that these self-emancipators did not need to leave the state, even after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox in 1865. March 3 is celebrated as Liberation and Freedom Day in Charlottesville.[11]


Unveiling of Robert E. Lee Statue, colorized. Credit to the Norris Collection and Cville Images.[12]
Picture taken from a front-page article about the unveiling of the Jackson monument in the October 19, 1921 edition of the Daily Progress.
Photo taken during the removal recess of "At Ready" statue in Court Square.[13]

Charlottesville's Lee Park and Jackson Park were named after confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, respectively. These names were changed briefly in 2018 to Emancipation Park and Justice Park, before becoming known as Market Street Park and Court Square Park.

Civil war veterans are buried in Maplewood Cemetery, among other places. Adjacent to the University of Virginia Cemetery and Colombarium is the Confederate Cemetery.


Paul Goodloe McIntire assembled several parcels of land, knocked down existing buildings, and then deeded the land as Market Street Park to the city in 1917 for the specific purpose of erecting the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee; he donated the completed statue seven years later in 1924.[14] The reveal of the statue was celebrated with a reunion of confederate soldiers, a parade, and a speech by University of Virginia President, Edwin A. Alderman. [15] The statue was removed on July 10, 2021.

McIntire also purchased the land that was once McKee Row, next to the Circuit Courthouse.[16] He deeded this land as Court Square Park to the city on the specific condition that a sculpture representing Confederate General Jackson would be displayed there.[17][18] McIntire's deed requires that the land "will never be used other than for a park and that no other monument except Jackson’s would ever occupy it.”[17] In June 2021, Charlottesville City Council voted to remove both of the statues.[19] The statue was removed on July 10, 2021.

In 1909, a mass-produced bronze statue of a Confederate soldier leaning on musket was posted in Court Square facing south; titled “At Ready.” The plaque featured inscriptions about valor. The sculptor is unknown.[20] It was flanked by two bronze smoothbore 12-pounder Napoleons, and cannonballs. The statue was unveiled on May 5, 1909, the anniversary of the 1857 creation of the Monticello Guard,[21] a militia company in Charlottesville that formed in front of the Albemarle County Courthouse when Virginia seceded from the union in 1861, and became part of the 19th Virginia Infantry. The statue and nearby cannon, and cannonballs were removed to be placed on display at the Third Winchester Battlefield,[20] part of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District.[22] On August 6, 2020, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to remove the statue.[23] The statue was removed on September 12, 2020.

On June 7, 1893, a monument of a Confederate soldier was unveiled in the University of Virginia's Confederate Cemetery. The statue is an effigy of bareheaded soldier standing on pedestal holding musket with fixed bayonet. There are bronze tablets naming 1,097 Civil War dead, most of whom died of wounds or illness in Charlottesville hospitals and are buried in the cemetery. Engraved in the stone base of the statue are the words "Fate denied them victory but crowned them with glorious immortality." There have been calls from students and local residents in recent years for the statue's removal. In July 2020, access to the cemetery was limited in an attempt to stem protests.[24]


In 1866, a group of Charlottesville women, most of whom had cared for sick and wounded soldiers during the war, started the Ladies Confederate Memorial Association. They copied from hospital registers the names, states, companies and regiments of those who had died. The women transferred the information onto rough wood markers which they placed at the head of each grave. They also collected $1,500, used to build a stone wall around the Confederate Cemetery at UVA.[25]

The John Bowie Strange Camp of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) was a local Civil War veterans' organization. The organization was named in honor of Confederate soldier Lieutenant Colonel John Bowie Strange (VMI 1842). Co-founded in 1889 by R. T. W. Duke, Sr., this camp "was only the fourteenth of its kind in any Southern state and symbolized the depth of Confederate feeling in the community."[26] The UCV itself was organized in 1889, and held its last reunion in 1951.

After the Civil War, each side generated Civil War veterans and descendants organizations. The Confederates had the United Confederate Veterans (UCV), the Union counterpart was the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). The local chapter of the UCV was supported by local businessmen and the Albemarle Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.


A group of historians, tourists and history buffs planned a remembrance of the region's approach to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The Civil War 150 Legacy Project visited Charlottesville in 2011 with the goal of digitizing Civil War-era documents for potential future research.[27]


John L. Nau III's family foundation has funded several opportunities for academic work surrounding the Civil War, many of which are through the University of Virginia's Nau Center for Civil War History. The Center has created several digital projects, including Black Virginians in Blue, focusing on Black Union soldiers from Albemarle County; UVA Unionists, which seeks to identify UVA students who fought for the Union during the war; and the upcoming Civil War Prisons, which will illustrate the experiences of prisoners of the Civil War.[28][29] The former two projects were co-funded by the Jefferson Trust.[30] In addition to long-term digital projects, the Center has an ongoing scholarly blog.[31] The Nau Center sponsors educational programming about the Civil War, including panel events presented at prestigious festivals such as the Virginia Festival of the Book or aired on CSPAN.[32][33]

The Nau family foundation has funded fellowships and professorships at the University, such as the John L Nau III Professor in History of American Civil War, and several internships through UVA's Institute for Public History, in order to help keep the study of Civil War history available to the public and financially feasible for students to study for a summer. In 2021, the Center financed seven internships, placing students at three national battlefield parks, two digital research centers, Charlottesville's Daughters of Zion Cemetery, and the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society.[34]


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  2. 2.0 2.1 "Charlottesville: Civil War Traveler: Central Virginia." Civil War Travel. Web. 23 Aug. 2010. <>.
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  4. Web. Black Virginians in Blue (Part 2): The Civil War, Casey Bowler, Web Article, The Nau Center for Civil War History, January 10, 2020, retrieved July 28, 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Web. Remembering 150th anniversary of the surrender of Charlottesville, UVa to troops under Custer and Sheridan, David A. Maurer, Daily Progress, Berkshire Hathaway, March 1, 2015, retrieved May 18, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Web. Who Shall Tell the Story: Voices of Civil War Virginia, Gayle Cooper, Edward Gaynor, et al., Digital Exhibit, UVA Library, 2014, retrieved July 8, 2021.
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  10. Web. Civil War on the Western Border: Remaining Confederate Cabinent Dissolves, Website, Kansas City Public Library, retrieved July 8, 2021.
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  17. 17.0 17.1 National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service Form 10-900-a, 1996, Section 8 page 3, on deposit Albemarle County Historical Society “Monuments“ file
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  20. 20.0 20.1 Web. Here are the (mostly Confederate) mementos in Johnny Reb's time capsule
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  22. Web. Confederate Statue Near Site of White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville Is Removed, The New York Times
  23. Web. Albemarle County to remove "At Ready" confederate statue following public hearing
  24. Web. U.Va. restricts access to Confederate Cemetery, monument amidst nationwide removal of statues and monuments, Geremia Di Maro, News Article, The Cavalier Daily, July 5, 2020, retrieved July 8, 2021.
  25. Web. Set In Stone, David Maurer, Magazine Article, Virginia Magazine, Spring 2008, retrieved July 8, 2021.
  26. The Lost Cause: R. T. W. Duke, Jr. and the Romance of Confederate Defeat
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  29. Web. Black Virginians in Blue: A Digital Project Studying Black Union Soldiers and Sailors from Albemarle County, Virginia, William B. Kurtz, Website, The Journal of the Civil War Era, April 6, 2021, retrieved July 27, 2021.
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  34. Web. List of Internships: Summer 2021, Lisa Goff, Website, the University of Virginia’s Institute for Public History, June 2021, retrieved July 28, 2021.