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As part of the American South, Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia were all affected by the Civil War between the Union and the Confederacy. The area largely survived the war unscathed, and was was spared from destruction in 1865 when city leaders surrendered to General George Custer.
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.
Charlottesville was spared from destruction when city leaders surrendered to General George Custer.
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, saying "The spirit of Secession is rampant here."
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 were split: University of Virginia law professor James P. Holcombe voted for secession while prominent local lawyer Valentine Wood Southall voted against it.
April 1861: Four infantry companies—two each of town and university men—organize into the Charlottesville and University Battalion.
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. Among the "yea" votes were both aforementioned Albemarle delegates, Thomas Jefferson’s grandson George Wythe Randolph, and former U.S. president John Tyler; future Confederate general Jubal Early continued his opposition to secession.
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.
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.
November 26, 1861: The West Virginia Constitutional Convention opens in the city of Wheeling.
1862—1864: Approximately 940 enslaved African Americans are impressed into labor by Confederate authorities in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
1862: The 19th Virginia Infantry's regimental band, formerly the Charlottesville Silver Cornet Band, dissolves.
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.
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.
1863: Four enslaved African Americans in Charlottesville murder a Confederate officer attempting to impress their labor for the war effort.
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.
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.
June 20, 1863: West Virginia is admitted into the Union.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
March 3, 1865: 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.
April 2, 1865: The Confederates evacuate Richmond ahead of the arrival of Union troops. 
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.
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.
Liberation of Charlottesville
Union troops approached Charlottesville in early 1865, arriving on the morning of March 3. Many white Charlottesvillians were convinced that the troops would burn the University of Virginia, which was treating Confederate soldiers in their hospital for battlefield wounds and illnesses. 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.
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. 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. They argued that the University had been founded by President Jefferson and would be a benefit to the entire nation, not just the Confederacy.
The major target was the iron railroad bridge that carried the Virginia Central Railroad over the Rivanna River, was destroyed. About a dozen warehouses storing foodstuff and military supplies were burned, along with Woolen Mills. A mill owned by the Marchant family, which had been producing Confederate uniforms, was destroyed. Some homes in Charlottesville were ransacked, but not torched. Houses outside the city limits were generally fared worse. Monticello, a tourist destination for Union troops during occupation, was unharmed.
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. 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.
A group of historians, tourists and history buffs are currently planning the region's approach to the 150th anniversary of the civil war.
- Jordan Jr., Ervin L. "Charlottesville During the Civil War." Encyclopedia Virginia. Ed. Brendan Wolfe. 23 Aug. 2010. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. 29 Jan. 2010 <http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Charlottesville_During_the_Civil_War>. Cite error: Invalid
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- "Charlottesville: Civil War Traveler: Central Virginia." Civil War Travel. Web. 23 Aug. 2010. <http://www.civilwartraveler.com/EAST/VA/va-central/cville.html>.
- Web. The Army of Northern Virginia, PBS, Website, PBS: American Experience, retrieved July 8, 2021.
- 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.
- Lay, Edward K. The Architecture of Jefferson Country: Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Google Books. Web. 23 Aug. 2010. <http://books.google.com/books?id=XSSUestFtpkC&pg=PA17&dq=albemarle+county+civil+war&hl=en&ei=AcFyTOfZHYW8lQe35cDHDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CEoQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=albemarle%20county%20civil%20war&f=false>.
- Web. Battle of Waynesboro, Website, Shenendoah Valley Battlefields, retrieved July 7, 2021.
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