Virginia Campaigns

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(July 1861–65)

A series of engagements and campaigns in the American Civil War. The first engagement of the Civil War was fought on 21 July 1861 at the first Battle of Bull Run. In a confused mêlée the Confederacy was saved from defeat by the brigade of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. In the Peninsula Campaign of April–June 1862 Union (Northern) forces under General McClellan attempted to advance up the peninsula between the James and York rivers to capture Richmond, but in the Seven Days Battle (26 June–2 July) he was forced to withdraw by the Southern commander, General Robert E. Lee. At the same time in the Shenandoah Valley a brilliant campaign by “Stonewall” Jackson pinned down Union forces. The second Battle of Bull Run followed (29–31 August), when Lee forced the Union army to retreat to Washington. The way was open for an invasion of the North, but it ended in defeat at the Battle of Antietam (17 September). Following the Confederate army's escape back to Virginia, the new Union commander, General Ambrose Burnside, launched an assault on Lee's positions above Fredericksburg (13 December 1862). Burnside withdrew, the reverse severely shaking the Union war effort. In the spring of 1863 a reinforced Union army under General Joseph Hooker, resumed the offensive in the Battle of Chancellorsville (2–4 May 1863). Lee withstood the assault, but suffered heavy casualties, including the death of Jackson. Lee now invaded Pennsylvania, but suffered the major defeat of Gettysburg, after which he was on the defensive for the rest of the war. A series of engagements was fought in May and June 1864 in the “wilderness” region of Virginia, when General Grant was defeated three times before retreating across the River James, to renew his attacks in the Petersburg Campaign. This last campaign was launched in June 1864 and continued into 1865. Three assaults on Richmond by Grant were repelled by Lee, after which Union forces besieged the Confederate capital through the winter. Lee was thus prevented from sending reinforcements south to repel Sherman's advance through Georgia and on 1 April he was defeated at Five Forks and forced to abandon both Richmond and Petersburg. All but surrounded, he surrendered at Appomattox on 9 April, bringing the campaign, and the war, to an end.

Subjects: World History.

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