Richmond's Civil War History

Virginia, Richmond Guide (A): Richmond's Civil War History

As Capital of the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War, Richmond saw much political action. The city was a center of slave trade, and produced and stored munitions, weapons, and supplies for the Confederate Army. It escaped direct conflict till the last month of the war. Union forces closed in on Richmond in 1865, so Confederates set fire to bridges, armory, and warehouses. The fire raged out of control, and large parts of the city were destroyed.
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Walk Route

Guide Name: Richmond's Civil War History
Guide Location: USA » Richmond
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 5.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.1 km
Sight(s) featured in this guide: Museum and White House of the Confederacy   Capitol Square   Shockoe Slip   Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar & American Civil War Center   Belle Isle & the Confederate Military Prison   The Civil War Walkway, Three Days in April   Canal Walk   Shockoe Bottom   Reconciliation Statue   Valentine Richmond History Center  
Author: Annie Tobey
Author Bio: Annie Tobey is the Active Woman Traveler who makes her home in Richmond, Virginia and enjoys exploring beyond the boundaries. She has been a professional writer and editor for over twenty years, with a special passion for travel writing and a thirst for knowledge.
Author Website:
Museum and White House of the Confederacy

1) Museum and White House of the Confederacy

Richmond served as capital of the Confederate States of America. This site honors that heritage with a modern museum and the restored mansion that was the White House of the Confederacy from 1861-1865, where Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family lived during the war. The elegant 19th century mansion, a National Historic Landmark, features Davis family effects and other period décor in 11 well-appointed rooms.

The modern museum building offers three floors of exhibits, with the...
Capitol Square

2) Capitol Square

Capitol Square, with the Virginia Capitol, Executive Mansion, statues, memorials, and Bell Tower, was essential to the Confederate States of America (CSA). The Capitol building was featured on CSA currency and the statue of George Washington was the inspiration for the seal.

At the Capitol building on April 17, 1861, the Virginia Convention voted to secede from the Union. Richmond soon became the Capital of the Confederacy, and the building became the crowded home to both the Virginia and the...
Shockoe Slip

3) Shockoe Slip

Richmond was founded at the falls of the James River, the farthest upriver from the Atlantic Ocean that a boat could travel. In the late 18th century, the Kanawha Canal was built to bypass the falls, planned in part by George Washington. The canal boats or “bateaux” unloaded their cargoes in the “slips” here in Shockoe Slip, a center of commercial activity during the Civil War.

At the time of the Civil War, Shockoe Slip was populated by tobacco warehouses, mills, and wholesalers. The...
Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar & American Civil War Center

4) Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar & American Civil War Center

Tredegar Iron Works was the leading producer of munitions, cannon, railroad iron, steam engines, and ordnance for the Confederate army and a keystone of the Richmond economy. The foundry was also responsible for the armor plating of the CSS Virginia, which fought in the Battle of Hampton Roads in 1862, the first battle between ironclads. Slaves and bondsmen were among the foundry’s skilled laborers.

The American Civil War Center museum, located in the 1861 Tredegar gun foundry, is unique in...
Belle Isle & the Confederate Military Prison

5) Belle Isle & the Confederate Military Prison

Belle Isle, the 54-acre James River island across the footbridge, served as a Confederate military prison for thousands of Union soldiers from June 1862 to October 1864, with horrendous conditions for prisoners. The South claimed a low death rate, but the North claimed that many prisoners died. Because the island was originally intended only as a holding facility, no barracks were built for the prisoners. Instead, they stayed in tents year round, despite summer heat and winter cold. Sanitation...
The Civil War Walkway, Three Days in April

6) The Civil War Walkway, Three Days in April

At the western edge of Brown’s Island is a walkway on the ruins of an old bridge, displaying an exhibit entitled “Three Days in April.” An archway marks the beginning of the walk: “Some of the most dramatic events in Richmond’s history occurred during Three Days in April 1865 when the city fell to the Union army after four years of Civil War.” Positioned chronologically, metal planks and photographic exhibits tell the story of the Confederate realization that they could no longer...
Canal Walk

7) Canal Walk

In the 1850s, the James River and Kanawha Canal system was in its heyday, enhancing transport of goods in young Virginia, with Richmond’s Shockoe Slip as a bustling hub of trade. Teams of horses and mules pulled barges through the canals, as batteaux transported freight and packets carried passengers. Civil War munitions and supplies and raw materials for use at Tredegar Iron Works traveled on the canal boats.

The original plans, as envisioned by George Washington in 1774, called for canals...
Shockoe Bottom

8) Shockoe Bottom

In the antebellum years, Shockoe Bottom adjoined the canal-fed Shockoe Slip, but with a darker purpose. While the Slip bustled with value-for-value trade, the Bottom traded in human lives.

Shockoe Bottom was one of the South’s largest slave-trading centers, with as many as 300,000 slaves passing through as someone else’s property. Slave trading began here in the 17th century. Although Virginia banned import trade of humans in 1778, interstate trade continued. Surplus slaves were sold,...
Reconciliation Statue

9) Reconciliation Statue

This 15-foot, half-ton bronze sculpture, created by artist Stephen Broadbent, is to represent reconciliation after division, as some African Americans were reunited with loved ones after slaves were freed following the Civil War, and as whites and blacks may be united, overcoming the damage of past wrongs.

Identical statues stand in Liverpool, England and Benin, West Africa, memorializing three points on the African slave trade—Europe, Africa, and America—now identified as the...
Valentine Richmond History Center

10) Valentine Richmond History Center

This museum of Richmond history is headquartered in the magnificent 1812 Wickham House, a National Historic Landmark. The house is an example of 19th century Federal architecture, showcasing examples of beautiful interior decorative painting, period furniture, and life of a prominent Richmond family. The house was built by John Wickham, best known as lead defense attorney for Vice President Aaron Burr’s treason trial. It’s located in a neighborhood named “Court End” because of its...