160 Years Ago Today: Virginia Voters Ratify Secession

Thursday, May 23, 1861, was a solemn day throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was the day its white, male citizens over the age of 21 would decide whether to ratify an Ordinance of Secession adopted in Richmond on April 17th. Though U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and many throughout the North viewed secession as illegal,…

160 Years Ago Today: Engagement at Sewell’s Point

160 years ago, May 19, 1861, a popular referendum to decide whether the Commonwealth of Virginia would secede from the United States was still four days away. Never-the-less, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln had extended the naval blockade of the seven original Confederate States to include the ports of Virginia and North Carolina. On May 6th,…

160 Years Ago: The First Wheeling Convention

By mid-May 1861, the secession crisis in Virginia had reached a boiling point. In response to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln calling for a volunteer army to suppress the rebellion in the Deep South, on April 17th delegates at the Virginia Secession Convention in Richmond passed an ordinance of secession, pending the results of a popular…

160 Years Ago: Engagement at Gloucester Point

On April 17, 1861, a majority of delegates at the Virginia Secession Convention in Richmond passed an ordinance of secession, pending the results of a popular referendum to be held on May 23. Virginia Governor John Letcher appointed Col. Robert E. Lee, recently resigned from the U.S. Army, as overall commander of the Virginia Provisional…

160 Years Ago Today: Gosport Navy Yard Captured

In early spring 1861, events were at a boiling point in the United States. By February, six Southern states: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, had seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. It was an act newly inaugurated President Abraham Lincoln's administration, and many others, saw as illegal and a…

160 Years Ago Today: Robert E. Lee Resigns from the U.S. Army

President Abraham Lincoln’s call on April 15, 1861 for 75,000 volunteers to “suppress the rebellion” in six Southern states inflamed passions in states like Virginia, which had, until that time, resisted calls to secede and join the nascent Confederacy. On April 17, the Virginia Secession Convention voted in favor of secession, subject to a popular…

160 Years Ago Today: Harpers Ferry Armory Burned

First Lieutenant Roger Jones, a cousin of Robert E. Lee, was on recruiting duty at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania when ordered to take a small force south through Maryland to protect the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, a small mountain town nested at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Though Virginia had…

160 Years Ago Today: Virginia Adopts Ordinance of Secession

160 years ago today, Wednesday, April 17, 1861, 143 delegates from across the Commonwealth of Virginia crowded into the neoclassical Capitol of Virginia at 10:00am to debate secession from the United States. Six Southern states had already seceded. South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas formed the Confederate States of America on February…