A word of introduction

I thought I’d take a moment to shed some light on just what exactly this section will be all about. From the moment Virginia seceded from the Union until the surrender at Appomattox, we’ll be writing each month about events as they happened here in Richmond in real-time 150 years ago during the Civil War. My hope for this column is to shed some light on Richmond’s role during the Civil War. I’d like to show the war from a local perspective instead of just talking about battle after battle. Richmond was the political epicenter of the Confederacy and the target of nearly all the Union campaigns in the East. It’s hard to live in the crosshairs of an entire army, so as you can imagine, the war left a huge mark on the city and it’s a mark still visible today. Sadly, I feel that too many young people that grew up here or have come to call Richmond home don’t really have a full understanding or appreciation of the rich history of this city during the Civil War.

I thought I’d take a moment to shed some light on just what exactly this section will be all about. From the moment Virginia seceded from the Union until the surrender at Appomattox, we’ll be writing each month about events as they happened here in Richmond in real-time 150 years ago during the Civil War.

My hope for this column is to shed some light on Richmond’s role during the Civil War. I’d like to show the war from a local perspective instead of just talking about battle after battle. Richmond was the political epicenter of the Confederacy and the target of nearly all the Union campaigns in the East. It’s hard to live in the crosshairs of an entire army, so as you can imagine, the war left a huge mark on the city and it’s a mark still visible today. Sadly, I feel that too many young people that grew up here or have come to call Richmond home don’t really have a full understanding or appreciation of the rich history of this city during the Civil War.

To start with a full disclaimer, I’m far from being a historian. Ever since I moved to Richmond seven years ago, I’ve been interested in Civil War history and have spent the past several years trying to learn more about it. Through my research, I discovered that, like many of my fellow Virginians, I’m a direct descendent of a Confederate soldier. As this was the ground he fought on, I was particularly fascinated by how the war played out here close to home. We live in a city filled with monuments, surrounded by battlefields, and with a lot of unique stories to tell. So, I look at this column as an opportunity to share what I’ve learned, but also to learn more as I go.

We find ourselves in an interesting situation here on the dawn of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. How do we mark the occasion? When we talk about Richmond and the Confederacy, it naturally brings up uncomfortable topics like slavery. My hope is to not steer clear of these topics while we chronicle the history of Richmond. The centennial of the Civil War in Richmond landed right in the middle of the civil rights movement. 100 years after emancipation, African Americans were still struggling for equality. As we look back another 50 years later, we’ve made some significant strides in equality. I think we owe it to ourselves to look at difficult issues like slavery, if for no other reason than to reflect on how far we’ve come and the work still left to do.

As the sesquicentennial unfolds, you’ll be hearing from historians and scholars about how to interpret the events and causes of the Civil War. I’ll be chronicling stories of Richmond, but largely leaving the analysis to the historians where it belongs. But of course, as we move along, I hope to shed light on different things so that you can make your own conclusions.

Let’s begin…

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Phil Williams

In addition to being an amateur Civil War enthusiast, Phil is a musician, beard owner, dance party enthusiast, blogger, technology geek, and spends whatever time is left over working in the advertising industry. He can also be found DJing around RVA as his alter-ego Robot E. Lee.

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