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Battles

Drawing of Ruins of Chancellorsville, 1863The military conflict began on the morning of April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces shelled Union troops in Fort Sumter, located in the Charleston harbor. President Abraham Lincoln called for troops to suppress the rebellion, and in response Virginia seceded and joined the Confederacy. The Confederate capital moved to Richmond, only 100 miles from the federal capital at Washington D.C. Because of the location of the capitals and Virginia's location along the border, the state would become the most-contested battleground of the Civil War.

Union troops cried "On to Richmond!" and Confederate troops responded by successfully defending the rebel capital until the Army of Northern Virginia was defeated near Petersburg on April 2, 1865. The first major battle of the war was fought at Manassas, and the greatest number of battles and skirmishes occurred in Virginia. Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Confederate forces on the outskirts of Richmond on June 1, 1862, saved Richmond, and created the legendary Army of Northern Virginia. That army was the most famous of all Confederate troops until surrendered April 9, 1865, at Appomattox.

How to Search the Catalogs:

Conduct a keyword or subject search heading in the catalog using the following examples of Library of Congress subject headings.

Chancellorsville, Battle of, Chancellorsville, Va., 1863
Cold Harbor, Battle of, Va. 1864.
Gettysburg, Battle of, Gettysburg, Pa., 1863
Maryland Campaign, 1862
Petersburg Crater, Battle of, Va., 1864
Shenandoah Valley Campaign, 1862 (or any other individual battles or campaigns)
United States History Civil War, 1861-1865 Campaigns
Virginia History Civil War, 1861-1865 Campaigns

Selected Published Resources


The most convenient and comprehensive starting point for learning about the large number of significant battles and engagements that occurred in Virginia during the Civil War, including maps of the action at each site, can be found in:

Salmon, John S. The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2001.


The following titles are recommended only as starting points for individual battles. The list contains only major battles fought in Virginia, as well as Antietam and Gettysburg.

First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas (1861):

Beauregard, G. T. The Battle of Manassas of July 1861: Together with a Summary of the Art of War. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1891.

Detzer, David. Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run, 1861. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2004.


Peninsula Campaign (1862):

Doughtery, Kevin. The Peninsula Campaign of 1862: A Military Analysis. With J. Michael Moore. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005.

Marks, J. J. The Peninsular Campaign in Virginia, or Incidents and Scenes on the Battlefields and in Richmond. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1864.


Valley Campaign of 1862:

Cozzens, Peter. Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

Gallagher, Gary, editor. The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.


Second Battle of Bull Run/Manassas (1862):

Hennessy, John J. Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

Martin, David G. The Second Bull Run Campaign: July–August 1862. Conshohocken, Pa.: Combined Books, 1997.


Maryland Campaign of 1862 and the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg:

Harsh, Joseph L. Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee & Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 1999.

Sears, Stephen W. Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam. New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1983.


Battle of Fredericksburg (1862):

O'Reilly, Francis Augustin. The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003.

Rable, George C. Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.


Battle of Chancellorsville (1863):

Furgurson, Ernest B. Chancellorsville 1863: The Souls of the Brave. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Longacre, Edward G. The Commanders of Chancellorsville: The Gentleman Versus the Rogue: The Opposing Strategies and Personalities of Lee and Hooker. Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 2005.


Battle of Gettysburg (1863):

Brown, Kent Masterson. Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, & the Pennsylvania Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

Meade, George Gordon. With Meade at Gettysburg. Philadelphia: John C. Winston Company, 1930.

Trudeau, Noah Andre. Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.


Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House (1864):

Priest, John Michael. Nowhere to Run: The Wilderness, May 4th and 5th, 1864. Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane Publishing Company, Inc., 1995.

Rhea, Gordon C. The Battle for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7–12, 1864. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997.


Valley Campaign of 1864:

Heatwole, John L. The Burning: Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley. Charlottesville: Rockbridge Publishing, 1998.

Patchan, Scott C. Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007.


Siege of Petersburg (1864):

Greene, A. Wilson. Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion: The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign. Mason City, Iowa: Savas Publishing Company, 2000.

Sommers, Richard J. Richmond Redeemed: The Siege of Petersburg. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1981.


Surrender at Appomattox (1865):

Marvel, William. Lee's Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

Wensyel, James. Appomattox: The Passing of the Armies. Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane Books, 2000.

Selected Manuscript Collections

For diaries, letters, and manuscripts relating to soldiers experiences, see the subjects: Prisons, Soldiers & Camp Life, and Units and Unit Histories.