The Civil War at a Glance
The Eastern Theater
|First posted 1998|
Last update Apr 29, 2009
In the East, beginning in the spring of 1861, the cry from Union headquarters was "On to Richmond!" For the next four years a succession of Northern commanders struggled desperately to do just that-get to Richmond. One well-designed effort in 1862 used the mammoth naval might of the Union to reach the vicinity of the Confederate capital by water routes. The other attempts stubbornly slogged across a narrow central Virginia corridor and sought to disperse tenacious Southern defenders who seemed always to be athwart the path. Confederate successes offered occasional opportunities to take the war north into Maryland and Pennsylvania and to threaten Washington. Both sides came to see the enemy army as the proper goal, and both recognized the obligation of the enemy army to defend its respective capital city against military threats. The consequence was four years of war fought to the death mostly in a relatively small strip of Virginia countryside between Washington and Richmond.
When the guns were finally silenced in the spring and early summer of 1865 and the authority of the Federal Government was once again restored, the Union had been permanently scarred. As Mark Twain put it, the war had "uprooted institutions that were centuries old...transformed the social life of half the country, and wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations."
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|The Western Theater War at a Glance|