Williamsburg in the Civil War

Williamsburg in the Civil War (HM1H5Y)

Location: Williamsburg, VA 23185
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Country: United States of America
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N 37° 15.287', W 76° 41.1'

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Gateway to Richmond

— 1862 Peninsula Campaign —

Williamsburg, once the capital of Virginia, declined after the American Revolution. By 1861, although many colonial structures still lined the streets, the Governor Palace and former capitol building lay in ruins. The College of William and Mary had lost prestige. Roads were unpaved and rutted, while the population and commerce had dwindled.

When the Civil War erupted, however, Williamsburg became strategically significant. Situated 12 miles west of Yorktown on a peninsula formed by the York and James rivers, Williamsburg is located on a four-mile-wide plain with ravines, marshes, millponds, and streams - to the east and west. The topography narrowed the land approach to Williamsburg from Hampton and Yorktown. Two highways, the Yorktown-Hampton and Great Warwick (Hampton) Roads, converged a few miles east of Williamsburg and then passed through the town toward Richmond, the Confederate capital, 50 miles northwest. Fort Monroe, the only masonry fort in Virginia in Union hands throughout the war, stands 24 miles southeast on Old Point Comfort near Hampton.

Because the Confederates were determined to block any Federal advance from Fort Monroe, Williamsburg became a key to their defensive system. The array of fortifications known as the Williamsburg Line was the scene of the May 5, 1862, Battle of Williamsburg. The town escaped damage then, but later, on September 5, Pennsylvania cavalrymen burned the Wren Building after a Confederate raid. The Federals occupied Williamsburg for the rest of the war.

Although Williamsburg is famous for its colonial heritage, parts of the 1862 battlefield remain intact, such as the two redoubts found here in Redoubt Park. The city of Williamsburg, Riverside Health Systems, and the Virginia War Museum Foundation cooperated to preserve them.
HM NumberHM1H5Y
Series This marker is part of the Virginia Civil War Trails series
Placed ByVirginia Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Friday, October 3rd, 2014 at 6:44pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 350571 N 4124467
Decimal Degrees37.25478333, -76.68500000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 15.287', W 76° 41.1'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 15' 17.22" N, 76° 41' 6" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)757, 202
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling North
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 511 State Rte 637, Williamsburg VA 23185, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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