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History >> US Geography >> US State History

Virginia

State History

Native Americans

Before Europeans arrived in Virginia the land was inhabited by Native American tribes including the Catawba in the south, the Powhatan in the east, the Cherokee in the west, and the Tutelo in the center region of the state. The Powhatan peoples on the east coast spoke the Algonquian language and lived in longhouses made from tree saplings covered with grass or bark mats. A number of tribes joined together to create the Powhatan Confederacy under the leadership of Chief Powhatan. Chief Powhatan was also the father of Pocahontas who would later marry English settler John Rolfe.



Re-enactment of the landing at Jamestown from the US Navy

Jamestown

In 1606, the Virginia Company of London was granted a charter to start a colony in Virginia. They gathered a group of settlers and set sail on three ships named the Susan Constant, the Discovery, and the Godspeed. Upon reaching Virginia they founded the settlement of Jamestown on May 13, 1607.

These first settlers had a rough time. Most of the original colonists starved to death within a few years. They also fought with the local Powhatan Indians until one of the settlers kidnapped the local chief's daughter, Pocahontas, and managed to secure a truce.

A Growing Colony

Despite the early struggles, more and more settlers arrived in Virginia. Tobacco became an important crop and large tobacco plantations formed throughout Virginia. In order to work the land, slaves were brought in from Africa. In 1624, Virginia was made a crown colony of Britain. The capital city was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg in 1698.

Revolutionary War

After the British won the French and Indian War they began to impose taxes on the American Colonies including the Stamp Act of 1765. Many colonial leaders spoke out against the taxes and began to discuss revolution. It was Virginia's Patrick Henry who said "Give me liberty, or give me death!"

When the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Virginia was quick to send troops and organize a militia to fight the British. Some of the main leaders of the revolution, such as General George Washington who led the Continental Army and Thomas Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence, were from Virginia. Some of the important battles that took place in Virginia were the Battle of Great Bridge, the Siege of Petersburg, and the Battle of Yorktown. It was at the Battle of Yorktown where the British finally surrendered and the Americans won the war.



Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull

After the war, Virginia voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution and became the 10th state on June 25, 1788.

Civil War

When Abraham Lincoln was elected president, several southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States. At first, Virginia wanted to remain loyal to the Union, but they did not want to fight their fellow southern states. When fighting broke out at Fort Sumter in 1861, Virginia seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy.

The capital of the Confederacy was moved to Richmond, Virginia. As a result, much of the fighting during the Civil War took place in Virginia. Some of the major Civil War battles that took place in Virginia included the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Second Battle of Bull Run, and the Battle of Appomattox Court House. It was on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox that General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate Army surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant and the Civil War came to an end.

Reconstruction

Because so many battles took place in Virginia, it was decimated by the war. Much of the state's infrastructure including railroads, cities, roads, and industry needed to be rebuilt. Virginia was finally readmitted to the Union in 1870, but it took some time after for Virginia to fully recover.



The Pentagon by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond

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History >> US Geography >> US State History





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