The opposition was based on fears of ending - the then legal importation of African slaves - an economic institution upon which the small farmers and plantation owners depended. Regardless, Virginia narrowly ratified the Constitution on June 25, 1788, and became the tenth state to join the Union.
On the victorious side at war's end, Virginia's economy was still suffering badly. Virginians by the thousands moved further inland looking for new opportunities and financial recovery. Helpful in the state's eventual recovery was the fact that from the end of the Revolutionary War, up to the mid-1850's, seven native sons of Virginia were elected President of the United States, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe.
With the spotlight now shining on Virginia, and a long-series of friends (so to speak) in the Whitehouse, over time, in addition to the flourishing tobacco fields, agricultural, iron and textile industries developed, supported by new roads and the expanding railroad network across America. Trade with many of the states, and with Europe and South America soon propelled Virginia into an economic powerhouse.
On the negative side, much of Virginia's attitude toward slavery became a thorn in its side. The plight of black slaves in the southern states was a growing controversial issue, and that moral dispute between the northern and southern states finally peaked in early 1861, and America's Civil War was about to begin.
Slavery and state sovereignty, or States' Rights, fueled the desire for independence across the south. By February of 1861, six southern states had already seceded from the Union, and in Virginia a convention was staged to discuss the possibilties.
On April 12, 1861, Confederate batteries at Charleston, South Carolina, opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The small Union force surrendered the next day. The bombardment of Fort Sumter was the opening engagement of the American Civil War; the fire was now lite; President Lincoln called for a Union response, and on April 17, 1861, Virginia seceded from the Union.
On May 29, the Confederacy moved their capital (the southern White House) from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond. The following day, the Union army slid into northern Virginia and captured Alexandria without much of a fight. Virginia would shortly become the central battleground of the disastrous Civil War.
At that time the western regions of Virginia, politically and socially removed from the east, (mainly because of slavery) voted to secede from Virginia. West Virginia was admitted to the Union in 1863, and for the most part, suffered little during America's most disastrous conflict.
More major battles of the Civil War were fought in Virginia than in any other state. Ironically, the first and last significant battles were staged in Virginia; the battle of Manassas was the first, and the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse the last.
The war finally ended for a variety of reasons, but most historians seem to agree that the North's overwhelming force, Sherman's March to the Sea, and the fall of Atlanta played major roles. Robert E. Lee (born in Virginia), a brilliant soldier and the most celebrated general of the Confederate forces finally surrendered his army on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Courthouse.
At war's end, in their final hopeless act, the retreating Confederate Army set fire to Richmond. In short order the U.S. Congress placed all of the south under military rule and reconstruction began. Virginia was readmitted to the Union on January 26, 1870.
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