The First Battles: April 1861 to February 1862

One Special Young Man

What was the first military action undertaken by Virginia?

Just days later, Virginia militia leaders initiated a series of daring attacks on federal installations and properties.

The major intent was to prevent the Union from bottling up Confederate ships in the James River. To that end, Confederate—or rather Virginian—forces attacked and seized the U.S. naval base at Norfolk. Other forces rushed toward Fortress Monroe, the largest of all federal installations, but they were stopped by the sudden arrival of several Massachusetts regiments. Even so, the Virginians did amazing things in the first two weeks of their Civil War. The speed with which they moved appeared to justify the notion—promoted in many Southern newspapers—that Southern men were natural fighters and that their Yankee opponents were too slow.


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