Why Richmond?

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WJC

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The rebel 'government' had three capitals: first, Montgomery, Alabama, then Richmond, Virginia and finally- while 'on the run'- Danville, Virginia. Some add a fourth, Greensboro, North Carolina.
Why was Richmond chosen as the capital?
Was it an exercise in bravado, a message to the U. S. government? A dare? After all, Richmond is only 125 miles from Washington and located on the extreme north of the rebel domain.
Atlanta, a transportation hub, is far more centrally located. Even Montgomery is more centrally located.
Was the relocation a quid pro quo: if you, Virginia, secede and join us, we'll give you the capital?
Why Richmond?
 

Southern Unionist

First Sergeant
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Apr 27, 2017
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NC
Practicality. They assumed the war was going to be fought primarily in northern VA, and managing a war from a distance was not easy with that era's communication technology. Richmond was large, it was well respected, it had the state government and the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, it had a port, and it had a cannon factory, so it had to be defended, regardless of where the CSA government was. If you look at a regional map for other options, nothing in the area looks attractive as an alternative except possibly Petersburg.

while 'on the run'- Danville, Virginia. Some add a fourth, Greensboro, North Carolina.
...durations measured in hours, literally.
 

WJC

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Practicality. They assumed the war was going to be fought primarily in northern VA, and managing a war from a distance was not easy with that era's communication technology. Richmond was large, it was well respected, it had the state government and the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, it had a port, and it had a cannon factory, so it had to be defended, regardless of where the CSA government was. If you look at a regional map for other options, nothing in the area looks attractive as an alternative except possibly Petersburg.
Thanks for your response and insight.
 
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WJC

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Thanks for your response and links.
From the first of these articles, it appears there was, indeed, a quid pro quo: "Jefferson Davis sent his vice president Alexander H. Stephens there to try to coax secession. Virginia seceded on the 17th of April, offered Richmond as national capital ten days later, and on May 20th the Confederate Congress took up the offer." <https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/house-divided/post/the-confederate-capital-shift-from-montgomery-to-richmond/2010/12/20/AGtlz0SH_blog.html?utm_term=.6bf4d824a46c>
The second supports the comments by @Southern Unionist : "The move served to solidify the state of Virginia’s new Confederate identity and to sanctify the rebellion by associating it with the American Revolution. Most important were Virginia’s hundreds of factories, whose output nearly equaled that of the rest of the Confederacy."<http://www.vahistorical.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/american-turning-point-civil-war-virginia-1/wh-1>
 

JohnW.

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Location
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The rebel 'government' had three capitals: first, Montgomery, Alabama, then Richmond, Virginia and finally- while 'on the run'- Danville, Virginia. Some add a fourth, Greensboro, North Carolina.
Why was Richmond chosen as the capital?
Was it an exercise in bravado, a message to the U. S. government? A dare? After all, Richmond is only 125 miles from Washington and located on the extreme north of the rebel domain.
Atlanta, a transportation hub, is far more centrally located. Even Montgomery is more centrally located.
Was the relocation a quid pro quo: if you, Virginia, secede and join us, we'll give you the capital?
Why Richmond?
Richmond was located in the most populous and wealthiest state in the Confederacy.....Just a guess....I'm quite sure politics had nothing at all to do with it LOL :D
 
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Joshism

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Montgomery was centrally located, but rather small and with limited transportation connections. Richmond was well-connected by railroads and had much better and more numerous accommodations for the government and its officials.

Although much smaller than Richmond at the tine, I have to wonder if Atlanta would have been the best choice for the CSA capital.
 
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Patrick H

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Practicality. They assumed the war was going to be fought primarily in northern VA, and managing a war from a distance was not easy with that era's communication technology. Richmond was large, it was well respected, it had the state government and the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, it had a port, and it had a cannon factory, so it had to be defended, regardless of where the CSA government was. If you look at a regional map for other options, nothing in the area looks attractive as an alternative except possibly Petersburg.



...durations measured in hours, literally.
Yes, this is a great insight and it makes perfect sense to me. Thank you.
 

Jamieva

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Location
Midlothian, VA
Montgomery was centrally located, but rather small and with limited transportation connections. Richmond was well-connected by railroads and had much better and more numerous accommodations for the government and its officials.

Although much smaller than Richmond at the tine, I have to wonder if Atlanta would have been the best choice for the CSA capital.
Richmond also has deep water access.
 
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jackt62

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Montgomery was centrally located, but rather small and with limited transportation connections. Richmond was well-connected by railroads and had much better and more numerous accommodations for the government and its officials.

Although much smaller than Richmond at the tine, I have to wonder if Atlanta would have been the best choice for the CSA capital.
Keeping the capital in Montgomery, or placing it in Atlanta as you suggest, might have been a good strategic decision. Once the capital was moved to Richmond, the focus of the confederate government shifted to the eastern Virginian front, to the detriment of the rest of the confederacy. It's close proximity to Washington also ensured that the Union would place great emphasis on making Richmond a target throughout the war.
 

Jamieva

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Location
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Keeping the capital in Montgomery, or placing it in Atlanta as you suggest, might have been a good strategic decision. Once the capital was moved to Richmond, the focus of the confederate government shifted to the eastern Virginian front, to the detriment of the rest of the confederacy. It's close proximity to Washington also ensured that the Union would place great emphasis on making Richmond a target throughout the war.
Richmond is an important strategic target for the union even if it is not the capital of the csa
 
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PatW

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Jan 21, 2015
Richmond was the capital of Virginia.

Virginia was the most populous state in the CSA. Virginia had the largest industrial base in the CSA. Virginia had Harpers Ferry, a major arsenal. and Norfolk Harbor, a major naval base.

But there were historical reasons. Virginia was the first colony. Virginia was the home state of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. I think southerners thought that with Virginia the CSA could claim that it was the legitimate heir to the Revolution. There was considerable symbolism in that.

Also with the capital in Richmond, rather than in the Deep South, there was hope to sway the other slave states into the CSA: Maryland, Kentucky, Deleware and Missouri. If the CSA gets those, it can probably prevail.
 
Joined
Sep 29, 2009
Location
Marfa, Texas
Hi,

In seeing this thread, here is a small excerpt about Richmond's importance from Chapter Nine of my newest book in the "Robert E. Lee at War" series, the volume titled Hope Arises From Despair: Lee, the Seven Days and His Art of War. Currently at press, the volume is scheduled for release in November 2017.

Regards,


Scott Bowden
http://leeatwar.com/



************ (Sidebar)**********

Richmond’s Importance

In mid-1862, Richmond remained the most valuable city in the South—its strategic importance was incalculable.

Like Paris and London, Richmond was a capital in every sense. Originally a fort, the river town had
been built at the fall line of the James River more than two centuries earlier to protect the Jamestown colony
downstream against Indians. After it became the capital of Virginia in 1780, the city grew out from the river,
spreading across seven hills and beyond, prompting citizens to liken the place to Rome.

As an antiquated society rooted in an agrarian economy fighting for its independence, Richmond was the
South’s heart. In addition to being the political center of the Confederacy, Lee staffer Charles Marshall correctly
asserted that, “Richmond had a value from a military point of view that far exceeded its political importance.”
It was indeed the South’s industrial center, described by historian Robert G. Tanner as “the Ruhr of the Confederacy.”
Factories in and around the city exceeded the total factory capacity of half of the 11 Confederate states
combined. Richmond’s importance to the food-producing region that ran from that Atlantic Ocean to the
mountains west of the fertile Shenandoah Valley was evidenced by its 12 meal and flour mills, and included the
world’s largest, Gallego, noted for its superb quality. The city also boasted the world’s largest tobacco market,
consisting of 60 factories and related firms. Joseph R. Anderson’s Tredegar Iron Works, North America’s second
largest foundry, employed 20 percent of the city’s labor force. The Richmond Armory under the superintendence
of the innovative James H. Burton was utterly essential to the Confederate war effort.

Richmond also ranked as Virginia’s largest port and vital transportation hub. Ocean and coastal ships docked
at the Rocketts’ wharf, and four railroads connected the city to points in all directions, making it the most important
rail center in the upper South. In addition, Richmond was one of the most populous and economically
advanced regions in the South, an important center of Southern finance, publishing and Tidewater society.
Lee understood that the loss of Richmond would mean the loss of Virginia, and the loss of Virginia would in
turn mean the loss of the war. Only two weeks before he was given the reins of the army and amidst preparations
to evacuate the capital, Lee passionately cried out to President Davis about his profound belief that Richmond
had to be saved. “Richmond must not be given up; it shall not be given up!” Postmaster John H. Reagan saw tears
in Lee’s eyes as he made this proclamation. Reagan later maintained that “the very fate of the Confederacy hung
in the balance; but I never saw [Lee] show” greater emotion.

The editors of the Richmond Dispatch agreed. In the May 16, 1862, edition under the headline “VIRGINIA
NOT TO BE SURRENDERED,” the editors proclaimed: “[Everyone] should resolve to the uttermost to defend
Richmond . . . [because should Richmond fall] it would be giving up much more. The Cause would be,
indeed, itself nigh surrendered in that event.”
 

civilken

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 25, 2013
first lesson if you're not from Virginia you're a nobody. Robert E Lee made that mighty plan when he promoted almost all the Virginia offices over everyone else.except for Long Street : core. I guess he felt bad for the rest of the southern soldiers and had to put them somewhere anyone who knows southern culture knows Richard was the New York of the South. And they wanted everyone else to know it' too or they weren't coming along.
 
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John S. Carter

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Mar 15, 2017
Montgomery was centrally located, but rather small and with limited transportation connections. Richmond was well-connected by railroads and had much better and more numerous accommodations for the government and its officials.

Although much smaller than Richmond at the tine, I have to wonder if Atlanta would have been the best choice for the CSA capital.
I do agree with Atlanta,rails,major city in the South,and far enough from the the major battles as not to be threatened.The only reason for Richmond was a reward to Virginia for following its sisters out.What if Richmond had fallen in the early stages of the war then would the capital moved say to Atlanta? The Russians allowed Moscow to be taken by Napoleon then with the on set of winter were able to destroy is armies. The Russians again in WWll again retreated with all of the industrial or destroyed that they could not leaving as with Napoleon a torched earth .They then waited and the rest is history.What if the Lee had followed these strategies in regard to Richmond mustering his force for a more aggressive war without having to concern about the capital? He moved North to relieve the pressure on Richmond , to hopefully to increase political pressure on Lincoln .and for the growing season to take place. Would he still had had to do this if the capital was in Atlanta.Lee was a student of Napoleon ,still he failed the class in the French and Russian war.Military prehabs this would have worked but then what of the reaction of the populist ? A army that retreats may be one not worthy of support.
 
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