The James River begins where the Cowpasture and Jackson rivers join in the western part of Virginia. It flows approximately 340 miles, passing over the falls at Richmond, and on to Hampton Roads. The James ranks near the Mississippi River in its significance during the(1861–1865) and in importance to the Confederacy. Using the James River and Kanawha Canal system, boats moved materials such as pig iron and coal from Virginia’s and Piedmont regions to the capital. After the loss of Norfolk, Richmond became the state’s major port, naval base, and shipbuilding facility. South and east of Richmond the James saw significant combat, including actions between the Confederate and Union navies. In addition, the river aided large-scale movement of Union troops and military supplies.