Author: Mark K. Greenough

the Capitol tour supervisor and historian for the Division of Legislative Services for the Commonwealth of Virginia

Virginia State Capitol during the Civil War, The

The State Capitol on Capitol Square in Richmond served as the center of political power and civic ceremonies for both Virginia and the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War (1861–1865). The building was the meeting place for the Virginia Convention of 1861 and wartime sessions of the General Assembly and the Confederate Congress. Robert E. Lee accepted command of Virginia’s military and naval forces there in April 1861. President Jefferson Davis was inaugurated on Capitol Square in February 1862 and Governor William “Extra Billy” Smith was inaugurated inside the Capitol in January 1864. Political speeches, military drills, band concerts, and public assemblies for celebration and protest occurred on the Capitol grounds throughout the war. Several prominent Confederate leaders lay in repose inside the Capitol. Capitol Square became a safe refuge for city residents during the Evacuation Fire in April 1865 and the Capitol itself quickly became a headquarters for Union authorities in the early phase of the military occupation of Richmond.