A Petersburg Story

petersburg-courthouseOnce upon a time in a small city in Virginia named Petersburg, there was an abundance of beautiful buildings for as far as the eye could see. A small group of citizens lived in this charming city and loved the historic architecture that surrounded them. They went to churches that had stately columns, magnificent towers, steeples and beautiful Tiffany windows.

They came downtown to shop and do business in buildings that had real style. The citizens knew they were living in a special place, a place that had endured war and hardship and also enjoyed prosperity. They were proud of the grand mansions that bordered Central Park and the workers cottages near the Appomattox River and loved just about everything in between. …[Read More]

American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)

Golden Ball between 1933-1940

The Golden Ball Tavern where British officers serving under Cornwallis quartered in 1781, before the Siege of Yorktown in 1781.

Petersburg did not escape the harsh realities of the American Revolution. At war’s end, Petersburg felt the effects of the mighty forces of the British. Although the British mounted an offensive against the Southern colonies, heavy Virginian support of the Continental Army for several months denied any substantial success to the British offensive.

The fighting of the Revolutionary War was centered in Virginia during 1781. In January, the American traitor Benedict Arnold began conducting raids for the British, who had made him a brigadier general. Arnold’s troops set fire to crops, military supplies, and other patriot property. General Washington sent Lafayette with a force of Continentals to rally Virginia’s militia and pursue Arnold. But Lafayette had too few troops to stop Arnold.


Benedict Arnold

In spring of 1781, Petersburg fell. With 2,500 men, General Benedict Arnold and renowned artilleryman and general officer William Phillips occupied the city until May. The penalties of war were pillage and destruction to businesses. On May 20, 1781 General Cornwallis joined Phillips at Petersburg to consolidate his troops. By then, Petersburg’s economy was all but destroyed. …[Read More]

The War of 1812

After the Revolutionary War ended in 1781, the United States found itself in a weak position, militarily. The war had devastated the economy, the former colonists were weary of fighting and there was no standing army or navy. The custom at that time was for every able-bodied man between the ages of 18 and 50, who were considered a member of “A well-regulated militia” pursuant to the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, to mobilize when needed, bring his own arms and equipment, and be ready to fight. It wasn’t until the Constitution of 1787 that the founding fathers gave the federal government the power to “raise and support armies”.

The new army and navy were tested a number of times in the years leading up to the War of 1812. In 1803, a new battalion of militia formed in Petersburg. In 1807, after the British seized the American ship, Chesapeake off the coast of Norfolk and impressed the seamen into British service, Petersburg troops were sent to the Virginia coast. After many more incidents like this, which made it extremely difficult for America to trade with Europe, Congress declared war against Britain on June 18, 1812. …[Read More]

The American Civil War

Battle of PetersburgThe Battles and Siege of Petersburg is a particularly complex and broad series of actions that spanned some ten months and hundreds of square miles.

In 1860, Petersburg was the second largest city in Virginia and the seventh largest in the Confederacy. Nestled at the head of navigation on the south bank of the Appomattox River, Petersburg had been a tobacco, cotton, and iron manufacturing center before the Civil War as well as an important domestic port.  By 1864, however, its significance resided in the five railroads that connected Petersburg with Richmond and points south and west.…[Read More]