How the Union Defended Washington, D.C. During the Civil War

When Civil War broke out in 1861, Washington, DC remained the capital of the fractured United States and also the military headquarters of the Union Army. Richmond, the new capital of Confederation, was less than 100 miles away in neighboring Virginia.

Comparing the Civil War to a game of chess, the warring capitals of Washington, DC and Richmond represented kings, says Kenneth Winkle, professor of American history at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

“The two capitals were so vital that capturing one would end the war,” says Winkle, author of The Lincoln Citadel: The Civil War in Washington, DC.

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