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

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

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

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



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