Thursday, April 5, 2012

Civil War in Northern Virginia 1861
By William S. Connery
(April 2012 Civil War News)

History Press,, $19.99 softcover.
 Photos, maps, bibliography, index, 159 pp., 2011, 

This book is an offering in the publisher’s Civil War sesquicentennial series and focuses on the counties in Northern Virginia in 1861.

Highlighted are people and events related to those areas, such as Robert E. Lee’s decision to cast his fate with his native state after it seceded, the death of Union officer Elmer Ellsworth in Alexandria, and the effect of the war on George Washington’s former estate at Mount Vernon in Fairfax County. Also covered are brief sketches of the battles at Ball’s Bluff and Dranesville in Loudoun County.

Confederate Monument Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington NC 
William Connery discusses the influence of the Quakers, who used a free labor system for their enterprises in the midst of Virginia’s slave plantation system. He describes some of the “firsts” that occurred in the war, such as the first Confederate wounded soldier, first balloon reconnaissance, first troop engagement and first Confederate officer killed.

All of these occurred near Fairfax Court House, the birthplace of the Confederate battle flag as well as Jefferson Davis’ military strategy for the conduct of the war. The area witnessed the first Confederate military execution and the development of the first exclusively military railroad.

These are just some examples of the topics covered by Connery as he borrows heavily from first-person accounts at times to capture the feelings of Northern Virginians about what was happening to the civilian population at the war’s beginning. The first Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) is not covered because it is being reserved for a separate study in the series.

Today Fairfax and Loudoun counties, formerly farmland and the Confederacy’s first operating front line after Bull Run, are among the five richest counties in the United States. As urban sprawl from our nation’s capital continued over the years to transform such places as Falls Church, Vienna and McLean into what they are today, it is easy to forget what they were like in 1861. With this book, Connery has helped us to remember.
Reviewer: Frank J. Piatek

Frank Piatek graduated from Geneva College with a B.A. in history. He received his J.D. from Duquesne Uni­versity in 1972. He is a member of several reenactment groups and past president of the Mahoning Valley Civil War Round Table.

 William Connery
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