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Confederate Call to Arms, 1861

Civil War. Confederate Call to Arms
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_3659
Document Description
Two broadsides about defending and protecting the State of Virginia, April 17, 1861.
This poster is titled "Important Notice." It is calling for a town meeting. Why did the people who made the poster have to list the names of people who were supposed to be there? What else could they have done?
Why did Virginians have to defend themselves against their Northern foes?
Why were Virginians taking up arms?
What “measures to protect the honor and safety of Virginia” did the members at the meeting decide upon?
Historical Challenges
What battles were fought in Virginia during the Civil War? Why do you think these battles took place there?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: What kind of technology was used during the Civil War? Research some artillery, intelligence, and uniforms used.
English Language Arts: Write a letter to your mother explaining why you have gone to Lexington to join the Virginia militia.
Osborne, Mary Pope. My Brother's Keeper: Virginia's Diary of Gettysburg (My America Series). Scholastic, Inc., April 2002. ISBN: 0439369037
Coggins, Jack. Arms and Equipment of the Civil War. Dover Publications, April 2004. ISBN: 0486433951
Denenberg, Barry. When Will This Cruel War be Over?: The Civil War Diary of Emma Simpson, Gordonsville, Virginia, 1864 (Dear America Series). Scholastic, Inc, August 1996. ISBN: 0590228625
Reeder, Carolyn. Shades of Gray. Simon & Schuster Children's, April 1999. ISBN: 0689826966.


About this Activity


Lesson Topic:


Historical Context
The state of Virginia seceded from the United States and joined the Southern Confederacy. Virginia's reasons were similar to the other states' reasons. Virginia saw the increasing discrepancy between the Northern and Southern economies as a major issue. Conflicting notions of the role of the federal government in the states also fueled anti-Union sentiment. However, Virginia did not recognize the issue of slavery as cause for secession.

Virginia was unique in its defense, after the war, of their actions. Virginians would not admit that anything they did was treasonous, but instead said they seceded based on their legal right as a state. As proof, they said that the Declaration of Independence explicitly stated that the colonies became “free and independent states.”  The Articles of Confederation also secured the sovereignty of states. Additionally, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution demonstrated the power and independence of the states. Virginians maintained that the Union was a compact between the states themselves, not between individual states and the federal government.

Virginia not only solidly established its constitutional legality in seceding, but it also had legal precedent. In 1803, Massachusetts had openly considered leaving the Union over the Louisiana Purchase. In 1839, John Quincy Adams said in a speech to the New-York Historical Association that states had the right to leave the Union. Massachusetts was also unhappy about the annexation of Texas, which was an independent country in 1845, and considered leaving the Union at that time.

Essential Question
How does war change a society?
Check for Understanding
Identify the main idea of these posters and evaluate the impact of this message on the local communities.