The war left Virginia in a state of complete collapse. Its largest industry, the slave trade, no longer existed. Slaves themselves had constituted a massive percentage of Virginians’ capital, and that capital was immediately wiped from slave owners’ account books.
In the final two years of the war, the Union’s “hard war” policy had left the Shenandoah Valley utterly destroyed. Much of Richmond had burned in the final days of the war. But the industries necessary for rebuilding had also been destroyed, and the labor force depleted. Twenty percent of the state’s white male population had died, and well over half of its previously enslaved male population was gone—either escaped or dead. The economy only truly recovered several decades later.
Blacks gained certain rights under Reconstruction, including suffrage for males and access to education. But many in the Commonwealth resisted change; indeed, Virginia chose to remain under military administration until 1869 rather than ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. Laws known as “Black Codes” were instituted to place harsh limitations on blacks’ movements and behaviors, virtually reinstating many of the power dynamics of slavery well into the twentieth century.