By 1862, Virginians knew the war would not be over soon, and that their state would be hard hit. As the Confederate capital, Richmond was a symbolic Union objective. As the most heavily industrialized city in the South, it was a strategic target as well: its Tredegar Iron Works were the Confederacy’s largest munitions supplier. The Peninsula Campaign, launched in March, was the first of several sustained Union attempts to capture Richmond.
Union blockades of Southern ports were becoming successful at limiting Confederate trade, and a mounting casualty count began to strain already limited resources across the state. Black Virginians experienced new forms of oppression: the Confederacy increasingly impressed slaves to labor in support of the armies. But they also found new opportunities—federal legislation weakened fugitive slave laws, encouraging many slaves to flee across state lines. In July, blacks became eligible to serve in Union forces.
The western counties moved closer to separation from Virginia, and much of the region was controlled by Union forces. Yet as the year drew to a close, Confederate Virginians remained optimistic as their army experienced significant success in both defensive and offensive battles, with a particularly stunning victory over the Union at Fredericksburg in mid-December.