Walking along the James River in Lynchburg, one would find him or herself walking the paths of history.
On June 17 and 18, 1864, according to historyofwar.org, General David Hunter, a Union officer, squared off against General Jubal Early from the Confederate forces in order to try and capture the City of Lynchburg.
The battle, according to Dr. Brian Melton, history professor at Liberty University, was really more of a skirmish that lasted two days and forced Hunter’s troops out of Virginia altogether.
Hunter was unsuccessful in his attempt to gain the city, and Lynchburg remained in the possession of the Confederacy, providing the rebel forces with key access to the railroad network that supplied General Robert E. Lee’s army throughout the war, according to historyofwar.org.
This year marks the 150-year anniversary of the start of the Civil War. While the anniversary of the first battles has already passed, as Melton explains, the 150th anniversary of the entire war will be for the next three or four years.
Lynchburg, south of the Mason-Dixon Line, is the home of 11 sites along the Civil War trails, according to discoverlynchburg.com. Among these sites are hospitals, warehouses, forts and storehouses, all of which aided soldiers during the Civil War.
“Lynchburg was an important supply route for Robert E. Lee’s army,” Melton said.
According to Melton, Lynchburg was also a major hospital city.
“There were several thousand, I want to say 7,000, confederate wounded here at any one time,” Melton said, speaking about the amount of soldiers who received medical treatment in Lynchburg’s Civil War hospital.
This semester, Liberty University will not be hosting any events to commemorate the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War, according to Melton. However, the National Civil War Chaplains Museum is open to visitors Wednesday through Friday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. and Sunday from 1:30 p.m. until 5 p.m., according to their website.
According to the website, the museum serves the purpose of educating individuals about the roles chaplains, priests, rabbis and other religious organizations had in the Civil War. The museum hosts artifacts from both Confederate and Union soldiers.
The Civil War, as Melton explains, was the end of America’s founding period.
“The country was trying to decide if it was going to be serious about its founding principles, about freedom and equality, or was it going to be a nation that tolerates slavery,” Melton said.
The idea that a nation founded on the principle that all men are created equal yet some were forced into servitude, according to Melton, needed to be resolved. He said that slavery was an issue that greatly contradicted the Declaration of Independence.
“By the time we got through the Civil War, we made a decision,” Melton said.
“I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal,” former president Abraham Lincoln said in a speech at Chicago.
Slavery was abolished before the end of the Civil War, and the United States of America became, once and for all, united.