Few states had as big a role as Virginia in the birth of the United States

November 28, 2012 8:13 am

Few states had as big a role as Virginia in the birth of the . In fact, the first permanent English settlement in North America was in Virginia, at Jamestown.
Many key debates leading up to the American Revolution (1775-1783) were held in Williamsburg, Virginia. Virginians such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were among the heroes and leaders of early America. How fitting that the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., borders on Virginia!
Facts About Virginia
7,710,000 people
Rank among states in population
Major cities
Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake
42,800 square miles
111,000 square kilometers
Rank among states in area
June 25, 1788, the 10th state
State nickname
The Old Dominion State
Name for residents
State bird
State flower
Flowering Dogwood
State tree
Flowering Dogwood
Virginia is located about halfway down the East Coast of the United States. It faces the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Virginia was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth I of England. People called her the Virgin Queen.
Virginia joined the United States on June 25, 1788, becoming the tenth state in the Union. Today, more than 8 million people live there. Richmond is the capital. Virginia Beach is the largest city.
Scenic landscapes cover much of Virginia. Eastern Virginia is a low coastal plain with a jagged coastline along Chesapeake Bay. One narrow strip of Virginia isn’t even attached to the rest of the state! It’s on the other side of Chesapeake Bay. Locals call it the Eastern Shore.
Rolling hills rise in central Virginia. Farms dot this part of the state. Many rivers cut through the hills, including the James River, the longest river in Virginia. It passes through Richmond before reaching Chesapeake Bay. Other major rivers are the Potomac, the Shenandoah, the York, and the Rappahannock.
Western Virginia is mountainous and thickly forested. Branches of the rugged Appalachian Mountains run the length of the border with West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Standing in the southwest is Mount Rogers, Virginia’s highest point. It rises to 5,729 feet (1,746 meters).
In 1607, English colonists founded the first permanent English settlement in North America. It was at Jamestown on an island in the James River.
Do you know the most famous legend from Jamestown? The legend says that local Native Americans captured Captain John Smith, the leader of the settlement. Their chief, called Powhatan, ordered Smith’s execution. But Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas, stepped in to save the Englishman. Later, Pocahontas married another English settler named John Rolfe.
Today, many historians doubt the story about Smith and Pocahontas. You can learn a lot about Virginia’s early history at the Colonial National Historical Park on Jamestown Island. Actors relive life at Jamestown among buildings modeled on the original settlement.
Virginians played a leading role in founding the United States. General George Washington led the colonial army during the American Revolution and became the first U.S. president. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and was the third president. James Madison helped write the U.S. Constitution and was the fourth president. James Monroe became the fifth president. All of these Founding Fathers were Virginians!
Virginia is filled with important historical sites. The most famous are Washington’s home Mount Vernon, in Fairfax County, and Jefferson’s home Monticello, in Albemarle County. Jefferson designed Monticello himself. He also designed the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and the State Capitol building in Richmond.
The American Civil War split Virginia in two parts. In 1861, Virginia left the United States and joined the Confederate States of America. The Confederacy was a group of states that tried to form their own country. States that remained in the United States were called the Union.
Part of Virginia refused to join the Confederacy. It formed its own state, called West Virginia, and stayed in the Union. The American Civil War was fought to hold the United States together.
Much of the Civil War was fought on Virginia soil. Richmond was the Confederate capital. The Confederacy’s greatest general, Robert E. Lee, was a Virginian.
Among the famous battles in Virginia were the battles of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Petersburg. Finally, in April 1865, the war ended. General Lee surrendered to Union general Ulysses S. Grant at a private home in the small town of Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
Many of America’s most prominent leaders still live in Virginia. That’s because Virginia borders Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. Many members of the U.S. government live or work in Virginia.
The Pentagon, the huge headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, stands in Virginia. Norfolk has one of the nation’s major naval bases. Virginia is home to the Arlington National Cemetery. More than 260,000 veterans are buried there.
Quantico is where new agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) undergo training. Langley is home to the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It’s where American secret agents analyze their information.
Virginia is a popular vacation destination. Many tourists come to relive American history at Civil War battle sites, old mansions, or in Colonial Williamsburg.
If you enjoy outdoor fun, Virginia has much to offer. There are great beaches on the coast, such as Virginia Beach. You can go boating and fishing in Chesapeake Bay. There are hiking trails and limestone caves in Shenandoah National Park. You can camp in the Jefferson National Forest. There’s a little bit of everything in Virginia, and a lot of history, too!
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