You know after looking at a map I am often amazed that it took the North so long to capture the Confederate capital. After all, it is only a relatively short drive from D.C…
The fact is however, according to 19th century tradition of war the capture of an enemy’s capital meant victory….surrender. Therefore, both the North & the South went to great lengths to secure their respective capitals.
Many argue that Richmond was made the capital for political reasons. By making Richmond the capital it would keep Virginia in the Confederacy. Remember, Virginia did not secede until the firing on Ft. Sumter. Some in the South wanted assurances that Virginia was committed and not lukewarm for the Confederacy. The South could not afford to not have Virginia in the Confederacy for political & economic reasons. And so, on April 27, 1861 the Virginia Convention invited the Confederate legislators to make Richmond seat of the new government- at the time located in Montgomery, Alabama.
Whether for political reasons or not, Richmond had many advantages as a capital. Strategically placed on the James River Richmond was well known prior to the Civil War due to Tredegar Iron Works. By the outbreak of the war this foundry was using close to 1,000 laborers, free & enslaved.
Along with Tredegar the city had five railroad lines that connected Richmond directly or indirectly to the rest of the Confederacy. Four rivers also helped establish natural barriers to invading armies. In all Richmond had a lot going for it as a legitimate capital.
With the strong Confederate military generalship throughout the war it should not be a surprise that it held out as long as it did. In fact, Richmond only fell with the fall of Petersburg, VA. The Confederate government left Richmond on April 2…Lincoln visited on April 4…Grant offered terms to Lee at Appomattox Court House, VA April 9.