Almost anyone with a passing knowledge of the Civil War can tell you that the conflict’s opening shots took place in South Carolina at Fort Sumter. But if you ask that same person about the first shots fired in Virginia, odds are you probably won’t get more than a blank stare in return.
It’s a unique part of local history and one that’s little known, even among long-time residents and Civil War experts—that the first military engagement between Union and Confederate forces in present-day Virginia took place on the banks of the York River at Gloucester Point.
Ben H. Harris Jr. of Hayes, a member of Gloucester County’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, has compiled a day-by-day timeline of the opening shots, which saw a Federal gunboat take on a shore battery at Gloucester Point.
He relied on several sources for his timeline, including a volume of the Virginia Regimental Series by author Lee A. Wallace Jr., an eyewitness account taken from an autobiography of Andrew J. Andrews, a private from Gloucester, and the Official Records of the Union and Confederate armies.