The Eastern Theater of the Civil War roughly comprised the area east of the Appalachians in the vicinity of the rival capitals of Washington and Richmond. It included the states of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, as well as the District of Columbia and the coastal fortifications and seaports of North Carolina.
When the war began in the spring of 1861 and the Confederates declared their capitol at Richmond, Virginia, the immediate cry from Union headquarters was “On to Richmond!” For the next four years, a succession of Northern commanders struggled desperately to do just that.
Bounded by the Appalachian Mountains to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the vast majority of battles occurred in a relatively small 100 miles strip of Virginia countryside between the cities of Washington and Richmond.
It was these campaigns that would also become the most famous in the history of the war, due to their proximity to large populations centers and the heavy media attention that they received. Both the bloodiest battle of the war — Gettysburg, and the bloodiest single day of the war — Antietam, were both fought in the Eastern Theater.
The principal commanders of the Eastern Theater included: For the Union – Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, Major General George B. McClellan, Major General John Pope, Major General Ambrose Burnside, Major General Joseph Hooker, and Major General George G. Meade. The South was led by General Robert E. Lee, General Pierre Gustave Toutant de Beauregard, General Joseph E. Johnston, Lieutenant General James Longstreet, Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, and Lieutenant General Jubal A. Early.
Eastern Theater Campaigns
Blockade of the Chesapeake Bay – May-June 1861
Operations in Western Virginia – June-December, 1861
Philippi, West Virginia – June 3, 1861,
Rich Mountain, West Virginia – July 11, 1861
Kessler’s Cross Lanes, West Virginia – August 26, 1861
Carnifex Ferry, West Virginia – September 10, 1861
Cheat Mountain, West Virginia – September 12-15 1861
Greenbrier River, West Virginia – October 3, 1861
Camp Alleghany, West Virginia – December 13, 1861
Manassas Campaign (July 1861)
Blockade of the Carolina Coast – August 1861
McClellan’s Operations in Northern Virginia – October-December 1861
Blockade of the Potomac River – October 1861-January 1862
Cockpit Point, Virginia – January 3, 1862
Jackson’s Operations Against the B&O Railroad – January 1862
Hancock, Maryland – January 5-6, 1862
Burnside’s North Carolina Expedition – February-June 1862
Roanoke Island, North Carolina – February 7-8, 1862
New Berne, North Carolina – March 14, 1862
Fort Macon, North Carolina – March 23-April 26, 1862
South Mills, North Carolina – April 19, 1862
Tranter’s Creek, North Carolina – June 5, 1862
Jackson’s Valley Campaign – March-June 1862
Kernstown I, Virginia – March 23, 1862
McDowell, Virginia – May 8, 1862
Front Royal, Virginia – May 23, 1862
Winchester I, Virginia – May 25, 1862
Cross Keys, Virginia – June 8, 1862
Port Republic, Virginia – June 9, 1862