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Location of Virginia

Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions of the United States, between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains. The geography and climate of the Commonwealth are shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which provide habitat for much of its flora and fauna. The capital of the Commonwealth is Richmond; Virginia Beach is the most-populous city, and Fairfax County is the most-populous political subdivision. The Commonwealth's population was over 8.65 million, with 36% of them living in the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area.

The area's history begins with several indigenous groups, including the Powhatan. In 1607, the London Company established the Colony of Virginia as the first permanent English colony in the New World. Virginia's state nickname, the Old Dominion, is a reference to this status. Slave labor and land acquired from displaced native tribes fueled the growing plantation economy, but also fueled conflicts both inside and outside the colony. Virginia was one of the original Thirteen Colonies in the American Revolution, and battles in Virginia secured the independence of the United States. During the American Civil War, Virginia was split when the state government in Richmond joined the Confederacy, but many of the state's northwestern counties wanted to remain with the Union, helping form the state of West Virginia in 1863. Although the Commonwealth was under one-party rule for nearly a century following the Reconstruction era, both major political parties are competitive in modern Virginia. (Full article...)

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Cannon positioned outside the restored magazine in Williamsburg
The Gunpowder Incident (or Gunpowder Affair) was a conflict early in the American Revolutionary War between Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of the Colony of Virginia, and militia led by Patrick Henry.

On the night of April 20, 1775, well before news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord on the prior day had reached Virginia, Lord Dunmore ordered the removal of the gunpowder from the magazine (pictured) in Williamsburg, Virginia, which stored it for the militia. Royal marines went to loaded fifteen half barrels of powder into the governor's wagon, and began transporting it to the Royal Navy ship Magdalen in the James River.

The act was discovered by townsfolk while underway, and they sounded an alarm. Local militia rallied to the scene, and riders spread word of the incident across the colony. Patrick Henry led a small militia force toward Williamsburg to force return of the gunpowder to the colony's control, arguing that it was owned by the colony and not the Crown. The matter was resolved without conflict when a payment of £330 was made to Henry. Fearing for his personal safety after the incident, Dunmore later retreated to a naval vessel, ending of royal control of the colony.

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Portrait of John Marshall
John Marshall (1755 – 1835) was the fourth Chief Justice of the United States (1801–1835), whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches. Previously, Marshall had been a leader of the Federalist Party in Virginia, served in the United States House of Representatives, and was Secretary of State under President John Adams from 1800 to 1801.

The longest-serving Chief Justice, Marshall dominated the Court for over three decades and played a significant role in the development of the American legal system. Most notably, he reinforced the principle that federal courts are obligated to exercise judicial review, by disregarding purported laws if they violate the Constitution. Thus, Marshall cemented the position of the American judiciary as an independent and influential branch of government. Furthermore, Marshall's court made several important decisions relating to federalism, affecting the balance of power between the federal government and the states during the early years of the republic. While some of his decisions were unpopular, Marshall nevertheless built up the third branch of the federal government, and augmented federal power in the name of the Constitution and the rule of law.

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Yorktown artillery2.jpg
Credit: James F. Gibson (1862)

Union Army battery of 10-inch Seacoast mortars at Yorktown for the Siege of Yorktown

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Fact sheet

  • Capital: Richmond, Virginia
  • Total area: 110,862 sq.mi
  • Highest elevation: 5,729 ft (Mount Rogers)
  • Population (2010 census) 8,001,024
  • Date Virginia joined the United States: June 25, 1788

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