Virginians and the Nation
Transportation networks profoundly influenced how people in different parts of Virginia lived and how they interacted with people who lived in other states or countries. The construction of the National Road during the first quarter of the nineteenth century and of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad during the second quarter strengthened ties between residents of northern and northwestern Virginia and those of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the port city of Baltimore. In the Southwest, completion during the 1850s of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad linked Lynchburg and central Virginia with a network of railroads in eastern Tennessee that transformed commercial and political connections for people in southwestern Virginia and increased the importance of slavery and the number of enslaved people in the southwestern part of the state. Railroads and canals in central Virginia increased the commercial and political importance of the region's cities. Residents of the region frequently dealt with manufacturers, merchants, and commercial middlemen in Fredericksburg, Richmond, Petersburg, Portsmouth, and Norfolk and through them with a worldwide economy. Their most important trading alliances, though, were with merchants and manufacturers in the cities of the North Atlantic coast.
White Virginians in many parts of the state shared as much culturally and socially with residents of nearby free states to the north and west as with the slave states of the lower South. Because of Virginia's geographic position between the northern and southern regions of the country, residents of the state's cities employed railroads and waterways to interact as frequently with their counterparts in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, or Pittsburgh as with people in Charleston, Memphis, or New Orleans.
Fraternal organizations knit professional men together throughout the United States. Even as slave states in the lower South were seceding, Freemasons in Lynchburg and Boston corresponded with each other and lamented the sectional crisis that threatened to dissolve the Union and bring on civil war. Men in both cities blamed fanaticism on both sides. Other organizations, such as volunteer militia units, regularly traveled between Virginia and Baltimore or Philadelphia to participate in patriotic events. The camaraderie between the militia groups highlighted their sense of brotherhood and common national identity and mediated sectional discord.