Petersburg, Virginia

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Petersburg is an independent city in Virginia, United States located on the Appomattox River and 23 miles (37 km) south of the state capital city of Richmond. The city's unique industrial past and its location combined to create wealth for Virginia and the region. The city's population was 33,740 as of the 2000 census, predominantly of African-American ethnicity.

The location on the Appomattox River at the fall line (head-of-navigation of the U.S. east coast rivers) early in the history in the Colony of Virginia caused Petersburg to become a strategic place for both transportation and commercial activities, as well as the site of Fort Henry. As railroads emerged beginning in the 1830s, it became a major transfer point for both north-south and east-west competitors. The Petersburg Railroad was one of the earliest predecessors of the modern-day CSX Transportation (CSX) system. Several of the earliest predecessors of the area's other major Class 1 railroad, Norfolk Southern (NS), also met at Petersburg.

Seen by Union leaders as key to the fall of the Confederate capital city of Richmond (due to the railroad network), during the American Civil War (1861–65), it was the site of nine months of trench warfare known as the Siege of Petersburg. There are many battlefield sites throughout the city and adjacent areas. At about this time, Petersburg became home to one of the oldest free black settlements in the state at "Pocahontas Island". In the post-Bellum period, largely through the funding efforts of former Confederate General, railroader, and legislator William Mahone, an historically black college which later became Virginia State University (VSU) was established in nearby Ettrick in Chesterfield County. Also nearby, Richard Bland College, a junior college was established originally as a branch of Williamsburg's College of William and Mary.

Among the city's significant properties is Battersea, a Palladian-style house (built 1767-1768) which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), as is Petersburg National Battlefield. Numerous historic properties and districts are associated with the downtown area, and Pocahontas Island along the river was listed as a historic district on the National Register. Two Baptist churches in the city, founded in the early 19th century, are among the oldest black congregations and churches in the nation.[3] In the 20th century, these and other black churches were leaders in the national Civil Rights Movement that achieved historic legislation for civil and voting rights.

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