Rebuilding Richmond after the Civil War

The First National Bank of Richmond, a Bank of America heritage bank, and was instrumental in financing the rebuilding of Richmond after the Civil War.

During the war, Richmond, Virginia, was the Confederate capital. When it became apparent to Confederate forces that the Union army was going to successfully take the capital, Confederate troops abandoned the city to flee south. As they did, they set fires to the bridges and armory as well as storehouses stocked with Confederate supplies. This became known as the Evacuation Fire, which spread rapidly and consumed most of the buildings in Richmond's financial district. The fire raged until the next day when the city was surrendered and Union troops put out the fires.

All of the banks in Richmond that existed before the surrender were destroyed in the fire. What's more, their securities had been mostly Confederate paper, worthless after the war. Federal authorities issued rations to keep the people of Richmond from starving. With a desperate need for banking services to help reestablish financial and business operations in the city, a small group gathered to establish the First National Bank of Richmond.   

The bank was located in the Custom House, the only building left standing in Richmond’s financial section after the Evacuation Fire. The building had previously housed the Confederate States Treasury and the executive office of President Davis during the war. Soon after the bank opened in the summer of 1865, it was designated as a government depository and a financial agent of the United States. Its priority was to help business get started and to finance the rebuilding of the city.

Visit one of our Heritage Centers for an up close look at this and other stories from our bank’s history. Learn more