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The College was closed May 1861 through the Fall of 1865 because of the Civil War. The Battle of Williamsburg was May 5, 1862. The Union Army occupied the city for the remainder of the Civil War and the Wren Building was used as a hospital during the Union occupation of the area.
The outbreak of the Civil War found Williamsburg with a population of 1600 citizens. Some sixty young men attended the College of William and Mary. Benjamin S. Ewell, president of the College, and a West Point graduate, was elected captain of the College militia when war fever swept the campus in January 1861. But Ewell, a Unionist, forbade the students from flying a Confederate flag over the Wren Building. After Virginia seceded, Ewell offered his services on 23 April to the Commonwealth and Robert E. Lee appointed him major of volunteers.
Many students left school to enlist at home so the faculty voted to close the College on 10 May 1861. The town soon became crowded with Confederate troops defending the Peninsula who used college buildings as hospitals. The Battle of Williamsburg was a rear guard action fought in rain and mud on 5 May 1862. The fight was a tactical draw, and the Confederates continued their retreat toward Richmond. Williamsburg was occupied by Federal troops for the remainder of the war.
See the Civil War page in the SCRC Wiki for updated information.