April 8, 1861: Civil War Coming to Western Virginia

One hundred and sixty-one years ago, the Civil War was about to burst on the nation.  In what would become West Virginia, Unionists and Secessionists were picking sides.  An earlier post, which may be read here, looked at a meeting of Unionists.  Here is a report of a meeting of Secessionists on April 8, 1861, which appeared in the Kanawha Star on April 23, 1861: (more…)

Published in: on April 8, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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October 3, 1861: Battle of Greenbrier River

Most of the skirmishes and battles of the Civil War were fairly indecisive affairs, and so it was with the battle of Greenbrier River fought on October 3, 1861 in Pocahontas County in what is now West Virginia.

In mid September 1861 the Confederates had established Camp Bartow in the area of Cheat Mountain under General Henry R. Jackson.  Union forces under General Joseph J. Reynolds (intriguing that the Confederate and Union commanders had surnames that would become famous in the War, but not due to them) attacked the camp on the morning of October 3, 1861.  Each side consisted of about six brigades.

The fighting went on for five hours from 8:00 AM to about 1:00 PM in a fairly desultory manner judging from the light casualties:  5 Union dead and 35 wounded, to 6 Confederate dead, 35 wounded and 13 missing.   The Union commander, concluding the attack was going nowhere, eventually retreated.  Both the Union and Confederate commanders reported that the other side had lost about 300 men, exaggeration of enemy losses, innocent or otherwise, being a constant habit of both sides during the War.  A completely inconclusive battle of no importance, except to the dead and wounded on both sides and their families. (more…)

Published in: on October 3, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 3, 1861: Battle of Greenbrier River  
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June 20, 1863: West Virginia Admitted to the Union

west virginia state sea

West Virginia was admitted to the Union one hundred and fifty years ago, a product of the Civil War and the unwillingness of the mountaineers of  north western Virginia to leave the Union over slavery.  Here is the Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln:

By the President of the United States of America A ProclamationWhereas by the act of Congress approved the 31st day of December last the State of West Virginia was declared to be one of the United States of America, and was admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever, upon the condition that certain changes should be duly made in the proposed constitution for that State; and

Whereas proof of a compliance with that condition, as required by the second section of the act aforesaid has been submitted to me:

Now, therefore, be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby, in pursuance of the act of Congress aforesaid, declare and proclaim that the said act shall take effect and be in force from and after sixty days from the date hereof.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 20th day of April, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.


By the President:


Secretary of State.

The Constitutionality of the creation of the state of West Virginia was never challenged in court.  The State of Virginia, through the loyalist government set up by the Union during the War was deemed to have consented to the creation of the new state.  The Reconstructed government of Virginia did sue after the War over Berkeley and Jefferson counties, arguing that the people of those counties had never voted to be part of the new state since an election could not be held in them due to them being militarily controlled by the Confederacy at the time.  The United States Supreme Court in the case of Virginia v. West Virginia (1870) ruled 6-3 that the two counties were part of West Virginia: (more…)

Published in: on June 20, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (7)  
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June 19th 1861: Birth of the Reorganized Government of Virginia

Union control over what would become West Virginia was established quite early in the Civil War, with Union troops from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania quickly seizing the area.  Under the shelter of the Union Army, the Wheeling Convention of delegates from Western Virginia sat in Wheeling Virginia and repealed the Ordinance of Secession of the state of Virginia, declared the state offices of Virginia vacant, and, on June 19, 1861 declared the “Reorganized Government of Virginia”.  On June 20, 1861, Francis Pierpont, the Father of West Virginia, was chosen governor of the “Reorganized Government of Virginia”, and was recognized by the Union as governor of Virginia throughout the War, and served as governor of Virginia after the War until 1868. 

Here is the text of the Declaration of the Wheeling Convention issued on June 13, 1861 which explained why the Wheeling Convention was acting as it did. (more…)

Published in: on June 19, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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May 23, 1861: Virginia Votes to Secede

On May 23, 1861 Virginia held its referendum on Secession.  The results were 132, 201 to 37, 451 opposed.  The referendum was voted down in most of the counties that would eventually form West Virginia, and the stage was set for a civil war within the Civil War in Virginia, as ultimately 29,000 Union troops would be raised in West Virginia.  Here is the text of the Ordinance of Secession approved by the referendum: (more…)

Published in: on May 23, 2011 at 5:51 am  Comments (4)  
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March 15, 1861: Birthpangs of West Virginia

One hundred and fifty years ago, the nation was divided by a looming civil war.  Within the South there were pockets of unionism that were very unhappy with the trend of  events.  On March 15, 1861, the citizens of Harper’s Ferry and Bolivar voiced their unhappiness, unhappiness that would eventually lead to the creation of the new state of West Virginia in 1863. (more…)

Published in: on March 15, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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