West Virginia in the Civil War

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West Virginia in the American Civil War
West Virginia and American Civil War History

West Virginia Civil War History
West Virginia in the American Civil War

West Virginia Civil War Map
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West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863


West Virginia became a U.S. state following the controversial Wheeling Conventions and by seceding from Virginia during the American Civil War. West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, and was a key Civil War Border State.

West Virginia is one of two U.S. states formed during the American Civil War (1861–1865), along with Nevada, and is the only state to form by seceding from a Confederate state. It was originally part of the British Virginia Colony (1607–1776) and the western part of the state of Virginia (1776–1863), whose population became sharply divided over the issue of secession from the Union and in the separation from Virginia, formalized by admittance to the Union as a new state in 1863. West Virginia was one of five Border States during the Civil War.

West Virginia is located in the Appalachian region of the Southern United States, and because of its mountainous terrain, it is known as the “Mountain State.” It is bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the north, and Maryland to the northeast. Its longest border is with Virginia at 381 miles, followed by Ohio at 243 miles, Maryland 174 miles, Pennsylvania 118 miles and Kentucky at 79 miles. The state’s history has been profoundly affected by its mountainous terrain, numerous and vast river valleys, and rich natural resources. These were all factors driving its economy and the lifestyles of residents, and remain so today.

Not only did the state incur revolutionary political changes, but it was the scene of several national events. The first shots of the impending war were fired on the night of October 16, 1859. Abolitionist John Brown led an armed band of twenty-one men to Harpers Ferry, a strategic location on the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers near Washington, D.C. (called Washington City at the time). Brown and his men captured the Federal armory, arsenal, and Hall’s Rifle Works. His men held sixty citizens as hostages in hopes of persuading their slaves to join them, but no slaves came forward. President Buchanan sent the Federal militia to put an end to the raid. The state of Virginia charged Brown with treason. Southerners condemned the raid, while militant abolitionists proclaimed him a martyr.

During the American Civil War, West Virginia suffered comparatively little. Union General George B. McClellan's forces gained possession of the greater part of the territory in the summer of 1861, culminating at the Battle of Rich Mountain, and Union control was never again seriously threatened, despite an attempt by Robert E. Lee in the same year. In September 1862, however, General "Stonewall" Jackson captured the Harpers Ferry Arsenal and nearly 12,500 soldiers. (Until World War II, the surrender at Harpers Ferry was the most U.S. soldiers ever captured in a single battle.) In 1863, General John D. Imboden, with 5,000 Confederates, overran a considerable portion of the state. Bands of guerrillas burned and plundered in some sections, and were not entirely suppressed until after the war ended. The Eastern Panhandle counties were more affected by the war, with military control of the area repeatedly changing hands. See also Virginia Civil War History.

West Virginia Civil War Battlefield Map
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West Virginia Civil War Map of Battlefields

West Virginia Civil War Battles
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Civil War Battlefields of West Virginia

West Virginia and the Civil War
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Viewing Harpers Ferry from Maryland side of Potomac River (present-day)


Western Virginians were acutely aware of the divisiveness of the Civil War. When the Richmond Convention decided to secede from the Union in April 1861, northwestern delegates immediately returned to their home counties to drum up Union support before Virginians voted on the Ordinance. John S. Carlile, an influential politician and powerful orator, called for the formation of a new state at this First Wheeling Convention, but other delegates believed such an act was illegal, since this act required the permission of the older state.

The low voter turnout for the statehood referendum was due to many factors. On June 19, 1861, the Wheeling convention enacted a bill entitled "Ordinance to Authorize the Apprehending of Suspicious Persons in Time of War" which stated that anyone who supported Richmond or the Confederacy "shall be deemed...subjects or citizens of a foreign State or power at war with the United States.". Many private citizens were arrested by Federal authorities at the request of Wheeling and interred in prison camps, most notably Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio. Soldiers were also stationed at the polls to discourage secessionists and their supporters. In addition, a large portion of the state was secessionist, and any polls there had to be conducted under military intervention. The vote was further compromised by the presence of an undetermined number of non-resident soldier votes.

On June 20, 1861, delegates from the trans-Allegheny counties of Virginia (who had voted overwhelmingly against secession) met at the Second Wheeling Convention and declared that because Richmond had seceded all state offices had been vacated. The Convention stepped into the role of filling these state offices calling itself the Restored State of Virginia.


The western part of Virginia which became West Virginia was settled in two directions, north to south from Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey and from east to west from eastern Virginia and North Carolina. The earliest arrival of slaves was in the counties of the Shenandoah Valley, where prominent Virginia families built houses and plantations. The earliest recorded slave presence was about 1748 in Hampshire County on the estate of Lord Fairfax, which included 150 slaves. By the early 19th century, slavery had spread to the Ohio River up to the northern panhandle.

There was no organized anti-slavery movement in West Virginia as there was in Kentucky, Maryland or Delaware, and few abolitionists. Resistance to slavery was usually due to religious affiliation or based on economic principles. In some communities of immigrant settlers, such as the Germans, anti-slavery sentiment was dominant. Some West Virginia anti-slavery sentiment was politically based, due to slaveholders using the institution to gain unequal representation in the General Assembly and tax advantages. Nevertheless, West Virginia was known for its Underground Railroad.

Western Virginia's slave population peaked in 1850 with 20,428 slaves, or nearly 7% of the population. In 1860 the number of slaves was 18,371. Much of the decreased number of slaves in West Virginia was due to the high demand for slaves in the lower South. The opening of Cherokee lands in north Georgia and Alabama resulted in the growth of cotton and tobacco production and the slave population there nearly tripled from 1840 to 1860. Slave "coffles" became frequent sights in West Virginia. These were groups of slaves, usually bound together by rope, that were moved mostly overland to markets in the lower South. Often the slaves were not told of their destination for fear of runaways or resistance. With the increasing value of slaves in the 1840s and 1850s slaves were sometimes kidnapped to be resold.

The 1860 U.S. Census counted 3,605 slaveowners in West Virginia. Of this number 2,572 (71%) owned 5 or less. These owners accounted for 33% of the total number of slaves. In 15 counties there was a total of 92 owners of 20 or more slaves. The greatest numbers of slaves occurred in the counties of Jefferson (3,960), Kanawha (2,184), Berkeley (1,650), Greenbrier (1,525), Hampshire (1,213), Monroe (1,114), and Hardy (1,073). There were also 2,773 freedmen living in West Virginia.

All the Northern states had free public school systems before the war, but not the Border States. West Virginia established its system in 1863. Over bitter opposition it created an almost-equal education for black children, most of whom were ex-slaves. Slavery was officially abolished February 3, 1865.

West Virginia and Slavery Map
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As the United States expanded its borders, slavery also expanded into newly formed states


In 1861, as the United States itself became massively divided over regional issues, leading to the American Civil War (1861–1865), the western regions of Virginia split with the eastern portion politically, and the two were never reconciled as a single state again. In 1863, the western region was admitted to the Union as a new separate state, initially planned to be called the State of Kanawha, but ultimately named West Virginia.

West Virginia was the only state in the Union to secede from a Confederate state (Virginia) during the American Civil War. In Richmond on April 17, 1861, the 49 delegates from the future state of West Virginia voted 17 in favor of the Ordinance of Secession (of Virginia from the United States), 30 against and 2 abstentions. Almost immediately after the vote to proceed with secession from the Union prevailed in the Virginia General Assembly, a mass meeting at Clarksburg recommended that each county in northwestern Virginia send delegates to a convention to meet in Wheeling on May 13, 1861. When this First Wheeling Convention met, 425 delegates from 25 counties were present, though more than one-third of the delegates were from the northern panhandle area, but soon there was a division of sentiment.

Some delegates favored the immediate formation of a new state, while others argued that, as Virginia's secession had not yet been passed by the required referendum, such action would constitute revolution against the United States. It was decided that if the ordinance were adopted (of which there was little doubt), another convention including the members-elect of the legislature should meet at Wheeling in June. At the election on May 23, 1861, secession was ratified by a large majority in the state as a whole, but in the western counties 34,677 voted against and 19,121 voted for the Ordinance.

The Second Wheeling Convention met as agreed on June 11 and declared that, since the Secession Convention had been called without the consent of the people, all its acts were void, and that all who adhered to it had vacated their offices. The Wheeling Conventions, and the delegates themselves, were never actually elected by public ballot to act on behalf of western Virginia. An act for the reorganization of the government was passed on June 19. The next day Francis H. Pierpont was chosen by other delegates at the convention to be governor of Virginia, other officers were elected and the convention adjourned. The legislature was composed of 103 members, 33 of whom had been elected to the Virginia General Assembly on May 23.

This number included some hold-over Senators from 1859, and as such had vacated their offices to convene in Wheeling. The other members "were chosen even more irregularly –some in mass meetings, others by county committee, and still others were seemingly self-appointed" This irregular assembly met on June 20 and appointed Unionists to hold the remainder of the state offices, organized a rival state government and elected two United States senators who were promptly recognized by the Federal government in Washington, D.C. Thus, there were two state governments in Virginia, one pledging allegiance to the United States and one to the Confederacy.

The Wheeling Convention, which had taken a recess until August 6, reassembled on August 20, and called for a popular vote on the formation of a new state and for a convention to frame a constitution if the vote should be favorable. At the October 24, 1861 election, 18,408 votes were cast for the new state and only 781 against. The honesty of these election results has been questioned, since the Union army then occupied the area and Union troops were stationed at many of the polls to prevent Confederate sympathizers from voting. Most of the affirmative votes came from 16 counties around the northern panhandle. Over 50,000 votes had been cast on the Ordinance of Secession, yet the vote on statehood gathered little more than 19,000.

In Ohio County, home to Wheeling, only about one-quarter of the registered voters cast votes. At the Constitutional Convention in November 1861, Mr. Lamb of Ohio County and Mr. Carskadon said that in Hampshire County, out of 195 votes only 39 were cast by citizens of the state; the rest were cast illegally by Union soldiers. In most of what would become West Virginia, there was no vote at all as two-thirds of the territory of West Virginia had voted for secession and county officers were still loyal to Richmond. Votes recorded from pro-secession counties were mostly cast elsewhere by Unionist refugees from these counties. The convention began on November 26, 1861, and finished its work on February 18, 1862; the instrument was ratified (18,162 for and 514 against) on April 11, 1862.

On May 13 the state legislature of the reorganized government approved the formation of the new state. An application for admission to the Union was made to Congress, and on December 31, 1862, an enabling act was approved by President Abraham Lincoln admitting West Virginia, on the condition that a provision for the gradual abolition of slavery be inserted in its constitution. While many felt that West Virginia's admission as a state was both illegal and unconstitutional, Lincoln issued his Opinion on the Admission of West Virginia finding that "the body which consents to the admission of West Virginia, is the Legislature of Virginia," and that its admission was therefore both constitutional and expedient.

The convention was reconvened on February 12, 1863, and the demand was met. The revised constitution was adopted on March 26, 1863, and on April 20, 1863, President Lincoln issued a proclamation admitting the state at the end of 60 days (June 20, 1863). Meanwhile, officers for the new state were chosen and Gov. Pierpont moved his capital to Union-occupied Alexandria, where he asserted jurisdiction over all of the Virginia counties within the Federal lines.

The question of the constitutionality of the formation of the new state was brought before the Supreme Court of the United States in the following manner: Berkeley and Jefferson counties lying on the Potomac east of the mountains, in 1863, with the consent of the reorganized government of Virginia voted in favor of annexation to West Virginia. Many voters of the strongly pro-secessionist counties were absent in the Confederate Army when the vote was taken and refused to acknowledge the transfer upon their return. The Virginia General Assembly repealed the act of secession and in 1866 brought suit against West Virginia, asking the court to declare the counties a part of Virginia which would have declared West Virginia's admission as a state unconstitutional. Meanwhile, on March 10, 1866, Congress passed a joint resolution recognizing the transfer. The Supreme Court, in 1870, decided in favor of West Virginia. See also Virginia Civil War History.

West Virginia Border State Map
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Northern and Southern strategies during the Civil War


On May 30, 1861, Brig. Gen. George B. McClellan in Cincinnati wrote to President Lincoln: "I am confidently assured that very considerable numbers of volunteers can be raised in Western Virginia...". After nearly two months in the field in West Virginia he was less optimistic. He wrote to Gov. Francis Harrison Pierpont of the Restored Government of Virginia in Wheeling that he and his army were anxious to assist the new government, but that eventually they would be needed elsewhere, and that he urged that troops be raised "among the population". "Before I left Grafton I made requisitions for arms clothing, etc., for 10,000 Virginia troops – I fear that my estimate was much too large." On August 3, 1861, the Wellsburg "Herald" editorialized "A pretty condition Northwestern Virginia is in to establish herself as a separate state...after all the drumming and all the gas about a separate state she has actually organized in the field four not entire regiments of soldiers and one of these hails almost entirely from the Panhandle."

Similar difficulties were experienced by Confederate authorities at the beginning of the war. On May 14, 1861, Col. George A. Porterfield arrived in Grafton to secure volunteers, and reported slow enlistment. Col. Porterfield's difficulty ultimately, however, was lack of support by the Richmond government, which did not send enough guns, tents and other supplies. He eventually turned away hundreds of volunteers due to lack of equipment. Gen. Henry A. Wise also complained of recruitment in the Kanawha valley, though he eventually assembled 2,500 infantry, 700 cavalry, three battalions of artillery for a total of 4,000 men which became known as "Wise's Legion". One regiment from the Wise legion, the 3rd Infantry (later reorganized as the 60th Virginia Infantry) was sent to South Carolina in 1862, and it was from Maj. Thomas Broun of the 3rd Infantry that Gen. Robert E. Lee bought his famous horse Traveller.

In April 1862 the Confederate government instituted a military draft, and nearly a year later the U.S. government did the same. The Confederate draft was not generally effective in West Virginia due to the breakdown of Virginia state government in the western counties and Union occupation of the northern counties, although conscription did occur in the southern counties. In the southern and eastern counties of West Virginia Confederate recruitment continued at least until the beginning of 1865.

The Wheeling government asked for an exemption to the Federal draft, saying that they had exceeded their quota under previous calls. An exemption was granted for 1864, but in 1865 a new demand was made for troops, which Gov. Boreman struggled to fill. In some counties, ex-Confederates suddenly found themselves enrolled in the U.S. Army.

The loyalty of some Federal troops had been questioned early in the war. The rapid conquest of northern West Virginia had caught a number of Southern sympathizers behind Union lines. A series of letters to Gen. Samuels and Gov. Pierpoint in the Dept. of Archives and History in Charleston, most dated 1862, reveal the concern of Union officers. Col. Harris, 10th Company, March 27, 1862, to Gov. Pierpoint: "The election of officers in the Gilmer County Company was a farce. The men elected were rebels and bushwhackers. The election of these men was intended, no doubt, as a burlesque on the reorganization of the militia."

There has never been an official count of Confederate service in West Virginia. Early estimates were very low, in 1901 historians Fast & Maxwell placed the figure at about 7,000. An exception to the low estimates is found in Why The Solid South?, whose authors believed the Confederate numbers exceeded Union numbers. In subsequent histories the estimates rose, Otis K. Rice placed the number at 10,000-12,000. Richard O. Curry in 1964 placed the figure at 15,000. The first detailed study of Confederate soldiery estimates the number at 18,000, which is close to the 18,642 figure stated by the Confederate Dept. of Western Virginia in 1864. In 1989 a study by James Carter Linger estimated the number at nearly 22,000.

The official number of Union soldiers from West Virginia is 31,884 as stated by the Provost Marshal General of the United States. These numbers include, however, re-enlistment figures as well as out-of-state soldiers who enlisted in West Virginia regiments. In 1905 Charles H. Ambler estimated the number of native Union soldiers to be about 20,000.
Published in 1908, The Union Army, vol. 2, p. 298, states: "In the several calls for [Union] troops during the war the total quota of West Virginia was 34,463 men. In response to these calls she furnished 17 regiments and 2 companies of infantry; 7 regiments and 2 companies of cavalry, and 8 batteries of artillery — a total of 32,068 men who were mustered into the United States service, besides several organizations controlled by the state authorities and employed wholly within her borders." The total 32,068, however, likely includes the "double count" for an unknown total of re-enlistments. That was common, and it explains, in part, why an exact number for West Virginia will perhaps never be known.

Richard Current estimated native Union numbers at 29,000. In his calculations, however, he only allowed for a deduction of 2,000 out-of-state soldiers in West Virginia regiments. Ohio contributed nearly 5,000, and with the deduction of Pennsylvania and other state's volunteers that estimate is reduced considerably.

The West Virginia Dept. of Archives and History believes that Confederate and Union numbers were about equal though they give no specific numbers. The George Tyler Moore Center in Shepherdstown estimates the Union numbers to be 22,000-25,000. The National Park Service, which maintains an exhaustive data base for Civil War soldiers, furthermore, indicates 22,000-25,000 total Union soldiers and also 22,000-25,000 total Confederate troops. The respective totals for western Virginia, present-day West Virginia, epitomized the divisiveness, the brother against brother, during the American Civil War.

West Virginia Civil War Map
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Secession and readmission of Southern states map

Civil War

The area which became West Virginia actually furnished about an equal number of soldiers to the Union and Confederate armies, approximately 22,000–25,000 each. During the Civil War, West Virginia (Union Army) suffered more than 4,000 in killed and several thousands more in wounded. Casualties for West Virginia troops who served in the Confederate Army are unknown. 
Geographically, being a Border State, West Virginia was hotly contested ground for both Union and Confederate forces. The state was a resource for both sides of the conflict due to its Salt, Iron, and agriculture production. The state was also host to the Harpers Ferry Armory (formally known as the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry), which became a site of great strategic importance because it was located adjacent the Potomac River – which was the common border of West Virginia and Maryland (another Border State). Consequently, the Union used it as an effective means to supply troops with weapons quickly as they marched into battle. Its location allowed the armory to easily change hands and fall into Confederate control -- the armory changed hands a total of seven times during the Civil War. Furthermore, the armory proved to be a very strategic location as a battleground because it was situated beside a major river (the Potomac) which served as a natural defense on the north side. Another feature is that almost the entire area of Harpers Ferry is surrounded by mountains, which supplemented the defense provided by the river. Adding to its vitality was the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad that was also located in Harpers Ferry.

Battle of Harpers Ferry
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Stonewall Jackson attacks and defeats the Union garrison

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
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(Map) Stonewall Jackson captures Harpers Ferry

Salt was one of the first exports from West Virginia. By 1828 sixty-five wells along the Kanawha River produced 787,000 bushels of salt per year, and by 1835 the industry used the labor of nearly 3,000 men, mostly slaves. Much of Charleston's growth was a result of this resource. By 1852 a yearly fleet of 400 flatboats moved three million bushels of salt to markets south and midwest. The growth of the salt industry also resulted in exploitation of lumber, coal and gas resources. By 1860, however, salt production was in decline, with only 14 wells located in the counties of Kanawha, Mason, Marion and Mercer. Coal was used to fuel the salt furnaces of the Kanawha Valley, and by 1860 twenty-five companies were engaged in coal mining in West Virginia, the largest being the Winifrede Mining and Manufacturing Company. By 1860, West Virginia had 14 iron plantations. One of the largest was Ice's Ferry Iron Works in Monongalia County. These facilities often occupied from one-quarter to one-third of the land in their home counties, averaging about 12,000 acres.
Early in the war, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson led the Great Train Raid of 1861, which resulted in the capture of several locomotives and rolling stock of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Jackson later led his men in what became known as the Romney Expedition, an unsuccessful attempt to firmly establish Confederate control over western Virginia.

In the summer of 1861, Union troops under General George McClellan drove off Confederate troops under General Robert E. Lee. This essentially freed Unionists in the northwestern counties of Virginia to form their own government as a result of the Wheeling Convention. After Lee's departure, western Virginia continued to be a target of Confederate raids, even after the creation of the new state in 1863. These actions focused both on supplying the Confederate Army with provisions as well as attacking the vital Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that linked the northeast with the midwest, as exemplified in the Jones-Imboden Raid. A key part of the Union strategy in West Virginia for the rest of the war was to keep the vital Baltimore and Ohio Railroad open as a major supply and troop transportation route. Guerrilla warfare also gripped the new state, especially in the Allegheny Mountain counties to the east, where loyalties were much more divided than in the Unionist northwest part of the state.

A continuing and important mission was to protect the vast supply warehouses and munitions factories at Harpers Ferry. However, the town fell to Stonewall Jackson during early days of the Maryland Campaign (September 1862), and the surrender of its Federal garrison was the largest capture of U.S. Army troops until World War II nearly eighty years later.

“Stonewall” Jackson wrote of the Battle of Harpers Ferry: “Just as [Confederate] General Pender [Pender's Brigade, A. P. Hill's Division] prepared to move his infantry forward in assault, a white flag was displayed, and [Union] General White, the commanding officer, surrendered 11,000 men [officially 12,419 captured], 73 pieces of artillery, 13,000 small-arms, and other stores." General "Stonewall" Jackson, September 15, 1862, official report, U.S. surrender of Harpers Ferry

With Lee's retreat to Virginia following the Battle of Antietam, Union forces again occupied Harpers Ferry. The Maryland Campaign concluded in what became West Virginia with the Battle of Shepherdstown.

In 1863, Brig. Gen. John D. Imboden, with 5,000 Confederates, overran a considerable portion of the state and tore up sections of the B&O Railroad. Bands of guerrillas burned and plundered in some sections, and were not entirely suppressed until after the war was ended. On June 20, 1863, the newly proclaimed state of West Virginia was admitted to the Union.

A Confederate brigade of cavalry under antebellum U.S. Congressman Albert G. Jenkins saw considerable action during the Gettysburg Campaign, as well as other major campaigns. A number of West Virginia regiments were distinguished for their war records, including the 7th West Virginia Infantry which assaulted the Sunken Road at Antietam and rushed onto Cemetery Hill in the twilight at the Battle of Gettysburg to help push back the famed Louisiana Tigers. The 3rd West Virginia Cavalry also fought well at Gettysburg as a part of John Buford's veteran cavalry division that defended McPherson's Ridge on the first day of the battle. Guerrilla warfare persisted after 1863 until the end of the war. See also West Virginia Civil War Battles and History.

Map of Civil War Battles in West Virginia
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Principal Civil War Battles in West Virginia

Guerrilla Warfare

On May 28, 1861 one of the first trials of the Civil War for sabotage took place in Parkersburg, Virginia. A group of men were found playing cards under a B&O railroad bridge and arrested by Federal authorities. The trial was conducted by Judge William Lowther Jackson (later, Gen. W.L. Jackson, C.S.A.). The men were acquitted, since no actual crime had taken place, but Parkersburg was split over the verdict, and Judge Jackson left to join Col. Porterfield at Philippi.

With the defeat of Confederate forces at the Battle of Philippi and the Battle of Cheat Mountain only occasionally would they occupy parts of western Virginia. Local supporters of Richmond were left to their own devices. Many guerrilla units originated in the pre-war militia, and these were designated Virginia State Rangers and starting in June, 1862, these were incorporated into Virginia State Line regiments. By March, 1863, however, many were enlisted in the regular Confederate army.

There were others though who operated without sanction of the Richmond government, some fighting on behalf of the Confederacy, while others were nothing more than bandits who preyed on Union and Confederate alike. Early in the war captured guerrillas were sent to Camp Chase or Johnson Island in Ohio, Fort Delaware in Delaware and also the Atheneum in Wheeling. Some were paroled after taking an oath, but many returned to their guerrilla activities. The Union authorities began to organize their own guerrilla bands, the most famous of which was the "Snake Hunters", headed by Capt. Baggs. They patrolled Wirt and Calhoun counties through the winter of 1861-62 and captured scores of Moccasin Rangers, which they sent as prisoners to Wheeling.

The fight against the rebel guerrillas took a new turn under Gen. John C. Fremont and Col. George Crook, who had spent his pre-war career as an "Indian fighter" in the Pacific Northwest. Col. Crook took command of the 36th Ohio Infantry, centered around Summersville, Nicholas County. He trained them in guerrilla tactics and adopted a "no prisoners" policy.

On January 1, 1862, Crook led his men on an expedition north to Sutton, Braxton County, where he believed Confederate forces were located. None were found, but his troops encountered heavy guerrilla resistance and responded by burning houses and towns along the line of march. But by August, 1862, Unionist efforts were severely hampered with the withdrawal of troops to eastern Virginia.

In this vacuum Gen. William W. Loring, C.S.A, recaptured the Kanawha valley, Gen. Albert Gallatin Jenkins, C.S.A., moved his forces through central West Virginia, capturing many supplies and prisoners. Confederate recruitment increased, Gen. Loring opening recruitment offices as far north as Ripley.

In response to rebel raids, Gen. Robert H. Milroy issued a command demanding reparations to be paid in cash and proceeded to assess fines against Tucker county citizens, guilty or not, and threatened them with the gallows or house-burning. Jefferson Davis and Confederate authorities lodged formal complaints with Gen. Henry Wager Halleck in Washington, who censured Gen. Milroy. However, Milroy argued in defense of his policy and was allowed to proceed.

By early 1863 Union efforts in West Virginia were going badly. Unionists were losing confidence in the Wheeling government to protect them, and with the approaching dismemberment of Virginia into two states guerrilla activity increased in an effort to prevent organization of county governments. By 1864 some stability had been achieved in some central counties, but guerrilla activity was never effectively countered. Union forces that were needed elsewhere were tied down in what many soldiers considered a backwater of the war. But Federal forces could not afford to ignore any rebel territory, particularly one so close to the Ohio River.

As late as January, 1865, Gov. Arthur I. Boreman complained of large scale guerrilla activity as far north as Harrison and Marion counties. In one last, brazen act of the guerrilla war, McNeill's Rangers of Hardy County kidnapped Generals George Crook and Benjamin F. Kelley from behind Union lines and delivered them as prisoners of war to Richmond. The Confederate surrender at Appomattox finally brought an end to guerrilla war in West Virginia. See also West Virginia Civil War Timeline.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
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Harpers Ferry panorama

West Virginia emancipated its slaves during the war, seceding from Virginia. The new state's economy transitioned from plantation farming toward smaller-scale farming and manufacturing.

As a Union state West Virginia was exempt from most of the strictures of Reconstruction. The charter which created the Freedmen's Bureau, however, stated their jurisdiction as "all subjects relating to refugees and freedmen from rebel States, or from any district of country within the territory embraced in operations of the army."

For blacks, the end of the war and emancipation brought both jubilation and anxiety, many not knowing how to restructure their lives. At emancipation some slaveowners reacted by evicting all former slaves from their properties, others negotiated work contracts or sharecropping arrangements. Since few of these agreements were legally contracted, and the newly freed slaves had little access to the legal system, they were often victimized. Former Kanawha County slave Lizzie Grant explained- "Slavery had not ended, no we just went from slaves to peons...They did free them in one sense of the word, but put them in a whole lot worse shape as they turned them loose to make their own way with nothing to make it with...[W]e mostly had to stay with our [former owners] if we got anything...[W]e were forced to stay on as servants, yes, if we expected to live...[T]hey still made us do just like they wanted to after the war."

In 1866 the state legislature gave blacks the right to testify against whites in court. Before this, they had been allowed to testify only in cases involving black defendants. In 1867 the 14th Amendment was ratified, granting citizenship and the right to due process under the law.

The Wheeling government found it necessary in 1865 to strip voting rights from returning Confederates in order to retain control. James Ferguson, who proposed the law, said that if it was not enacted he would lose election by 500 votes. The property of Confederates might also be confiscated, and in 1866 a constitutional amendment disfranchising all who had given aid and comfort to the Confederacy was adopted. The addition of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution caused a reaction. The Democratic Party secured control in 1870, and in 1871, the constitutional amendment of 1866 was abrogated. The first steps toward this change had been taken, however, by the Republicans in 1870. On August 22, 1872, an entirely new constitution was adopted.

Beginning in Reconstruction, and for several decades thereafter, the two states disputed the new state's share of the pre-war Virginia government's debts, which had mostly been incurred to finance public infrastructure improvements, such as canals, roads, and railroads under the Virginia Board of Public Works. Virginians, led by former Confederate General William Mahone, formed a political coalition which was based upon what was known as the "Readjuster Party." Although West Virginia's first constitution provided for the assumption of a part of the Virginia debt, negotiations opened by Virginia in 1870 were fruitless, and in 1871, Virginia funded two-thirds of the debt and arbitrarily assigned the remainder to West Virginia. The issue was finally settled in 1915, when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that West Virginia owed Virginia $12,393,929.50. The final installment of this sum was paid in 1939. See also West Virginia Civil War History and West Virginia Civil War Timeline.

See also

Sources: National Park Service; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Library of Congress; National Archives; US Census Bureau; The Union Army (1908); Fox, William F. Regimental Losses in the American Civil War (1889); Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion (1908); Phisterer, Frederick. Statistical Record of the Armies of the United States (1883); Hardesty, Jesse. Killed and died of wounds in the Union army during the Civil War (1915): Wright-Eley Co.; Ambler, Charles Henry, A History of West Virginia, Prentice-Hall, 1933; Ambler, Charles Henry, Sectionalism in Virginia from 1776-1861, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1910; Blockson, Charles L, Hippocrene Guide to the Underground Railroad, Hippocrene Books, 1995; Bushong, Millard K., A History of Jefferson County, WV, 1719-1940, Jefferson Publishing Co., 1941; Callahan, James M. Semi-Centennial History of West Virginia (1913); Callahan, James Morton. History of West Virginia (1923) 3 vol,; Chambers, S. Allen, Jr., Buildings of West Virginia, Oxford Univ. Press, 2004; Cohen, Stan, Historic Springs of the Virginias, A Pictorial History, Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1981; Curry, Richard Orr. "A Reappraisal of Statehood Politics in West Virginia", Journal of Southern History 28 (November 1962): 403-21.; Curry, Richard Orr. "Crisis Politics in West Virginia, 1861-1870," in Richard O. Curry ed., Radicalism, Racism, and Party Realignment: The Border States During Reconstruction (1969); Curry, Richard Orr. A House Divided: A Study of Statehood Politics and Copperhead Movement in West Virginia (1964); Dickinson, Jack L., Jenkins of Greenbottom, A Civil War Saga, Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1988;  Dunaway, Wilma A., The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003;  Dunaway, Wilma A., Slavery in the American Mountain South, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003; Eldridge, Carrie, Cabell County's Empire for Freedom, The Manumission of Sampson Sanders' Slaves, John Deaver Drinko Academy, 1999;  Engle, Stephen D., Mountaineer Reconstruction: Blacks in the Political Reconstruction of West Virginia, The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 78, 1993 Fast, Richard E. The history and government of West Virginia (1901);  Fredette, Allison. "The View from the Border: West Virginia Republicans and Women's Rights in the Age of Emancipation," West Virginia History, Spring 2009, Vol. 3 Issue 1, pp 57-80, 1861-70; Hayes, The Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes:1861-1865, 1922;  Haymond, Henry, History of Harrison County, 1910; Henwood, Dawn, Slaveries 'in the Borders', Rebecca Harding Davis's 'Life in the Iron Mills' in Its Southern Context, The Mississippi Quarterly, Fall, 1999;  Inscoe, John C. (ed), Appalachians and Race: The Mountain South from Slavery to Segregation, Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2005; Link, William A., Roots of Secession, Slavery and Politics in Antebellum Virginia, Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2003;  MacKenzie, Scott A. "The Slaveholders' War: The Secession Crisis in Kanawha County, Western Virginia, 1860-1861," West Virginia History, Spring 2010, Vol. 4 Issue 1, pp 33-57; Maxwell, Hu, History of Hampshire County, West Virginia, A.B. Boughner, 1897;  McGregor, James C. The Disruption of Virginia. (1922); Morton, Oren F., A History of Pendleton County, West Virginia, Franklin, WV, 1910;  Morton, Oren F., A History of Preston County, West Virginia; Morton, Oren F., A History of Monroe County, West Virginia, Staunton, VA, 1916; Munford, Beverley B., Virginia's Attitude Toward Slavery and Secession, L.H. Jenkins, 1909;  Noe, Kenneth W. "Exterminating Savages: The Union Army and Mountain Guerrillas in Southern West Virginia, 1861–1865." In Noe and Shannon H. Wilson, Civil War in Appalachia (1997); Riccards, Michael P. "Lincoln and the Political Question: The Creation of the State of West Virginia" Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 27, 1997; Rice, Otis K. West Virginia: A History (1985); Rice, Otis K., Eli Thayer and the Friendly Invasion of Virginia, Journal of Southern History, November 1971; Rice, Otis K. & Stephen W. Brown, West Virginia, A History, Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1993; Stealey, III, John Edmund. "West Virginia's Constitutional Critique of Virginia: The Revolution of 1861-1863," Civil War History, March 2011, Vol. 57 Issue 1, pp 9-47; Stealey, John Edmund, III, The Freedmen's Bureau in West Virginia, West Virginia History, January/April, 1978; Sullivan, Ken (ed.), The West Virginia Encyclopedia, The West Virginia Humanities Council, 2006; Switala, William J., Underground Railroad in Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia, Stackpole Books, 2004; Talbott, F. "Some Legislative and Legal Aspects of the Negro Question in West Virginia during the Civil War and Reconstruction," West Virginia History, Jan 1963, Vol. 24 Issue 2, pp 110-133; Trollope, Frances, Domestic Manners of the Americans, Dover Publications, 2003; William, John Alexander. West Virginia: A History for Beginners. 2nd ed. Charleston, W.Va.: Appalachian Editions, 1997; William, John Alexander. West Virginia: A Bicentennial History (1976); William, John Alexander. Appalachia: A History (2002); Zimring, David R. "'Secession in Favor of the Constitution': How West Virginia Justified Separate Statehood during the Civil War," West Virginia History, Fall 2009, Vol. 3 Issue 2, pp 23–51.


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