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West Virginia

West Virginia is composed of counties located in northwestern Virginia that voted against secession in the Virginia convention in 1861 and were admitted to the Union in 1863 as a separate state.   The political and military objectives in 1861 were to secure these counties both for the Union and for the Confederacy.   Like other border states, West Virginians had divided loyalties and raised several Confederate regiments and Federal regiments.

April 17, 1861.   Virginia secedes from the Union at a state convention at Richmond by a vote of 88 to 55 subject to a referendum to be held on May 23. Bowman 51   However, the votes for many of the northwestern counties are heavily in favor of remaining in the Union.

April - May, 1861.   Columbus, OH:   Governor William Dennison, a staunch Republican and admirer of Pres. Lincoln, furnishes 13 regiments in reponse to the president's first call for 75,000 troops from the states.   He orders 5 more regiments and stations them strategically in Ohio camps opposite the West Virginia cities of Wheeling, Parkersburg, and Point Pleasant at the mouth of the Great Kanawha River where they can be called into action promptly. Johnson 196

April 18, 1861.

Harpers Ferry:   At this time, the town contains one of the two most important Federal Arsenal and armories (Springfield, MA, being the other) and provides a convenient gateway north and south across the Potomac River.   Through it runs the Baltimore & Ohio railroad linking Wheeling, VA to Baltimore and Washington and provides much western Virginia coal to the east.   The Federal garrison of 42 men under Lt. Roger Jones, aware that several Virginia militia units under the overall command of Brig. Gen. William H. Harman are on their way to capture the arsenal, destroys some arms and equipment and evacuates it.   The town is occupied first by Staunton militia under Capt. John A Harman. Hearn 50-90   (More)

April 22, 1861.   Clarksburg:   More than 1,000 pro-Union Virginians from Harrison Country meet and pass resolutions against secession and set a date for a convention of delegates from the northwestern Virginia counties to determine their political destiny. WVC n.p.   (More on statehood below.

April 29 - May 10, 1861.   Gen. Robert E. Lee having been appointed by Governor Letcher to command all Virginia forces until the State is formally incorporated in the Confederate States, directs Maj. A. Loring, commanding volunteers at Wheeling to accept and muster into service volunteer companies and to take command of them.   His command is confined to the counties of Wetzel, Marshall, Ohio, Brooke and Hancock, with special duty to protect the terminus of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.   At the same time, Maj. Francis M. Boykin, Jr. at Weston is directed by General Lee to muster volunteer companies into the service of the State and, posting his command at or near Grafton, to cooperate with Major Loring in holding both branches of the railroad for the benefit of Maryland and Virginia.   These officers also are directed to provide security to the local citizens and facilitate peaceful travel.   Two hundred old pattern flintlock muskets are the only arms with which General Lee was able to supply these forces.   Lt. Col. John McCausland is given similar recruiting duties in the Kanawha Valley, and Col. C. Q. Tompkins of Charleston was assigned commander.   Col. George Porterfield was directed to Grafton to select defensive positions liable to attack in that area.   Col. Jubal Anderson Early is ordered to Lynchburg to organize and command the forces at that point, and Col. Thomas Jonathan Jackson at Harpers Ferry is to watch threatening movements of the enemy and to occupy and use the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.   Lt. Col. John Echols is placed in command at Staunton with two regiments of infantry. CMH n.p.

May 1, 1861.   Harpers Ferry:   Col. Thomas Jonathan Jackson is ordered by commander of Virginia militia, Maj. Gen. R. E. Lee, to Harpers Ferry to strip it of arms, munitions, equipment and send them south to the major armories at Fayetteville, NC, and Richmond, VA.   He is to destroy what he cannot take out. Long 64 (More)

May 3, 1861.  

Washington:   The President establishes the Department of the Ohio with its Arrmy of the Ohio under Maj. Gen. George Brinton McClellan.   McClellan is ordered by Gen. Winfield Scott to drive down the Mississippi to its mouth and establish a cordon of posts along the way.   In response, McClellan establishes his headquarters at Cincinnati, OH. Long 69   From there, he soon will send forces to northwestern Virginia to guard the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad and protect loyal Unionists.   These officers will win several battles (see ), etc., that will make McClellan a hero and bring him to Washington with a promotion to bigger military tasks.

May 13 - 15, 1861.   Wheeling:   Pro-Union delegates from 27 northwestern countries of Virginia meet at Washington Hall in the Virginia Union Convention to determine a response to Virginia's Ordinance of Secession and a course of political action for themselves.   William B. Zinn of Preston County is appointed temporary chairman of the convention and George Latham of Taylor County is elected temporary secretary. They adopt resolutions condemning the Virginia ordinance of secession and provide for a general election of delegates from all counties on May 23 to a convention to be held at Wheeling on June 11. WVC n.p.   (More)

May 23, 1861.   Richmond:   Virginians vote 96,750 to 32,134 to ratify secession.  However, the votes for the northwestern counties are heavily in favor of remaining in the Union. Long 77

May 24 - 27, 1861.   Grafton:   On May 24, Gen. Winfield Scott, general-in-chief, orders Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan to northwestern Virginia to protect the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (see dotted lines on map)and assist and protect loyal Virginians in what will later become the state of West Virginia.   However, on May 26, Confederates burn the 2 B&O railroad bridges crossing the Monangahelo River at Farmington and Mannington, northwest of Grafton, WV, on the Wheeling line and 1 across the same river on the Parkersburg line.   The railroad is the only direct rail link between Washington and the west, so it is of vital military supply and communications importance.   In response, on May 27, a West Virginia regiment under Col. Benjamin Franklin Kelley arrives from Wheeling by rail to drive the Confederates away and rebuild the bridges.   During this time also, the Ohio regiments are sent across the river and a brigade of 6th, 7th and 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiments. under Brig. Gen. Thomas Armstrong Morris are sent by rail from Indianapolis. Long 78

May 30, 1861.  

Grafton:   Union troops under Brig. Gen. Thomas Armstrong Morris, temporarily in command of forces in Virginia, occupy the city as 3 Federal troop columns under Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan march from Cincinnati.   Morris sends 2 columns of 1,500 men each under Cols. Ebenezer Dumont and Benjamin Franklin Kelley to dislodge the Confederate occupational force of about 600 infantry and 173 cavalry men under Col. George A. Porterfield at Philippi, who was ordered there to recruit troops and secure the area by Maj. Gen. R. E. Lee, commander of Virginia militia.

June 2 - 3, 1861.  

Philippi:   Col. Ebenezer Dumont heads south from Webster while Col. Benjamin F. Kelley heads south from near Grafton, converging before dawn on June 3 at Philippi where they rout the Confederate troops, who retreat to Beverly.   Union losses are 4 wounded.   Confederate losses are 26 wounded.   Union troops capture baggage, knapsacks and munitions. Floyd n.p.   This small victory is a morale booster for the Union, in particular loyal Virginians in the area, who now feel confident to defend themselves and break away from Virginia.

Order of battle: Left Column - Col. Benjamin Franklin Kelley Six Companies [Cos. B, C, D, G, K(?), ?], 1st (West) Virginia Infantry, Col. Benjamin F. Kelley
Companies A-E, G-I, K, 9th Indiana Infantry, Col. R.H. Milroy
Six Companies, 16th Ohio Infantry, Col. J. Irvine

Right Column - Col. Ebenezer Dumont
Companies B, C, E, F, G, I, 6th Indiana Infantry, Col. Thomas Crittenden
Companies A-C, E-G, I, K, 7th Indiana Infantry, Col. Ebenezer Dumont
Five companies, 14th Ohio Infantry, Col. James B. Steadman
Three companies, 15th Ohio Infantry, Lt. Col. Moses R. Dickey
Companies D, F, 1st Ohio Light Artillery, Lt. Col. S.B. Sturges, two 6-pounders
Rich n.p.

(See also Rich Mountain below.)

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June 6, 1861.   Richmond:   Maj. Gen. R. E. Lee orders Virginia Brig. Gen. Henry A. Wise to the Kanawha Valley and Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett to Beverly along the Staunton & Parkersburg Turnpike, with troops to defend 2 likely Union attack routes.

June 8, 1861.   Richmond:   After losing the battle at Philippi VA (later, W.VA), the Virginia militia under Brig. Gen. Robert Edward Lee are transferred to Confederate commanders, which puts R.E. Lee temporarily out of command. Long 83   The commander at Philippi, Porterfield, will soon be relieved of command and Col. Kelley soon will be promoted to Brig. Gen. and assigned the job of protecting the B&O Railroad in the area.   Brig. Gen. Morris will lead his 30-day troops back to Indiana where he will retire from the war.

June 11 - July 2, 1861.   Wheeling:  88 delegates from 32 northwestern counties of Virginia meet in the Second Wheeling Convention to organize a pro-Union government.   Arthur I. Boreman is elected chairman.   On June 13, the convention adopts a bill of rights, repudiates allegiance to the Confederate States, to which Virginia was now united by ordinance ratified by popular vote, declares the offices of governor of Virginia, etc., vacant, and provides for a provisional government, with which all officers are required to take the oath of national allegiance.   Virginia Governor John Letcher issues a proclamation June 14 to the people of northwestern Virginia, pointing out that the sovereign people of Virginia by a majority of nearly 100,000 votes, had exercised the right claimed by the fathers, to institute a new government, and had united the commonwealth with the Confederate States.   He declared that thebpeople had all had an opportunity to vote. "You, as well as the rest of the State, have cast your vote fairly, and the majority is against you.   It is the duty of good citizens to yield to the will of the State."   He quoted the bill of rights, "that the people have a right to uniform government; and therefore that no government separate from and independent of the government of Virginia ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof," and therefore, he said, "the majority have a right to govern." "But notwithstanding, this right, thus exercised, has been regarded by the people of all sections of the United States as undoubted and sacred, yet the government at Washington now utterly denies it, and by the exercise of despotic power, is endeavoring to coerce our people to abject submission to their authority.   Virginia has asserted her independence. She will maintain it at every hazard."   He also pointed out that the new constitution had removed the previous inequality of taxation between the east and west, and he closed an eloquent appeal for unity in the commonwealth by the words: "The troops are posted at Huttonsville.   Come with your own good weapons and meet them as brothers. "   On June 19, a declaration of independence from Virginia is unanimously adopted by the people of northwestern Virginia.   Its main argument is that under the bill of rights the legislature had no right to call a convention to alter the constitution and relations of the Commonwealth of Virginia without the previously expressed consent of the majority, and that therefore usurpation had occurred which would inevitably lead to military despotism.   On June 20, the convention at Wheeling elects a provisional Federal Virginia governor, Francis H. Pierpont and other State officers and an executive council of five.   The convention purports to represent the whole State of Virginia, and Pierpont declares that it was not the object of the convention to set up any new government in the State, other than the one under which they had always lived.   A legislature is elected, which will meet at Wheeling on July 2 to conduct legislative business. CMH n.p.   (More)

June 13, 1861.   Romney:   Col. Lewis (Lew) Wallace leads 500 men from the 11th Indiana in an expedition from Cumberland, MD, to prevent alleged oppression of pro-Union citizens by Confederate supporters.   Union losses are 1 wounded.   Confederate losses are 2 killed, 1 wounded. Long 85

June 18, 1861.   Harpers Ferry:   After destroying 19 of 25 arsenal and armory buildings and the B&O bridge across the Potomac River, troops under Col. Thomas Jonathan Jackson, operating under the command of Brig Gen. Joseph Eggleston Johnston with 11,000 Confederates, evacuate the town as it is threatened by 14,000 Pennsylvania volunteers and Union regulars under Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson, commander of the Department of Pennsylvania since April 27, who advance from Chambersburg, PA, through Maryland to capture Harpers Ferry and secure the Shenandoah Valley from Confederate invasion.   The Federals will occupy the town on July 17.   Workers who did not go south with the equipment are left without employment.   Many will move to other places seeking work or join Confederate or Union armies for support.   About 90% of the homes become unoccupied. Hearn 74-78   (Back to Main Events)   (Back to Battles)

June 19, 1861.   Wheeling:   In a convention meeting, Francis Harrison Pierpont is named provisional governor of Federal Virginia, later to become West Virginia under another governor.   (More)

June 22, 1861.   Grafton:   Gen. George B. McClellan personally the area to take personal command.   He has 27 infantry regiments of about 700 men each, 16 Ohio, 9 Indiana, 2 West Virginia.   Also, 4 artillery batteries of 6 guns each, 2 troops (companies) of cavalry, and 1 independent company of riflemen.   The entire force was about 20,000, of which 5,000 guarded the B&O railroad under command of Brig. Gen. C. W. Hill of the Ohio militia.   Brig. Gen. Morris was at Philippi with one brigade and the remainder was distributed in 3 brigades directly under McClellan.   These brigades were commanded by Brig. Gen. W. S. Rosecrans, U.S.A., Brig. Gen. Newton Schleich of Ohio, and Col. Robert L. McCook of Ohio.   From here, they will converge on Rich Mt. and Laurel Hill on July 7. Johnson 130

July 2, 1861.   Hoke's Run: (Falling Waters, Hainesville)   On July 2, the Union division of 18,000 troops under Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson cross the Potomac River near Williamsport and march on the main road to Martinsburg, intending to seize Harpers Ferry and keep the Confederate force of about 11,000 under Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston occupied in the Shenandoah Valley so they cannot support the upcoming battle near Manassas.   Near Hoke's Run, the 7th U. S. Infantry brigade of Col. John Joseph Abercrombie and the brigade of Col. George Henry Thomas encounter the brigade of Col. T.J. Jackson.   Jackson's orders are to delay the Federal advance only, which he does, withdrawing before Patterson's larger force.   Union losses are 8 killed, 15 wounded.   Confederate losses are 31 killed, 50 wounded. Houghton n.p.

July 7, 1861.   Laurel Hill: (Belington)   Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. Robert Seldon Garnett are encamped at the western base of Laurel Hill Mountain east of Belington.   Entrenchments of stones, felled trees, and abatis were erected running up the hill from the south side of the turnpike commanding the valley leading to the Tygart Valley River. On the north side of the road were additional entrenchments running to the foot of Laurel Mountain, as well as three artillery positions. On the morning of July 7, Morris's Federals moved south from Philippi and engaged the southerners in a series of skirmishes in the hills around Belington. A number of assaults and cannon bombardments over several days keep Garnett's troops busy, without seriously challenging their position.   On the afternoon of July 11, they hear the sounds of battle coming from Rich Mountain 23 miles away. When Garnett was informed of Pegram's defeat and Federal control of the Pike, he recognized that the Laurel Hill position was also cut off. He ordered his skirmishers to step up their fire to cover the withdrawal preparations. When his troops began withdrawing at dusk, they left their tents up and fires burning, with the rear guard in place until the last moment. Upon reaching the turnpike crossroads at Leadsville, he was mistakenly told that Beverly was in Federal hands, and so turned his column north and east on more primitive roads.

July 11-13, 1861.   Rich Mountain:   2,000 Union troops under Maj. Gen. McClellan and Brig. Gen. William Starke Rosecrans defeat 1,300 Confederate troops under Lt. Col. John Pegram.   At Corrick's (Carrick's) ford, 4,000 Union troops under Brig. Gen. T. A. Morris defeat 4,000 Confederate troops under Brig. Gen. Robert Garnett.   There is also some fighting at Laurel Hill.   Union losses are 24 killed, 95 wounded.   Confederate losses are 80 killed, 150 wounded, 150 prisoners.   These battles secure the west Virginian mountains, rivers, railroads and communication lines for the Union.   Consequently, McClellan becomes a hero brings him to Washington for greater responsibilities. Long 93,94

Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan assumed command of Union forces in western Virginia in June, 1861. On June 27, he moved his divisions from Clarksburg south against Lt. Col. John Pegram's Confederates, reaching the vicinity of Rich Mountain on July 9. Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. T.A. Morris's Union brigade marched from Philippi to confront Brig. Gen. R.S. Garnett's command at Laurel Hill. On July 11, Brig. Gen. William S. Rosecrans led a reinforced brigade by a mountain path to seize the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike in Pegram's rear. A sharp two-hour fight ensued in which the Confederates were split in two. Half escaped to Beverly, but Pegram and the others surrendered on July 13. Hearing of Pegram's defeat, Garnett abandoned Laurel Hill. The Federals pursued, and, during fighting at Corrick's Ford on July 13, Garnett was killed. On July 22, McClellan was ordered to Washington, and Rosecrans assumed command of Union forces in western Virginia. Union victory at Rich Mountain was instrumental in propelling McClellan to command of the Army of the Potomac. Confederate command in the region was then given to Gen. Robert S. Garnett, who quickly fortified two key turnpike passes over the mountains. One was at Laurel Hill, outside of Belington on the Beverly - Fairmont Pike. The other position, at the western base of Rich Mountain on the Staunton and Parkersburg Pike, was named Camp Garnett in his honor. Earthworks were built here overlooking the vital turnpike, and by early July the camp held 1,300 Confederate troops and 4 cannons commanded by Col. John Pegram. General McClellan, meanwhile, consolidated his hold over the far western part of Virginia and the railroad. By July 4 he was with the largest portion of his army at Buckhannon, on the S and P Pike. On July 6 & 7, elements of his force, advancing up the pike, encountered Confederate skirmishers at Middle Fork bridge. McClellan himself brought the larger portion of his force, over 5000 men, to Roaring Creek Flats, just two miles west of Camp Garnett. General McClellan, who characteristically overestimated the numbers of the troops facing him, felt it would be disastrous to attack the well-entrenched position head on. Instead he sent General William S. Rosecrans with his brigade of 1,917 men on a roundabout march to the south around Camp Garnett. Guided by David Hart, the young son of a family that lived at the top of Rich Mountain, the men struggled though the pathless forest, hindered by thick undergrowth, steep hillsides, and intermittent rain. They came to the ridge top well to the south of the turnpike, and moved north along the top of the mountain until they overlooked the pass where the pike crossed the mountain at Joseph Hart's farm. Around 2:30 on the afternoon of July 11, these troops surprised the Confederate outpost at the pass. The 310 men and one cannon on guard here had been fearing a Union flank attack from the north or east. Instead they were surprised by the assault from the south. The Confederates took cover on the opposite side of their hastily constructed log breastworks, and behind rocks, trees, and the homestead buildings. With the help of their one cannon, they held off the Federal assault for more than two hours, until they were overwhelmed by a renewed attack and forced to flee. Meanwhile in Camp Garnett, Colonel Pegram tried to rally reinforcements to the fighting at the pass, but brought help too little and too late. A second cannon sent up the pike as reinforcement was captured by Federal troops. During the night, realizing that the enemy was in his rear, Pegram ordered the withdrawal of his remaining forces during the night. On the morning of July 12, General Rosecrans victorious troops marched down the turnpike to Camp Garnett, which they found abandoned except for the sick and wounded. Rosecrans sent word to General McClellan that the enemy was beaten. The advance of the withdrawing Confederate column, led by mapmaker Jed Hotchkiss, successfully escaped down the turnpike, but Pegram's main force, cut off and without supplies, surrendered to McClellan in Beverly two days later.

July 13, 1861.   Corrick's Ford:   On the morning of the 12th, Morris's troops discovered that Garnett was gone, and soon set off in pursuit. The poor roads and incessant rain slowed travel, and the Federals could easily follow the Confederate march along Pheasant Run road by the quagmire of mud and discarded equipment along the way. The road was very rough, with steep slopes and dense woods on either side. Although slowed by felled trees left behind by the southerners, the Federal force caught up with the southern rear guard by noon on the 13th, at Kalar's Ford of Shaver's Fork. Then commenced a running skirmish, as the two-mile long Confederate column moved up the river ravine, followed by the pursuing Federals. At the final crossing at Corrick's Ford, Confederate troops on a high bluff gave cover for their troops to cross the river. Gen. Garnett, while directing the final skirmishers, was shot and killed. He was the first general officer killed in the Civil War. Gen. Morris stopped there, having captured a number of Confederate troops and most of their baggage train. The remains of Garnett's troops struggled on east through the wilderness, eventually straggling into Monterey, Virginia.

October 3, 1861.   Greenbriar, VA:   Union troops under Brig. Gen. William S. Rosecrans rout Confederate troops under Brig. Gen. William Wing Lorring clash.   Union losses are 8 killed, 32 wounded.   Confederate losses are 100 killed, 75 wounded.   Union troops take possession of many valuable cattle and horses and strengthen Federal control of western Virginia. Bowman 67

October 24, 1861.   Wheeling:   In spite of the dubious constitutionality of the process expressed by Federal Attorney General Edward Bates, West Virginians from 39 countries overwhelmingly vote to form a new state. WVC n.p.

November 26, 1861.   Wheeling:   A convention adopts a new constitution for the proposed new state to be called the Restored Government of Virginia.   It will be ratified by the voters of 48 counties on May 3, 1862.   Also, Francis H. Pierpont is elected governor. WVC n.p.

May 3, 1863.   Wheeling:   Constitutional Union party nominates Arthur I. Boreman to run for governor. He runs unopposed, winning the election to become the first governor of West Virginia.   (The Restored Government of Virginia, with Pierpont continuing as governor, moved to Alexandria, Virginia and eventually to Richmond following the war.   Pierpont ordered an election to allow the residents of Jefferson and Berkeley counties to determine whether their counties should be located in West Virginia or Virginia.   Union troops were stationed outside polling places to intimidate those who might vote for Virginia.   Despite local support for Virginia, residents who actually filled out ballots voted overwhelmingly to place both counties in West Virginia.   In 1865, Pierpont's government challenged the legality of West Virginia statehood.   In 1871, the United States Supreme Court awarded the counties of Jefferson and Berkeley to West Virginia.) WVC n.p.

December 31, 1862 - June 20, 1863.   Washington:   On December 31, President Lincoln signs the bill into law, approving the creation of West Virginia as a state loyal to the Union without abolishing slavery.   In accord with the act of Congress, the statehood issue is to be put to a vote by West Virginia's citizens.   On March 26, 1863, the citizens of the 50 counties approve the statehood bill, including the Willey Amendment (All slaves in West Virginia over 21 years of age would be freed.   Younger slaves would receive their freedom upon reaching that age.)   On June 20, the state of West Virginia is officially created, the 35th in the Union, by presidential proclamation.   (West Virginia now has 55 counties.) WVC n.p.

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