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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
17th FA Bn
V.I.P. Member
Posts: 23
(9/9/01 5:59:44 pm)
Reply | Edit | Del All American Civil War Politics
Does any body know the story of how West Virgina broke away from the rest of the state of Virginia during the Civil War? I've never seen much about this subject in history books. I've read that Kentucky and some other border states had two state governments, one that was for the confederates, and one that staid loyal to the Union.

Posts: 901
(9/9/01 7:19:49 pm)
Reply | Edit | Del Re: American Civil War Politics
From what I recall of my Civil War history, the western part of Virginia (the mountain country), was the poorest part of the state. It consisted of mostly small family farms.....too poor to own slaves. They were fiercely independent people, most of them decended from Scotch/Irish and many of them were Republicans.

They had little in common with the slave owning "gentry" who ruled the eastern part of the, when Virginia succeded from the Union, they "succeded" from Virginia.

Don't know about Kentucky, but I suspect it was similar to Virginia.

Polish, you're our resident historian.....what's your take on this?

Senior Chief Moderator Staff
Posts: 1554
(9/9/01 8:58:31 pm)
Reply | Edit | Del Re: American Civil War Politics
Well, you're pretty close, the secret is poor farmers and mountains.

Western Virginians were fiercely independent types, descended from original self-sufficient "Mountain Men" type settlers. They really identified with nobody else, especially southerners. Plus, the hilljacks not only didn't think like, but usually resented the rich,arrogant "Tidewater" Virginians, who got all the benefits from the state, while they got the shaft.

In addition, slavery was virtually non-existent in the mountains, because slavery REALLY wasn't a cost-effective method of farming UNLESS you raised crops like cotton that needed intensive hands-on tending, and many bodies to harvest. Subsitence farmers barely made enough to feed their own families, they could milk their cows, grow the corn, and tend their chickens and stills by themselves just fine, thank you, and not have more mouths to feed. Plus, they couldn't AFFORD to buy one.

Coincidentally, you actually hear LESS of the other dirty little secret, that the "Sons of the Confederacy" won't admit even today...and that is that Eastern Tennesee was even more pro-Union than West Virginia, for lots of the same reasons.

When Burnside marched into Knoxville, he was welcomed as a "Liberator." Even today, outside the courthouse in Greeneville, there is a nice monument to all the veterans of the county who fought for the UNION. (Nothing for the Confederacy.)

That was where Andrew Johnson was from, and they are darn proud of it.

Kentucky is still an enigma. A State with two identities. They STILL fight to be recognized as a true "Southern State." (Witness the "Florence Y'all" on the watertower just off of 75 about 5 miles south of Cincinnatti.)(Yeah, I know it's because they had to remove the "Florence Mall," but STILL...I have YET to hear ANY Kentuckian say "Y'all.")

It still is split about 50-50...with people who see themselves as Southerners, and the rest look to the North. (OK, actually 30%, 30%, and the rest of the hilljacks don't care, just leave them alone!)

Also, lots of US patriotism in Kentucky, ever since the days of Simon Kenton and Daniel Boone. Most also are descendants of people who came down the Ohio...from Pennsylvania, and other states from the Northeast, as well as Virginia. Along with lots of Revolutionary War veterans who came west.

Also quite interesting is Indiana politics...the state had alot of "Copperheads..." (Southern Sympathizers) that were pretty much in the minority, most of them in the southern counties. The majority of the Indianans were staunch Republicans, and staunchly pro-Union. They volunteered for Federal Service with a greater percentage than any other state, and served with distinction in the East and the West.

But the Copperheads didn't, and since you couldn't vote when you were out of state, they took over both houses of the state government during the war. They started passing laws that made it illegal for Indiana residents to fight out of state, and that they coulod not fight for the Union. The Republican governor Morton, a friend of Lincoln, simply ignored them and ruled as if martial law.

Letters from Indiana soldiers home to their families say with lots of conviction, that after they were done killing rebels, they were going to come home and kill Copperheads.

It STILL resonates in this state...Lee Hamilton and now Baron Hill tap that Copperhead Democrat sentiment to control a jerrymandered district in what is again a predominantly Republican state.

And also incidentally, the KKK was "reborn" after the war in Indiana, in those very counties. At one time, the KKK/Democrats controlled Indiana politics around the turn of the century, in a scandal filled era, but that's another story....
Well, I didn't win the Powerball, so I still collect Russian Crap and variants thereof. ( And am darn happy I can!)

V.I.P. Member
Posts: 251
(9/9/01 9:02:11 pm)
Reply | Edit | Del West Virginia
Although there were operations in West Virginia as late as 1863, the issue was virtually decided in the late spring and summer of 1861, when McClellan's Ohio troops successfully outflanked and defeated Confederate forces under Pegram and Garnett (not THAT Garnett). RE Lee's Virginia forces failed to eject the Federal incursion, by that time commanded by Rosecrans, as McClellan's victories caused him to be called to Washington to command all Federal forces.

The fact that McClellan's victories, though decisive, were very light in casualties (and his own bombastic dispatches) were later used to belittle him when he became politically unpopular.

Though West Virginia was admitted as a state in June 1863, it can be argued that this admission was illegal, since it was done without the constitutionally required concurrence of the Virginia legislature.
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