Was there anything Virginia could have done to keep West Virginia from seceding?

CSA Today

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Dec 3, 2011
Laurinburg NC
I don’t disagree, but the fact remains that come 1860 by and large it wasn’t Massachusetts that had folks in chains because of the color of their skin. It wasn’t Pennsylvania, it wasn’t New York, and it wasn’t Iowa. There were a few states who, thinking they may lose slave labor and their “states right” to hold people in chains based on the color of their skin that rebelled against the United States. Thank God they were defeated.

There has been no worse idea in the history of America or the idea democratic government than the idea of the slaveocracy of the CSA.
I fervently disagree. And to think the racist Lincoln was willing to allow it to exist in the South if only the Southern States would stay in his union.

“Then came the Black Hawk War; and I was elected a Captain of Volunteers - a success which gave me more pleasure than any I have had since.”
Abraham Lincoln, December 20, 1859.

Stone in the wall

2nd Lieutenant
Sep 19, 2017
Blue Ridge Mountains, Jefferson County WV
Southerners and Northerners alike, terrible business. However, it’s “whataboutism” that fails to address the fact that southerners tore the country in two and started a war in their efforts to protect and expand their peculiar institution of African slavery.

Was the North racist? Yes

Did most northern states enact Emancipation or gradual Emancipation as soon as able? Yes. Dis southern states? No.

Did southern states forsake the constitution, declare it null and void, then attack the federal government in order to protect slavery? Yes.
Virginia was actually the 12th state to have ratified the 13th amendment, closely followed by Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas. But at the time they had little choice.

Dead Parrott

Jul 30, 2019
Goalpost Relocations aside, this is actually an interesting question.

As someone stated, the SCOTUS did indeed settle the matter constitutionally - and it was, indeed, SETTLED - though you must admit it was a post-facto, post-bellum settlement.

What's interesting, though, were the keys to their support for the separation. Key precedents: the federal government has the right to determine what is a 'representative government' under the constitution, and (in times of insurrection) to acknowledge a loyal assembled body over one in rebellion. Such a recognition is entirely consistent with the premise that a state in rebellion is still legally part of the country, but only those accepting their legal obligation can exercise their rights under that legal obligation. To believe otherwise, one would say the 1864 election should have waited and collected the rebels' votes from within the warring Confederate States before announcing a winner - clearly no sane individual would say so.

Honestly, the constitution provides no specific guidance for representational situations due to rebellion. As the court decided & found in precedent, it DOES say the government can determine constitutionally what is a representational body, and can chose a loyal body over one in rebellion.

As for the 6-3 vote, if you look closely at the dissent, you will see the dissenters did NOT challenge this key premise; they instead focused on the two border counties in question, and the timing issues of those counties in the transfer of statehood.

Let's be honest: the Constitution wasn't originally written to handle the representation quandaries of a rebelling state.

It was a weird and chaotic situation. But it was, and is, constitutionally settled. Still a fascinating historical event and an interesting circumstantial question, though.


First Sergeant
Dec 8, 2008
It was not "inevitable". The statehood "movement" was not a movement, all the voting shows this. If it had been a movement then Wheeling would not have had so much difficulty in getting people out to vote or in joining the Federal army. They had a terrible time getting West Virginians in the Union army, they had active recruiters in Ohio and Pennsylvania siphoning men off to Virginia Union units. McClellan himself told Pierpont- "I see no strong disposition to take up arms". The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan"

C.P Buckingham, Ohio Adj. Gen. to Gov. Pierpont, Sept. 13, 1861-

Your permit for raising regiments from Ohio embarrasses us severely causes much delay one regiment at Athens would be about full but for Mr. Constable interference and enticing men for his regiment for Virginia it injures the cause greatly & will not help Virginia but only postpone assistance from Ohio...”

Much of what Pierpont and his government said was self-serving propaganda which historians seem to take at face value. The first trip from Wheeling on the new riverboats went to New Orleans in 1816, trade further south was important to western Virginia, crops and livestock in southern WV went to the V&T railroad and markets in eastern Virginia. Wheeling historian Beverly Fluty stated- "Wheeling was very divided on this consideration, whether it wanted to be north or south. Because so many of the businessmen had contracts with southern suppliers, with wagons going down the Ohio river, the Mississippi river, all the way to New Orleans." Wheeling lied about practically everything, they were using the war as a cover for a project that did not help the war effort or fulfill the wishes of most West Virginians.

If there were such a cultural split then half the counties in WV would not have voted to secede from the Union, and the voting patterns on the 1860 election would certainly shown that split in at least a few counties. There were some votes for Lincoln but there were also a lot of northerners living in NW Virginia.


There is a new book, probably coming out from WVU Press, in about a year from Scott Mackenzie, a Canadian historian, who calls out a lot of the propaganda Wheeling promoted. Anyone with a serious interest should read his essay from a few years ago-

Voting with Their Arms Civil War Military Enlistments and the Formation of West Virginia, 1861–1865


Lost Cause

2nd Lieutenant
Sep 19, 2014
I think the true Midwest and Northeast folks will agree and concede that during the Civil War we just formed a team to beat down some rebels and went it was over we went right back to our own culture. IMO...
The going “right back to our own culture” aspect certainly helped provide an extended delay to the “Great Migration” on a large scale and exclusions after sundown on a lesser known scale through recent.