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West Virginia split from Post War Supreme Court of the US decisions regarding secession

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by MHB1862, Nov 17, 2016.

  1. D.H. Hill

    D.H. Hill Private

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    This is a subject near and dear to my heart so I will try to remain detached. Suffice to say it is a complex issue and no simple answer (western Virginia was all union, western Viginia was all confederate) will do.

    First, in response to trice's list: it will be observed that most of the southern and eastern counties of present WV are not included on that list... There was strong support in the northwest portion of the state but they seem to have press-ganged in a few counties that were loyal to Virginia. Greenbrier, Pendleton, Monroe, and Pocahontas in particular had large percentages of their young men in the Confederate army, but I guess the Wheelingists thought the Alleghanies would make a good border. Odd how the old story always goes as how "there were few slaves in the mountains of western Virginia so they decided to stay with the north..." when the actual mountaineers seem to have been mostly sympathetic to the south and Unionism was mostly to be found in the northern part of the Ohio River Valley, and parts of the Alleghany Plateau.

    The following map (of the referendum of 1861) I think is a good indicator of sentiment, although a better would be a map showing how many soldiers each county sent to either army.
    upload_2017-3-12_20-10-6.png
    (Richard O. Curry in "A House Divided", pgs. 141-152.)
    Most of the gray areas were at least partially occupied occupied by the Confederate army, so they probably didn't vote at all (don't know how the vote was arranged) but from the areas which do have returns I think one can get a basic feel for the geographic distribution of sentiment.
    [​IMG]
    The second map shows counties which voted for Viginia's Secession from the Union. Note the basic trend.
    D.H.
     
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  3. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Major

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    The problem of using secessionist vote data is that both sides would intimidate voters. The secret ballot was not in use yet; Australia would be the first country in the post Civil War era to reinstitute from the ancient past.
    Was West Virginia mostly pro Union or Pro Confederate is a question that seems very hard to determine. Based on enlistments on both sides it was roughly evenly divided. Maybe @16thVA has other metrics to answer that question.
    Leftyhunter
     
  4. 16thVA

    16thVA First Sergeant

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    Lefty, the only indicator for the popularity of the Wheeling government is the results of their own efforts in public votes. Out of 79,515 potential voters, the statehood vote was 18,408, the constitutional vote the next year was 18,862, and the Willey amendment vote in 1863 was 28,318. This is over a 2 year period. People were quite aware of what was going on and had the opportunity to vote if they chose, but people who had voted for secession were arrested for their vote, Union soldiers guarded the polling stations and you could find yourself on a train to Camp Chase. This is why there were so few "no" votes, except in counties like Brooke where there was no danger in voting.

    As the first governor of the state wrote in a letter to Pierpont

    "After you get a short distance below the Panhandle...it is not safe for a loyal man to go into the interior out of sight of the Ohio River." Arthur I. Boreman, Feb. 27, 1863. Charles H. Ambler, "Francis H. Pierpont", pg. 188
     
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  5. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Major

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    Were Unionist voters intimidated by Confederate guerrillas or their supporters? I will have to work on my thread"Comparing Union and Confederate counter-guerrilla operations" to see how many Union COIN regiments were detailed to Wv to get an idea how bad the COIN problem was for the Union. Certainly the Union had a problem as of course the CSA in many of their states. Were most West Virginians just trying to stay neutral? What side West Virginans where on is certainly a difficult question. Scientific polling would have to wait a good 80 years.
    Leftyhunter
     
  6. 16thVA

    16thVA First Sergeant

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    It's an impossible question to answer without speculation, there was undoubted intimidation on both sides. While there may have been Confederate soldiers in eastern Virginia during the May 23, 1861 secession vote, there were very few in West Virginia. Intimidation was undertaken by the local populace on both sides. There were no newspapers publishing outside Union lines, Ohio newspapers would cross the river, and papers from Staunton and Richmond would make it into southern WV, but they would be outdated.
     
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  7. trice

    trice Lt. Colonel

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    I am sure that sort of thing was happening. It was not at all uncommon. Missouri was much the same, along with parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. When Tennessee voted on secession the 2nd time in 1861, Fielding Hurst was arrested by the state Militia for making a speech when he went to vote, shipped on a train to Nashville and thrown in the state jail along with a number of other men from around the state.

    Hurst and others were still in that jail when Grant took Henry & Donelson in 1862 -- the arrival of Grant's troops in Nashville freed them. Hurst became a violent and merciless Union leader after that experience. "Parson" Brownlow, a Unionist civilian, was arrested, thrown in prison, tortured as part of an extortion plot, and finally released. He too became a violent and merciless anti-Confederate leader (perhaps "even more" anti-Confederate after he got out). Unionists in the Deep South had their own tales of woe to match any in western Virginia. Civil wars get very nasty very quickly; the wonder really is that the American Civil War was not much worse.
     
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