Civil War

Earthworks at Fort Milroy on Cheat Mountain Summit
Brian M. Powell

On September 12, 1861, the Battle of Cheat Mountain was fought near the Randolph-Pocahontas County line. Taking place just five months into the Civil War, the battle was a significant loss for the Confederacy.

General Robert E. Lee—at the time commander of the Department of Northwestern Virginia—was trying to protect railroad lines in Western Virginia while keeping what would become northern West Virginia in Confederate hands, thereby thwarting the young statehood movement.

Carnifex Ferry
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On September 10, 1861, a Civil War battle was fought at Carnifex Ferry in Nicholas County. The clash had been unfolding for nearly two months, after Confederate troops were forced from the Kanawha Valley. For weeks, the Southern troops had occupied the important crossroads of Gauley Bridge in Fayette County. After defeating a small Union force at Kesslers Cross Lanes in Nicholas County, some 2,000 Confederates, under former Virginia Governor John Floyd, encamped along the steep cliffs of the Gauley River.

August 22, 1872: West Virginians Narrowly Ratify a New State Constitution

Aug 22, 2019
On August 22, 1872, West Virginians narrowly ratified a new state constitution by less than 5,000 votes, while rejecting a separate proposal that would have restricted office-holding to whites only.
E-WV

On August 22, 1872, West Virginians narrowly ratified a new state constitution by less than 5,000 votes, while rejecting a separate proposal that would have restricted office-holding to whites only.

This 1872 version of the constitution, our state’s second, remains in effect today, with amendments. The first state constitution was approved in 1863, just before West Virginia became a state.

August 15, 1842: Coal Operator and Union Captain Joseph Beury Born

Aug 15, 2019
E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

Coal operator Joseph Beury was born in Pennsylvania on August 15, 1842. During the Civil War, he served as a Union captain, though he was later known as “colonel” in the West Virginia coalfields.

Beury worked in his father’s Pennsylvania anthracite mines and brought that knowledge with him to the New River Gorge about 1872. He established the Fayette County town of Quinnimont and opened the New River Coal Company mine. When the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway arrived the following year, he shipped the first load of coal from the New River Coalfield.

June 11, 1900: Confederate Spy Belle Boyd Dies at 57

Jun 11, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 11, 1900, Confederate spy Belle Boyd died of a heart attack at age 57.

Boyd was born in 1843 to an influential Berkeley County family. When the Civil War erupted, she and her family were decidedly pro-Southern. On July 4, 1861, Belle shot and killed a Yankee soldier in the Boyds’ Martinsburg home but was cleared of any criminal charges. She was only 18 at the time.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On June 3, 1861, one of the opening acts of the Civil War unfolded in the town of Philippi. At daybreak, the roar of Union cannons shook some 800 slumbering Confederate soldiers from their tents. The routed Confederates made a hasty retreat, derisively remembered as the “Philippi Races.” The brief engagement was the first land battle of the Civil War involving organized troops. And it probably was the first time in history that railroads had been used to bring together troops for battle.

May 24, 1896: Former Confederate General John Echols Dies in Staunton

May 24, 2019
e-WV Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

Former Confederate General John Echols died in Staunton, Virginia, on May 24, 1896. In 1843, the Lynchburg, Virginia, native had moved to Union in Monroe County to practice law. He remained in Union until the Civil War began in 1861.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

  On May 22, 1861, Thornsberry Bailey Brown became the first Union soldier killed in battle during the Civil War. It occurred during a brief stand-off at Fetterman in Taylor County.

At the beginning of the war, both Union and Confederate forces were scheming to control the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which had arrived in Taylor County in 1857. The railroad would be a key to moving troops and supplies.

Oil wells near Parkersburg around 1910
e-WV Encyclopedia

On May 9, 1863, Confederate raiders set fire to the prosperous oil works at Burning Springs in Wirt County. Just two years before the Civil War, Burning Springs had become the birthplace of Western Virginia’s oil industry. When the war began, it was one of only two oil-producing fields in the world.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

On April 22, 1861, some 1,200 protesters gathered at the Harrison County Courthouse in Clarksburg to vent their anger about Virginia seceding from the Union. Five days earlier, Virginia delegates had adopted an Ordinance of Secession, just days after the start of the Civil War.

April 9, 1872: West Virginia Constitutional Convention Adjourns

Apr 9, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

The 1872 West Virginia Constitutional Convention adjourned on April 9, 1872. The day was chosen specifically because it was the seventh anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. The convention had selected former Confederates to all offices, including the convention president, who had been the lieutenant governor of secessionist Virginia.

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Statehood leader Francis Pierpont died on March 24, 1899, at age 85. He was born near Morgantown in 1814 and raised for part of his childhood in Marion County. As a young adult, he was as an attorney for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and a pioneer coal operator.

When the Civil War began, he helped form the pro-Union Reorganized Government of Virginia with its capital in Wheeling. In June 1861, he was unanimously elected the first and only governor of this government.

December 24, 1852: B&O Railroad Completed Near Moundsville

Dec 24, 2018
When West Virginia statehood leaders carved out the new state’s borders, the eastern panhandle counties were included primarily to keep the B&O in West Virginia and outside of Confederate Virginia.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

On Christmas Eve 1852, the last spike was driven on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between Baltimore and the Ohio River. The event occurred at Rosbys Rock near Moundsville.

December 21, 1891: Senator Frank Hereford Dies in Monroe County

Dec 21, 2018
Honorable Frank Hereford
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

Former U.S. Senator Frank Hereford died at Union in Monroe County on December 21, 1891, at age 66. The Virginia native had gone west in 1849, during the California Gold Rush, and practiced law in Sacramento. After the Civil War, he moved back east, settled in Union, and married Alice Caperton, who came from a prominent Monroe County family. 

Hereford, a Democrat, was a leader in the successful push to restore voting rights and other political privileges to West Virginia’s ex-Confederates. Shortly thereafter, he was elected to Congress.

December 18, 1842: Senator Nathan B. Scott Born

Dec 18, 2018
Shortly after moving to Wheeling, Scott began to dabble in Republican politics.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

Businessman and U.S. Senator Nathan B. Scott was born in Ohio on December 18, 1842. From a meager start as a boy working in a general store, he eventually would become one of the four richest men in West Virginia.

November 21, 1810: US Senator Allen Taylor Caperton Born

Nov 21, 2018
US Senator Allen Taylor Caperton became the first ex-Confederate elected to the U.S. Senate and only former Confederate senator to serve in the U.S. Senate after the Civil War.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online

Allen Taylor Caperton was born on November 21, 1810, on his family’s estate in Monroe County. During the 1840s and 1850s, he served as a Whig in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate. 

As the Civil War approached, Caperton was personally opposed to secession.  However, in April 1861, he served as a delegate to the Virginia secession convention and voted with the majority to join the Confederacy.

November 3, 1828: Birthday of Surveyor-Geologist Jedediah Hotchkiss

Nov 3, 2018
Hotchkiss's mapmaking skills played a major role in “Stonewall” Jackson’s brilliant Shenandoah Valley Campaign.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / Jedediah Hotchkiss, mapmaking, Stonewall Jackson, Civil War

Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County, W.Va. played a pivitol role during the American Civil War.
Mark Frickett / Wikimedia Commons

Undergraduate students from any college or university in the United States can spend a semester immersing themselves in the study of the American Civil War here in West Virginia beginning next year.

E-WV

On September 14, 1862, Confederate artillery launched the opening barrage in the Battle of Harpers Ferry, initiating perhaps the most important Civil War conflict in present West Virginia.

Harpers Ferry was key to Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee’s strategy in invading Maryland. Union forces stationed at Harpers Ferry stood in the way of Lee’s supply line. Lee dispatched “Stonewall” Jackson to capture Martinsburg, which fell without a shot, and then take Harpers Ferry.

WV Division of Tourism (WVDT) / David Fattaleh

July 3, 1863, was a pivotal day in the Civil War. On that day, the Union Army scored a key victory in the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg, and Confederates offered their surrender at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Battle of Gettysburg ended the Confederates’ last major invasion of the North and is viewed by some as the war’s turning point. The Confederate loss of Vicksburg was perhaps more important because it opened the way for the North to seize control of the entire Mississippi River, cutting the Confederacy in half.

April 20, 1963: W.Va. Legislature Meets at the Custom House in Wheeling

Apr 20, 2018
e-WV Encyclopedia / WV Division of Tourism via Steve Shaluta

On April 20, 1963, the West Virginia Legislature met in a special ceremonial session at the old U.S. Custom House in Wheeling.

It marked the 100th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation certifying that West Virginia would become a state.

The legislative event was a turning point for the building, which was more than a century old. During the Civil War, it’d been the capitol of the pro-Union Reorganized Government of Virginia and the location of West Virginia’s statehood debates.

The Main Hall at West Liberty
e-WV Encyclopedia

On March 30, 1837, the Virginia legislature chartered a private academy at West Liberty, north of Wheeling.

The first 65 students met for classes the following year. In 1857, public-spirited citizens completed the red-brick Academy Hall, which survived until the mid-1970s.

February 9, 1843: Politician Nathan Goff Jr. Born in Clarksburg

Feb 9, 2018
Nathan Goff Jr.
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia

Politician Nathan Goff Jr. was born in Clarksburg on February 9, 1843. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War, rising from a private to brevet brigadier general. In 1864, he was captured at Moorefield and sent to Richmond’s notorious Libby Prison. He was released in a prisoner exchange personally authorized by President Lincoln.

February 5, 1942: Lawman Dan Cunningham Dies at 92

Feb 5, 2018
Dan Cunningham
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives

Dan Cunningham died on February 5, 1942, at age 92. The legendary lawman was involved in some of the most violent and eventful moments in West Virginia history—sometimes finding himself on both sides of the legal system.

January 29, 1876: W. Va. Senate Removes Treasurer Burdett From Office

Jan 29, 2018
Senate Chambers
e-West Virginia Encyclopedia

On January 29, 1876, the West Virginia State Senate removed state Treasurer John Burdett from office. Burdett had been accused of pilfering funds in a scheme with his son and offering to deposit state funds in certain banks for a personal kickback on the interest.

Burdett’s impeachment was something of a shock given his background. The Taylor County native was one of West Virginia’s founders. At the outset of the Civil War, he’d served in the Richmond Convention and voted against Virginia’s secession from the Union.

January 22, 1810: State Founder Daniel Lamb Born in Pennsylvania

Jan 22, 2018
Daniel Lamb
West Virginia State Archives

State founder Daniel Lamb was born in Pennsylvania on January 22, 1810. Lamb’s family moved to Wheeling when he was 13. He was elected city clerk at age 21 and worked for two Wheeling banks and an insurance company.

When the Civil War began and Virginia cast its lot with the Confederacy, Daniel Lamb became a leading pro-Union figure in Wheeling. He was a member of the West Virginia Constitutional Convention and the state’s first legislature. The first codification of West Virginia’s laws, known as the Lamb Code, was begun by Lamb but finished by James H. Ferguson.

December 11, 1893: Governor Jacob Jackson Dies in Parkersburg

Dec 11, 2017
Governor Jacob Beeson Jackson (1829-93)
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / WV State Archives (WVSA)

West Virginia’s sixth governor, Jacob Jackson, died in Parkersburg on December 11, 1893, at age 64. The son and grandson of congressmen, Jackson came from one of the region’s most distinguished families. His father was also one of West Virginia’s founders.

Jackson first worked as a teacher and then opened a legal practice in St. Marys. He served as the Pleasants County prosecuting attorney before and during the Civil War. His work took him occasionally to Wheeling, where he was once arrested for making pro-Confederate remarks.

US Senator Allen Taylor Caperton became the first ex-Confederate elected to the U.S. Senate and only former Confederate senator to serve in the U.S. Senate after the Civil War.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online

Allen Taylor Caperton was born on November 21, 1810, on his family’s estate in Monroe County. During the 1840s and 1850s, he served as a Whig in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate. 

As the Civil War approached, Caperton was personally opposed to secession.  However, in April 1861, he served as a delegate to the Virginia secession convention and voted with the majority to join the Confederacy.

Abraham Lincoln
Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons

On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected 16th president of the United States. His election started a political cascade in which seven southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederates States of America. Four more states would join the Confederacy when the Civil War started five months later.

October 30, 1825: Feudist Randolph McCoy Born in Logan County

Oct 30, 2017
Randolph McCoy
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Feudist Randolph McCoy was born in Logan County on October 30, 1825. He married his cousin, whose father gave the couple a small farm in neighboring Pike County, Kentucky. There, they raised 13 children.

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