West Virginia, the Mountain State

By Charles H. Ambler; Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

Chapter XVII
When Brother Killed Brother

THE SETTING

WHATEVER THE WAR waged throughout a large part of the United States and upon the near-by high seas in the sixties of the last century may now be called--whether the Civil War, as generally; the War Between the States, which is growing in favor; the War of the Rebellion, as in the Official Records; or the War of Secession, as used by Lieutenant Colonel G.F.R. Henderson in his masterly Stonewall Jackson--in West Virginia that conflict was a fratricidal struggle, in which brother was arrayed against brother, father against son, and neighbor against neighbor. The initial engagements were determining influences in the formation and admission of West Virginia to separate statehood and, more than is generally appreciated, in the final outcome.

In Trans-Allegheny Virginia, the 1861 conditions were not unfavorable to the Confederates. For instance, the management and control of the strategic Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had Southern leanings;1 and, with Romney as a rendezvous, the McDonalds, the Whites, and their neighbors, almost to a man, rallied in defense of "liberty."2 In the Kanawha Valley, as in Tennessee, the first call to arms indicated that it might be drummed and fifed out of the Union. In the northern counties, there were also many Confederates and Confederate sympathizers. Had the Confederates taken advantage of the situation by placing a large force under competent leadership in northwest Virginia, the results of their efforts there and elsewhere might have been different. The admitted reticence of local Unionists and their lack of leadership tend to confirm this conclusion.3 Moreover, like Virginians everywhere, its residents were shocked at the

____________________
1
Festus P. Summers, The Baltimore and Ohio in the Civil War ( New York, 1939), pp. 45-46.
2
William N. McDonald, History of the Laurel Brigade ( Baltimore, 1917), pp. 17-30.
3
Shanks, Secession Movement in Virginia, pp. 210-215; George E. Moore, West Virginia and the Civil War (Ph.D. dissertation, W. V. U., 1957).

-207-

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