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Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
April 1861


April 1
A National Democratic meeting in Monongalia County appointed delegates to a convention to be held in Wheeling on April 19.

April 2
Waitman T. Willey of Monongalia County made a speech on April 2, 1861, to the Virginia State Convention on the inequity of taxation regarding slaves. In his speech, he asked, “If these warlike appropriations mean anything—if we are to be involved in war, as I fear we shall be—where are you to find the men to fight your battles? Where will you get the strong arms to defend your slaves? From our glorious mountains of the West. . . . I wish to know whether Eastern gentlemen require us to submit all of our property to taxation, and fight the battles of the country too, while your property, which we are defending, is to be exempt from taxation?”

April 3

April 4
A Union meeting was held in Marshall County to nominate a Union man for the Legislature.

April 5
A states rights meeting was held in Harrison County.

April 6
A National Democratic meeting was held in Wheeling to appoint delegates to a convention in Wheeling on April 19.

During heated debate at the Virginia State Convention, Waitman T. Willey of Monongalia County remarked:

As to the insinuation of the gentleman from Middlesex, in regard to the want of fidelity in the Western character, I hurl it back, as I have hurled back such insinuations from the beginning. I say here, that if the worst comes to the worst, it will be again as it has been heretofore: Western men will have to fight your battles. It is on our own mountain men that you must rely at last for the vindication of Virginia's rights, Virginia's honor, and Virginia's integrity. No impeachment of the kind will affect us, more than to cause us pain.

. . . I ask whether it may not be worth the consideration of Eastern gentlemen to pause and reflect before, by any action of theirs, they alienate their best friends—the friends of whom they may soon stand in the greatest need?

April 7

April 8
Meetings were held in Jackson County by both Union and secession supporters. At the latter meeting, resolutions were passed instructing the county's delegate at the Virginia State Convention, Franklin P. Turner, to vote for any ordinance dissolving the ties between Virginia and the United States.

April 9
On April 9, 1861, Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, wrote a letter to George W. Summers of Kanawha County about slavery and the Virginia State Convention.

April 10
A Congressional convention was held in Fairmont to support nomination of a Union man.

April 11

April 12
Confederate troops under Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter, South Carolina. U.S. troops under Maj. Robert Anderson surrendered the fort the next day and evacuated the garrison on April 14.

April 13

April 14

April 15
President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 troops to put down the rebellion.

April 16
The Virginia State Convention went into secret session, during which many delegates spoke on the momentous vote on secession about to be taken, including several who had made no speeches in the convention heretofore. One of the speakers was John J. Jackson of Wood County:

I stand here an old man; I have loved my country; I have served my country; I have served this Commonwealth long, faithfully, earnestly--doubtless, not so well as I might have done--not so well as many others, doubtless, have done; but I served her with my whole heart. I served her thirty-five years ago on this floor; and though not a very old man in the public service of the Commonwealth, I stand here to-day having taken the oath to support the Constitution of the United States twenty-seven times. Was that an unmeaning ceremony? Was it of no consequence that I called the eternal God to witness that I would be true to the Constitution of Virginia as well as the Constitution of the United States? Is it there registered for nothing? . . .

I desire to call to the recollection of gentlemen the prediction I made last Saturday week ago, to the effect that the answer which the Commissioners to Washington would receive, would be unsatisfactory, and that that being so, it would cause Virginia to march right out of the Union. That prediction has been fulfilled.

. . .I think I yield much in going thus far; let other gentlemen yield as much; but when you ask me to give up all that is dear to me in life--to subjugate my wife, my children, my relatives, my friends--every hope of man; when I believe that the final ruin of my country is about to be consummated, I never can consent to yield one jot or tittle more; for I am convinced that in so doing I would be giving aid and sanction to the terrible consequences which I regard as inevitable results of the policy which it is intended here to inaugurate.

That God may grant you sufficient light and wisdom to do what is best, is my earnest prayer.

April 17
The Virginia State Convention continued in secret session, with more delegates stating their positions. Among the delegates speaking in favor of the Ordinance of Secession was Allen T. Caperton of Monroe County:

I appeal to gentlemen--I implore them to come now and put their hands to the work, and aid if possible, if not in averting this war, in maintaining it. This is all I have to say. I have troubled this Convention but little since its commencement. I have not engaged in those discussions which have occupied our time for months. But, sir, now is the time for action. I could not suppress the inclination I felt to make one appeal, at least to my Western friends, to come up and aid us in accomplishing what we are now about to engage in. War is upon us, and we are compelled to make the best of it. Let our Western friends, by all means, assist us in so doing.

Less sanguine was Cyrus Hall, representing Pleasants and Ritchie, who asked to be excused from voting but affirmed that, if his request was denied, "I shall not shrink from the responsibility, let the result be what it may to me and my people. Though we stand at the point of danger, live or die, sink or swim, I will record my vote in favor of the ordinance, and give my heart and hand to the cause of my mother State."

The Virginia State Convention voted for an Ordinance of Secession by a margin of 88 to 55. Of delegates from western Virginia, Allen T. Caperton and John Echols (Monroe), Napoleon B. French (Mercer), Henry L. Gillespie (Fayette and Raleigh), L. S. Hall (Wetzel), Cyrus Hall (Pleasants and Ritchie), Johnson Orrick (Morgan), Samuel Woods (Barbour), Franklin P. Turner (Jackson and Roane), James Lawson (Logan, Boone, and Wyoming), John N. Hughes (Randolph and Tucker), and William P. Cecil and Samuel L. Graham (McDowell, Buchanan, and Tazewell) voted for the ordinance.

On the evening of April 17, delegates Chester D. Hubbard, John S. Carlile, Marshall M. Dent, John S. Burdett, Campbell Tarr, George McC. Porter, and Sherrard Clemens left Richmond on the first train for Washington. More than twenty-five years later, Hubbard wrote about this and events in Wheeling that followed.

A Union meeting was held in Monongalia County during which resolutions were passed that included one calling for a division of the state if the ordinance of secession were passed by the Virginia State Convention.

April 18
U.S. troops destroyed the armory and arsenal at Harpers Ferry on April 18, 1861. Lt. Jones, who was commanding troops at Harpers Ferry, learned that companies of Virginia troops had assembled nearby and believed that seizure of the government property was planned. The destruction was incomplete, and southern troops were able to retrieve a number of arms and machinery.

April 19
A meeting of a Democratic Union Convention in Wheeling nominated William G. Brown for Congress.

The Kanawha Riflemen met and resolved to offer their services to the State of Virginia to defend the state from hostile invasion.

April 20
Citizens of Guyandotte and vicinity gathered for a pro-southern meeting in Guyandotte. The flag of Virginia made by the secession ladies and artist Lewis Peters was raised on the bank of the Ohio in front of the hotel, and resolutions on the ordinance of secession were passed.

Southern States' Rights party members met in Kanawha County and recommended Thomas B. Swann and Hezekiah Agee for the House of Delegates.

April 21
A Southern flag was burned in Weston.

April 22
Nearly 1,200 Harrison County citizens gathered at the courthouse in Clarksburg to respond to the Ordinance of Secession. Resolutions submitted by John Carlile called for delegates from all of northwestern Virginia to gather at Wheeling on May 13 for a larger convention.

Hundreds of Monongalia County citizens processed through Morgantown and approved resolutions in support of the Union.

April 23
At the Virginia State Convention, Alpheus F. Haymond of Marion County and George Berlin of Upshur requested that their votes on the ordinance of secession be changed to affirmative. According to Haymond, a “large portion of the people of my county, . . . are in favor of secession.” Berlin had concluded that “All hopes of re-constructing the Union are now at an end.”

A "flag of Southern Independence" was raised in Sweet Springs, Monroe County, by "patriotic ladies."

April 24

April 25
Virginia State Convention passed an ordinance adopting the constitution of the Confederate States of America subject to the outcome of the election on the ordinance of secession.

April 26
Southern supporters in Harrison County passed resolutions supporting Virginia and opposing the actions of citizens in some northwestern Virginia counties to separate from Virginia. ". . . we would solemnly warn and fervently implore our fellow citizens to inform themselves, and think and reflect for themselves on this and other subjects of vital public importance, and not to allow themselves to be seduced by wicked and reckless men, to their own infamy, the degradation of their families, and the destruction of their country," the resolutions concluded. Former Virginia governor Joseph Johnson, a resident of Harrison County, served as president of this states-rights meeting.

Maj. Gen. William S. Harney of the U.S. Army was captured in Harpers Ferry. He was taken to Richmond and offered a command in the Confederate army, but refused and was released and sent to Washington.

April 27
Col. Thomas J. Jackson was assigned to command state troops at Harpers Ferry.

The Virginia State Convention passed an ordinance providing for the organization of a provisional army of Virginia.

April 28
Hardy County citizens sent thirty head of cattle towards Winchester to provide food for Confederate soldiers.

April 29
At a public meeting at the Braxton County Courthouse, citizens affirmed their support of Virginia and their opposition to a division of the state.

April 30
At the Virginia State Convention, Alfred M. Barbour of Jefferson requested to record his vote in favor of the ordinance of secession. Barbour had been superintendent of the Harpers Ferry armory prior to its destruction.

Thomas B. Swann of Kanawha County agreed to stand for election for the House of Delegates as a representative of Southern States' Rights.

Resolutions were passed at a meeting at the mouth of Big Sandy approving the action of the Virginia State Convention, pledging to defend Virginia, and supporting a united South.

Undated Events, April 1861


Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood

West Virginia Archives and History