May 6, 1861
Great Union Meeting there on Friday Last—Immense Outpouring of the People—The Gallant Frank Pierpoint makes a Speech, and Skins and Flays the Traitors, Especially Judge Camden and Old Tom Haymond—Waitman T. Willey says he will die under the Stars and Stripes—Good Resolutions—The Feeling Throughout Harrison County—The Popularity of Carlile—Division of the State Demanded—Clarksburg wants to be the Capital—Judge Summers on the Stump for the Union.
[From the Special Reporter of the Intelligencer.]
Clarksburg, May 3.
The day for the mass meeting here dawned gloomily. By daylight the rain was pouring down in torrents. In a short time it turned to snow, and for two hours looked more like January than May.—Then it turned to rain again, and all this day it has rained unceasingly. Of course everybody predicted that the meeting would prove almost a failure. No doubt the secessionists, what few there are here, chuckled to themselves at the prospect of the discomfiture of the Union men—but if any of them were in the Court House this afternoon, they certainly changed their minds, and took the discomfiture to themselves. For the mass meeting was not a failure. In spite of the ceaseless torrents that poured down all day—enough to check the ardor of any but a Western Virginia Union man, who knows his liberties are threatened—the people from the country came in. They came through rain and mud, on horseback, and in wagons, delegations from all parts of the country; and when the Court House bell, after dinner summoned them together, they crowded the Court room and hall till there was not room for one more to set or stand—certainly there could not have been less than 900 or 1,000 people present. In addition to the unfavorable condition of the weather, they were disappointed partially in the speakers—Messrs. Willey, Pierpoint, and Carlile. Mr. Carlile was necessarily absent, Mr. Willey was taken ill at Fairmont, and on Mr. Pierpoint alone, devolved the task of addressing the crowd. How admirably he did this, I can hardly tell you, for the great length of his speech forbids that I should attempt to give you an extended report of it. For at least two hours and a half, he held the crowd in a speech of greater ability than I have ever heard him deliver. He was full of fire, perfectly fearless and determined, and his electrifying appeals met with an equality electrifying response of thrilling cheers at every point, from the most enthusiastic and determined crowd of men I ever saw. He traversed the whole ground of secession. He examined it at all its points; showed up all its weaknesses and fallacies. He denounced in unmeasured terms the infamous usurpation at Richmond, and at every point he made against the traitors, was cheered to the very echo. Never did I hear secession, in all its phases, so completely skinned, so literally flayed alive, as in this two hours and a half speech of Pierpoint. Nothing but a verbatim report of the speech and the responses of the enthusiastic men who filled the Court House could give you any conception of the irresistable [sic] Union feeling that pervaded every breast and burst from them in uncontrollable expression. He scored keenly the Marion county secessionists, Kidwell, Neeson, and Maj. Gen. Haymond—especially the latter—and administered a severe and merited rebuke to Judge Camden, who was then present, for having gone to Richmond and got himself appointed a Commissioner to Montgomery; and, judging from the wild yell of approval that went up from the entire crowd, the Judge may well conclude that he is probably better suited to the latitude of Richmond than Clarksburg for there was no mistaking this expression. He told them that when the war was over, which ever party was victorious, would hang the Leaders of the other, and the strongest party was sure to triumph, and the Union party was the strongest. The conclusion to be drawn wasn’t very satisfactory to the two or three secessionists present.
He reminded them that every officer of the State—Judges, magistrates, lawyers, constables, Commonwealth’s attorneys, had all, on assuming the oath of office, taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States—had sworn allegiance to the United States Government, and that the Constitution expressly declared that levying war against the United States, or giving aid and comfort to tits enemies, was treason, and merited punishment as such. He spoke of Western Virginia—of what she had suffered and what she was now asked to endure, and he predicted that in less than two years a proud dome would rear itself in the town of Clarksburg, under which the assembled legislative wisdom of Western Virginia would hold their sittings. This prediction was greeted with such tremendous cheers as showed how well the suggestion was relished by the Harrison county men, who confidently expect that this will be the Capital of the new State. In concluding, Mr. P. referred to Mr. Willey, and the rumors that he had not proved faithful. He said all such reports were entirely unfounded—there was not one word of truth in them. He had asked Mr. Willey what were his intentions for the future. Mr. Willey replied that he intended to die under the Stars and Stripes in his own home in Virginia, or, if not there, on some Northern soil. Said he, “I never will live in a Southern Confederacy, that is carried on under a flag that has no better motto than a rattlesnake.” That was the way, he said, Mr. Willey stands.
The great aim and point of Mr. P. was to allow what was the real position of the Northwest and its vital interests, and to this point all his arguments converged—The limits of this letter will not permit such an account of his remarks as could do him anything like justice.
I should have said in the outset, that the meeting was organized, and that John W. Boggess, Esq., was chosen Chairman, and Charles Lewis, Sc., Secretary—two of the best citizens of the county—and that a committee of five, composed of similar material, were appointed on resolutions.—And by the way, you know that Harrison county mass meetings are quite noted for the vim of their resolutions. The following gentlemen were on the committee—Thos. Harrison, James Lynch, S. S. Fleming, John J. Davis, and F. A. Robinson. After the conclusion of Mr. Pierpoint’s speech, they reported through their Chairman, the following:
1st. Resolved, That the Government of the United States, as formed by our fathers, was instituted by them to secure to the people of the United States the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that when the government so instituted, for such purposes, shall by its acts become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and institute a new government in its stead; and, in the language of the Bill of Rights of Virginia, government ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people, and that when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the people have an indubitable right to alter or abolish it in such manner as shall be most conducive to the public weal.
2d. That in the opinion of this meeting nothing has yet occurred in the workings and operation of the Government of the United States to justify the present revolution inaugurated by the people of the Southern States, and we are opposed to its further prosecution for any causes heretofore or now existing, and that all true patriots and lovers of their country should use all honorable and proper means within their power to stay the threatened bloodshed of our fellow countrymen.
3d. That the political heresy lately promulgated, called “secession,” and which has been resorted to be the Convention of this State, is properly defined by the late venerable Thos. Ritchie, in the Richmond Enquirer of 1st November, 1814, as follows: “No man, no association of men, no State or set of States, has a right to withdraw itself from the Union of its own accord.—The same power which knit us together can only unknit. The same formality which formed the links of the Union is necessary to dissolve it. The majority of the States which form the Union must consent to the withdrawal of any one branch of it. Until that consent be obtained, any attempt to dissolve the Union or obstruct the efficiency of its constitutional laws is treason—treason to all intents and purposes.” Such was the doctrine of the Madisons, Monroes, Jeffersons, Roanes, Brokenboughs, Allen and other distinguished State Rights men of Virginia, whose political sentiments of that duty were read in their organ, the Richmond Enquirer.
4th. That at the election to be held in this commonwealth on the 24th inst., we will use all lawful means in our power to overthrow the ordinance adopted by the Convention, whereby the union between the State of Virginia and the other States of the Union is sought to be dissolved.
5th. That another ordinance of the said Convention, adopting the constitution framed by the Confederated Southern States, at Montgomery, for the government of the people of Virginia, is unauthorized, tyrannical, done without the consent of the people of Virginia, and is repudiated by this meeting as a monstrous usurpation.
6th. That the appointment of five gentlemen of this State to represent Virginia in the Congress of the Southern Confederate States, at Montgomery, meets the unqualified disapprobation of this meeting, and the action of the Convention in that behalf, is a flagrant wrong upon the rights of the people and the fundamental principles of our government.
7th. That another ordinance of said Convention, inviting the President of the Confederate States and the the [sic] constituted authorities of the Confederacy to make Richmond, or some other place in this State, the seat of the government of the confederacy, is only another instance of usurpation of power not conferred by the people upon their servants in the convention.
8th. That the ratification of the ordinance of secession, on the 4th Thursday in May next, by the people of Virginia, will place them in an attitude of direct hostility to the Federal Government, and will transfer the war from South Carolina to our own doors.
9th. That we are for the integrity of the Federal Union, in all its parts as transmitted to us by the patriots of ’76, and we will stand by the Stars and Stripes as the flag of our country.
10th. That the position assumed by the gallant Union men of Maryland meets our warmest sympathy and concurrence.
11th. That Western Virginia has patiently submitted to and borne up under the oppression of Eastern Virginia for half a century; that now the measure of Eastern oppression is full, and if secession is the only remedy offered by her for all our wrongs, the day is near at hand when Western Virginia will rise in the majesty of her strength and patriotism, and repudiating her oppressors, remain firmly under the Stars and Stripes—the glorious emblem of our nationality and greatness.
These resolves were adopted with a will and an enthusiasm that showed they were understood and and [sic] that manifested a determination to stand by their declarations.
John J. Davis and John C. Vance came forward before the meeting adjourned and announced themselves as candidates for the Legislature. They are both young men of marked ability, very popular, and will be elected by heavy majorities. They propose to stump this county, and in doing so will render very efficient service to the Union cause. They say if the northwest should conclude to send delegates to some other point than Richmond, they will not be in the way of the movement.
Cheers were then given for Carlile, for Pierpoint, for Monongalia county, for Harrison county, for the two candidates who had just announced themselves for the Legislature, for the Union, for the Stars and Stripes, and the crowd cheered until everybody was hoarse, and then they would up with three terrific groans for the convention, and three for Jeff. Davis, and dispersed in the most buoyant spirits.
And now, in regard to the general tone of feeling and thought here, I was much and most agreeably surprised. The Union sentiment here in Clarksburg is certainly overwhelming. To be sure, there are secessionists here, but, as in your city, they are tolerable scarce, and by no means confident. In some few localities of the county there are a good many, in others everything is for the Union. A man named Maxwell, who attended the meeting to-day from the Southern part of the county, says he was stopped by a crowd of them armed, who, however, allowed him to come on but fired a volley after he had gone by, as an expression of their wrath. But the county, on the whole, is largely Union—strongly and determinedly so—for the Union men here are stern men, who will fight 8if it be needful to maintain their liberties. All they want is the means to defend themselves the will to do so they already have.
To say that Carlile is immensely popular here, is but a feeble expression of the feeling for him. His fearless course just suits the Union men of this county, and you may judge from that what kind of material they are made of. I have heard more and strong Union talk here to-day in conversation than could be heard in in [sic] Wheeling in a week, and it seems hard to realize that people could entertain such sentiments, and express them so freely here, in a place that is very generally supposed to be so strongly for secession. But it is undoubted that there has been a very remarkable change, or rather the waking up of the sentiment about this place within the last year, and that change is greatly for the better.
I have endeavored to find out what Judge Summers is about, but can glean nothing definite. It is said here that he is speaking for the Union to Kanawha, but it is not certain. Hughes, of Randolph, it is said, signed the ordinance. His county is represented as Union. So is Upshur. I conversed with a merchant from Buckhannan, who says that their delegate (who voted for the ordinance and came home a secessionist) was elected as a Union man. So was Woods, of Barbour. Cyrus Hall, of Ritchie, passed through here on his way home, yesterday morning—a secessionist, of course, but elected as a Union men. He and Leonard S. of Wetzel, would make a good team. I learn from a brother of Mr. Boggess, (Union delegate from Lewis,) that the report of the burning of his dwelling by incendiaries, on the night of his return from Richmond, is correct. He sustained considerable loss. That act very well expresses the status of secessionists in this part of the country. In the main, they are composed of the style of men who could do such a deed as that. I saw a young man at Grafton, who had just returned from Montgomery; had gone there, I was told, in search of an office, and like many a man has done before, came back without one. The story was certainly true, for he looked woe-begone. A Home Guard was organized last night at Grafton. The Union men there are very largely in the preponderance, and very wide awake, too, and it is said they are all over Taylor. There has been a company of Union Guards organized here, numbering some sixty or seventy. There is also a uniformed company here, commanded by Col. Vance, now P. M. here, a majority of which is Union. At Bridgeport, where Ex-Gov. Johnson, the recognized leader of secession in this county, resides, it is said there are three Union men to every secessionist, and Bridgeport is regarded as the strongest secession community in the county. It does not speak very well for their strength if this be true.
The news of the reaction in Maryland is received here with much satisfaction, and will have a powerful effect. There is much inquiry as to the feeling in Wheeling. The rumor with regard to the Custom House got out here too—and another that troops have already been stationed in your city by the Government. Another report here was that Judge Camden had been to Pittsburg to buy arms, and that while there they had put him in jail. The people here seemed very loth [sic] to disbelieve it. They didn’t want to, perhaps.
But this letter already exceeds all bounds, and I will cut it short by saying that at this writing the rain is still pouring down as if there were going to be a second deluge.
Just say, however, to the Union men of Ohio county, and of the Panhandle, don’t be discouraged about Harrison county—she is all right, or will be on the 13th of May.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: May 1861