Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
June 14, 1861

The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative Incidents, Poetry Etc.
Frank Moore, ed. Vol. 2. New York: G. P. Putnam, 1863

Doc. 35
Proclamation of Gov. Letcher,
June 14, 1861.

To the People of North-Western Virginia:

The sovereign people of Virginia, unbiassed, and by their own free choice, have, by a majority of nearly one hundred thousand qualified voters, severed the ties that heretofore bound them to the Government of the United States, and united this Commonwealth with the Confederate States. That our people have the right "to institute a new Government, laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness," was proclaimed by our fathers, and it is a right which no freeman should ever relinquish. The State of Virginia has now, the second time in her history, asserted this right, and it is the duty of every Virginian to acknowledge her act when ratified by such a majority, and to give his willing cooperation to make good the declaration. All her people have voted. Each has taken his chance to have his personal views represented. You, as well as the rest of the State, have cast your vote fairly, and the majority is against you. It is the duty of good citizens to yield to the will of the State. The bill of rights has proclaimed "that the people have a right to uniform government; and, therefore, that no government separate from or independent of the government of Virginia ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof."

The majority, thus declared, therefore, have a right to govern. But notwithstanding this right, thus exercised, has been regarded by the people of all sections of the United States as undoubted and sacred, yet the Government at Washington now utterly denies it, and by the exercise of despotic power is endeavoring to coerce our people to abject submission to their authority. Virginia has asserted her independence. She will maintain it at every hazard. She is sustained by the power of ten of her sister Southern States, ready and willing to uphold her cause. Can any true Virginian refuse to render assistance. Men of the Northwest, I appeal to you, by all the considerations which have drawn us together as one people heretofore, to rally to the standard of the Old Dominion. By all the sacred ties of consanguinity, by the intermixtures of the blood of East and West, by common paternity, by friendships hallowed by a thousand cherished recollections and memories of the past, by the relics of the great men of other days, come to Virginia's banner, and drive the invader from your soil. There may be traitors in the midst of you, who, for selfish ends, have turned against their mother, and would permit her to be ignominiously oppressed and degraded. But I cannot, will not, believe that a majority of you are not true sons, who will not give your blood and your treasure for Virginia's defence.

I have sent for your protection such troops as the emergency enabled me to collect, in charge of a competent commander. I have ordered a large force to go to your aid, but I rely with the utmost confidence upon your own strong arms to rescue your firesides and altars from the pollution of a reckless and ruthless enemy. The State is invaded at several points, but ample forces have been collected to defend her.

There has been a complaint among you that the eastern portion of the State has enjoyed an exemption from taxation to your prejudice. The State, by a majority of 50,000, has put the two sections on an equality in this respect. By a display of magnanimity in the vote just given, the East has, by a large majority, consented to relinquish this exemption, and is ready to share with you all the burdens of Government, and to meet all Virginia's liabilities. They come now to aid you as you came in former days to aid them. The men of the Southern Confederate States glory in coming to your rescue. Let one heart, one mind, one energy, one power, nerve every patriot to arm in a common cause. The heart that will not beat in unison with Virginia now is a traitor's heart; the arm that will not strike home in her cause now is palsied by coward fear.

The troops are posted at Huttonsville. Come with your own good weapons and meet them as brothers!

[L. S.] Given under my hand, and under the seal of the Commonwealth, this 14th day of June, 1861, and in the 85th year of the Commonwealth.

By the Governor: John Letcher.

Geo. W. Munford,
Secretary of the Commonwealth

Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: June 1861

West Virginia Archives and History