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Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
June 27, 1862


The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
Series 1, Volume 51, pt. 2, p. 581-84

PROCLAMATION OF THE GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA.

The General Assembly of Virginia, impelled by the sacred obligation to protect the citizens of this State from the usurpations and tyranny of the Government of the United States, having passed “An act to authorize a force of 10,000 men to be raised for the defense of the Commonwealth,” it becomes my duty to endeavor to execute that act. And notwithstanding the heavy calls which have heretofore been made, and which have been unflinchingly responded to by our people, yet I again confidently appeal to Virginians to give their hands and their hearts to this undertaking. The people of Virginia, by overwhelming majorities of their convention and Legislature, have solemnly announced to the world the purpose of this Commonwealth under no conceivable circumstances again to acknowledge allegiance to or unite the destinies of our people with those of the United States. Under these circumstances it is their duty to put forth their power with whatever of energy may be at their command. A large portion of the western and northwestern parts of the State has been in the occupancy of the enemy, and though there are as warm and as loyal hearts there as in any part of the Commonwealth, yet from this untoward circumstance they have been able hitherto to do but little. The new force now called for is intended chiefly for the defense of Western Virginia. Is it expecting too much to ask these valiant men to come forth and aid in raising this force for this great and laudable object? The General Assembly have appointed a Western man to command this force—man identified with you in interest, by connection, by family ties, by a noble ancestry, by long-tried public service. They have evinced their confidence in his ability, in his zeal, in his patriotism, in his devotion to the great cause in which we are engaged by appointing him. Will you not rally to his standard and give him the force necessary to make the law effectual? Will not all Virginians aid in this noble purpose? If anything other than the love of country and obedience to the call of your mother Virginia be wanting, it will be found in the execrable acts of the Lincoln Government. A recital of a few of these acts, which are undeniable, will suffice for justification in the eyes of the world. The course they pursued previous to the war was more than sufficient to justify our separation from them, but their disgraceful violations of the Constitution and of plighted faith since the war, their utter perversions of truth, their reckless disregard of justice and of the rights of property, and their departure in numerous instances from the usages of civilized warfare, the invasion of our homes, and the murder of our peaceful citizens renders a connection with them in future odious to our sense of honor and abhorrent to our feelings. It has produced an estrangement as enduring as if there was an impassable gulf between us.

The Constitution, as they interpret it; the contempt of its provisions, according to their own interpretation; the laws made in conformity with it, and those in direct conflict with its plainest provisions, which are equally approved by them; the men who have been the instruments to execute their power and vengeance, and the hirelings who have pillaged our land, desecrated our churches, polluted our fair fields, sacked our towns, and insulted the innocent and helpless, render them alike detestable to us and disgraceful to humanity. They were bound by the Constitution to guarantee to us our rights and protect us against invasion. They have invaded us themselves with the avowed object to subjugate and overwhelm us, to confiscate our property, and banish us from our domain. They were required to give no preference by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one State over those of another. They have shut up all our ports and prohibited us from having intercourse with themselves or the nations of the earth, while they have left all of their own ports open to the commerce of the world. They have refused to permit us to obtain with our own means even the medicines necessary for our sick and wounded—articles never hitherto considered contraband by any civilized nation. They were prohibited from forming or erecting a new State within the jurisdiction of any other State. They have permitted an illegal Legislature, not acknowledged by the constitution or laws of this State, or by a majority of our people, to profess to establish a new State within the jurisdiction of Virginia, acknowledging the acts of the Governor of that State, receiving its Representatives and Senators into the Congress of the United States without the color of law, justice, or right, and paying for their pretended services out of the public fisc. They have granted to this pretended Governor money which they have acknowledged to be due to the State of Virginia. They have authorized the raising of troops within this pretended State to war against our people and desolate the firesides of their brethren, and stimulated them to bloodshed and massacre. They have allowed vacancies in the representation of this State to be filled by writs issued by the false Executive of this pretended State, against the express provision that the executive authority of Virginia alone shall issue such writs, with the full knowledge on their part that the rightful Governor of this State had been undoubtedly and constitutionally elected by a majority of the entire population of the State, before the commencement of the war, and that he still continues In office under his regular appointment, and in which election the people of this pretended State participated. They have permitted such Representatives to be elected by soldiers in the Army, and not by the people in the district, against an express provision in the constitution of Virginia which prohibits soldiers in the service of the United States from voting in such elections, thus recognizing the base traitor against his own State as a fit associate and colleague for Representatives who are entitled to the station, and allowing low pretenders to the position of Senators to be dignified with that honorable distinction. They were prohibited from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. They have sent their myrmidons into churches and dragged our ministers from the sacred desk for a mere omission to put up a petition to the Almighty for their execrated President. They have shut up our places of worship for the same cause, and prohibited our people from assembling together for the exercise of religions duties. They were denied authority to abridge the freedom of speech or of the press. They have recklessly imprisoned private citizens, holding no office or position, civil or military, for expressing a mere difference of opinion with themselves, and for fearlessly uttering their sentiments; and even incarcerated our honorable women for similar causes, permitting their armed jailors to watch and insult them in the privacy of their cells. They have placed the press of the country wherever their power extends under censorship, and in numerous cases prohibited the circulation of papers, broken up their forms, and scattered their types to the wind. They were restrained from infringing the right of the people to keep and bear arms. They have disarmed large portions of the people of one of the States still in their Union, and hunted and baited those in others who have presumed to keep their own arms against their mandate. They were expressly prohibited from quartering soldiers in any house without the consent of the owner, and not even in time of war but in a manner to be prescribed by law. They have not only thus quartered them, but they have instigated their soldiers, when so quartered, to plunder them of every valuable, and wantonly to destroy what their cupidity could not carry away. They have not only shot down helpless owners, who ought to have been reverenced for their age and sex, but have consumed the owners and their dwellings in one undistinguished conflagration. And when they have professed to pay for property illegally obtained, they have paid the owners in pretended money which they have previously criminally counterfeited and debased.

With this catalogue of violations of solemn constitutional obligations, well may we say they keep no faith and pervert truth, justice, and right. When in the history of civilized nations has it been known that non-combatants, plain citizens, engaged only in farming pursuits, were imprisoned for having shown allegiance to their own State laws? When has it been known that wives and pure and spotless maidens have been violated by soldiers without an effort on the part of their officers to pursue the perpetrators with the vengeance of the law? What civilized nation would not blush to conceal its own flag, the emblem of its nationality and honor, and hoist on the battle-field the flag of its enemy, in order to decoy that enemy into a murderous fire, and then glory in the meanness of the deception and the cowardice of the act? What ancient or modern nation ever used a flag of truce to decoy an enemy in battle other than the United States of America? Let history record the disgrace and brand the infamy upon their brow for all time to come. What ancient or modern nation would openly fire upon a public hospital, in which the sick, the wounded, and the dying are being cared for by the generous and the kind-hearted, the surgeon, and the Sister of Charity? We brand it as a crime upon the United States, and call upon the historian to record it against them. They were required to guarantee to every State a republican form of government. Wherever their armies have obtained a foothold they have established a military government, and appointed military satraps and provost-marshals to execute laws never sanctioned by the people or the Government which they created, and have executed arbitrary power, enforcing it by bayonets and at the mouth of the cannon; these military rulers issuing proclamations insulting to the people, unknown to civilization, and brutally disgraceful, compelling obedience by presenting the alternative of submission or starvation; and by their mere military order causing some of our most patriotic citizens to be ignominiously hung upon a charge of treason, without trial and without law! Can any people be expected to submit to such wrongs? Will the people of Virginia tamely submit to such tyranny? If such acts are perpetrated while they have but partial control, what may we not expect when the demons have full sway and authority? Citizens of Virginia, the State appeals to you to add to your many noble exertions for the cause in which we are engaged this one effort to redeem our fair State from the hand of the oppressor. Make up the force now called for, and be prompt in your action.

Given under my hand and under the seal of the Commonwealth, at Richmond, this 27th day of June, 1862, and in the eighty-sixth year of the Commonwealth.

JOHN LETCHER.

By the Governor:

GEORGE W. MUNFORD,
Secretary of the Commonwealth.


Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: June 1862

West Virginia Archives and History