August 5, 1862
The People Moving in Earnest.
Speeches of Hon. W. T. Willey Gov. Peirpoint and others.
Mannington, August 2, 1862.
An enthusiastic mass war meeting was held in the grove near this place to-day, which will, no doubt, do a great deal of good for the cause. The people began to assemble about 10 P. M., and the morning hours were spent very pleasantly, waiting for the “great guns” to come, in listening to speeches from Rev. Samuel Young and Andrew F. Ritchie, of the Fairmont National. Their remarks would have been considered as very creditable and excellent on an ordinary occasion, but in view of their rather local reputation, it is not necessary to furnish you an abstract; suffice it to say that they spoke well and appropriate to the object, for which the meeting assembled. F. Smith, R. R. Brown, J. B. Nay, Esqs, Jas. C. Beaty, Marshal of the day, and others were here, there and everywhere using their utmost endeavors to make things pass off pleasantly, and a bountiful repast was provided by the ladies of the place to “feed the multitude.” People from all directions were present, and among them a large sprinkling of secessionists.
A short time after noon the train brought down Hon. W. T. Willey and others, from the east, and soon the Governor arrived from the other direction. By this time the bodily comforts of the people had been attended to, and they were in good condition to hear the speeches.
F. Smith, Esq. introduced Mr. Willey, in a neat little speech, and the latter went right into the work before him. He said it was only the great interest he felt in the cause that brought him here; whatever he has or can do is at the service of the country. The man who refuses to act thus now, is unworthy of the liberty and the Constitution purchased by the fathers of the revolution, unworthy of the Government which has been the admiration of the world. His life is at the service of the country if that can perpetuate these blessings. Why are we here to-day? He would speak to the hearts of the people, to their reason and their judgment, not to their passions. Why are we called upon to defend our institutions to day!—He referred to the “right of revolution [“] as a principle recognized by the American people. But why the present rebellion.—Had any right of the people been violated? Had they been oppressed, imprisoned or unjustly taxed! No man can lay his finger on any instance where wrong had been suffered by the people from the Government. [A voice [missing].] We were a prosperous [missing] right under the [missing] people had [missing] select their [missing] despotic [missing] The [missing]rich—[missing] wrong, [missing] without [missing] dare [missing] right, [missing] secure [missing] for [missing] of [missing] the [missing] God to man. [missing] else to leave to his [missing] hand, it would be a sufficient legacy to leave them a free government, where they have a chance to pave their own way in the world, untrammeled, by tyranny. Then why destroy such a Government? Can you get a better by joining this Southern organization? Go to Eastern Virginia, and see the destruction, and misery and terrorism there for an answer. The destruction of property and the infringement of personal liberty exhibited there would hardly show a better government. Men who love the Union and the old flag were forced there into the army to be swept down in the front ranks on the Chickahominy. Then why do we find men sympathizing with such tyranny and wickedness. The speaker related an anecdote of the answer of a rebel soldier, when asked if he knew what he was fighting for.—Pointing to the leaders, he said, ”Why, yes, I guess I know—we are fighting for these gentlemen!” Yes, fellow-citizens, they were fighting for “these gentlemen,” these aristocrats, who say democratic institutions are a failure—that they are not adapted to the government; they give rights to the poor man, the man who has no wealth, no property. The speaker referred to the constitutional amendments adopted by the Richmond Convention, abridging the right of suffrage and abolishing free schools, as exhibiting the aims of these men. A man must be “some pumpkins” according to these gentlemen, to have a right to vote.—Our free institutions didn’t suit the aristocracy. The speaker referred to the great honor given abroad, heretofore, to those who could claim the proud position of “American citizens.” Our flag was honored—our commerce flourished. The nations of the world respected because they feared us. They would like to see us destroyed, but don’t like to attempt it. They are patting rebellion on the back, however, and telling them to “go in,” in the hope that we may be overthrown. Will you allow them to do it? (Voices, ”No!”) Will you stand by the flag? (“We will!”) His excellency there, (pointing to the Governor) wants more troops, and you must furnish them.
The speaker complimented the West Virginia troops highly, everybody says, “they fight well, they can be relied on.” They are the jolliest set of fellows he ever saw, and in the hospitals they are cheerful and well cared for. Their only desire appears to be to see “the boys.” He heard some of them sing the “red, white and blue,” and they made it perfectly ring in their own style. He gave an account of the battles before Richmond, and said the rebels were terribly repulsed every day except one, with a loss acknowledged by themselves to be 30,000, and some say 50,000. They are reported to have buried 18,000 dead at Malvern Hills, after the last battle. The President, during his visit to the camp, ascertained our total loss to be only 10,400.—The only cause of depression therefore, is the disappointment at not taking Richmond. But in a few days, a certain Pope will issue a “bull” that will astonish the rebels.—McClellan and Pope say, “Fill up our regiments, and we will finish the business.”
The speaker went into a discussion of his course on the New State question, showing that he had put his shoulder to the wheel and kept it there, ever since the people had got on the right track with it. He described Carlile’s vacillating course on the subject, always speaking of him in a respectful tone, as “my colleague.” He demonstrated in a masterly manner, and by incontrovertible arguments, why West Virginia should have a separate state organization, and said, to do so, we must keep her star on the old flag undimmed and unsullied. We must stand up manfully for the Union. He deprecated party organizations at this time, and urged the people to “follow the flag,” the flag of Bunker Hill, of Lexington, of Monmouth, the flag of our fathers.
Mr. Willey having concluded, three cheers were given for the speaker, and our worthy Governor was introduced by Mr. Smith.
The Governor said he had been talking a great deal lately, and his voice was affected somewhat; he would therefore give them rather a short speech, probably. He knew that his auditors loved their country, because their fathers loved it. They had sung the songs of their native land, and enjoyed the blessings of civil liberty. But where to-day are those whom you once trusted, and who tried to lead you astray? They are in arms against that country, to seize its citizens and devastate the land.—He described the events that led to the re-organization of the state government at Wheeling, and the blessings that resulted therefrom to the people. He spoke of the warnings he had given the people in regard to the tendencies of the doctrines taught by their leaders, and how his statements were verified. These men were arguing that secession was peace. Floyd sent all the arms to the South. Was that for peace, was that to raise cotton? They have been drilling soldiers for the past three years. Does that look like peaceful intentions?
He referred to the secessionists trying to overawe the people by sending Southern troops to Western Virginia, and asked whether that looked very peaceful. No; they had it in their hearts to destroy the Government, but like cowards, they fled at the first approach of danger. They wanted an aristocracy, where they could lord it over the poor man. If they wanted Democratic institutions, why didn’t they remain under them? Do they not rely for success on recognition by the monarchies and aristocracies of Europe? He spoke of the conscription act in the South, and the reign of terror existing there, where those who refused to submit were hunted down with bloodhounds. If there was a feeling in the speaker’s heart next to love for God, it was love for Democratic institutions. If they die, he wanted to die with them. They were all in all. Without them, man’s rights were limited indeed. The fiendishness of rebellion was exhibited every day. Rebel guerrillas were on our border, plundering everything, for a bank to a hen-roost.
Then there was this constitutional peace party among us, saying, we must not hurt these fellows. Vallandigham was led by Breckinridge, Breckinridge by Jeff. Davis, and Jeff. Davis by the Devil. The people must rally to the support of the Government. The President and Secretary of War had told him they would defend West Virginia as long as they had power. If they are not sustained, what will be the result to us? Congress had passed a confiscation bill, the effect of which would be to give us more power to put down rebellion. But this “tail of Vallandigham” says this is unconstitutional [A voice—“It’s all right—just what’s wanted.”] He believed in using every means to put down rebellion. The rebels use their negroes; they are their chief reliance. But these Vallandigham men say you must not use them—it would interfere with the people’s rights. The question just stands this way; you must either put the rebels down or let them lord it over you. God will take care of the negro question. Let us put down treason. If it would help along say, he would free every negro from Virginia to Texas. He referred to the policy heretofore of guarding rebel property. Each rebel house must have twenty or thirty men, withering in the silent watches of the night from malaria, to protect the “rights of these rebels[“]. He didn’t believe in it. While we are treating them so kindly, they are raising a large army to destroy their protectors.
But a new policy has been adopted.—Rebels are to be made suffer as well as our soldiers. Rebels within our lines must take the oath and give bonds for good behavior, or they will be driven into Dixie, and continue to be driven till they are pitched into the Gulf of Mexico. We must not have them in our rear. We can fight them in the rebel army but not at home. Allegiance to the Government gives protection, if they don’t acknowledge allegiance here they can’t have protection. They must search for their “rights” in Dixie. If a man is so mean as to hope the rebels may come here to slay and destroy, he has no right to be protected. These leaders here have taught so long that democracy is secession, that it is hard to destroy the impression.—He had never supposed till lately what a rascal Dr. Kidwell was. In his discussions with the Doctor, when the latter applied to him the most odious epithets, he didn’t think even then he was the traitor he has proved himself.
The speaker referred to the economical manner in which the restored State Government has been carried on, and the immense debt that will be brought on the State, if we do not get a separation, by the necessity to redeem the $20,000,000 of miserable State scrip issued in the East. Taxes will be doubled and trebled. Still there are persons who want to hand on to the Eastern fossil and oppose a new State.
The Governor turned his attention to the enlistment question, showed what we were battling for, and the great advantage of volunteering in the noble work;--show the world that we will voluntarily sustain ourselves.
The Governor said he wanted eight-five men from this county within fifteen days. We must meet the enemy and drive him to the wall or the Gulf of Mexico. The Governor said he would never be satisfied till the flag floats over every inch of American soil. He intended to go all around and talk to the people on the subjects now agitating the country, at the earnest request of his friends, and he wanted them to understand his position. He was in favor of confiscating rebel property, and if necessary leave them as poor as a church mouse during their natural lives, that they may feel the effects of rebellion.
At the conclusion of his address the audience gave the Governor three cheers.
F. Smith, Esq., offered the following resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:
Whereas, The Government of the United States is engaged in the suppression of a rebellion which, for want of cause and wickedness, is without a parallel in the annals of time—a revolution involving, in its issue, on the one hand, the existence and perpetuity of free government and human progress, and the stability of the institutions established by the blood and treasure of the illustrious patriots of the revolution and cherished by their ever worthy descendants as a priceless legacy; and on the other, the overthrow of constitutional liberty, and a return to a limited monarchy, or an aristocracy in imitation of the crumbling and tottering forms of European governments. And, whereas, the American people, by their manners and customs, by their love of liberty and the pride of their free institutions, and by the memory of the illustrious dead, and bright hopes for their prosperity and absolutely unfit for any other than a republican or representative form of government, and cannot be induced to abandon their present and unrivalled form of self-government, under which, as a people, they have progress to a degree unprecedented in the history of nations, for the chimeras of a pampered aristocracy or the cunning devices of European interventionists. And, whereas, the success of the government of the United States in this struggle to crush rebellion, and the preservation of the government in all its pristine power and beauty, is a matter of transcendental interest, not only to the people of our own once happy and prosperous land, but to the friends of freedom and human elevation in every land and country in which civilization has found a home. And, whereas, as West Virginians, we have, perhaps, more at stake in the success of the government in its present struggle for its existence than the people of any other state; for, unless the government be sustained, and thereby enabled to crush the rebellion, and a separation of the North and South take place, and West Virginia become a part of the Southern Confederacy, we would have our destiny linked with a people with whom we have no feeling of interest in common, but who would, in order to chastise us for our loyalty to the government of our fathers, crush us with the iron heel of despotism, and make us the “hewers of wood and drawers of water[“] for our eastern and southern relentless oppressors. Therefore, be it
Resolved, That it is the duty of every citizen of West Virginia to use every legitimate means to sustain the Government of the United States in its struggle for existence and the enforcement of its laws; that those who by age or infirmity, or other cause, are unable to enter into the military service of the country, should contribute their means for its support, and that those who are able to enlist, should emulate each other in filling up the ranks of the army of the republic, an army more elevated and noble in its objects than ever trod the classic fields of Greece or Rome.
Resolved, That we will regard as criminal every effort to weaken the powers of, or to alienate the affections, of the people from the Government of our fathers, either by dissuading persons from enlisting in the army or from contributing to its support, or by endeavoring to divide popular sentiment under the specious pretext of preserving the Constitution, or the cry of “abolitionism, (until the one is sought to be violated, or the interest of the country is imperiled by the other) for the purpose of organizing a peace party, ostensibly for the purpose of preventing infringements on the Constitution, etc., but really with the intent of overthrowing the Government of the United States, and of establishing the Southern Confederacy on its ruins, and must regard all persons so engaged, with intent aforesaid, as enemies of the Government and at war with the vital interests of the people of West Virginia.
Resolved, That the gratitude of the people of West Virginia is due to the Hon. Waitman T. Willey, Messrs. Brown, Blair, Whaley, Wade, and other friends of the new State, for their able and patriotic efforts in Congress to secure the admission of West Virginia into the Union as a separate and independent State, and that we endorse the bill offered by Senator Willey for that object.
It was also resolved, on motion of Mr. Elias Dudley, that Senator Carlile, having undergone a wonderful conversion since his election, be requested to resign his seat.
Also, on motion of A. F. Ritchie, that we endorse the confiscation bill passed by Congress, and the steps taken for a more vigorous prosecution of the war.
Messrs. Smith and Brown made some remarks appropriate to the occasion, and were succeeded by Rev. J. G. West, of Wetzel. Mr. West said that though getting old, the war spirit was beginning to rise in him again, as it did when he marched under his father and alongside his brother in defence of his country in 1812.—He described at length the advantages the soldier of the present day has, in pay and everything else, over those of 1812. But it is pure love of country that should take a man into the battlefield, not money. He described the blessings of this government; said it was next to the government of heaven. But even there rebellion had taken place. He thought those before him could surely have no inclination that way, after hearing what they heard to-day. He urged them to volunteer on the spot.
The fife and drum here struck up a lively air, and the audience commenced paying attention to the recruiting business.
Rev. Moses Tichnell made a speech in the evening, in the town, appropriate to the occasion, and the assemblage dispersed at a late hour, highly pleased and full of patriotism. Marion.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: August 1862