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First West Virginia Legislature

Biographical Sketches: James Carskadon


Wheeling Intelligencer
July 30, 1863

The First West Va. Legislature.

SENATE

Sketches Personal, Political and Biographical.

BY AN OBSERVER

JAMES CARSKADON.

Mr. Carskadon, one of the Senators for the district of Pendleton, Hardy, Hampshire and Morgan counties, was born and raised in Hampshire county, as was his father before him, and is forty-four years of age. His father was an officer in the Federal army during the war with England in 1812, and for a number of years represented Hampshire county in the Legislature in Richmond.

Mr. Carskadon is full six feet high, and is straight and squarely built presenting the appearance of great muscular strength. His complexion is dark, his features regular, and bearing its firm and lustere expression, his countenance is open and pleasant. His forehead is rather narrow horizontally, but of average height and pretty well developed. His eyes small, black and deeply sunken under his forehead, and are overhung by heavy black eyebrows; nose large, straight and well formed; mouth of a pretty good size, with lips thin, and compressed with firmness; his face is quite long, after the style facetiously given to sanctimonious Presbyters on Sunday; his hair is very thick and black, now slightly tinged with grey, and is always combed straight up from his forehead, giving him a look of great sternness. He dresses plainly but well, generally in grey pants, black cloth coat, white vest, large black cravat, and a clean shirt. His habits are somewhat peculiar. You will see him in his seat quite early every morning, indeed he beats the Clerk sometimes, either intently engaged over his desk writing, or leisurly [sic] lounging in his arm chair, reading the morning Intelligencer, the New York Times, Tribune or Post or the Cincinnati Commercial, of which papers he seems very fond, and indulges rather sparingly in the World and Herald. And just here, I may be indulged in saying, that there is no better index of what a man thinks than the newspapers which he habitually reads.

Mr. Carskadon is a very industrious member, and being always in his seat, nev-ever [sic] misses a vote. He speaks but seldom, though when he does, he expresses himself in a remarkably brief, clear, forcible manner. He examines everything with great caution, and when he arrives at Crockett’s conclusion, “goes ahead.” He is a very useful member.

Politically he was, in other days, a “Log Cabin and hard cider” Whig, and during the campaign of 1840-4-8, he took a pretty active part in political matters, when he turned his attention to the more laudable work of making money on his farm, at which business he is still engaged. He took a firm stand against secession in the spring of 1861, and at the May election in that year was chosen to represent the counties of Hampshire, Hardy and Morgan in the Senate of Virginia, after struggle of great bitterness, and through the fiery ordeal of Southern mobs of soldiers and citizens, on the platform of unconditional Unionism. He describes the scenes of the canvass and election on the Ordinance of Secession and his own election as disgraceful and humiliating beyond anything that can be imagined. Mobs of the revolters beset the Union candidates on the highways with threats of death or banishment if they did not abandon the cause or leave the country, and at some of the voting places, citizens and soldiers took possession and overawed and bullied the men into voting for secession or drove them from the ground. Printed hand bills were posted up, announcing that to vote against secession would be treason, and that those who so voted would be punished accordingly. Yet through all this despotism, the terror of the mob though powerful was not omnipotent, for out of the conflict came the Union party victorious, so strong was the devotion of the people to the institutions of their country.

Mr. Carskadon was a member of the June and August Convention of 1861, by virtue of his election to the Senate, and took his seat in the latter body, July 1st, 1861, where he continued until the organization of the new State, and was elected to a seat in the Senate for the district mentioned.

He is a slaveholder, having inherited them from his father, but has always believed it a moral evil and a great injury to the country in which it existed, but held that the question of slavery belonged properly to the States and territories in which it happened to be located; and he is now, more than ever convinced that it is incompatible with our republican institutions, and a great barrier to the progress of human rights and christian liberty.

His farm is situated nine miles south-east of New Creek, in the direction of Romney, where his wife and children have been during the rebellion. Two of his children have died since he has been a refugee. -- His house has been occupied by the rebel forces at different times, and their pickets have stood at this door for weeks in succession. During the rebellion he has rarely been able to get home except by stealth. – He has lost a great amount of property, stock, &c., and the profits of his lands, heretofore valued at $30,000 have barely paid his family expenses since the rebellion began.

Mr. Carskadon is a member of the M. E. Church, and is a conscientious, upright, moral man, and felt an obligation resting upon him as a christian man to labor for the restoration of the Union, and the government against the iniquitous policy of the South, nor could he go with Virginians in her crusade against that Government, or remain neutral, which he regarded as cowardly secession.

He is Chairman of the Committee on Privileges and Elections and a member of various other committees.


Biographies of the First West Virginia Legislature

West Virginia Archives and History