Battle of Lewisburg Civil War Reenactment
As the nation remembers the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, interest in the conflict continues to grow, said West Virginia Tourism Commissioner Betty Carver.
“History buffs will find much here with which to occupy their time,” Carver said. “The Mountain State’s Civil War-era towns, battlefields and cemeteries are a hugely popular itinerary for driving tours. ”
The harrowing battle raged from 1861 to 1865 and pitted brother against brother at the cost of more than 600,000 lives. Out of the war, however, there rose a new state, and the only one created as a direct result of the war: West Virginia.
To guide travelers in their exploration of our state’s rich history, the West Virginia Division of Tourism has unveiled a series of videos specific to each of the nine travel regions within the state highlighting that area’s Civil War connections.
The videos were produced by Moon and Stars Production of Clarksburg under the direction of Lemeul B. Muniz. Tourism worked with Muniz and historians from each region of the state to capture on camera interviews and present-day footage of attractions and sites. The videos are available online at wvtourism.com/civilwar.
“Our heritage is unlike any other in the country,” Carver added. “The videos are key avenues to share what West Virginia has to offer and why it is so important to our nation at large.”
Perhaps the most incendiary of all events leading up to the war took place on what is now West Virginia soil, with the seizure of the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1859 by the fiery abolitionist, John Brown. His plan for arming the slaves of northern Virginia and coordinating an uprising, together with the secretiveness with which his plan was carried out, threw the South into a panic.
In the wake of the firing upon Fort Sumter and President Lincoln's call for volunteers, sentiment in the Virginia Convention shifted drastically. Many delegates who had opposed secession now just as vigorously opposed the President's intention to use the coercive powers of the federal government against a state. Therefore, when the question of Virginia's position came to a vote, the majority cast their ballots in favor of joining the newly formed Confederate States of America. However, of the 47 delegates from western Virginia, 32, or more than two-thirds, voted against leaving the Union.
Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park
The future of the newly proposed state depended upon control of western Virginia by Union military forces. From the outset of the war, both the Union and Confederate governments endeavored to hold western Virginia because of its valuable salt resources, its productive farms and the strategic section of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which traversed the eastern and northern sections of the state.
Most of the decisive fighting in what is now West Virginia took place before the end of 1861. In the Eastern Panhandle, positions sometimes changed hands with bewildering frequency. Throughout the war, military action there revolved around efforts to gain or retain control of valuable segments of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. In the campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley, western Virginia's distinguished Confederate General, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, played a vital part. Farther south, the Confederates took the initiative and pushed Union troops out of Fayetteville and Charleston. With the engagements at White Sulphur Springs (or Rocky Gap) and Droop Mountain in the autumn of 1863, the Confederates had been forced out of most of West Virginia.
During the early years of the Civil War, the statehood issue continued to be debated. The Restored Government of Virginia eventually approved of the separation, which left Congress as the last hurdle. After considerable debate, the West Virginia statehood bill passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 23 to 15, and the House of Representatives by a vote of 96 to 55.
Although he had misgivings about the statehood question, President Lincoln issued a proclamation under which West Virginia entered the Union on June 20, 1863, as the 35th state.
For additional information about West Virginia’s Civil War heritage, visit at wvtourism.com/civilwar. The comprehensive site provides travelers with information ranging from downloadable Civil War trail maps and brochures to a list of upcoming re-enactments and events.