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"The Disruption of Virginia" by James C. Mcgregor

I just bought a book that every West Virginian and Virginian should read, "The Disruption of Virginia" by James C. McGregor, Macmillan, 1922. It had originally been his doctoral thesis for a PhD. at the University of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately I think this was the only printing and it's been out of print all this time. It covers a lot of the machinations involved in the creation of West Virginia, the story is totally the opposite of the story you find in almost all the War histories. Here's some interesting bits:

from the Preface:"...The author has no grudges to satisfy and no patron to please. If he seems harsh in his opinions and conclusions regarding the irregular and inexpedient methods employed in cutting off the western counties of Virginia and forming them into a new state it is due to the conviction that an unnecessary wrong was committed, a wrong the helped not at all in Lincoln's prosecution of the Civil War. He is convinced that not only was the act unconstitutional, but that it was not desired by more than a small minority of the people of the new state.

"...All this new material was confirmatory, and satisfied the author that his original conclusions were correct. On almost the last day of the constitutional convention of November, 1861, according to the manuscript, a motion was made that the records of the convention be printed. One of the delegates opposed this motion for the reason that the discussion had revealed so plainly the opposition of the people of West Virginia both to the North and to the new state that the publication of the debates might interfere with the admission of the state. His opinion prevailed and to this day the records remain unprinted, although their importance is unquestioned."

The manuscript McGregor refers to is the original manuscript of the Constitutional Convention he examined in Charleston. I believe these records were eventually printed in the 1940s.

Here's some more:

From the Constitutional Covention in Wheeling: "January 13th Mr. Sinsel made some extremely illuminating admissions...He referred to the border counties as 'deadly Secessionist in sentiment and feeling', and predicted that after rebellion only Secessionists would be elected to public office. 'Who denies that McDowell, Wyoming, Raleigh, Calhoun, Gilmer, Braxton, Clay, Tucker, Randolph, Webster, Nicholas, Boone, Logan, Pocahontas, Roane, Wirt, Monroe, and Greenbrier-add to that Barbour and many others-are all dominated by the spirit of rebellion?'"

"In a letter of Carlile's to a man in Fairview, Virginia, he declares that the only West Virginia was northwestern Virginia. The remainder of the section west of the mountains was in sympathy with the east. The two western divisions of Virginia had little in common. He adds that he was surprised to find in Wheeling a strong sentiment against the division of the state."

More illuminating remarks from the Constitutional Convention: "An interesting sidelight is turned on the events of the preceding months by the remarks of Mr. Hagar-'I am informed by the delegate from Wayne, notwithstanding Ziegler had a regiment there, that all the elections had to be guarded by his regiment. I do not know how many elections were held in Cabell County. However, I know they held one somewhere, and the county is represented. Boone, which has eight places of holding elections, by a detachment being sent from Kanawha held an election at two precincts. The returns are not here; the man I sent may have been captured. If it required a military force to hold an election there; if Boone had to have a military force to hold an election at two precincts; if a detachment went up and held an election there, and got into a corner of Raleigh and held an election there, with what difficulty are the counties represented?' "

"The Wheeling Intelligencer reports on July 30th that the counties were taking up the work of reorganization very slowly. It comments sorrowfully on the fact that the defeat of the North at Bull Run was being wildly celebrated throughout the central and southern parts of West Virginia."

It is apparent that even in the Constitutional Convention there was some distrust of the large number of Northerners who appeared as delegates. In a footnote McGregor writes "Mr. Soper was referred to by the chairman as 'the gentleman from New York now representing Tyler County.'"

This distrust of Northern delegates surfaced in the discussion over the name of the new state. McGregor writes: "Mr. Willey said his people objected to 'Kanawha' because it was hard to spell, while Mr. Lauck startled the other delegates by asserting that his contituents were not willing to have the new state at all if 'Virginia' was stricken out. To this Mr. Van Winkle retorted that what he feared was that some of the gentlemen 'intend to be Virginians after we have separated from Virginia. If we are so servile to Old Virginia now that we are about casting off the fetters, if we cannot forget our servile habits, but must cringe and bow to old Virginia, I think, Sir, this movement had better stop preciselly where it is now'. The speaker concluded by suggesting that there was a 'suspiciously strong affection for the flesh-pots of Egypt.' Mr. Stuart replied to Mr Van Winkle, displaying considerable warmth of feeling. His position was that Van Winkle and the others born outside the state of Virginia should not arrogate to themselves the reponsibility of deciding the name of the new state. 'It is a familiar name. It is a name to speak, that of West Virginia.' McGregor notes that Mr. Van Winkle, a native of New York, was distrusted by the other members and an undercurrent of hostility was apparent at all times when Mr. Van Winkle had the floor.

Wheeling Constitutional Convention, Jan. 7 1862. A petition from Calhoun County was read as follows: "The humble memorial of the undersigned qualified voters in and for the County of Calhoun, respectfully represent that they were unable to hold an election for a delegate to your convention, as they desired to do and would have done, but for the following reasons: There is no sheriff, clerk or justices in our county, and no court has been held in said county since June last; all the county officers are or have been engaged in the rebellion, so that there was no one to hold an election. The undersigned compose nearly the whole loyal voters in the said county, for, in fact, at the election upon the ordinance of secession, there were but fifty votes cast in said county against it."

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