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West Virginia in the 1860s


West Virginia landscape
West Virginia landscape

The seceded states organized as the Confederate States of America and started the American Civil War by bombarding a Union fort on April 12, 1861. Without federal military aid, the formation of West Virginia would have been impossible because the Confederates fought for control of the state during the first year of the war. Both sides wanted the B&O Railroad and the state’s agricultural and mineral resources. In a series of small engagements in 1861, including those at Philippi, Rich Mountain Pass, Corrick’s Ford, Scary Creek, and Carnifex Ferry, the Union forces routed the Confederates. In 1862 and 1863, the Confederates attempted to regain control of parts of northwestern West Virginia.

They did not succeed, but their troops often raided the state, disrupting communications, destroying oilfields, capturing prisoners, and helping themselves to salt, military supplies, and thousands of horses and cattle. The Eastern Panhandle, through which the B&O Railroad passed, bore much of the fighting. The town of Romney changed hands 56 times. In many of West Virginia’s southern and eastern counties, Confederate sympathies were so strong that local government could not function. In some areas, guerrilla bands roamed at night, pillaging and killing. Conflicting loyalties split families and friendships. It has been estimated that West Virginia contributed 28,000 to 36,000 soldiers to the Union Army and 9,000 to 12,000 to the Confederate Army. Recent studies maintain that the numbers were closer than this 3-to-1 ratio. "West Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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