Typed by Linda Fluharty.
In pursuance of an Act of the General Assembly of Virginia passed on the 14th day of January, 1861, a convention was called to assemble on Wednesday, February 13, 1861, at 12 o'clock M. Among the doing of this committee, consisting of Hon. Messrs. Preston, Stuart and Randolph, to wait upon the president and present him with the following preamble and resolutions respecting his policy toward the seceding states:
"Whereas, in the opinion of this convention, the uncertainty which prevails in the public mind as to the policy which the Federal executive intends to pursue toward the seceded states is extremely injurious to the industrial and commercial interests of the country, tends to keep up an excitement, which is unfavorable to the adjustment of pending difficulties, and threatens a disturbance of the public peace; therefore
"Resolved, That a committee of three delegates be appointed to wait on the President of the United States, present him this preamble and resolution, and respectfully ask him to communicate to this convention the policy which the Federal executive intends to pursue in regard to the Confederate states."
The President replied that it was his intention "to pursue the course marked out in the inaugural address. I commend a careful consideration of the whole document as the best expression I can give of my purpose. As I then and therein said, I now repeat: The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy and possess the property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and impost; but beyone what is necessary for these objects there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere."
On the 15th of April, having received meanwhile authentic information of the seizure of Fort Sumpter, he issued his proclamation calling out 75,000 men for the suppression of the rebellion. The citizens of Ohio county promptly responded to the call of the president. A camp was formed on the Island as a rendezvous for the First West Virginia Regiment, the ranks of which were speedily filled.
On Monday, May 13, 1861, a convention of delegates from different counties in western Virginia assembled at Washington hall in the city of Wheeling to take such action under the existing political condition as the wisdom of the members might suggest. It was organized by appointing William B. Zinn, of Preston county, temporary chairman. Prayer was offered by Rev. Laishley, of Monongalia county. On motion a committee on credentials was appointed, consisting of one delegate from each county represented, after which it adjourned to meet at three o'clock P. M., at which hour the convention reassembled and Dr. S. T. Moss of Wood county, was elected permanent president, and M. M. Dent, of Monongalia, Colonel Waggener, of Mason, and G. L. Cranmer, of Ohio, permanent secretaries.
The first action of the convention after the election of the permanent officers was the appointment of a committee on federal relations, consisting of one from each county represented. On the retirement of the committee on credentials, General Jackson, of Wood County, addressed the convention that the time for taking action on the division of the state had not arrived. He was in favor of delaying action until after the fourth Thursday in May, when the result of the election would show how many counties would consent to unite in dissolving their connection with the state of Virginia and forming a new state. He was followed by John S. Carlile, who favored immediate action and that it should be final and decisive. He insisted that this was no time for paper resolutions, and that if the convention contented itself with such there would be a majority in favor of the secession ordinance,in the northwest on the fourth Thursday in May.
W. T. Willey followed Mr. Carlile in a strain of similar character with the views expressed by General Jackson and also stated that in his opinion that by proper constitutional means the desires of those favoring the establishment of a new state could be carried out, provided on fair trial a large majority of the people should vote for the measure.
On the day of the meeting of the convention the city was filled with a crowd of excited people who had gathered together from that part of the state directly interested in the proceedings of the convention. A large force of extra police had been appointed by the mayor to preserve order, but their services were not needed, as no disturbances occurred to mar the occasion.
The convention met after adjournment on the following day at the same place and was opened with prayer by Rev. W. Smith. The minutes having been read were, on motion, amended by striking out the name of the gentleman from Frederick county, it being known that he would be placed in a dangerous position by representing a county that was in favor of secession. The convention was then addressed by Mr. Lazier, the purport of his remarks being that they should proceed with calmness and deliberation in any action which might be taken.
Mr. Willey rose to a question of privilege, saying that the meaning of the remarks made by him on yesterday had been misrepresented and he wished to be clearly understood; he said that he was in favor of a division of the state, but by peaceful means, if possible.
James S. Wheat, of Wheeling, then presented a series of resolutions from the committee on federal relations, setting forth the abuses of the Richmond convention, and claiming the right of the state to annul and disregard its entire proceedings, also the right to hold an election for congressman at the usual time; also to maintain the laws of the state and officers also in the discharge of their duties.
Mr. Carlile then offered a resolution providing for the immediate division of the state, with the consent of Congress and the Legislature, the state to be called "New Virginia." Upon the propriety of presenting this resolution a lively discussion ensued, and considerable confusion arose. It was finally agreed to let the resolution go to the committee without further discussion, and thereupon the convention took a recess until two o'clock P. M.
The convention met after recess at the hour named, but the committee being unprepared to report a further recess was taken until half past seven o'clock P. M. The convention re- assembled at the hour named. The first business presented was the report of the committee on state and federal relations. George McC. Porter offered resolutions looking to a division of the state, and thereupon Mr. Carlile offered resolutions favoring immediate action and a speedy dissolution of the ties that bound the western to the eastern portion of the state. He followed their presentation with an earnest and able argument in favor of the adoption of the same and insisted that delay in action would result in President Davis having them all mustered into the Southern army, and asserted that if a decisive position was not now taken the secession ordinance would be ratified here in their midst.
He was followed by Mr. Willey, who declared himself opposed to the views presented by Mr. Carlile and said his friend from Harrison county wanted to place them in direct conflict with the state of Virginia, with the government of the United States and also with the Southern Confederacy. He asserted that the policy which Mr. Carlile exhorted the convention to pursue would precipitate a condition of affairs that would cause them to be slaughtered in their tracks, if they did not make tracks with all possible speed. He argued that the adoption of the resolutions so stremlously advocated by Mr. Carlile would constitute treason and admitted that the interests of the Panhandle might be promoted by constructing a new state, but wanted to know where the men and money would be obtained necessary to carry on the fearful war that would be sure to result from such premature proceedings. At the close of Mr. Willey's remarks the convention adjourned to meet at nine o'clock the following morning.
The convention met on the following morning pursuant to adjournment and was opened with prayer by Rev. R. V. Dodge, of the Second Presbyterian church of Wheeling. Mr. Flesher, of Jackson county, on the opening of the session called attention to a communication which had appeared in one of the city papers relative to a meeting of Secessionists which had been held in his county and denied that the sentiments contained in it were the sentiments of the people of that county. After the minutes of Tuesday's session had been read and approved Mr. Carlile proposed an amendment to his resolution of Tuesday to the following effect: "That the committee provide for submitting the said ordinance to the people to be voted on on the 23d of the present month," and thereupon Mr. Willey continued his remarks, which had been cut short by the adjournment on Tuesday night.
Mr. Jackson, Jr., of Wood county, moved that the convention sit with closed doors. After a time spent in the discussion of it, the motion was withdrawn by its mover. Mr. Pierpont then addressed the convention, at the close of whose remarks a recess was taken until two o'clock P. M.
The convention met after recess, when a report of meetings which had been held in the counties of Wayne and Cabell which, among other things, expressed a desire for representation in the convention was presented by Mr. Carlile, and the request was on motion agreed to. Mr. Polsley, of Mason county, moved "That the committee be instructed to report upon the propriety of declaring the state authority canceled by the action of Governor Letcher and others." Mr. Carlile accepted this as part of the proposition heretofore presented by him and offered in addition the following: "That the committee report a time for the re-assembling of this convention." He said he had not changed his opinion, but he was anxious and willing to see a spirit of harmony. He doubted if the convention would be allowed to meet here at the time appointed, but if God spared him he would be here.
Daniel Lamb moved to refer the report and substitute back to the committee without instructions, which motion was adopted.
Delegates from the respective counties of Wayne and Cabell having appeared and asked to be admitted to represent the said counties, they were on motion of Mr. Carlile admitted.
On motion the convention took a recess until five o'clock P. M. During the recess a large audience composed of the members of the convention and citizens generally gathered in the hall to listen to the reading of his recent charge to the grand jury of Ohio county by Hon. George W. Thompson, judge of the circuit court, which was an able and exhaustive charge, in which he fully discussed the nature of treason and the punishment affixed to it.
The convention met after recess, but the committee on state and federal relations not being ready to report Mr. Carlile asked for and obtained leave to read a despatch which had just been received by him from Clarksburg to the effect that "Letcher's war hounds were about; look out for troops." He then moved that the convention adjourn over until morning, as he would receive a letter in the evening giving particluars. After some remarks by John J. Jackson, Jr., the convention took a recess until seven o'clock P. M.
On the reassembling of the convention at this last named hour, the committee on state and federal relations made their report. The convention then proceeded to appoint a central committee, composed of the following persons, viz.: John S. Carlile, James S. Wheat, C. D. Hubbard, F. H. Pierpont, George R. Latham, S. H. Woodward, W. Wilson, Daniel Lamb, Arthur I. Boreman and James W. Paxton. Mr. Polsley moved that the resolutions reported by the committee on state and federal relations be laid on the table, which motion was opposed by General Jackson and Mr. Carlile. The question recurring on the adoption of the resolutions, it was carried with but two dissenting voices. A motion to adjourn was then made, before putting which a resolution of thanks was tendered to the citizens of Wheeling for their kindness and urbanity toward the members of the convention, and also to the officers of the convention for the manner in which they had discharged their duties.
The convention and spectators then engaged in singing the "Star Spangled Banner, being led in the singing by Rev. R. V. Dodge and Mr. Stevens. Prayer was then offered by Rev. Gordon Battelle, after which the convention was addressecl by Hon. William G. Brown in response to loud calls for him so to do, when on motion to adjourn being put and carried with the understanding that it was to meet at the call of the committee.
We quote from a writer of the time as follows: "The state of Virginia through her governor issued his proclamation ordering the seizure of the postoffice and custom house* at Wheeling and a call for the troops in the western counties of the state to rendezvous at Moundsville. Such was the sentiment of the Union in this section that the proclamation of Governor Letcher failed in its purpose. When Virginia passed the ordinance of secession a crisis was reached, when action of some kind was deemed necessary. Hence a provisional government was instituted styled the 'Restored Government of Virginia.' (When the news reached Wheeling, that the Governor had ordered the seizure of the Post Office and Custom House a crowd numbering nearly 5,000 persons suddenly appeared upon the scene, armed with guns, pistols, and clubs to resist any such attempt. The secessionists and their sympathizers were discreet enough not to attempt the consummation of the Governor's orders.
"The following citizens of Wheeling, with many others, were conspicuous in inaugurating this movement, viz.: C. D. Hubbard, Thomas Logan, A. W. Campbell, G. L. Cranmer, John List, Daniel Lamb, Thomas and Jacob Hornbrook, with the prominent business men in the city. Francis H. Pierpont, of Marion county, was chosen provisional governor. All the machinery of a state government was established and set in motion, the jurisdiction of which was recognized throughout the entire northwestern portion of the state.
"As the Federal arms advanced the jurisdiction of the provisional government was extended. Alexandria, Virginia, after a time being included in the Federal lines; the seat of government was removed from Wheeling to that city.
After the admission of the new state of West Virginia its first governor was Arthur I. Boreman.
"An almost overwhelming majority of the citizens of Wheeling were Union men. A few of them, however, espoused the cause of the Confederacy. Wheeling became a military camp and the sway of the same was supreme. On the southeastern corner of Market and Sixteenth streets was a building of large proportions known as the Atheneum, which originally had been erected for theatrical purposes, but which on the breaking out of the war was utilized as a military prison. Here suspects and Southern sympathizers who proved demonstrative in speech or acts were incarcerated. Some prominent individuals were confined here for a time. The distinctive lines between loyalty and disloyalty were closely defined. Society was greatly distracted, and distrust and suspicion were in the ascendant. No suspected person was permitted to leave the city unless they had a pass from Major Darr, the provost marshal. Distrust of each other's neighbor was the prevailing feeling at the time.
The cost of living had greatly increased and especially the necessary articles for the household. Flour sold at $16 per barrel. Tea at $1.50 and $1.75 per pound. Coffee, 50 cents per pound. Bacon and hams at 25 cents per pound. Beef steaks at 25 cents per pound. Brown muslin sold from 50 to 60 cents per yard. A gentleman's fine overcoat cost from $85 to $95, and other garments in proportion.
House rents were likewise enormously high; an ordinary house of five rooms brought from $275 to $300 per annum. All kinds of lahor necessarily advanced to keep pace with the unusual advances in prices. All kinds of trade flourished by reason of the prevalence of war. This was notably so in the case of the dry goods business. The rapid advance in prices enabled merchants to rapidly increase their fortunes.
"In April, 1865, an event occurred which startled the nation from its center to its circumference. This was the cowardly assination of President Lincoln at a theatre in Washington City. The effect of this tragedy was to solidify the cause of the Union and to arouse determination of the people of the North. This proved to be, too, a grief to the people of the South, and a fatal injury to their cause.
"For in this same year the last hope of the Confederacy vanished. General Lee, through the superior strategy and perseverance of General grant, was compelled to surrender. From this time the angry tempest of human passion began to subside, and confidence gradually lifted its head, while business resumed its flow in its usual channels, and peace and prosperity once again dawned upon a lately torn and bleeding country. The news of General Lee's surrender caused a feeling of joy and thankfulness to permeate every portion of the North."
Below is a complete list, from the Poll-Book of Wheeling, of those who voted the secession ticket, May, 1861: