West Virginia 150 years after being born from the Civil War

The following was written by Andrea Bond for the West Virginia Division of Tourism, and it was so interesting I decided to include extracts here:

It has been over 150 years since the start of the American Civil War. The harrowing battle raged for four years, pitting brother against brother at a 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.

Whether you’re a scholar, historian or just an interested visitor, commemorate this monumental event with a walk or drive through history. The following events are a guideline to help plan your tour.

The First Campaign

West Virginia, born of a nation divided, was the setting for the First Campaign of America’s Civil War. Although still part of Virginia in 1861, many citizens of the western half of the state were loyal to the Union. By late May of 1861, Union Gen. George B. McClellan, commanding the Department of the Ohio, launched the First Campaign – ordering troops to cross the Ohio River and secure western Virginia for the Union. The resulting battles were fought in West Virginia’s mountains in what is now Barbour, Taylor, Tucker, Randolph and Pocahontas counties.
American Civil War,

During June and July of 1861, McClellan’s army won the inaugural Union victories of the Civil War. Federal troops now occupied western Virginia as loyal delegates met in Wheeling to form the Restored Government of Virginia, a Union government to oppose the Confederate one in Richmond. In August, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee tried – and failed – to reclaim that part of Virginia, and by 1862 the conflict had shifted east. The First Campaign proved to be decisive: in 1863, the western counties under Union control became the new state of West Virginia.

Places to See, Things to Do

The following sites and events associated with the First Campaign are accessible to tourists and provide an entertaining and educational experience for the whole family:

  • The Battle of Philippi was fought on June 3, 1861 in Barbour County and is the site of the first land battle – and amputation – of the Civil War. On June 3-5, 2011, the battle will be commemorated in the annual Blue and Gray Reunion historical re-enactment. Visitors also may trace the area’s Civil War history through Philippi’s Historical Museum, Blue and Gray Park, and the downtown historical district.
  • The Battle of Rich Mountain took place on July 11, 1861, in Randolph County. Re-enactments and other events commemorating the battle take place.
  • The First Campaign led to many Civil War “firsts,” including the first battle, first amputee, first general killed, and first use of telegraph in the war.
  • The Battle of Laurel Hill took place on July 7, 1861, in Barbour County. Re-enactments and other events relating to the battle take place.
  • Grafton National Cemetery in Taylor County is the burial site of the first Union officer killed in the war, T. Bailey Brown. Re-enactors lead lantern-guided, living history tours of the cemetery.
  • Historic Beverly in Randolph County was a gathering place for Virginia Confederate troops. Following the Union victory at Rich Mountain, many Confederate supporters fled south, and the Federals took control of the town. Beverly offers public museums, private historical attractions and more.
  • The Battle of Camp Allegheny took place on Dec. 13, 1861, in Pocahontas County. Confederate forces under Col. Edward Johnson occupied the summit of Allegheny Mountain to defend the Staunton-Parkersburg Pike. At dawn on Dec. 13, they were attacked by Union forces under Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy.
  • The Battle of Cheat Mountain took place Sept. 12–15, 1861, in Pocahontas and Randolph counties. Confederate forces led an unsuccessful attack against Federal troops at Fort Milroy, also known as Cheat Summit Fort. At an elevation of 4,085 feet, Cheat Summit Fort was the highest Union camp in the war. Earthworks from the old fort remain today.
  • The Battle of Corrick’s Ford took place on July 13, 1861, on the Cheat River in Tucker County. It is here where Confederate Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett became the first general officer killed in the war.

Civil War Trails

The Civil War Trails is a multistate program that identifies, interprets and creates driving tours of Civil War sites. The program interprets more than 1,100 Civil War sites throughout West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee. In West Virginia, there are about 150 sites in development that will feature Civil War Trails program interpretive panels. For more information get the West Virginia Civil War Trails map.

The program is administered by a non-profit corporation and supported by local communities, state tourism offices and state departments of transportation. In 2001, the National Trust for Historic Preservation identified the Civil War Trails program as one of the most successful and sustainable heritage tourism programs in the nation.

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