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Union or Secession
  • "The Secessionists have been wild & devilish"
  • "The Secessionists have been wild & devilish"
  • "The Secessionists have been wild & devilish"
Upshur County convention delegate George W. Berlin described the scene in Richmond when news arrived of the surrender of Fort Sumter in South Carolina.
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"The Secessionists have been wild & devilish"

George William Berlin to Susan Miranda Holt Berlin, April 13 and 14, 1861, Berlin-Martz Family Papers, Acc. 36271, Library of Virginia.

George W. Berlin was a Unionist member of the Virginia Convention from Upshur County. A former Whig in a strong Democratic county, Berlin easily won election to the Virginia Convention on February 4, 1861. Berlin's wife was a cousin of the wife of Governor John Letcher. Berlin's letter described the scene in Richmond when news of the surrender of Fort Sumter was received and mentioned several people in his hometown of Buckhannon. He also referred to his brother Frederick Berlin, who spent the spring of 1861 in Wirt County, Virginia, where men were attempting to make money from discovery of an underground pool of petroleum. Samuel Woods, the death of whose son is mentioned in this letter, represented Barbour County in the convention and was one of the few secessionist delegates from northwestern Virginia. Near the beginning of a long letter that he began on April 13 and continued on the next day, Berlin wrote, "We have terrible excitement here. The South Carolinians have commenced canonading fort Sumpter to drive the United States troops out of it, so the war in that part of the South is actually begun & God knows when or where it will end. But we can suffer nothing from it if we can keep Virginia in the Union." Berlin voted against secession when it lost on April 4, 1861, and again on April 17, when it passed. He later changed his vote and in June signed the Ordinance of Secession.

George William Berlin to Susan Miranda Holt Berlin, April 13 and 14, 1861, Berlin-Martz Family Papers, Acc. 36271, Library of Virginia.

April 13th. 1861
My Dear Sue,
High water is still in the way & therefore I concluded to add another paragraph as Simon Roterbough says. We have been getting along finely today and are nearly through with our Reports & amendments to the Constitution. But we have terrible excitement here. The South Carolinians have commenced canonading fort Sumpter to drive the United States troops out of it, so the war in that part of the South is actually begun & God knows when or where it will end. But we can suffer nothing from it if we can keep Virginia in the Union. But all day the Secessionists have been wild & devilish with excitement and being informed this evening by telegraph that the fort had surrendered to the Carolinians they fired one hundred cannon here on the Capital square in honor of the event, while thousands of people were standing around cheering & bands of music playing. They marched to Governor Letchers & with music & secession flags & wild shouts called the Governor out & demanded a speech. He spoke but a few minutes & told them that he would stand by Virginia at all hazard. This they did not like & marching back to the Capital called out secession speakers who addressed them in a very excited & exciting manner & threatened to take Virginia out of the Union by Revolution if the Convention did not pass an ordinance of secession. They raised a secession flag on the Capital & swore that it should never be taken down, but after night Governor Letcher ordered the public Guard to take it down & they did so. You never saw or dreamed of such excitement before. You would have thought that there were no Union men in the City. Late in the evening I went over to Letcher's where I found many of the Union men of the Convention & after tea we (the union members) had a meeting at the Capital & the Governor went over with us & we had quite a pleasant time of it. The secessionists having gone off in a torch light procession & kept the City in an uproar until 11 Oclock at night. I received your letter of the 5th. inst. this evening & I thank you for the sentiments of love & declarations of attachment which it contains. I was very, very glad to hear from you & to learn that you are all well. I will try & attend to your request if possible. But it is late so goodnight again.
April 14th. 1861.
I have received a letter from your father last night in which he says that Mr Woods youngest child is dead & was buried on the 8th. inst, this is a sad affair to them as they think so much of their children. He also informed me that Lee is there, when did he go down, & how.
I rec'd a letter from Brother today, written at Clarksburg in which he says he was at home a day or two but had to return to the oil wells immediately. I am glad that he is so energetic & is doing so well. He did not say how you all were, how he found you, or whether he saw you, he only wrote on business.
I also received a letter from Judge Camden in which he says that nothing was done at our Circuit Court in consequence of my absence.
I also rec'd a long letter from friend E. J. Colerider in which he says you are all well &c, &c.
This is a very pleasant day (Sunday) but as usual I am spending it in my room writing, which privilege is my only consolation when I am away from my dear Sue. But I must mail this letter so goodby. I will certainly leave here some time this week if no preventing providence, but it may be so late in the week that I cannot say as yet on what day I shall reach home, But I will write again.
Affectionately yours
G. W. BERLIN