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.