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Union or Secession
  • "War is upon us."
On April 17, 1861, Allen Taylor Caperton, of Monroe County, explained to the Virginia Convention why he planned to vote for secession that day.
Related Biographies:
  • Allen Taylor Caperton (1810–1876). Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress.
    Allen Taylor Caperton
« Return to Virginia Convention Votes for Secession

"War is upon us."

Excerpt from a speech of Allen Taylor Caperton in the Virginia Convention on April 17, 1861, printed in George H. Reese and William H. Gaines, Jr., eds., Proceedings of the Virginia State Convention of 1861 (Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1965), 4:101–102.

On April 17, 1861, Allen Taylor Caperton, of Monroe County in the mountains of western Virginia, explained to the Virginia Convention why he planned to vote for secession that day. He had voted against secession on April 4, but conditions had changed radically, and he decided that it was essential to have "a unanimous vote in this Convention in favor of the ordinance of secession. I see nothing else that may save us from that disaster." Caperton, like many other men who had originally opposed secession, changed his mind after President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to suppress the Southern rebellion. "War is upon us," Caperton admitted, "and we are compelled to make the best of it."

Excerpt from a speech of Allen Taylor Caperton in the Virginia Convention on April 17, 1861, printed in George H. Reese and William H. Gaines, Jr., eds., Proceedings of the Virginia State Convention of 1861 (Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library, 1965), 4:101–102.

I believe, sir, that if there is anything under the sun which by possibility may arrest this terrible catastrophe of war, it will be a union among ourselves and a unanimous vote in this Convention in favor of the ordinance of secession. I see nothing else that may save us from that disaster; and I hope and trust it will be the sense and the pleasure of the gentlemen from the Western portion of the State to unite in this measure, and not let our enemies in the North be backed by assurance given by a divided vote here that Virginia is not united—that Virginia cannot maintain this war because there are domestic difficulties—because there is a prospect of civil war within her own limits, which will need all her power and energies to put down. That is to be the effect which is to be produced by any appearance of division here.
I appeal to gentlemen—I implore them to come now and put their hands to the work, and aid if possible, if not in averting this war, in maintaining it. This is all I have to say. I have troubled this Convention but little since its commencement. I have not engaged in those discussions which have occupied our time for months. But, sir, now is the time for action. I could not suppress the inclination I felt to make one appeal, at least to my Western friends, to come up and aid us in accomplishing what we are now about to engage in. War is upon us, and we are compelled to make the best of it. Let our Western friends, by all means, assist us in so doing.