Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia

Union or Secession
  • "Our North Western border"
Early in June 1861, the editor of the Staunton Vindicator reflected on the causes and consequences of a large vote against secession in the northwestern counties of Virginia.
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"Our North Western border"

Staunton Vindicator, June 7, 1861.

Early in June 1861, the editor of the Staunton Vindicator reflected on the causes and consequences of a large vote against secession in the northwestern counties of Virginia. The editor's first sentence referred back to the referendum conducted in February 1861 on whether to require a ratification referendum if the Virginia Convention voted to secede. The February vote was almost two-to-one in favor of requiring a referendum. The incomplete returns from the May 23 referendum indicated that 125,950 Virginia men had voted for secession and 20,373 against; and from unofficial information not identified in the official records the governor estimated that another 2,934 men, mostly in eastern or mountain counties, voted for secession, and 11,761 men, mostly in western and northwestern counties, voted against secession. On June 3, 1861, volunteers from Ohio and Indiana met and defeated volunteers from several western Virginia counties at Philippi, in Barbour County. The editor's references in the last two sentences to the "War Department" were to the Confederate States of America Department of War. Late in May and early in June the principal officers of the Confederate government arrived in the new nation's new capital, Richmond.

Staunton Vindicator, June 7, 1861.

Condition of the N. W. Border.
The present condition of things in our State, which was anticipated by those who in February last voted against the reference back to the people, of the ordinance of secession, proves the wisdom of that vote.— They loved the people and their rights better than to expose them to the dangers of such a reference,—and it is remarkable that here, and all over the State, the vote against reference was given by the constant and earnest advocates of popular rights—but who were unwilling that their liberties and lives should be jeopardized by the exercise of that right in a way to endanger them. What is the result? The vote on ratification has been taken in the midst of war, and in the face of a vigilant and unscrupulous enemy, who had the whole State filled with his spies, and that enemy thro' information derived from the polls has been made aware of every opponent of State Rights, and his location. It would have been just as wise to have furnished Abraham Lincoln with a list of his friends in Virginia—their names, locality, and showing where he could find aid and comfort among us. The noble old State has gone by a majority of some 150,000 for Secession, but Lincoln has been told by the pretended lovers of popular supremacy, that one little corner of our State is by heavy majorities opposed to her sovereignty, and that too on its border most exposed to invasion.
By that fatal vote on Ratification, the record of the North West shows Mr. Lincoln the names of his friends, and how quickly has he availed himself of the information. His armies are already there, and our brave defenders—our own sons and brothers, are in imminent danger. The latest intelligence from that quarter informs us that our little force at Grafton have been compelled to retreat from that place to Phillippi, before superior numbers of the Northern forces, thus leaving the Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road from Wheeling nearly to Harper's Ferry in undisputed possession of the enemy, and that on Monday morning last, our men were surprised and driven from Phillippi, with the loss of several lives, many arms and all their stores, and that they have now retreated to Beverly, in Randolph county. This news is somewhat mitigated by the intelligence that by a brave stand of Capt. Moomaw's company, and perhaps others, in a wood some two miles from Phillippi, the enemy were surprized in turn, and driven back with great loss. Five of our man are said to have been killed, and about sixty or eighty of the enemy in the conflict. But we have lost our position, and the loss of arms and provisions must have left our little force in bad condition. There is an old saying that holds good in all the affairs of life, but especially in war that "whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well." If our North Western border is not to be given up to the Northern enemy, surely some efficient reinforcements should be sent there at once.— We are informed that the condition of our little force there has been hitherto most disheartening. With no artillery, and not more than ten rounds of powder for the small arms, our men too raw, and undisciplined, and badly officered. One of the brave men who brought the news of the retreat from Phillippi, expresses the conviction that a well-appointed force of 2,500 men could master in their mountain passes any number that might be sent against them.
We appeal to our rules to know whether the protection of the loyal men of our border, and the relief from alarm, and the danger of incursions, of those farther in the interior would not justify such a force in the Northwest, and another of the same size in the West. Our fighting men have been drawn from among us to the East and to Harper's Ferry, so as to leave all West Virginia in a very defenceless condition.— Will not this fact, without more vigilance on the part of the War Department, invite our invasion, or at least expose our population to alarm and panic? We hope the able heads of our War Department will have an eye to these things.