Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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Union or Secession
  • "To Arms!"
On April 17, 1861, the day that the Virginia Convention adopted the Ordinance of Secession but before the news was made public, somebody in Lexington called for 300 able-bodied men to form three companies for the state's defense.
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"To Arms!"

"To Arms! To Arms! To Arms! Defend Your Homes and Firesides," 1861, Broadside, 1861 .T62 FF, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.

During the climactic weeks of April and May 1861, men in Virginia joined military companies, some to fight for the United States and others to fight for Virginia or the South. Following the surrender of Fort Sumter, in South Carolina, on April 13, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln requested 75,000 militiamen, including 2,340 officers and men from Virginia, to put down the Southern rebellion. On April 17, the very day that the Virginia Convention adopted the Ordinance of Secession but before the news was made public, an unknown person or group in Lexington called for 300 able-bodied men to form three companies "for the defence of Virginia against the invasion threatened by her Northern foes."