Within two or three days after the April 17 vote on secession, several of the northwestern Unionist delegates left Richmond to return home. John Snyder Carlile, of Clarksburg, organized a mass meeting that issued a call for a convention to meet in Wheeling on May 13, 1861. The delegates met there for three days and issued an appeal to the voters to reject secession at the referendum scheduled for May 23. The delegates also called for a special election if the statewide referendum on secession passed so that delegates could be elected for a second convention to assemble in June.
After the first convention adjourned, a committee chaired by Carlile issued an address "To the People of North Western Virginia" urging the state's voters to reject secession at the May 23 referendum and denouncing secession as an illegal and unpatriotic act that would cause civil war. Following the ratification of the Ordinance of Secession, Carlile's committee issued an address that called for the election of delegates to a second convention.
The second convention met in Wheeling on June 11 and included delegates from several northwestern counties and from Fairfax County, in the northeastern section, as well as several men who had been elected to Virginia's legislature on the day of the referendum on secession and the taxation of slaves. The second convention in Wheeling adopted a declaration stating that because Virginia's elected officials in Richmond had all accepted secession and joined the state to the Confederacy they had thereby forfeited their offices.
The convention then elected Francis Harrison Pierpont governor and elected a new lieutenant governor and a new attorney general. On July 4, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln informed the United States Congress that the loyal people of Virginia and the government in Wheeling deserved the protection of the United States. In August, a third convention in Wheeling summoned a constitutional convention and took the first steps toward separating some of the western and northwestern counties from Virginia and creating a new state.
The convention that met in Richmond during the spring of 1861 returned for two weeks in June to continue preparing the state for war and to consider revisions to the state's constitution. At that time it expelled twelve delegates, some of whom had participated in the Wheeling conventions, for having "engaged in conspiracy against the integrity of the Commonwealth of Virginia." (The Richmond convention expelled a thirteenth member in November.) The convention authorized voters to choose substitute delegates, some of whom were elected by small numbers of men who were at Confederate military encampments.