Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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Virginians Prepare for War

Union or Secession
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  • David Hunter Strother, <em>Recruiting for Virginia</em>, Pierre Morand Memorial, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.,
    Recruiting for Virginia
  • <em>Daily Richmond Enquirer</em>, April 18, 1861.,
    "At the Service of the State"
  • Telegram, T. H. Campbell to Governor John Letcher (dated
    "Hold themselves ready"
  • Three items from the <em>Alexandria Gazette</em>, April 24, 1861.,
    Three news items, April 24, 1861
  • Richmond <em>Daily Dispatch</em>, April 29, 1861.,
    "Thanking God that I have a son to offer"
  • Pay Roll of Slaves Employed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, for Coast, Harbor and River Defenses, on the Defensive Works at Gloucester Point in the Month of April 1861, Slave Rolls, May–October 1861, Records of the Engineer Department, 1861–1865, Record Group 46, Library of Virginia.,
    "Pay Roll of Slaves Employed by the Commonwealth"
  • <em>Charleston (S.C.) Mercury</em>, May 1, 1861, reporting news from a lost issue of the Norfolk <em>Herald</em>.,
    "Affairs at Norfolk and Portsmouth"
  • Undated paragraph from a lost issue of the Charleston <em>Kanawha Republican</em> reprinted in the <em>Lynchburg Daily Virginian</em>, May 9, 1861.,
    "Now on the verge of a bloody civil war"
  • Robert Johnston to Governor John Letcher, May 9, 1861, Executive Papers of Governor John Letcher, Acc. 36787, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.,
    "Willing to act as well as to vote"
  • Excerpt from the May 9, 1861, sermon of Wesley Smith at the Fourth Street Methodist Episcopal Church, in Wheeling, as printed in the Wheeling <em>Daily Intelligencer</em>, May 10, 1861.,
    "You must choose sides"
  • Fredericksburg <em>News</em>, May 10, 1861.,
    "100 at least, in each county"
  • Report in the <em>Parkersburg News</em> of May 2, 1861, reprinted in <em>Lynchburg Daily Virginian</em>, May 11, 1861.,
    "A Voice from North Western Virginia"
  • <em>Staunton Spectator</em>, May 21, 1861.,
    "If we should be attacked"
  • Extract from an unsigned letter, dated at Shiloh, King George County, May 16, 1861, printed in the <em>Alexandria Gazette</em>, May 22, 1861.,
    "The spirit of determined resistance"
  • Pattie B. Cowles to George S. Bernard, May 27, 1861, George S. Bernard Papers, Acc. 31760, Library of Virginia.,
    "The ladies of Petersburg"
  • <em>Wellsburg Herald</em>, 31 May 1861.,
    "The Hancock Union Guards"
  • Pattie B. Cowles to George S. Bernard, June 5, 1861, George S. Bernard Papers, Acc. 31760, Library of Virginia.,
    "The ladies home guard"
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Virginians Prepare for War

Early in April 1861, even before the convention in Richmond had voted to secede, Virginia militia companies from many counties east of the mountains that had been reorganized or reinvigorated after John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in October 1859 offered their services to the governor. In some instances they actually marched toward or boarded trains for Richmond while the convention delegates in Richmond were debating and voting for secession. Within days of the convention's vote to secede, Federal forces evacuated the arsenal at Harpers Ferry and the navy yard at Portsmouth, and the Virginia militia soon occupied those installations. After voting for secession the convention appointed field officers for the state's infantry, cavalry, and artillery regiments and began a rapid buildup of the military in anticipation of an invasion. The governor and the convention appointed Colonel Robert E. Lee to the command of all of Virginia's defense forces. He had resigned from the United States Army after being sounded out about whether he would accept the command of the army to suppress the rebellion. Lee traveled to Richmond, where he took command at a ceremony before the convention delegates on April 23, 1861.

In northwestern Virginia and in some communities in the upper valley of the Potomac River, men formed volunteer companies and offered their services to the United States Army, but throughout western parts of the state other Virginia men joined companies to fight for the Confederacy. Fewer white Virginians fought during the Civil War in the United States Army than in the army of the Confederate States, but in many communities, especially in the northern and western portions of the state, family members and friends took opposite sides in the conflict.

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