Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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Virginians Debate and Take Sides

Union or Secession
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  • Robert H. Glass to Governor John Letcher, November 27, 1860, Executive Papers of Governor John Letcher, Acc. 36787, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.,
    "The Union is gone"
  • Announcement in Wheeling <em>Daily Intelligencer</em>, December 14, 1860.,
    Union Meeting in Wheeling
  • Resolutions adopted at a public meeting in Wytheville on December 10, 1860, printed in the <em>Lynchburg Daily Virginian</em>, December 17, 1860.,
    Wytheville Resolutions
  • Extract from an editorial in the <em>Lynchburg Daily Virginian</em>, December 22, 1860.,
    Suggestion for mediation
  • William Mahone to Governor John Letcher, January 2, 1861, Executive Papers of Governor John Letcher, Acc. 36787, State Government Records Collection, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.,
    "I shall be ready at your summons"
  • Extract from an editorial in the Harrisonburg <em>Rockingham Register</em>, January 4, 1861.,
    "How Rockingham stands"
  • <em>Alexandria Gazette</em>, January 7, 1861,
    "They expected to be free"
  • Extract of a letter from M. to the editor, dated at White Post, Clarke County, on January 5, 1861, printed in the <em>Alexandria Gazette</em>, January 8, 1861.,
    "I fear it is now too late"
  • Resolutions unanimously adopted at a large meeting "of the working men, farmers and mechanics" of Rockbridge County, in Lexington, on December 19, 1860, and published in the Lexington <em>Valley Star</em>, January 10, 1861.,
    Rockbridge County Resolutions
  • William Staples to Christoper Yancy Thomas, January 11, 1861, Gravely Family Papers, Acc. 34126, Library of Virginia,
    "Every feeling of my heart is for my own Section"
  • Undated letter signed "LADY" to the editor of the <em>Staunton Vindicator</em> and printed in the issue of January 18, 1861.,
    "The daughters of Old Augusta"
  • Mary Berkeley Minor Blackford to John Barbee Minor, January 18, 1861, Minor and Wilson Family Papers, Special Collections, University of Virginia,
    "Anguish of mind"
  • Jacob Bechtel to George Bechtel, January 19, 1861, Jacob H. Bechtel Papers, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan,
    "Curse their Wicked obstinacy"
  • Undated letter signed
    Seize Fort Monroe and Harpers Ferry
  • Editorial in <em>Staunton Spectator</em>, January 22, 1861,
    "The proper position for Virginia is in the Union"
  • Report of a public meeting in Romney, Hampshire County, on January 19, 1861, printed in <em>Alexandria Gazette</em>, January 29, 1861.,
    No disunion but no concessions
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« Return to Secession Begins and Compromises Fail

Virginians Debate and Take Sides

During the months following Abraham Lincoln's election in November 1860, white Virginians discussed the future of the Union in personal conversations, in private letters, in public addresses, in the pages of newspapers, and in organized public meetings. Some people endorsed secession or offered their services to the governor in the event of war. Others vigorously denounced secessionists and disunion. Still others spoke of the necessity to find a compromise to save the Union and preserve the peace. Some of the state's enslaved African Americans recognized that the debates about the Union and about slavery affected their lives, too, and they embraced a rumor that circulated early in 1861 that they would become free when Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated president on March 4, 1861.

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