Research Project Proposal

Abi Stephens and I have chosen to study the secession of West Virginia from Confederate Virginia. The secession echoes sentiments held in other regions of the Appalachians and uses them to create a formal state government. Western Virginians based their argument on the perception of ill treatment by the Virginian government. Their declaration mirrors the Declaration of Independence, which focused on taxation without representation.

In the case of West Virginia, this meant the unequal benefits reaped by the Tidewater region of internal improvement, costing the state 20 million dollars within fifteen years. It also referred to the lack of representation of the Western region of Virginia in the state’s government. While there was a lot of pro-union sentiment in this area, their secession had less to do with that and more to do with their feeling of mistreatment.

There were two conventions held in Wheeling, Virginia to determine how to achieve the goal of secession. During these conventions, governmental positions were decided upon for the creation of the state of West Virginia. To ensure the success of the vote for secession, Western Virginia had Union soldiers posted at polling sites to prevent pro-Confederate men from casting a vote. They also made voters swear their allegiance to the Union before voting.

We feel the complexity of this secession movement ties in well with the course. The region ties in well with the focus of the course and has parallels to the informal sentiments expressed in other parts of the Appalachians.

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