Why did West Virginia secede from Virginia?

The answer to this question has often been a simple one – that West Virginians wished to remain part of the Union. While this was the case, pro-Union sentiment is often correlated with anti-slavery in a way that was not necessarily present. Furthermore, it obscures the fact that the rift between Eastern and Western Virginia had been growing for at least fifty years. It was first clearly visible at the 1816 Staunton Convention, during which westerners sought to address issues of unequal representation and taxation. Beyond this, there was a fundamental divide between the culture of Appalachia and the Tidewater region. Each of these factors should be considered when trying to determine the cause of West Virginia’s secession.


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