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Fourth International, Fall 1955


John Thayer

The Origin of West Virginia


From Fourth International, Vol.16 No.4, Fall 1955, pp.142-143.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


West Virginia and Its Struggle for Statehood 1861-1863
by Isaiah A. Woodward
Morgan State College, Baltimore. 44 pp. 1954. $1.50.

This slim but well-documented study deals with a fragment of Civil War history that should command more attention – the split within the Southern states on class and regional lines.

Lincoln’s resistance in the first part of the war to the abolitionists and their revolutionary program was publicly defended as his “border state” strategy. That the split of the western counties of Virginia from Secession, the Northern political successes in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, and Kentucky’s decision to remain “neutral,” were achieved by Lincoln’s conservative policy has not been historically proved.

In examining this historical question. studies, such as this, are of interest and use. Mr. Woodward has worked industriously. His research, for example, included winnowing the huge Robert Todd Lincoln manuscript collection of the papers of Abraham Lincoln, which were opened to public scrutiny only in 1947.

The author, however, has severely restricted himself (as the size of the volume itself indicates). He deals only wilth the political aspects of the western counties from the Old Dominion and the chronicle of the legal steps by which it was admitted into the union as a new state.

Such a political history is useful to students of the origin of West Virginia and to those specializing in the border-state problem during the Civil War. The need still remains, however, for an analysis of the social and economic conflict of interests, conditioned by geographic differences, that long divided the west Virginians and other mountain-region people of the Southern states from the plantation-owning ruling class. It was this conflict which culminated in what Mr. Woodward treats. Such a volume would have a broader interest than does this work.

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