Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Invading West Virginia

Commander K. at Charleston Capital
Democracy is always a work in progress..like Charleston
We all know that war is a destructive business that consumes human lives, treasure and more.  Whole cities from Carthage to Hiroshima have been devastated by the scourge of war.  Yet, surprisingly, War can sometimes be a creative force as well.  We know that War forces strangers to work together for the common cause.  We know that War is a spur to technological development (the jet engine, FM radio, etc.).  Wars alter political boundaries.  Sometimes, it can even create a state.  This is true of one particular American state I recently visited...West Virginia.

Country toll roads brought me to West Virginia.  I really enjoyed biking along the Kanawha River in Charleston.  Found a delightful breakfast and a warm welcome at Cafe Appalachia in South Charleston (www.cafeappalachia.com).
Cafe Appalachia
South Charleston, WV
We wrote this in the West Virginia chapter of America Invaded (www.americainvaded.com)...

"The Mountaineer State of West Virginia, created as a direct result of the Civil War, is a constant reminder of the fluidity of US state borders. Formerly, West Virginia formed part of the colony and then state of Virginia. Robert Dinwiddie, the lieutenant governor of colonial Virginia, had an expansive vision, claiming that, “Virginia resumes its ancient Breadth, and has no other limits to the West ... to the South Sea, including the Isl’d of California.”

The Shawnee, Delaware, Susquehanna, and Cherokee were some of the tribes living in West Virginia before the arrival of Europeans.  English explorers pushed westward in the region in the period after the English civil war, until problems in Virginia caused a halt.

There was renewed interest in the area, however, in the eighteenth century, and settlers began to arrive, including a Welshman, Colonel Morgan Morgan. The expansion of the settlement region eventually led to tension between Virginia and Pennsylvania, and, more significantly, between Britain and France. Dinwiddie is best known for dispatching George Washington for an expedition to the Ohio River Valley, which ignited the French and Indian War. Young George Washington surveyed the Appalachians and the Kanawha
Valley from horseback.

In 1774, Lord Dunmore’s War broke out between the colony of Virginia 
and Native Americans (principally Shawnee). The most significant battle of this war, the Battle of Point Pleasant, was fought on October 10, 1774, in present-day West Virginia. A thousand Indian warriors led by Chief Cornstalk surprised a group of colonial militia. As a result of this war, the Indians were pushed west of the Ohio River.

Fort Henry was constructed in 1774 during Lord Dunmore’s War, near what is Wheeling today. During the American Revolution, Fort Henry would be subjected to two sieges. The first took place in 1777 and was led by Shawnee and Mingo Indians sympathetic to the British cause. is siege was notable for McCulloch’s extraordinary and, perhaps, mythological leap. Major Samuel McCulloch found himself on the wrong side of the closed gates of Fort Henry, surrounded by hostile Indians. The militia leader galloped away to a three- hundred-foot precipice. After he plunged over the cliff, the pursuing Indians were astonished to note that he and his horse somehow managed to survive. McCulloch’s Leap is marked by a plaque today.

In 1782, a force of Indians and Redcoats again besieged Fort Henry. When the fort’s ammunition was running low, Betty Zane, a seventeen-year-old farm girl, came to the rescue by fetching gunpowder in a tablecloth from her nearby home. The fort never surrendered.

Harper's Ferry, WV
John Brown, a fervent abolitionist, led an unsuccessful raid on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry in western Virginia in 1859. He had planned to supply arms to slaves in hopes of inciting a rebellion. e armory was, however, defended by Colonel Robert E. Lee, who commanded US Marines and local militia. Brown was later apprehended and executed in Charles Town. His death made him a martyr for the Union cause, and “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave” became an anthem for the North in the coming Civil War.
West Virginia was, in fact, part of Virginia up until the Civil War. But the western part of the state was very different from the Tidewater shore of Chesapeake Bay. ere were, for example, no plantations and very few slaves in western Virginia. On May 23, 1861, Virginia voted to secede from the Union. West Virginia, on the other hand, chose to secede from the secession.

Many West Virginians fought in the Union Army
Charleston, WV
Two Wheeling conventions were held in May and June of 1861. Supporters of the Union won a referendum, and a state constitution was adopted. On June 20, 1863, West Virginia became the thirty-fifth state to join the Union.

In the summer of 1861, George McClellan won three small battles in western Virginia—at Philippi, Rich Mountain, and Carrick’s Ford. These battles helped to preserve western Virginia for the Union. They also helped launched McLellan’s career, which proved to be a mixed blessing for the Union.

Jefferson Davis sent Robert E. Lee to western Virginia in late summer to restore Confederate control of the area. The Battle of Cheat Mountain, fought in a forested mountainous region from September 11–13, 1861, was Lee’s inauspicious debut as a Confederate field commander. though he outnumbered Union forces, Lee was defeated by Brigadier General Reynolds and withdrew his forces from western Virginia. Confederate casualties were fewer than a hundred.

A year later, in September of 1862, General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a native of western Virginia, managed to exact a measure of revenge for Lee’s humiliation at Cheat Mountain. Jackson led the rebels to victory at the Battle of Harper’s Ferry on September 12–15, 1862, capturing 12,419 Union soldiers and around 13,000 rearms at the arsenal. It was the second greatest surrender of American forces, exceeded only by the surrender at Corregidor in 1942. Belle Boyd, an eighteen-year-old Confederate spy from western Virginia, had supplied valuable information to Jackson earlier that year.

Confederates occupied Charleston for six weeks after the Battle of Charleston on September 13, 1862. Confederate-sympathizing guerrillas and cavalry raiders kept up a low level of sustained violence in West Virginia for the remainder of the war. e railways were frequently targeted.After the Union victory at the Battle of Droop Mountain on November 6, 1863, Union control of West Virginia went largely undisputed.
Over 30,000 West Virginians would serve in the Union Army in the Civil War. Many more would go on to serve in a variety of American wars.

For many years, coal from West Virginia was shipped via railway to Hampton, Virginia, to power ships of the US Navy.

On December 7, 1941, the USS West Virginia was struck by six Japanese torpedoes and two bombs and sank at Pearl Harbor. The Colorado-class battle- ship was later salvaged and repaired."

You can find signed copies of our books at 
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