Skip Navigation

(A copyrighted publication of West Virginia Archives and History)

Volume 50 Loyalties In Conflict:
Union and Confederate Sentiment
In Barbour County

By John W. Shaffer

Volume 50 (1991), pp. 109-128

West Virginia has often been called the "War Born State," as no other state began amid such turmoil or was so dependent for its survival upon the continued existence of the Union as a whole. Indeed, the creation of West Virginia during the Civil War is perhaps the central theme of the state's history, with more attention devoted to its origins than any other aspect. In attempting to explain West Virginia's formation, early writers, many direct participants in the events, viewed the state's creation as a culmination of a half century of struggle between two opposing societies: the slave-based plantation economy of the east dominated by aristocratic oligarchies, and a society of small, independent farmers, democratic and "free," in the west. They concluded the people of the western counties were overwhelmingly anti-secessionist and pro-Union at the outbreak of the Civil War.

This myth was long ago shattered by subsequent research which showed that in many sections of what eventually became West Virginia, the sympathies of vast numbers of people were decidedly pro-secessionist. One important revisionist interpretation of West Virginia's origins by Richard Orr Curry revealed that the majority of the population of the southwest, an area encompassing half the state's counties, supported the Confederacy. Even in the heavily populated northwest, the stronghold of Union sentiment, large numbers of people remained loyal to a seceded Virginia.2

However, Curry's attempt to explain the basis for these divisions largely echoed the emphasis of previous historians on the divergent backgrounds of the two sections of the Old Dominion. Chief among these was a long tradition of political struggle waged by the western counties for greater representation in the Virginia legislature, the extension of suffrage, a more equitable tax structure, and a greater share of state-financed internal improvements. Although this struggle forced two revisions of the state constitution, the traditional view holds that the aims of the west were never fully realized. Western political leaders, as a result, seized the opportunity afforded by Virginia's secession to achieve their goals by establishing a new state.

Curry recognized that this explanation by itself left several questions unanswered, the most important being the southwest's continued loyalty to Virginia. Like those before him, he cited several factors which distinguished the northwest from the rest of Virginia and contributed to the preservation of pro-Union sentiment. Foremost among these was an agrarian economy that precluded significant reliance on slave labor. Geared toward a mixture of cereal production and stockraising, investment in slaves simply was not feasible in the absence of labor- intensive crops, such as tobacco and cotton. Moreover, because of the region's river system, commercial ties were directed north and west, away from eastern Virginia, ties further strengthened by the industrial development of Wheeling and the Monongahela River basin.

The role of the Methodist-Episcopal Church has often been cited as having a decisive influence in limiting the extension of slavery in the northwest and contributing to pro-Unionist sympathies among its members. After the division of the church into northern and southern branches in 1844, an acrimonious struggle for influence and membership erupted between the two in western Virginia. This bitter contest intensified the controversy over slavery and crystallized abolitionist tendencies already inherent within the northern Methodist Church. When war finally came, large numbers of ministers and laymen, hardened by more than a decade of struggle, were unflinching in their support of the Union.3

The final factor almost universally cited by historians was the distinct ethnic origins of the people who settled the region. Unlike eastern Virginia, the northwest was said to have been populated, for the most part, by Scotch-Irish and Germans migrating from northern and border states. These pioneers brought with them a culture and ideology strongly nationalistic and opposed to slavery.4

Barbour County, with its population nearly evenly divided in their Union or Confederate sympathies, serves as a microcosm of the divisions which separated the population of West Virginia as a whole. Created in 1843, Barbour is typical of the counties of the north-central region of the state. Its economy was overwhelmingly agrarian, as fully 80 percent of the families listed in the 1860 census were farmers or tenants. Its commercial ties were predominantly with the East, particularly Baltimore. The county's primary exports were cattle and other livestock which were shipped to eastern markets. Virtually all manufactured goods sold within Barbour were imported from the East rather than the North. There is little evidence of significant commercial ties with the North. An iron foundry established in 1848 shipped pig iron to Pittsburgh, but by 1854 ceased operations. Although large coal deposits existed within the county, they remained virtually undeveloped for most of the century.5

Generally, wealth in Barbour County was evenly distributed, as evidenced by the figures in Table 1, based on the values of real and personal property reported in the 1860 census. The predominance of family-operated farms is readily apparent. Fully two-thirds of Barbour families were headed by landowners, over one-third of whom owned property valued between five hundred and twenty-five hundred dollars. The landless, tenant farmers for the most part, constituted one-third of the families living in the county. This figure is somewhat misleading, for it includes a number of merchants and professionals who, while not owning land, were nonetheless fairly well-to-do. This category also includes the married children of landowners, who would eventually inherit a portion of their parents' holdings.

Property Value Landowners Landless Total Percentage
less than $499 141 531 672 41.8
$500-$2,499 578 23 601 37.4
$2,500-$4,999 191 2 193 12.0
$5,000-$9,999 87 0 87 5.4
over $10,000 54 0 54 3.4
1,607* 100.0
Table compiled from U.S. Census Office. Eighth Census of the United States, Barbour County, Virginia.

*No values were given for five households.

Every county had wealthy families and Barbour was no exception. Fifty-four families possessed property valued in excess of ten thousand dollars and controlled 30 percent of the total wealth reported for the county. Few of Barbour's middle-class families possessed sufficient wealth to dominate the economic life of the county. Only seven individuals owned property worth more than twenty-five thousand dollars. The wealthiest Barbour County resident John H. Woodford owned land and property valued at $77,800, almost twice that of the next wealthiest individual.

The possibility of war was looming by the time the census was nearing completion. Although not immediately apparent, early 1861 found Barbour County's population sharply divided. Because many of the county's leading citizens and virtually all county officials supported secession, Union sympathizers had little chance to influence political developments in the months preceding the outbreak of hostilities. When Spencer Dayton, a local attorney, attempted to speak out in favor of the Union at a mass meeting held at the courthouse in Philippi, he was removed at gunpoint. From then on, Union men kept a low profile. Those who did not flee the county entirely held their meetings in secret. By mid-May, secessionists organized three companies of volunteers which soon occupied the principal towns of the county. With such a show of force, it is not surprising that Barbour voted in favor of Virginia's secession by a majority of 231.6

Secessionist domination of Barbour County was briefly reinforced in June 1861 with the arrival of Virginia troops under Colonel George Porterfield. Ordered by Governor John Letcher to organize state forces in the northwest to repel an expected invasion from Ohio, Porterfield was unable to gather more than a few companies totaling less than one thousand men, most untrained, undisciplined, and mainly unarmed. Aware that a strong Federal force was descending upon him Porterfield retreated from Grafton to Philippi, intending to continue his retreat to better defensive positions in Randolph County. However, the Federals surprised him on the morning of June 3 by occupying the heights above the town. When the Federals opened fire, the Confederates fled in a confused mass into Randolph County. Miraculously, no one was killed in the brief skirmish, which West Virginians have labeled the first land battle of the Civil War.

Except for this footnote in history, Barbour's role in the war was insignificant. Although Confederate forces again occupied the county for a few days in 1863, Barbour remained under Federal control throughout the war; however, that control was never complete. Confederate raiders, many of them former residents, frequently infiltrated the county, ambushing wagon trains, robbing stores, harassing Union sympathizers, and, above all, gathering recruits. In fact, of 349 men from Barbour who joined the Confederate army, 137 enlisted after 1861, either by making their way to Rebel lines or being recruited within the county.7

In effect, Barbour's primary role in the war was as a recruiting ground for both sides. This fact makes it worthy of close examination, as neighbors who lived together in peace for decades suddenly found themselves enemies. Over four dozen families were divided in their sympathies, with brother literally fighting brother.8 For the people of Barbour, the conflict was in every sense of the term a civil war.

In order to determine the basis of Union and Confederate sentiment within Barbour, data was gathered on the social, economic, and religious backgrounds of individuals who directly participated in the war, either enlisting in the army or serving as public officials under the Pierpont or Boreman governments. Also included are those persons whose allegiance can be determined from public records, local histories, or biographies. Fortunately, a wealth of biographical information exists on individuals and families who lived in Barbour during the war. Beginning in the nineteenth century, local historians began compiling the histories of West Virginia families. The foremost, Hu Maxwell, Oren Morton, and Thomas Conduit Miller, either lived in Barbour or neighboring counties, so the bulk of their studies dealt with people of the immediate region. Their work constitutes an invaluable resource on the history of the county.9

Of the 995 individuals included in the study, all lived in Barbour County during the war. Among Union sympathizers were 465 men who enlisted in the armed forces, 72 who held public office, and 48 who demonstrated pro-Union sentiments. Confederate sympathizers included 349 men who enlisted in the army and 61 sympathetic to the Southern cause.10 Despite every effort to include as many persons as possible in the study, the individuals examined here obviously do not constitute the total number of Barbour's residents who counted themselves Union or Confederate sympathizers. The most glaring omission is that of women, only nine of whom were included in the study. Although legally barred from voting, there can be no doubt that women held very definite views on secession and the war. However, local histories, written entirely by men, virtually ignore the very important role they played in the struggle. Women were expected to carry on their traditional roles as homemakers, albeit in a decidedly untraditional context. Most of the women included in this study were those whose sympathies could be confirmed because their actions overstepped these bounds and could not be ignored by historians of the era.11

The same could be said with some justification of the men, who represent only 38 percent of the total male population of the county over the age of fifteen listed in the 1860 census. This group includes all whose devotion to the Union or Confederate cause compelled them to participate actively in the war. Enlistees for both sides risked their lives for the cause; at least 102 died for it.12 Public officials served at great risk to their lives and property, as Confederate commanders were specifically ordered to apprehend officials of the "bogus" Pierpont and Boreman governments. County Sheriff James Trayhern and Justice of the Peace William Price were captured by Confederate raiders.13 Those with pronounced secessionist views suffered equally for their loyalty to the Old Dominion. Dozens were arrested, many more had their property confiscated or homes burned, and three were killed.14 These men and women represented the hard core of Union and Confederate sentiment in Barbour County.

Given Barbour's social structure, it would be surprising if marked class distinctions existed between Union and Confederate sympathizers. Property values, compiled in Tables 2 and 3 from the 1860 census, establishes that the only significant difference between the two groups was that a higher percentage of Confederates were drawn from the wealthier families of the county. Of the ten richest families in Barbour, seven counted members who were either Confederate sympathizers or soldiers.

Property Value Landowners Landless Total Percentage
less than $499 59 158 217 38.6
$500-$2,499 206 2 209 36.8
$2,500-$4,999 71 0 71 12.6
$5,000-$9,999 40 0 40 7.1
over $10,000 27 0 27 4.9
564 100.0
Table compiled from U.S. Census Office. Eighth Census of the United States, Barbour County, Virginia.

Property Value Landowners Landless Total Percentage
less than $499 17 121 138 34.8
$500-$2,499 110 7 117 29.5
$2,500-$4,999 66 0 66 16.5
$5,000-$9,999 38 0 38 9.6
over $10,000 38 0 38 9.6
397 100.0
Table compiled from U.S. Census Office. Eighth Census of the United States, Barbour County, Virginia.

Note: The numbers examined here do not equal the total examined in the study as the census failed to give property values for several families while others moved to the county after the census was taken.

There is some evidence of class resentment by Unionists against well-to-do secessionists, many of whom resided in Philippi. After Porterfield's force was driven from the town, a number of these families fled with him to the obvious delight of some. "The people of Philippa were living like kings," one woman declared, "and might have been yet, if they had behaved themselves." Another wrote of his pleasure at hearing that, "the people of Philippa who have been lying on beds of down for so long, are now lying on beds of thorn." However, it would be a mistake to characterize the county's wealthy families as united in their support for Virginia's secession. Woodford's son Asa was wholeheartedly loyal to the Union cause, helping to raise an infantry regiment for the Pierpont government. Andrew Miller, the second wealthiest man in Barbour, also counted himself a loyal Union man and had one son in the Federal army. Overall, the distribution of property between Union and Confederate sympathizers was remarkably similar and tended to mirror property distribution for the county as a whole. In Barbour at least, both sides drew support from all segments of the county's population, from landless tenant to the richest proprietor, and in approximately equal proportions.15

The absence of any significant class distinctions between Union and Confederate sympathizers is explained by the fact that purely economic considerations played virtually no role in the issues which divided the county. The questions which split Barbour society were essentially political, the chief being secession. In all the debates, speeches, mass meetings, and resolutions passed in Barbour during the turbulent months leading up to the secession vote, the central theme was the issue of whether or not Virginia should join the seceding states of the South. The campaign statements of Thomas Bradford and Samuel Woods, the two candidates running for election to the Richmond Convention in January 1861, were devoted entirely to the question of secession. Both agreed that Virginia and any other state of the Union possessed this right. They only differed in that Bradford urged Virginia's immediate secession while Woods hoped to avoid so irrevocable a step. Woods was elected because his position combined elements satisfactory to both sides. Only when it became clear that Lincoln intended to use force to preserve the Union, did Woods switch to the secessionist camp and vote in favor of the ordinance of secession. From that moment on, he was viewed by Unionists in Barbour as having betrayed their trust and was singled out for retribution.16

The question of secession was so fundamental that the issue of slavery played a secondary role. Slavery was a factor in shaping public opinion in Barbour, but the secession question directly affected the lives of each person in the county. Slavery was an incidental element in Barbour's social fabric, touching the lives of only a handful of people. In 1860 there were thirty-eight slaveholders in the county owning eighty-eight slaves. Most slaveowners had only two or three slaves, primarily females used as domestics by wealthier families. Caroline Boner, with eleven slaves, was the largest slaveowner in Barbour and the only person who relied on slave labor to any significant degree.17

Secessionists used the slave issue as propaganda against Union supporters. Thompson Surghor, the editor of Barbour's only newspaper, repeatedly lashed out against "Union shriekers who are attempting to Abolitionize Virginia." Bradford's campaign statement castigated northern abolitionists who sent "their hired mercenaries among us for the express purpose of inciting our slaves to insurrection" and decried Lincoln as being "openly pledged to the miserable dogma that the negro is the equal of the white man."18 These statements inflamed fears that a Union victory would mean the immediate freedom of all slaves and propelled many into the Confederate ranks. After the defeat of the Confederate army at Rich Mountain and Laurel Hill in July 1861, John Beatty, an officer of Indiana volunteers, noted in his diary that Rebel prisoners, among them a number of men from Barbour, told him, "they were deceived and entered the service because they were led to believe that the Northern army would confiscate their property, liberate their slaves and play the devil generally."19

The opposition to slavery similarly compelled others in the county to oppose secession. Although abolitionist sentiment in Barbour was by no means widespread, it had adherents. The O'Neal family was to a man strongly opposed to the institution. James Proudfoot, one of the county's most prominent citizens, was so influenced by John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry that he freed his slaves outright. Captain of the local Home Guard unit Michael Haller became an ardent abolitionist as a result of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and was one of only a handful who voted for Lincoln in 1860. William P. Wilson and his sons, all of whom served in the Federal army or the West Virginia government, were directly engaged in the underground railroad, hiding runaway slaves in their cellar. Emmitt Pittman's support for the Union was shaped by his own experience of the realities of slavery. As a teenager just prior to the war, he saw a female slave beaten to death for claiming to be too ill to work. Pittman declared to an uncle that, "when I grow up, I will be a Lincoln man." Others equally opposed to slavery were just as adamant in their support of Virginia's secession. Samuel Woods' wife Isabella felt keenly that slavery was an evil, yet was steadfast in her allegiance to Virginia and the Confederacy. David Lang also opposed slavery and voted against the ordinance of secession. Nonetheless, he joined the Confederate army in 1862, rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and died fighting in the Valley Campaign in 1864.20

Perhaps the strongest evidence of the secondary role of the slavery issue in Barbour was the support for the Union cause among slaveholders. Although a majority of those who owned slaves were avowed secessionists, a number were not. Henson Hoff, a slaveowner in 1860, was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1864. One of his sons served in the government during the war while another was a Federal army officer. Solomon Leonard, another slaveowner, served in the West Virginia militia. Seven other slaveowners had sons who served in various West Virginia regiments.21

Even among non-slaveowning Unionists there is clear evidence that slavery had little to do with their support of the Federal cause. Nathan Taft, one of the most prominent Union men in the county and personally opposed to slavery, attempted to bring back slaves who fled to Ohio after the Federal occupation of the county. He was assisted by David Bryer, another Union man, who wrote to the governor of Ohio on Taft's behalf urging his help in seeking the return of runaway slaves. Bryer pointed out that this action would do much to convince the people of West Virginia that a Federal victory would not result in the eradication of the institution.22

If opposition to slavery was not a deciding factor in influencing sentiment in Barbour, then how influential was the Methodist-Episcopal Church's position on slavery in generating support for the Union? There is little doubt that Episcopal Methodism was widespread in Barbour County, dating back to the beginning of the century when itinerant preachers visited pioneer settlements in the region. Although no figures on church membership for this period exist, the 1860 census reveals its relative strength. Religious affiliation of some 355 families was noted by the census enumerator, with 201 identified as members of the Methodist-Episcopal Church.23

The church, like its individual members, was deeply divided over slavery and remained so until the eve of the Civil War. In 1844 the Methodist-Episcopal Church splintered into northern and southern branches over the question of slave ownership by church bishops. Individual members had been free to own slaves since 1808. The division of the church failed to resolve the issue, even within the northern branch. Agitation over slavery continued throughout the 1850s as abolitionist sentiment in the Northern and New England conferences exerted pressure to extend the ban on slaveownership to all members.24

The agitation had the direct effect of increasing membership within the Methodist-Episcopal Church, South throughout border areas like western Virginia. Fearful of further encroachments on membership, the leadership of the Methodist-Episcopal Church, North resisted any move to alter existing rules governing slaveownership. The culmination of the struggle came in 1861 when the General Conference adopted a new rule declaring slavery to be "inconsistent with the Golden Rule" and admonished "all preachers and people to keep themselves pure from this great evil." This was as far as the church ever came to an outright ban on slaveownership, but it was sufficient to cause massive desertions to the southern branch of the church.25

The growing abolitionist tendencies within the parent body and the increasing influence of the Methodist-Episcopal Church, South placed the West Virginia Conference between two inexorable pressures. The conference sought to preserve membership by treading a careful middle ground. Making no effort to alter the 1861 rule, the conference at the same time refused to concur with it. Thus, on the eve of Virginia's secession, a significant number of members were held to the fold only by the most tenuous of ties.26

The relation between the Methodist-Episcopal Church and Union sentiment in Barbour County can be determined by comparing the number of Union and Confederate sympathizers known to have been members of the church. Biographies, extant church records, and the 1860 census establish some 220 individuals as belonging to the church. Although a majority of 129 were Union sympathizers, 40 percent were Confederate sympathizers, among them one of the two Methodist ministers residing in the county at the outbreak of the war.27

While these figures reveal considerable support for the Union among Methodist-Episcopal Church members, the fact that a significant portion supported secession and fought for the South indicates the influence of the church was not decisive in shaping sentiment within the county. Indeed, the war effectively split the church in two. After 1861, control of local churches and meeting houses passed entirely into the hands of Unionists, who barred ministers with secessionist views from preaching and expelled southern sympathizers from the church. After the war, Confederate veterans established the first southern branch of the church in Barbour County.28

The Methodist-Episcopal Church was not the only church in the county grappling with the issue of slavery. The Baptist Church, the second largest denomination in Barbour, established the first church in the county in 1795. As with the Methodist-Episcopal Church, the 1840s were a period of intense agitation among Baptists as abolitionist sentiment grew in northern congregations. Unlike the Methodists, however, the Baptists had no national governing body and an outright schism was thus averted. Although the church's Foreign and Home Mission Societies divided into northern and southern branches, individual congregations were independent bodies and made their own decisions on slavery.29

Close to the Baptist Church in terms of numbers was the Methodist-Protestant Church. Breaking away from the parent Methodist-Episcopal Church in the late 1820s over the question of the authority wielded by bishops, Methodist-Protestant preachers found fertile ground for gaining adherents in western Virginia. George Nestor, often called the father of Methodist-Protestantism in West Virginia, was born and raised in Barbour County.30

The issue of slavery also created bitter antagonisms within the Methodist-Protestant Church. Despite attempts by the General Conference to avoid an outright division, the Northern and Western conferences severed ties with the Southern conferences in 1858, revised the church constitution to include clauses condemning slavery, and barred members from owning or trading in slaves. Although many leading members of the church in West Virginia were sympathetic to the position adopted by the Northern conferences, the West Virginia Conference as a whole refused all overtures to join, remaining instead with the Southern conferences.31

The only other significant denominations in antebellum Barbour County were the United Brethern and German Baptist, or Dunker, churches. From their inceptions, both had vigorously opposed the institution of slavery. Existing members were forbidden to own slaves and new members were expected to give up ownership of slaves as a condition of joining the church. Indeed, the leadership of the United Brethern Church in West Virginia was unalterably opposed to slavery and secession as well. The German Baptists, as one of the historically pacifist churches, took no official position on secession. Opposed to any kind of military service (they sought to limit involvement with government at all levels as much as possible), members were expected to remain neutral in the conflict.32

To determine the extent these various denominations influenced the political allegiance of individual members on the issue of slavery, the religious affiliations of 264 Union and 245 Confederate sympathizers were obtained from census lists, biographies, and church records. The results, displayed in Table 4, reveal a number of interesting trends. The sympathies of Baptists were almost the exact opposite of Methodists, with the majority supporting the Confederate cause and a sizable minority remaining loyal to the Union. Union sympathizers in Barbour perceived the Baptist Church to be a hotbed of secession and burned one of its churches to the ground.33

Denomination Union Confederate Total
Methodist-Episcopal 129 91 220
Baptist 45 69 114
Methodist-Protestant 42 66 108
United Brethern 32 5 37
German Baptist 6 7 13
Presbyterian 0 6 6
Lutheran 6 0 6
Campbellite 3 0 3
Catholic 2 1 3
265 245 510

While membership in the Baptist and Methodist-Episcopal churches seems to have moderately influenced sympathies, membership in the Methodist-Protestant Church appears to have had no influence whatsoever. Despite its adherence to the Southern conferences, and by implication acceptance of a church constitution protecting slavery, the distribution of known members almost mirrored that of the Baptists. Again, although the majority sided with the South, some 40 percent are known either to have fought in the Federal army or supported the Union cause.34

Perhaps the most surprising fact revealed by these figures is the active participation in the war by members of the German Baptist Church, five of whose members enlisted in the Union army and seven in the Confederate. The leader of the congregation in Barbour, Henry Wilson, was an ardent secessionist murdered for his views. Three of Wilson's sons served in the Confederate army, and two of them died in Virginia. Certainly, the fundamental proscriptions against military service of German Baptist faith failed to overcome more secular demands generated by the war.35

The United Brethern Church in Barbour was the only denomination to significantly influence its members on slavery. Those who were members of the church overwhelmingly supported the Union, with only two known to have enlisted in the Confederate army, one of whom, Squire Crouser, later deserted and joined the Federal army. Otherwise, only slight evidence upholds the conclusion that church affiliation measurably influenced sentiment in Barbour. While most Methodists supported the Union and most Baptists the Confederacy, significant numbers within each church supported the opposite position. Apparently individual conscience superseded religious precepts on the burning political issue of slavery.36

Religion provided some followers with a moral underpinning for their views on slavery and secession. However, the pronounced opposition among leaders and ministers of the Methodist-Episcopal Church merely mirrored equally fervent support for slavery and the Confederacy among ministers of the southern Methodist Church.

In a society only a generation removed from pioneer conditions, church affiliation was far more fluid than is often realized. Most churches in Barbour County were established in the 1840s and 1850s, some only a year or two before the outbreak of the war. Settlers whose families were members of a particular church for generations found no ministers of their faith within miles of their new home. This was especially true for Lutherans who came to Barbour in the first decades of the century, and for the large number of Irish Catholics who settled in the county in the 1850s.37 Conversions to local churches among such groups may not have been strong and certainly open to speculation. The willingness of the twelve German Baptists to renounce pacifism clearly indicates that the precepts of their church paled in comparison to the wartime crisis.

Far more important than religion in shaping sentiment in Barbour County were secular influences; the most important was the degree to which people in the county felt bound by ties of loyalty to the state of Virginia. In the last analysis, Virginia's secession demanded that the people of the western counties decide whether their ultimate allegiance lay with their state or with the United States. Many of the most prominent Unionists in Barbour were men who had only recently settled in Virginia. Spencer Dayton, who represented Barbour County at the first and second Wheeling Conventions, was born and raised in Connecticut. Dayton's co-representative Nathan Taft was a native of New York who came to Barbour in 1848. Martin Myers, who with Dayton drew up the first resolutions in Barbour opposing secession, was born in Pennsylvania, as was David Bryer mentioned earlier. Michael Haller, one of the earliest supporters of Lincoln in the county, was a native of Maryland.38

While many of the leading Union men in Barbour were northerners who settled in Virginia, the same cannot be said of the rank- and-file Unionists of the county. Table 5, showing the birthplaces of Union and Confederate sympathizers, reveals that, while a number of Barbour's Union men were born in northern and border states, the Civil War in the county was a struggle fought mainly between native-born Virginians.

Birthplace Union Confederate
Virginia 86.1% 98.0%
North* 5.5% .5%
Border+ 7.4% .5%
Europe 1.0% 1.0%
Number 585 410
Table compiled from U.S. Census Office. Eighth Census of the United States, Barbour County, Virginia.

*Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and the New England states.

+Maryland and Kentucky

Sectional differences between the two groups begin to emerge the closer one examines the family backgrounds of those born in Virginia. The birthplaces of the fathers of 488 of the 492 native Virginia Unionists could be firmly established. Of these, 129, over one quarter, were the sons of non-native Virginians. The fathers of 48 were born in either Maryland or New Jersey, another 54 in Pennsylvania, and 17 in New York, Ohio, Maine, Massachusetts, and Illinois. Ten others were sons of men who emigrated from Europe. In contrast, 366 of 401 Confederate soldiers and sympathizers born in Virginia, almost 90 percent, were also the sons of men born in Virginia. Only 29 had fathers born outside the state, 5 of them in Europe and the rest in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and Kentucky. The birthplaces of 6 fathers could not be determined.

This divergence becomes even greater the farther back one traces the families of each group. From census records, biographies, and various other sources, it is possible to determine the birthplaces of the grandfathers of 553 Union and 379 Confederate sympathizers, over 90 percent of each group. In Table 6, these findings are arranged according to the number of generations each person's family lived in Virginia. The first category includes individuals from other parts of the country or from Europe who settled in Virginia, the second, those who were born in Virginia but whose fathers were non-native Virginians. Second-generation Virginians were defined as those born in the state whose fathers were also native Virginians, but whose grandfathers were born outside the state. Third- generation Virginians were those descended from grandfathers born in Virginia.39

Union Confederate
Not born in Virginia 14.6% 2.1%
First-generation Virginian 23.3% 7.6%
Second-generation Virginian 27.7% 16.4%
Third-generation Virginian 34.4% 73.9%
Number 553 379

The differences between Unionists and Confederates in Barbour County are readily apparent. Over 70 percent of Confederates were descended from families who resided in Virginia for at least three generations, compared to only 34 percent for Unionists. Even these figures do not reveal the full extent of sectional differences between the two groups. Of the 91 first- and second-generation Virginia Confederates, 33, about one-third, were descended from European immigrants who settled directly in Virginia. Of the 281 Unionists of the same category, only 36, or 12 percent, were the sons or grandsons of European immigrants. The rest were descended from men who were born either in the North or in border states.

The defining characteristic of Confederates in Barbour County was thus a heritage that was almost exclusively Virginian. Their families had for the most part migrated from eastern Virginia and were Virginians for generations. Their primary allegiance was to the birth state of their fathers and grandfathers. As one Confederate explained when recalling why he enlisted in the Rebel army, "I was a Virginian as were my people, and when my state went to war, I saw no other course open but to follow the fortunes of the Old Dominion."40 John Beatty, the Indiana soldier quoted earlier, was struck by such attitudes. Near Buckhannon his men arrested a woman for concealing weapons intended for Rebel troops. "The woman of the house was very indignant, and spoke in disrespectful terms of the Union men of the neighborhood. . . . She said she had 'come from a higher sphere than they, and would not lay down with dogs.' She was an eastern Virginian . . . poor as a church mouse."41

So deep-rooted was this allegiance to Virginia that Confederates actually viewed their state as a nation unto itself. The diary of James Hall, a Confederate soldier from Barbour, is strewn with references to Virginia as "our country" and "our native land." David Lang, who fought and died for the Confederacy despite his opposition to slavery and Virginia's secession, wrote in similar terms in letters to his wife, telling her that if the war dragged on until their sons reached military age, she should "inspire such patriotism in each of them that they should shoulder their muskets in defense of their country."42

Loyalty to Virginia among those who were not born in the state was almost non-existent and in this context, Samuel Woods was a distinct exception. Born in Canada near the Maine border, Woods was raised in Pennsylvania before coming to Barbour County in 1849. His support for states' rights in general and Virginia's secession in particular were positions which Unionists in Barbour could neither understand nor forgive. When the war ended and he attempted to return home, he was met at the county line by a contingent of citizens who made it clear he was no longer welcome. Woods nonetheless returned home and was later elected to the West Virginia Senate. Otherwise, nearly all Northerners in Barbour remained loyal to the Union, their attitudes about Virginia perhaps best expressed by Dayton in a letter to Governor Francis Pierpont in which he declared "Virginia is the meanest State in (or out of) the Union. . . ."43

For those Union sympathizers who were native Virginians, the coming of the war posed a fundamental question of whether their allegiance lay with the state or the national government. The difficulty of this choice is apparent by the fact that a number of men from Barbour joined the Federal army after first serving in the Confederate army. Squire Crouser, William Lemon, Hezekiah Shaw, Felix Stewart, James Teter, and George Yeager all enlisted in the Barbour Lighthorse at the beginning of the war and were with Porterfield at Philippi. All later deserted and joined Federal and state units. William Kelly and Henry Lohr both joined the Barbour Greys in 1861. Within a year they had deserted and joined the 10th West Virginia Infantry, as did John Reed who only a few weeks earlier had enlisted in the 20th Virginia Cavalry. Granville Philips joined the 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry in August 1862, deserted three months later, and joined the Federal army in 1864.44

However, Virginia-born Unionists were distinguished from their secessionist neighbors by a heritage that was decidedly non-Virginian. They were primarily sons and grandsons of settlers who crossed the Mason-Dixon line into Virginia, pioneers who likely considered themselves Virginians in name only. Given the longstanding antebellum grievances over taxation, representation, and internal improvements, their allegiance to Virginia, what one Union veteran called "that fatal deity of the Virginians," could only have been lukewarm at best.45

In effect, the seeds of sectional conflict in Barbour County were sown decades before the outbreak of the war. For every family that crossed the Allegheny Mountains from eastern Virginia to settle in Barbour, there were equal numbers that pushed up the tributaries of the Monongahela River from Pennsylvania or followed wagon trails into West Virginia from Maryland or New Jersey. A large number came from as far away as New England, settling first on French Creek in Upshur County, their descendants spreading across the countryside and into Barbour. All shared a common bond in their search for cheap land. Yet they brought with them attitudes and traditions of the homes they had left behind which, when passed from father to son, served to shape political loyalties and allegiances.

The inescapable conclusion is that Unionists and Confederates in Barbour County were distinguished primarily by different heritages, the one Northern, the other Virginian. In the context of an essentially political struggle over secession, support for the Union among slaveowners was no more a contradiction than support for the Confederacy among those opposed to slavery. Those who fought for the Confederacy did so because they considered themselves, above all, Virginians, regardless of their personal views on the slave question. Opposition to secession was rooted less in any widespread anti-slavery sentiment than in a deep-seated conviction that the Union had to be preserved at all costs.

1. Theodore F. Lang, Loyal West Virginia, 1862-1865(Baltimore: Deutsch Publishing Co., 1895); Granville D. Hall, The Rending of Virginia(Chicago: Mayer & Miller, 1901); Thomas Conduit Miller and Hu Maxwell, West Virginia and Its People(New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1913).

2. Richard Orr Curry, A House Divided: A Study in Statehood Politics and the Copperhead Movement in West Virginia (Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1964).

3. Charles Henry Ambler, West Virginia, The Mountain State (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1940), 249-51.

4. Curry, A House Divided, 23-27; see also Ambler, Sectionalism in Virginia from 1776 to 1861 (1910; reprint, New York: Russell & Russell, 1964) and West Virginia, The Mountain State; James C. McGregor, The Disruption of Virginia (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1922).

5. United States. Bureau of the Census. Eighth Census of the United States. Barbour County, Virginia. Of 1612 households enumerated, 991 (61.9%) were headed by farmers and 310 (19.4%) by tenants. Occupational distribution of the remaining families was: professional - 25; merchants - 24; craftsmen - 123; government officials - 8; miscellaneous (boarders, clerks, etc.) - 11. 67 families were headed by widows, most of them almost certainly farmers. No occupation was given for the heads of 33 families. George A. Shingleton, History of Mount Morris School, Church and Cove District (Parsons: McClain, 1976), 318-21, 331-35; Hu Maxwell, History of Barbour County, West Virginia (Morgantown: Acme Publishing Co., 1899), 318-19.

6. Maxwell, Barbour County, 237-46; Curry, A House Divided, 142. The original records of the vote in Barbour have been lost and there is some disagreement as to the actual results. The Wheeling Intelligencer reported Barbour as voting 350 against the ordinance. James Morton Callahan, History of West Virginia, Old and New, vol. 1 (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1923): 351. Maxwell, not citing any figures, reported the vote to have been in favor of secession, but only by a slim margin, Barbour County, 237-46.

7. National Archives. Record Group 109. War Department Collection of Confederate Records, hereafter RG 109. Dates of enlistment from payrolls for companies H and K, 31st Virginia Infantry; companies E and H, 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry; and company D, 20th Virginia Cavalry. In addition, a company of cavalry called the Barbour Lighthorse was recruited in May 1861 but disbanded the following June.

8. Men from Barbour fought on opposing sides at McDowell, Second Bull Run, Williamsport, Droop Mountain, Rocky Gap, Lynchburg, Early's raid to Washington, D. C., Berryville, Kernstown, Winchester, Fisher's Hill, Strasburg, Cedar Creek and the Siege of Richmond.

9. Identifying Barbour's Union and Confederate soldiers first required knowledge of which army units recruited in the county. For the Union army, these units included the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th West Virginia Cavalry regiments, the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 15th and 17th West Virginia Infantry, and the 1st West Virginia Artillery. Also included were those men serving in the Barbour Home Guard and officers of the 139th and 169th West Virginia militia. Confederate army units in which Barbour men served included the 14th, 18th, 19th and 29th Virginia Cavalry regiments, the 25th and 31st Virginia Infantry, and the 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry. Company rolls were obtained from Francis P. Pierpont, Annual Report of the Adjutant General, West Virginia, 1864 (Wheeling: John F. M'Dermot, 1865) and Annual Report of the Adjutant General, West Virginia, 1865 (Wheeling: John Frew, 1866); RG 109; Confederate Service Records published in: Robert J. Driver, Jr., 14th Virginia Cavalry (Lynchburg: H. E. Howard, Inc., 1988); Roger U. Delauter, Jr., 18th Virginia Cavalry (Lynchburg: H. E. Howard, Inc., 1985) and 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry (Lynchburg: H. E. Howard, Inc., 1988); Richard L. Armstrong, 25th Virginia Infantry and 9th Battalion Virginia Infantry (Lynchburg: H. E. Howard, 1990); and John M. Ashcraft, 31st Virginia Infantry (Lynchburg: H. E. Howard, 1988). These sources were supplemented by the 1890 Federal Census of Union Veterans. Maxwell's Barbour County provided invaluable information on Union and Confederate sympathizers as well as a complete list of county officials serving during the Pierpont and Boreman administrations.

Local histories provided a wealth of information on sympathizers and the genealogies of their families. In many instances, these sources also gave information on church affiliation as well. The amount of information available on West Virginia families is quite literally astounding. The principle works consulted for this study were: Maxwell, Barbour County; Shingleton, Mount Morris; Barbour County Historical Society, Barbour County, West Virginia, Another Look (Dallas: Taylor Publishing Co., 1979); and Mary Stemple Coffman and Ethel Park Stemple, Footsteps of Our Fathers: Early Settlers of Tacy (Barbour County) W. Va. (Baltimore, 1978).

General histories with considerable biographical information are: Hardesty's Historical and Geographical Encyclopedia (Chicago: H. H. Hardesty and Co., 1883); James Morton Callahan, West Virginia and Genealogical and Personal History of the Upper Monongahela Valley (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1912); and Miller and Maxwell, West Virginia.

County histories with information on Barbour families include: by Hu Maxwell, History of Randolph County, West Virginia (Morgantown: Acme Publishing Co., 1898), History of Tucker County, West Virginia (Kingwood: Preston Publishing Co., 1884), History of Highland County, Virginia (Monterey, VA: Highland Recorder, 1922) and History of Pendleton County, West Virginia (Franklin: the author, 1910); Albert S. Bosworth, A History of Randolph County, West Virginia (Elkins: no publisher, 1907); William B. Cutright, The History of Upshur County, West Virginia (Buckhannon: no publisher, 1907); Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Monongalia, Marion and Taylor Counties (Philadelphia: Rush, West, and Co., 1895); Samuel T. Wiley, History of Preston County, West Virginia (Kingwood: Journal Printing House, 1882) and History of Monongalia County, West Virginia (Kingwood: Preston Publishing Co., 1883); Minnie Kendall Lowther, History of Ritchie County (Wheeling: Wheeling News Litho. Co., 1911); E. L. Judy, History of Grant and Hardy Counties, West Virginia (Charleston: Charleston Publishing Co., 1951); William T. Price, Historical Sketches of Pocahontas County, West Virginia (Marlinton: Price Bros., 1901); Robert L. Pemberton, A History of Pleasants County, West Virginia (St. Marys: The Oracle Press, 1929); and John D. Sutton, History of Braxton County and Central West Virginia (Sutton: no publisher, 1914).

These local sources were supplemented with county marriage records for Barbour (1842-1865) obtained from the archives of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. Also of use was Ross B. Johnston, West Virginia Estate Settlements, 1753-1850 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977). Of particular value in tracing individuals who either settled in Barbour from other counties or moved from Barbour after the war were the 1850 census schedules published by William Guy Tetrick: Census Returns of Barbour and Taylor Counties (Clarksburg: no publisher, 1932); Census Returns of Lewis County (Clarksburg: no publisher, 1930); Census Returns of Harrison County (Clarksburg: no publisher, 1930); and Census Returns of Doddridge, Ritchie and Gilmer Counties for 1860 (Clarksburg: no publisher, 1933). Of considerable help were the census schedules for 1880 published by William B. Marsh, 1880 Census of West Virginia (Parsons, 1979-1990). This census is of particular importance in that it was the first to provide not only the birthplace of each person, but those of their parents as well.

10. See note 9 above.

11. An example is Matilda Humphreys. On the morning of the attack on Philippi, she tried to send her sons into town to warn Porterfield of the arrival of the Federal army. When he was stopped, she pulled a pistol and fired into the troops. It is related that the shot was mistakenly assumed by the Federal troops on the other side of town to have been the signal to commence the attack. As a result, the troops near the Humphreys home were not in position and Porterfield's men were able to escape. Maxwell, Barbour County, 256n.

12. Twenty-two Federal soldiers from Barbour were either killed in action or died of wounds; another 22 died of disease while in the service. Pierpont, Adjutant General Report, 1864 and 1865. The total number of deaths among Barbour's Confederate soldiers will never be known due to a lack of complete records. Available sources list a total of 32 killed in action; 17 died of disease. Three Confederate civilian sympathizers in Barbour were shot to death and another 2 died in prison.

13. Price was arrested during General William Jackson's abortive attack on Beverly in July 1863 and held in prison in Richmond until the following March. Hardesty's Historical and Geographical Encyclopedia, Calhoun County (H. H. Hardesty and Co., 1883), 28. Trayhern was kidnapped from his home by Imboden's men in January 1863 and remained in Richmond almost until the end of the war. Maxwell, Barbour County, 267n.

14. Michael Crim was killed by men of the 2nd Virginia Infantry in October 1861 for allegedly aiding local guerrillas who had ambushed the unit. Francis S. Reader, Second Virginia Infantry (New Brighton, PA: F. S. Reader, 1890), 51 and Ruth Woods Dayton, Samuel Woods and His Family (no publisher, 1939), 49. Henry Bowman and Henry Wilson were killed for having allegedly aided in the kidnapping of Trayhern. Maxwell, Barbour County, 267n.

15. Dayton, Samuel Woods, 41. Locals often referred to the county seat as "Phillippa," which was its original name. Maxwell, Barbour County, 504.

16. Ibid., 237-46.

17. Eighth Census, Barbour County.

18. Maxwell, Barbour County, 238-39, 242.

19. John Beatty, Memoirs of a Volunteer (New York: W. W. Norton, 1946), 33.

20. Callahan, West Virginia, 2: 557, 3: 124, 500; Barbour County Historical Society, Barbour County . . . Another Look, 122, 328; Dayton, Samuel Woods, 23; Winfield Lang, "The Career of Col. D. B. Lang," Confederate Veteran 13(1905): 129.

21. See note 9 above.

22. Dayton, Samuel Woods, 37.

23. Miller and Maxwell, West Virginia, 291.

24. John N. Norwood, The Schism in the Methodist-Episcopal Church, 1844 (New York: Alfred University, 1923), 291; William Warren Sweet, The Methodist-Episcopal Church and the Civil War (Cincinnati: Methodist Book Concern Press, 1912), 34-36.

25. For data on the rapid increase in membership in the Methodist-Episcopal Church, South in West Virginia, see C. F. Deems, Annals of Southern Methodism (New York: J. A. Gray's Printing Office, 1856), 1:22, 7:95; Sweet, Methodist-Episcopal Church, 47.

26. Sweet, Methodist-Episcopal Church, 48.

27. Much of the information on church membership was obtained from published biographies listed in note 11. Additional sources included I. A. Barnes, The Methodist-Protestant Church in West Virginia (Baltimore: The Stockton Press, 1926); David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America (New York: no publisher, 1848); and John J. Lafferty, Sketches of the Virginia Conference, Methodist-Episcopal Church, South (Richmond: no publisher, 1894). The preacher was Dr. Abraham Hershman, arrested on the order of Governor Pierpont to be held hostage until Sheriff Trayhern was returned by Confederate authorities.

28. Dayton, Samuel Woods, 69. Although the Southern Methodists had established circuits at Clarksburg and Rowlesburg prior to the war, the first churches organized in Barbour were established in the 1870s. Barbour County Historical Society, Barbour County . . . Another Look, 70; Hardesty, Barbour County, 214-21.

29. Mary Burnham Putnam, The Baptists and Slavery, 1840-1845 (Ann Arbor: G. Wahr, 1913), 21-23.

30. Ancel H. Bassett, A Concise History of the Methodist-Protestant Church, 2nd ed., rev. and enl. (Baltimore: W. J. C. Dulaney, 1882), 124-96; I. A. Barnes, Methodist-Protestant Church, 285-97.

31. Ibid.

32. Rev. A. P. Funkhouser, History of the Church of the United Brethern in Christ, Virginia Conference, comp. by Oren F. Morton (Dayton, VA: Ruebush-Kieffer Co., 1921), 285-97.

33. Maxwell, Barbour County, 231.

34. See note 9 above.

35. Spencer Dayton gave the most detailed account of Wilson's death and the events leading up to it in a letter to the Wheeling Intelligencer, 24 Jan 1863; see also Maxwell, Barbour County, 267n.

36. Crouser is listed in Maxwell as a member of the Barbour Lighthorse in May 1861, Barbour County, 248. In 1862 Crouser enlisted in Co. H, 10th West Virginia Infantry.

37. See note 9 above.

38. Eighth Census, Barbour County.

39. In addition to the works already cited: Johnston, West Virginians in the Revolution (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977).

40. John Henry Cammack, Personal Recollections (Huntington: Paragon Printing & Publishing Co., 1920), 5.

41. Beatty, Memoirs, 22.

42. James E. Hall, The Diary of a Confederate Soldier, ed. by Ruth Woods Dayton (no publisher, 1961), 11, 31, 35, 47; Maxwell, Barbour County, 419.

43. Dayton, Samuel Woods, 16-17; Curry, A House Divided, 50.

44. Only one man from Barbour, Baylis Cade, is known to have deserted from the Union to the Confederate army. David Poe, Personal Reminiscences of the Civil War (Charleston: The News-Mail Publishing Co., 1908), 31.

45. Lang, Loyal West Virginia, 9.

Volume 50Volume 50

West Virginia History Journal

West Virginia History Center

West Virginia Archives and History