Chapter Six
Ratification of the
Ordinance of Secession

The Ordinance of Secession was approved by the voters of Virginia on May 23, 1861. This appears to have been viewed as merely a technicality, since the government of Virginia had proceeded to align itself with the Confederacy and prepare for war. During the month following the passage of the ordinance by the delegates at the Richmond Convention, citizens of western Virginia gathered in communities and voiced their opposition to or support for the decision to leave the Union. When Virginia Governor John Letcher announced that the ordinance had been ratified by the citizens of Virginia by a vote of 125,950 to 20,373, many western Virginians were outraged by his pronouncement that most of the votes from western Virginia had not been delivered to Richmond. Due to the fact that many vote totals were lost, it is unclear how western Virginians voted. Some historians believed that the overwhelming majority voted against secession, but a detailed study by historian Richard Curry* concluded that a sizeable minority in western Virginia voted for the Ordinance of Secession. The war that was splitting the nation was now about to rend the state of Virginia.
"How Virginia Was Voted
Out Of The Union"
Harper's Weekly
15 June 1861

*Richard O. Curry, A House Divided: A Study of Statehood Politics and the Copperhead Movement in West Virginia (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 1964)

Primary Documents:

Letter, "To the People of North-Western Virginia"
"The Election News"
Vote in Kanawha County on the Ordinance of Secession (Artificial Statehood Collection, Ms79-244)

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West Virginia Statehood

West Virginia Archives and History