The following is a guest post from Head of Acquisitions & Processing Denise Gallo.
On April 17, 1861, Virginia adopted the Ordinance of Secession, a document which rescinded its original ratification of the Constitution in 1788. This made Virginia “a free and independent State,” dissolving any ties with the Union and giving Virginians “the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State.” The secession was to go into effect after ratification by a majority vote to be held on the “fourth Thursday in May next.”
Not all Virginians favored secession, however. Representatives from counties in the western part of the state convened in Wheeling from May 13 to 15, but, after intense debate, agreed only to see how the rest of Virginia would vote. When the Ordinance of Secession was passed in that election, the western Virginians returned to Wheeling for a second convention. On June 20, 1861, West Virginia declared itself separate from Virginia, citing irreconcilable differences. It would be exactly two years to the day before it was officially admitted it to the Union with Arthur Inghram Boreman, depicted on the cover of “The West Virginia Grand March,” becoming the first governor. A critical border state, West Virginia served as an important buffer between North and South during the Civil War.