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28.

  

    Cameron did not return until June 25, two weeks after the Convention convened. Frank and Bevens met him at the Morgantown station. Both of them were anxious to hear the news, but Cameron begged them to allow him a hour to collect his thoughts after the two hour trip.

    "Let's have lunch at the hotel. We can talk afterward," Bevens suggested.

    "Incidentally, Cameron, why did the train take so long?" Frank asked.

    "They drove slowly. I asked the conductor about it. He said they were wary about Confederate attempts to block the line."

  

     After lunch, Frank ordered cigars and coffee, then he looked over at Cameron expectantly.

    "Well, Frank, as you can imagine, that was a most peculiar gathering, but I must admit that a fair amount was accomplished."

    "So, out with it, damn you," Bevens replied, chuckling.

    "You'll read a copious summary in the papers, I'm sure, but I will give you the gist of it beforehand.

    "First of all, the present government in Richmond has been completely repudiated. All the northwestern counties have withdrawn their recognition. Consequently, as you expected, everything that they have enacted since the April 17 Convention has been declared illegal."

    "What's the legal foundation for that?" Bevens asked. "They were elected by the general citizenry, including us."

    "Yes, well that part is a little tricky. It's based on the argument that the Virginia Secession Convention was called without the consent of the people."

    "But the people voted to ratify their ordinance," Frank replied.

    "That seems to have occurred after the fact. The theory is that a response to an illegal action-in this case, convening the convention in the first place-does not  gain the sanction of law, no matter how well intended."

    "So everything that followed is just as illegal," Bevens remarked.

    "Yes, apparently so."

    "Do we have any relationship whatsoever with Richmond?" Frank asked.

    "None. The Convention effectively dissolved the present state government  That, of course, implied that a new government had to be formed. So far, only the broadest outlines have been agreed upon. As you can imagine, it was the result of a great deal of heated discussion and an even greater amount of haggling over the details, but on the nineteenth, a final plan of reorganization was drawn up and passed by unanimous vote."

    "All right," Frank interrupted, "what are the details, as much as they are?"

   

    "I never thought that such a disparate gathering would reach agreement on anything, but they have. After days of heated argument, a consensus was finally reached on the floor. John Carlile was asked to incorporate the particulars into a document, A Declaration of the People of Virginia, a copy of which I've brought along for you to look over."

    "Who's John Carlile," Frank asked.

    "If I'm not mistaken, Cameron is referring to John S. Carlile of Beverly in Randolph County. He was one of the fellows on the rostrum at the end of the convention that you and I attended in Wheeling. He's a lawyer, of course," Bevens explained.

    "Yes, one and the same," Cameron agreed. "In any case, the Declaration dissolves the Richmond government, proclaims that any legislation or resolutions enacted subsequent to the calling of the Virginia Secession Convention do not represent the will of the people of Virginia and are henceforth null and void.

    "You already know that part." Cameron paused, preparing his friends for the dramatic impact of his next piece of information. "What you don't know is that the Convention has formed a new government and has asked Washington to transfer recognition from Richmond to Wheeling, the new temporary state capital!"

    "What? Cameron, this is stunning news," Frank replied.

    "Yes, and we even have a new governor. The Convention elected Francis H. Pierpont as Governor of Virginia."

    "Before you ask, Frank, Pierpont comes from Fairmont. Another lawyer," Bevens remarked.

    "The Convention also elected a few more state officers. I've written the details down somewhere," Cameron said, rifling through his satchel.

    "You can tell us later, Cameron. What else happened?" Frank asked, a tone of impatience creeping into his voice.

    "Actually, that is everything, Frank, everything that was accomplished, at least for now. The Convention has recessed until August. But it's not the end of the story, by any means."

    "Please go on, dear fellow," Bevens urged.

    "From our point of view, the most important item on the agenda is the proposal to create a new state consisting of the northwestern counties. It's still an open issue and the center of everyone's attention. It's being hotly contested on the floor. Mr. Carlile is strongly opposed to any division of the state. Mr. Dorsey, whom you may know, Frank, is leading the faction for secession "

    "Dennis Dorsey, from here? Morgantown?" Frank asked.

    "The same," Cameron replied. "The delegates who hold elective office, in other words, the assemblymen and state senators, will be meeting separately in Wheeling during July to complete the reorganization of the new state government. Any outstanding vacancies will be filled, two federal senators will be elected, and lastly, the motion to create a new state from the northwestern counties will be decided."

    "But you won't be there?" Frank asked.

    "Unfortunately, no. I'm not an elected official."

    "So, there are two Virginias now," Frank said.

    "Essentially, yes."

    "Like Missouri and Kentucky," Bevens added.

    "Technically, the situation here is a little different. Missouri and Kentucky each have two separate governments, one recognized by the Union, the other by the Confederacy. Amongst the citizenry, sentiment is divided equally, roughly speaking, between the two factions, but the Union army clearly has the upper hand, and the Confederacy will gain little comfort from maintaining governments in exile.   

    "In Virginia, the Wheeling Convention ruled that the Richmond government was  nonexistent; in effect, that Virginia had no government. Hence, the action taken by the Convention was to restore the vacated government with one of its own choosing, which also explains its official title, "The Restored Government of Virginia."

    "Why is this difference important, Cameron," Frank asked.

    "Well, it may not be, depending on how the courts rule once this ridiculous war has been brought to a close. But it's just possible that any easements currently in effect, including the one held by the Baltimore and Ohio, would be declared invalid since they were granted by a nonexistent government. In other words, a state always reserves the right to revoke an easement; they're issued on a temporary basis only, even if they continue in effect for a very long period of time. If revocability is no longer possible, then the easement is automatically terminated. Mind you, this is just a theory, my theory, and the courts could rule otherwise."

    "That is very interesting, Cameron," Frank said.

 

    After the Battle of Philippi on June 3, the Confederate withdrawal to Huttonsville left the Tygart Valley unprotected against federal encroachment from the north. Brigadier General Robert S. Garnett, who had relieved the unfortunate Porterfield, attempted to strengthen the defenses around the region. He established a command at Laurel Hill in Tucker County and sent Colonel John Pegram to occupy nearby Rich Mountain in Randolph.

    In the meantime, George McClellan had assumed command of all Union troops in northwest Virginia and moved into Clarksburg in Harrison County. In his judgment, the Tygart Valley to his south was weakly defended, and he decided to move against Garnett from two different directions.

    On June 27, McClellan moved south from Clarksburg toward Pegram at Rich Mountain while Brigadier General Thomas A. Morris, who had chased the Confederates under Porterfield the previous month, led a brigade from Philippi toward Garnett's position at Laurel Hill.

    McClellan arrived in front of the Confederate lines near Rich Mountain on July 9, and two days later on July 11, sent a reinforced brigade under Brigadier General William S. Rosecrans to encircle Peagram from his rear. Undetected, they followed mountain trials behind the Confederate position and captured the strategically important Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, a major thoroughfare which led from the Ohio River to the middle of the Alleghenies.

    The attack left Pegram's forces splintered and divided. Half of his command escaped over the Shawnee Trail to Beverly, but Pegram and the others were trapped. They surrendered to Rosecrans on July 13.

 

    When Garnett learned of Pegram's surrender, he decided to withdraw from Laurel Hill with forty-five hundred men toward Beverly. During the march, he received false information that Beverly had been occupied by federal troops. Garnett made a fatal decision. The Confederates reversed direction and followed the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike to the town of Leadville; then they left the road and crossed over Cheat Mountain into the Cheat River Valley. The maneuver cost the Confederate troops valuable time.

    Morris was close in pursue and caught Garnett's rear guard at Corrick's Ford on the Cheat River. While the main body of his command hastily retreated, Garnett stayed behind with his rear guard and personally directed a delaying action. They skirmished along a two mile stretch of the river. At the next ford, Garnett felt dead from a volley of federal bullets. His men fled in disarray, leaving behind a canon, forty wagons, and the body of their general.

    Robert S. Garnett was the first general officer to be killed in the Civil War. His body was recovered by a friend in the Union army. As a result of the engagements at Rich Mountain and Corrick's Ford,  George McClellan was chosen to command the newly formed Army of the Potomac in Washington. More action and more opportunities for the Confederate army lay ahead, but they had lost control of northwestern Virginia for the rest of the war. Wheeling was safe.

 

    "Kanawha? Who the hell came up with that?" Frank asked.

    "That isn't really clear. One of the advocates for statehood probably," Cameron said.

    "It's the name of one county, for God's sakes. What about the rest of us."

    "True, but it's also the name of a river, and an important one at that. Don't get too upset, Frank. A number of people share your disappointment. I've heard it's just  temporary until agreement can be found on a permanent name."

    "What are some of the other candidates?"

    "How about 'Western Virginia' or just 'West Virginia,'" Cameron grinned.

    "Better," Frank replied, "but not perfect. All right, suppose we agree on a name. Do we also have a state?"

    "Ah, dear fellow, you have an incredible propensity for reducing the frivolous to the absurd," Bevens chuckled.

    "We will have a state if The Restored State of Virginia agrees to allow a secession. On the surface, they almost certainly will not, so it will be a matter of cutting a deal."

    "You mean paying a bribe," Bevens laughed.

    "Well, perhaps that, too," Cameron smiled.

 

    While the Second Wheeling Convention was in recess, Francis Pierpont, the newly selected governor, called the legislature of the Reorganized Government of Virginia into Extra Session in Wheeling on July 1, 1861. Thirty-two delegates of the House who were elected on May 23 convened in the Custom House; the eight state senators who were legally entitled to hold office by a previous election met in the Linsly Institute. All siting members were required to take an oath of allegiance to the United States.

    The legislative session promised to be busy with a full agenda, but the urgency of the previous conventions was missing; the first meeting was adjourned for lack of a quorum. In the days that followed, the attention of the members was focused on a number of administrative, housekeeping-like details. Daniel Frost of Jackson County was elected Speaker of the House while Lieutenant Governor Daniel Polsloy, in accordance with the state constitution, began presiding over the Senate. There were items about taxes and public works that needed handling and a roster of state offices to be filled. The most interesting news was revealed by Governor Pierpont. President Lincoln had extended the full protection of the United States government to the loyal citizens of northwestern Virginia.

    There were still two items to be considered that were of great interest to Frank Montague. The first was the appointment of two United States Senators to fill the  vacancies created when Virginia left the Union. John Carlile was one popular choice, and after a prolonged and heated discussion, Waitman T. Willey was selected as the second. They left soon afterward to claim their seats in Washington, and were eventually recognized after a vociferous debate in the Senate.

     A more important matter was brought before the legislators toward the end of the session. House Bill Number Twenty-One was reported out of committee. It expressed the favorable sentiments of the House and Senate toward the creation of a new state from the northwestern counties. As Cameron predicted, it was rejected by the House and tabled by the Senate.

January 2012

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