1. Education
Martin Kelly

West Virginia Becomes a State

By June 20, 2013

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In 1863, West Virginia became 35th state admitted to the Union when it broke away from Confederate Virginia during the Civil War. When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, the western portion was against the action. On October 24, 1861, what would later become West Virginia was formed. The US government accepted West Virginia as a state two years later.  Interestingly, West Virginia was initially going to be called Kanawha after the Kanawha River.


June 21, 2009 at 10:36 am
(1) Brendan says:

When I used to do Civil War Reenacting and do history talks in classrooms this was one subject that I would always ask the teachers and kids. If secession is illegal (that was why the war was fought, right ? yeah right)then why do we have 50 states ? In 1865 after the war was over the State of Virgina asked those Northern counties to return to the State. They said no and the US govt. backed them up. So the question remains if succsession is illegal/wrong then why do we have 50 states ?

June 21, 2009 at 3:09 pm
(2) Kurt Myers says:

Article IV Secion III of the Constitutions says, “…but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the concent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”
I doubt that Virginia gave concent for the western counties to form their own state, so what was the legal rational, I wonder, to create the non-slave state of West Virginia?
Does anyone know?

June 27, 2009 at 2:28 pm
(3) Paul in MD says:

To Kurt’s question…
Could it be that Virginia (and the other seceded entites) were not states of the Union at that time, thus, no consent was required or available?

June 27, 2009 at 10:18 pm
(4) Sandi says:

Actually, the issue of legal is fuzzy in the Civil War. There is nothing in the Constitution that says states could not leave the Union. At various times states, North and South, argued that they freely joined and could freely leave. If so, then it was a war between two countries, and West Virginia should have had the right not to leave. On the other hand, Lincoln never acknowledge that the Confederate States had left the Union, i.e. he never allowed their stars to be removed from the flag. Therefore, West Virginia shouldn’t have been formed.

October 20, 2009 at 1:53 am
(5) Jeremy says:

I was born and raised in West Virginia, so I’ve studied WV history since I was a little kid. In one of the books I read, Virginia tried to force WV and took it all the way to the Supreme Court. They ruled that Virginia had chosen to leave the Union at that time so the laws of the Union did not apply to them at the time of West Virginia’s succession.

October 25, 2009 at 8:41 am
(6) Sandi says:

Jeremy, that sounds reasonable.

June 23, 2010 at 3:06 pm
(7) Harry says:

West Va was allowed to remain a state after the war by agreement between the state of Va and the federal govt. Va agreed to allow West Va to remain a state in return for not having to pay war reparations as the rest of the returning states did.

May 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm
(8) rick says:

There were numerous times that the Lincoln administration circumvented the constitution. This is just another one.

March 2, 2013 at 9:21 am
(9) jazy says:

West virginia became its own country because virginia was doing slavery and west virginia did not like it so they went and made its own country. : )

June 21, 2013 at 8:16 pm
(10) Highlandangel1 says:

I’ve maintain for over 50 years that the state of W.V. is an illegal state. I thought I was the only one who’d ever questioned its legality. It’s nice to know there are others who also wonder.

My understanding of the constitution is that a stare must vote amongst itself to allow an area to leave. The state of Virgina, whether it was concerned a part of the Union, or a part of the Confederacy NEVER voted to allow W. Virgina o succeed,, so the state of West Virginian is an illegal sate. Of course, it really doesn’t matter anymore. It is, as my daughter says, What it is.

June 22, 2013 at 11:15 am
(11) B-townFan says:

This all seems Constitutionally legal to me. Essentially, what is now WV represented Virginia during the Civil War. After the Civil War it was agreed upon by the US gov’t and the State of VA that those northwestern counties of VA could become a separate state as long as VA did not need to pay reparations incurred during the Civil War.

June 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm
(12) Kevin says:

B-town, I have read the same about WV counties representing as VA up until it was officially named a different state. It could be argued that technically it was the southern counties that left the northwest counties to become a different entity, and not the other way around.

Many decisions made throughout our history have technically be non-constitutional. It seems that in time of conflict it happens the most.

November 30, 2013 at 2:02 pm
(13) Jeff B says:

West Virginia did not enter the Union as a Free state. I entered as a Border State. The state did indeed contain slaves.

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