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Virginia in the American Civil War

Library of Virginia collections pertaining to the American Civil War

Politics & Government

After President Lincoln called for troops to suppress the rebellion on April 15, 1861, the Virginia Convention voted 88–55 for secession, a decision ratified by voters on May 23. An additional ordinance provided for the organization of staff departments for the military forces of the State. This ordinance organized the adjutant general's department, quartermaster's department, subsistence department, medical department, pay department, and engineer corps. The convention also voted to adopt the constitution of the Confederate States of America, thereby joining the Confederacy. John Letcher was governor of Virginia at the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, and was succeeded by William Smith in 1864. 

Following the Virginia Convention's vote to pass the Ordinance of Secession, mass meetings were held in opposition to secession in northwestern Virginia. Francis H. Pierpont took an active part in these meetings and in the Wheeling Convention on May 13, 1861. The convention voted to defy the Secession Convention. The Second Wheeling Convention met on June 11, and on June 20, Pierpont was unanimously elected governor of the Restored government of Virginia, which was recognized by President Lincoln. As governor, Pierpont concentrated on raising regiments and commissioning officers for the Union cause.

Library of Virginia collections include Governor's papers from Letcher and Pierpont, as well as state agency papers, such as the Auditor of Public Accounts, the Ordnance Department, and the Engineer Department. Special Collections also houses a number of published Confederate imprints issued by the Confederate government. These imprints are cataloged in bibliographies by T. Michael Parrish & Robert Marion Willingham, Marjorie Crandall, and Richard Barksdale Harwell.

Search Tips

Use the following suggested keywords to search the LVA Catalog:

  • United States History Civil War, 1861-1865 Causes
  • Virginia History Civil War
  • Virginia Convention (1861 : Richmond)
  • Virginia Politics and government, 1861-1865
  • Virginia Governor (1860-1864: Letcher)
  • Virginia Governor (1861-1865: Pierpont)
  • Virginia Governor (1864-1865: Smith)

Featured Resources

Executive Papers

Confederate Imprints

The following bibliographies list books, periodicals, broadsides, and other materials printed in the Confederacy.