VIDEO: Dennis Frye – Why Did Virginia Secede? TRT: 4:05.
“Why Did Virginia Secede?” – Dennis Frye
Why Did Virginia secede from the Union? Actually why did Virginia divorce itself from the Union. Sometimes the word “secede” is just a little too nice. This was total separation, total divorce, complete, complete separation from the United States of America.
We were now the Divided States of America in 1861. And Virginia chose to go with the divided states rather than remain united. Very ironic considering all the efforts of the Founding Fathers to unite us as one nation. And, now, here we are, separating eighty years later into two nations.
It’s really interesting, with Washington and Madison and Monroe and Jefferson – all these great Virginians, that Americans, North and South, completely revered – to have the state – the mother state – the whole state of Virginia – the leader in the unification of the Country and the leader during the Revolution and the post-Revolution period to find itself leaving the country it helped create. It was literally a divorce. It did not come easily. It was a very, very difficult thing for Virginia to do. Virginia was not a “hothead” state. It wasn’t the first to secede. South Carolina had left the Union in 1860 only a few weeks after Lincoln’s election. Here we are in April – January, February, March and here we are in mid-April – three-and-a-half, four months have passed, and Virginia is still part of the United States. Virginia was really very uncomfortable about going with the South. It was a slave State. It was the largest of the slave holding states but it was very, very uncertain about the future of the Confederacy, and it was also uncertain about the future of a divided nation. After all, Virginia helped create the United States which was in response to the Articles of Confederation, which is what really the Confederacy amounted to in many respects.
And so this question of secession, leaving the Union, carving itself away from the Union, was not taken lightly. In fact, Virginia had voted on secession in previous months. It had voted it down. The state had a special secession convention. Delegates from each one of the counties went to the secession convention, representing the local folks back home. And time and again the vote was against secession. What changed it all? Why did they finally decide to cast their votes in favor of departure from the United States?
Well, really it was war, the outbreak of war. When Fort Sumter was fired upon by South Carolinians – and President Lincoln requested that all of those states still within the United States, contribute troops to squash the rebellion in the Southern States, that was too much. Virginia said: “Now, wait a minute, wait a minute. We can’t go fight our brothers in the South. We can argue against them. We can certainly disagree with them and their perspective on the new Confederacy.
But we can’t have Virginians wearing United States Army uniforms, and launching invasions into the South. And with that, the argument shifted. It changed and on April the 17th of 1861, the Virginia Secession Convention secretly voted to leave the United States and hence a new confederacy was born with the grandest and oldest state now the the leader the captain of the ship.