Wednesday, October 24, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Thursday, Oct. 24, 1861

With Union troops—the majority Ohioans—dominating western Virginia, the region's citizens feel sufficiently encouraged to go to the polls and vote overwhelmingly to break away from Virginia and form a new state. In May, a majority of western Virginians had voted strongly against the state leaving the Union to join the Confederacy. Then, in June, delegates from western counties met in Wheeling to denounce the secession vote and to authorize creation of a new state, to be known as “Kanawha.” A few weeks later, “Kanawha” was re-named “West Virginia” and it was decided to hold a public referendum in October on breaking away from the mother state.

In voting today, 18,849 votes will be cast for separation from Virginia, with only 781 against. The presence of Union troops may have had something to do with the small number of opposition votes, but pro-Union sentiment probably would have prevailed anyway. Actual statehood will not come until Federal approval in 1863. Despite sporadic guerrilla and conventional warfare that will continue until 1865, it is clear that the Confederacy has lost a third of its keystone state—and Ohio soldiers helped make it possible.

Elsewhere, a nasty little skirmish occurs at Camp Joe Underwood, an enlistment and training camp for Union loyalists in Kentucky. Several Union soldiers and some weapons are captured by Confederate forces from Tennessee.

And there is news, not about the war, that is of national significance: The transcontinental telegraph is completed in the late afternoon today, with the joining, in Salt Lake City, of lines that had been built from the east and the west.

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