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First Campaign of the American Civil War


West Virginia was the place where, on May 27, 1861, the first campaign of the Civil War began. Technically, at this time, this was still the state of Virginia, since West Virginia hadn’t yet split off. In late May of 1861, Union commander of the Department of the Ohio, General George B. McClellan, ordered his troops to cross the Ohio River in order to secure the western part of Virginia for the Union.

The battles were fought in the mountains in counties now known as Barbour, Taylor, Randolph and Pocahontas.

Over the months of June and July of 1861, McClellan’s army won the first Union victories of the war. Union troops occupied western Virginia and delegates formed the Restored Government of Virginia. This was a Union government set to oppose the Confederate one in Richmond. Confederate General Robert E. Lee tried, but failed to keep that part of Virginia loyal to the Confederacy.

But it wasn’t until 1863 that the western counties joined the Union as the new state of West Virginia.

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  1. I’m confused. Virginia was Union and West Virginia turned Confederate?? What an amazing part of history this time period was.

  2. No, West Virginia, when it came into existence in 1863, was a Union State. But in 1861, the Union was desperate to keep that section of Virginia loyal. Guess they hadn’t decided to go with the rest of the state when Virginia seceeded.

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