The Second Wheeling Convention

August 14, 2011 

Delegates in what is present-day West Virginia gathered Aug. 6-21, 1861, for the “Second Wheeling Convention” to consider breaking with Virginia over the state's secession from the Union.

The delegates adopt several resolutions, including one nullifying the measures of their counterparts in Richmond, seat of the Confederacy, who declared the ongoing pro-Union deliberations in Wheeling to be “null, void, and without force or effect.”

The delegates debated boundaries for a future state and, on Aug. 20, 1861, a committee proposed it be named “Kanawha” and consist of dozens of breakaway-minded counties. Voters in those counties in October 1861 ultimately approved a referendum, clearing the way for a later constitutional convention to establish a separate state government framework.

In a legal step, President Abraham Lincoln on Aug. 16, 1861, declared the 11 states of the Confederacy and its denizens “in a state of insurrection against the United States” and proclaimed all commercial trade to other parts of the United States from the South to be “unlawful” while the insurrection continues. The move effectively stymies a once-bustling cotton trade between the South and Border states and further bolsters the federal naval blockade of Southern ports and waterways.

In this week, Union Gen. George McClellan is seen organizing his command of the Army of the Potomac and reports on his work to Lincoln, who also visits the Washington-area Navy Yard as preparations are made for the next phase of the conflict.

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