Secession from Virginia was the hope of some western Virginians as early as 1829. Many western Virginians felt underrepresented in the legislature, overtaxed, and shortchanged in state spending. In many counties, rugged terrain made plantation agriculture impractical.
Following Virginia’s vote to secede from the United States in 1861, leaders in twenty-seven counties organized to remain loyal to the federal government. After a half-year of war, they were able to expand their base, reaching across the natural barrier of the Allegheny Mountains, to add twenty-one additional counties and consume two-fifths of the territory of Virginia.
The westerners were divided even following admission of the new state of West Virginia into the United States in 1863. Pro-Confederate majorities existed in twenty-four of the forty-eight counties, and Confederate sympathizers were active in the others.