The Rending of Virginia

A History

  • Author(s): Hall, Granville Davisson
  • Series: Appalachian Echoes Non-Fiction
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2000-06-28
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $38.00 | Buy Now

When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, its western residents were outraged and formed a separate state two years later, introducing political upheaval into already tumultuous times. Men like Granville Davisson Hall sought to throw off the shackles of a slaveholding aristocracy and to revitalize their region’s economy in the process. Hall’s account of those events, which first appeared when the birth of West Virginia was still a living memory, takes modern readers back to those turbulent days.

An active participant in the statehood movement and West Virginia’s second secretary of state, Hall recorded all the proceedings of the loyalist constitutional convention and preserved every printed document from that assembly. He gathered those materials, along with reminiscences of the men involved in the secession effort, into a book, originally published in 1901, that offers first-hand insights into the personalities and politics of the day. A passionately pro-Union account, The Rending of Virginia sheds light on how those individuals perceived current events and offers an insider’s analysis of their interactions. Hall’s acquaintance with so many leading politicians also allowed him to make telling corrections to their own self-serving accounts of those events.

John Stealey’s introduction to this classic work provides a biographical sketch of Hall and places him within the broader social and political context of dissent in western Virginia. He also shows how modern scholars can benefit from Hall’s unabashedly partisan viewpoint, noting that Hall’s knowledge of individuals and families can help us better understand the regional politics of that era.

This reissue of The Rending of Virginia provides today’s readers with a unique collection of primary source materials not otherwise available while offering a fresh perspective on slavery and economics in antebellum Virginia. It remains one of the most thorough and multidimensional studies of secession and statehood and helps us fully grasp the histories of two states.

The Author: Granville Davisson Hall (1837–1934), served as West Virginia secretary of state and later became editor of the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer. He was also the author of Lee’s Invasion of Northwest Virginia (1911) and a novel, Daughter of the Elm (1899).

John Edmund Stealey III is professor of history at Shepherd College and author of The Antebellum Kanawha Salt Business and Western Markets.