Friday, April 15, 2011

Ordinance of Secession of Virginia

On February 4, 1861, the county electorate chose Samuel A. Coffman, John F. Lewis, and Algernon S. Gray as their representatives to a state convention on Virginia secession from the Union. The Rockingham Register described the elected as conservative men who hoped to preserve the Union, but “they were not submissionists.[1] The delegates embodied the local mixed feelings abut the purpose of the convention and they surely had an awareness that less than 75 years ago illustrious representatives of the State were creators of the nation.

With the scent of spring in the air, three men from Rockingham County rode eastward, propelled by the ominous, encouraging events at Fort Sumter, South Carolina between April 12th and 14th, 1861. On April 17, the convention met at the State Capital in Richmond where 143 delegates adopted the Ordinance of Secession by a vote of 88 to 55. Only John F. Lewis in the Rockingham delegation refused to sign. The Ordinance declared “the Federal Government having perverted its powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States…that the union between the State of Virginia and other States under the Constitution, is hereby dissolved….” [2]

Ratification of the Ordinance of Secession required a vote of the people of Virginia, which was held on May 23, 1861. Attributed to patriotic fervor, coercion, and physical intimidation, an unusually large turnout of the citizens in Rockingham County voted 2,499 for the referendum; 593 opposed. Six days later on May 29 Richmond became the Capital of the Confederacy and over the next four years Virginians endured over one-third of all the bloody engagements of the Civil War. [3]

The Library of Virginia in Richmond will be displaying Virginia’s Signed Ordinance of Secession this Saturday April 16, 2011 in the Library Lobby from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Check out their website for more information. To find resources at Massanutten Regional Library check out our latest Readers Resource Guide, or search for books under United States Civil War. 

[1] John W. Wayland. The History of Rockingham County Virginia. p. 131.
[2] secession/VA
[3] NPS Battle Summaries

DNR Reference Blog 11 April 11, 2011

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