With the complete letter from the West Virginia Marshall still present
One of the first communications to the War Department by President Lincoln under new Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who had taken over from the disgraced Simon Cameron just days earlier
Settlement of the western lands of Virginia came gradually in the late 18th century as settlers slowly made their way from eastern Virginia across the Allegheny Plateau. The region remained unlike the balance of Virginia in that there was an absence of slavery and a prevalence of small farms over plantations. The eastern part of the state was controlled by wealthy landholding and slaveholding elites, while in the west farmers and merchants were leaders. Because slaves were counted in allotting representation, eastern planters dominated the Virginia legislature, and demands by western Virginians for lower taxes and infrastructure development were not met. The west felt estranged from the east, and they saw membership in the federal union as a protection to their rights. When Virginia voted to secede after the outbreak of the Civil War, the majority of West Virginians opposed the secession and were threatened by it. Many were determined not to allow secession to take root in their section of the state.
A convention was called at Wheeling that met from May 13-15, 1861, prior to the date at which the people of the state of Virginia were to vote on secession. Twenty-seven western Virginia counties were represented and there were 429 delegates. They determined that if the state approved secession, that western Virginians should elect delegates to a Second Wheeling Convention to begin on June 11 to determine what response to take. When secession was approved and the convention convened at Wheeling, its president stated, "We are determined to live under a state government in the United States of America and under the Constitution of the United States." On June 13, a "Declaration of the People of Virginia" was introduced, which document declared that since the Secession Convention had not been convened by a referendum, the Ordinance of Secession was illegal. It also declared the existing government in Richmond void and called for the reorganization of the state government on the grounds that Virginia's secession had effectively vacated all state offices. Virtually all the delegates at the Convention recognized the differences between eastern and western Virginia as irreconcilable and supported some sort of separation, and many delegates believed that constitutional restrictions made it necessary for the formation of a loyal government of Virginia, whose legislature could then give permission for the creation of a new state. On June 19, delegates approved this plan unanimously. The next day the convention selected new officers of the Virginia state government (usually called the "Restored Government of Virginia" to avoid confusion with the secessionist government). Francis Pierpont was elected governor. Delegates then passed a number of resolutions, including an ordinance that nullified the proceedings of the Richmond Secession Convention and declared all actions of that convention "illegal, inoperative, null, void, and without force or effect."
The position taken by western Virginia was of enormous value to President Lincoln and the Union cause. It provided not merely men and support, but validation for the concept that secession was illegal, and that Virginia, and by extension other southern states, were still in the Union. He stated strongly in December 1862, on his supporting admission of West Virginia as a state: "We can scarcely dispense with the aid of West Virginia in this struggle, much less can we afford to have her against us, in Congress and in the field. Her brave and good men regard her admission into the Union as a matter of life and death. They have been true to the Union under many severe trials. The division of a state is dreaded as a precedent but a measure expedient by a war is no precedent for times of peace…It is said that the admission of West Virginia is secession, and tolerated only because it is our secession. Well, if we call it by that name, there is still difference enough between secession against the constitution and secession in favor of the constitution. I believe the admission of West Virginia into the union is expedient."
Autograph letter signed of E.M. Morton, who served under Governor Pierpont as Marshal (and loaned the new state $500 in 1861 to help it get off the ground), Wheeling, WV, January 24, 1862, to Pres. Abraham Lincoln. In it he requests a federal appointment for Hugh W. Crothers, who had been a member of the Wheeling Convention during the months of June and August 1861, and of the House of Delegates of the Restored Government of the State. "Col. H.W. Crothers will be an applicant before you for some situation within your gift. No words of mine can do justice to my appreciation of his merit. His active patriotism and untiring devotion to the public interests together with his intelligence entitle him to high consideration and to the gratitude of the government. He has done all that a devoted patriot in his position could do to sustain the government and to crush out this unholy rebellion. I hope and trust he may be correspondingly rewarded." Morton signed the letter as "Marshal, Western District of Virginia."
Lincoln was willing to help loyal West Virginians any way he could. Autograph endorsement signed, January 29, 1862, to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who had been in office only nine days at the time. "Respectfully submitted to the War Department, with the remark that I should be pleased for Mr. Crothers to be appointed Assistant Paymaster, if it can be consistently done."
The appointment never came to fruition, as Crothers received an offer to act as Governor Pierpont's aide, a plum post he accepted. He held the position until the admission of West Virginia into the Union in 1863, after which he was appointed aide to Governor Arthur Boreman. In these posts Crothers was successful in procuring arms, equipment, clothing and other support for West Virginia's soldiers.