January 21, 1861: Joint Resolution Concerning the Position of Virginia


On January 21, 1861, the Virginia General Assembly adopted a joint resolution stating that if differences between the North and South couldn’t be settled, Virginia would join the Confederate States of America. It was a key turning point in history. First, the Confederacy considered Virginia a prize jewel—a necessity for its success as a separate country. Second, Virginia’s eventual secession would lead to West Virginia becoming a state.

In February 1861, a special convention assembled in Richmond to consider the secession issue. Delegates from all Virginia counties, including the 50 counties that would become West Virginia, were in attendance. For two months, they waited and did little. Most pledged their loyalty to the Union, hoping that tensions could be resolved. That all changed in April 1861 with the Southern attack on Fort Sumter and President Lincoln’s call for troops. These events started the Civil War and pushed the majority of the Richmond delegates into the secession column. After the vote, many delegates from the northwestern part of the state bolted the convention and started the process of making West Virginia the 35th state.