When West Virginia seceded from Virginia, how come the southwestern part of what is now the Commonwealth of Virginia didn't join West Virginia when they are geographically and culturally a lot more like West Virginia then the rest of Virginia?

  • 2
    I'd question the assertion that southern Virginia was geographically and culturally more like West Virginia than the rest of the state in the lead-up to the Civil War. You can see a distinct north-south axis in the referendum results.
    – Comintern
    Mar 13, 2016 at 0:52
  • The fact that there were several Confederate armies in those exact regions probably explains most of it.
    – Oldcat
    Mar 14, 2016 at 19:25
  • @Comintern - Hard to say what "no vote returned" means. Since the Confederates had hung men in Southwest VA and NE Tennessee for Union sympathies already and the US troops were not protecting the grey counties in their deployments,
    – Oldcat
    Mar 14, 2016 at 19:29
  • The question in itself doesn't have the facts right: the cultural similarities called into question are incorrect, they at the time of secession, differed culturally and politically.
    – user17649
    May 21, 2016 at 11:22

2 Answers 2


Actually, West Virginia includes parts of south-west Virginia, basically all the counties south of Kanawha County in WV. At one time the new state would have taken in the Shenandoah valley also. The state of West Virginia was made arbitrarily and not on county loyalty, as you can see in this map of the West Virginia counties that voted for the Confederacy.

map of Appalachian county vote on secession

The Wheeling constitutional convention argued for weeks over what counties to include. As it was, they bit off more than they could chew because when the war was over and the people of West Virginia got their right to vote back they trashed the Wheeling constitution for one a little more like the old Virginia constitution.

At the constitutional convention Mr. Van Winkle explained his reasons for including Confederate counties in the new state.

enter image description here

  • Could you share that map without the new colors?
    – Benjamin
    Jul 7, 2016 at 17:57

For our purposes, there are three areas: Northwest West Virginia, Southeast West Virginia, and Southwest Virginia. That is if you divide the state using a "line" running southwest to northeast.

This map shows that only "northwest" West Virginia was anti-secession. Southeast West Virginia was pro-secession. Meaning that "West Virginia" was basically "too large" based on anti- and pro-secession sentiments.

Yes, Southwest Virginia was "like" Southeast West Virginia. One could make the argument that they belong in the same state. But if that argument had prevailed, they would both be in Virginia and not West Virginia.

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