West Virginia During the Civil War: A History Symposium

The West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation, in partnership with Wheeling Heritage, the Wheeling Academy of Law and Science (WALS) Foundation and the Ohio County Public Library, will host “West Virginia During the Civil War” a history symposium, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 24.

The symposium will feature a morning session at the First State Capitol at 1413 Eoff St. and an afternoon session at West Virginia Independence Hall at 16th and Market streets, two Wheeling venues of vital importance to West Virginia’s statehood.

The event is a fundraiser for the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation. Proceeds will be used for educational programming by the foundation, whose mission is to cooperate with the state of West Virginia to preserve, restore and maintain the site of the state’s birthplace and to provide a stable, permanent and secure archival environment for permanent exhibits reflecting the history of the state. The foundation envisions a future in which all West Virginians will have knowledge of the state’s history, will value and respect that tradition and will support the preservation of that unique heritage.

The symposium lineup features five dynamic Civil War historians. The morning session will include Travis Henline, Rick Wolfe and Hunter Lesser, with Kris White and Eric Wittenberg speaking at the afternoon session. Some presenters will have books for sale and signing after their presentation. For the morning session, admission is by ticket only.

While the afternoon session is free and open to the public (donations welcome and appreciated), preferred seating will be reserved for ticket purchasers.


Morning session at First State Capitol

9- 9:45 a.m.: Registration, continental breakfast

9:45-10 a.m.: Introductory Remarks

10-10:45 a.m.: Travis Henline: “West Virginia Statehood”


The Civil War provided the opportunity for what many in western Virginia had discussed and longed for over a number of generations — a separate and distinct state of their own. This presentation will discuss the decades of growing grievances, the tenuous process during the “fearful experiment” of the statehood movement, the role of Wheeling and the Restored government of Virginia and the people who facilitated the only successful secession movement in United States history.

Henline has spent a career in public history working for the National Park Service, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the W.Va. Division of Culture and History. He served as the Site Manager of West Virginia Independence Hall during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and West Virginia statehood and was co-chair of the Wheeling Civil War 150 Committee.

11-11:45 a.m.: Rick Wolfe: “Colonel William Powell — The Iron Man.”1


Wolfe will profile William Powell, colonel of the 2nd West Virginia Cavalry. Before the war, Powell had worked in the iron mills of Wheeling and Ironton, Ohio. Powell would distinguish himself through the war and be awarded a Medal of Honor in 1890.

Wolfe spent 26 years in the Marine Corps and has been a longtime student of the Civil War. President of Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation, he is a volunteer on the Civil War Task Force for the W.Va. Division of Tourism and served on the West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission. Heis author of the book, “West Virginia in the Civil War.”

Noon-12:45 p.m.: Hunter Lesser: “Robert E. Lee’s Feuding Generals: Wise vs. Floyd’

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This is the riotous tale of two former Virginia governors; old political rivals who upend Confederate efforts to reclaim the western counties of that state in 1861. Generals Henry Wise and John Floyd squabble like schoolboys — even as Union forces march to annihilate them! Lee is no match for their antics, leading to the loss of West Virginia and a scandal that stretches to the capitol in Richmond.

Lesser, author, interpreter and preservationist, enjoys sharing forgotten tales from history that offer lessons for the digital age. A member of the West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission, he is the coauthor of the “Cambridge History of the American Civil War,” soon to be published by Cambridge University Press.

12:45-2 p.m.: Lunch and book signings

Afternoon Session at West Virginia Independence Hall

2-2:45 p.m.:

Kris White: “Overlooked But Not Forgotten: West Virginia’s Contributions to the Gettysburg Campaign”


Often overlooked in the lore of that hot and humid summer of 1863, is the fact that a new state, West Virginia, was born. While few units from the state took part in the battle, those that did, made an indelible impact on the battle, and campaign as a whole. We will examine the impact that West Virginians, from both North and South, had in the Gettysburg Campaign — at places like Second Winchester, East Cemetery Hill, South Cavalry Field and Brinkerhoff’s Ridge.

White is the author, co-author, and editor of numerous books related to the American Civil War. White is the co-founder of Emerging Civil War and currently serves as the education manager for the Civil War Trust.

3-3:45 p.m.: Eric Wittenberg: “The Great Law Book Raid: The Battle of White Sulphur Springs”


The Battle of White Sulphur Springs was the culmination of what is sometimes called the Great Law Book Raid. The new state of West Virginia needed a supreme court and Union leaders knew where to find a law library: Lewisburg, W.Va. Brig. Gen. William Woods Averell was sent to retrieve that law library and bring it to Wheeling, but Col. George S. Patton’s Confederate infantry got across Averell’s route of march at White Sulphur Springs. Wittenberg will tell the story of the ensuing battle.

Wittenberg is an award-winning historian, blogger, speaker, battlefield preservationist, tour guide, and practicing attorney. His specialty is Civil War cavalry operations with an emphasis on the Gettysburg Campaign. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the Civil War.

3:45 p.m.-close: Book signings, explore exhibits

Tickets are available for $30 each. The price of admission includes the morning session at the First State Capitol, continental breakfast, a box lunch and reserved seating for the afternoon session at West Virginia Independence Hall. Any remaining seats for the afternoon session will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Space is limited. To reserve your seat, or if you have questions about the symposium, send an email to wvihf.info@gmail.com or call 304-905-1690.

To order tickets by mail, make checks payable to the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation and mail to:

W.Va. in the Civil War

Attention: Sean Duffy

WALS Foundation

The First State Capitol

1413 Eoff Street, Ste 103

Wheeling, WV 26003

Space is limited. Call or email before mailing your check to ensure availability. To learn more about the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation, visit the organization’s website at wvindependencehallfoundation.org.