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The Rending of Virginia

This classic book, originally published in Chicago by Mayer & Miller in 1902, was Granville Davisson Hall’s most important non-fiction work. The Rending of Virginia is perhaps the most significant and insightful memoir and history of the West Virginia statehood movement by an observer. A fiercely partisan, pro-statehood view, the volume explains the causes of Virginia’s rupture and justifies the accomplishments of Western Virginians and their allies.

Hall was a native Harrison Countian and Republican who learned stenography as a teenager, who had exposure to national issues, and who possessed a refined sense of history. He understood the importance of individual political history, family connections, and personal relationships when he appraised the drama of state-making as a reporter for the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer and when he recalled the period for his book. He forthrightly celebrated the heroes and exposed the villains of the statehood epoch.

Rejecting the fashionable ‘‘Lost Cause’’ myth that elevated the defense of Southern states-right dogma and deemed that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War, Hall in The Rending of Virginia sought to counter turn-of-the-century distortions of the secessionist record and the prevailing amnesia of what he saw as Virginia’s treasonous past. Hall saw West Virginia’s separation as arising simply from the long-standing political hypocrisy of Virginia’s rulers. From the American Revolution, these leaders professed democratic and republican principles and consistently suppressed western political and economic aspirations in their attempts to maintain slavery at all costs. In Hall’s view, the despotic Virginians’ statecraft failed and caused the division of the state and the flowering of national patriotism in Western Virginia during the secession crisis.

You can read or download The Rending of Virginia at the Internet Archive.

Written by John Edmund Stealey III


  1. Stealey, John E. III. Introduction. The Rending of Virginia. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2000.