It was on this date in 1861 that Virginia officially seceded from the Union. At the time, West Virginia was part of the state. It didn’t break away until 1863, because sentiment in the western part of Virginia leaned toward the Union, whereas the eastern section went with the side of the Confederacy.
Virginia’s Ordinance of Secession was passed at the State Capitol in Richmond on April 17, 1861, subject to voter ratification. On May 23, 1861, the referendum confirmed it by a vote of 132,201 to 37,451.
It’s common knowledge that many of Virginia’s sons were torn by their loyalties. Probably the most famous is Robert E. Lee, who served as a combat engineer in the United States Army for 32 years. Although he denounced secession, once his home state of Virginia left the Union, he turned down an offer from President Abraham Lincoln to lead the Federal Army and resigned his post to serve for the Confederacy. The rest, they say, is history.