Kanawha and the Plan to Landlock Virginia
Was this map supposed to scare secessionist Virginia back into the Union?
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
West Virginia is the state that seceded where others failed. When in 1861 the South broke away from the United States to form the Confederate States, the Mountain State in its turn left Virginia to remain within the Union. The electoral process by which it did this was highly irregular, and its accession to the Union could be considered illegal and unconstitutional. But in wartime, legal niceties count for less than tactical advantage, and West Virginia became a full-fledged member of the United States in 1863. The wrangling about West Virginia’s secession stopped only in 1939, when it paid the final instalment of its share of the pre-Civil War state debt to Virginia.
Possibly to annoy the Virginians even more, the first name proposed for the new state wasn’t West Virginia but Kanawha, after the river of the same name (1). But since the delegates to the state’s constitutional convention thought that to name the state thus would unnecessarily raise confusion with the county of Kanawha within the state, a new name was sought. Vandalia, Columbia, Augusta, Allegheny, New Virginia and Western Virginia were a few of the alternatives that bounced around the room. The delegates finally settled on West Virginia, in part also to reflect their Virginian heritage.
That decision was taken in December of 1861, so this map can be of no later date, since it still shows the seceding part of Virginia as Kanawha (as yet still without its eastern panhandle and some of its southeastern territory). It is a Map of the States of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, as Proposed To Be Re-Organised by the Secretary of War. In this proposal, Delaware expands to include all of the Delmarva peninsula, including its Virginian part in the south, but more importantly, Maryland annexes all of Virginia between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the sea. As a consolation prize, Virginia gets Maryland’s western protrusion, making Hagerstown a Virginian city. But then there’s Kanawha seceding, leaving what remains of Virginia proper to look like an unseemly leftover.
... and a coloured version, better demonstrating the proposed realignment of the states.
The Secretary of War mentioned must be Simon Cameron, president Lincoln’s first appointee to that post. Clearly, Cameron’s proposal was meant to give Virginians the heebie-jeebies, as their state is almost entirely wiped off the map. Maybe this was a ploy to scare Virginians against voting for secession? The Convention that deliberated Virginia’s secession, was in session from February 13 to April 15 of 1861, and its decision to secede wasn’t ratified until May 23, 1861. This map was likely drawn up in the intervening months…
Strange Maps #353
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