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Restored Government of Virginia
Restored state government of United States of America


Coat of arms of Virginia

Coat of arms

Location of Virginia
1864 map of the states of West Virginia and Virginia by Samuel Augustus Mitchell. The Restored Government of Virginia asserted itself to be the rightful state government of these lands until the admission of the State of West Virginia into the Union in 1863. After this, it claimed to be the lawful government of the modern state boundaries of Virginia. Over the following two years, it assumed actual control of the entirety of Virginia's postbellum territory as the Union Army occupied it by force of arms.
Capital city
Government Organized incorporated state/Shadow government
 -  1861–1865 Francis Harrison Pierpont
Historical era American Civil War (1861–1865)
 -  Second Wheeling Convention June 11, 1861
 -  Formation of a new state government June 19 1861
 -  West Virginia admitted to the U.S. June 20, 1863
 -  Surrender of the Confederacy April 9, 1865
 -  Provisional government formed in Richmond May 9 1865

The Restored (or Reorganized) Government of Virginia was the Unionist government of Virginia during the American Civil War (1861–1865) in opposition to the government which had approved Virginia's seceding from the United States and joining the new Confederate States of America. Each state government regarded the other as illegitimate. The Restored Government attempted to assume de facto control of the Commonwealth's northwest with the help of the Union Army but was only partly successful. It raised Union regiments from local volunteers but depended upon recruits from Pennsylvania and Ohio to fulfill its commitments. It administered this territory until, with its approval, the area became part of West Virginia in mid-1863.

The Restored Government thereafter continued to operate, albeit with very limited actual authority, within what it considered to be the Commonwealth's new borders under the protection of the Union Army. The Restored Government therefore became a shadow government similar in many respects to the state governments loyal to the Confederacy that claimed Kentucky and Missouri, however unlike those governments Virginia's Unionist government was never completely expelled from its claimed territory and thus did not become a government in exile. Until the end of hostilities, most of its de jure territory remained controlled by the secessionist state government, which never recognized either Unionist state government operating within its antebellum borders. Furthermore, since the Restored Government's claimed territory not under secessionist control only remained so by force of arms it was placed under Federal martial law, thus further limiting the authority of the Unionist civilian government.

The Restored Government had only executive and legislative branches; it did not form a judicial branch. It met in Wheeling, in the extreme northwestern corner of the state, until that became part of West Virginia. From August 26, 1863, until June, 1865, it met in Alexandria on the right bank of the Potomac River, which had been occupied by Union Army forces in 1861 to protect the adjacent national capital of Washington, D.C. The Restored Government adopted a new state constitution in 1864 abolishing slavery, and the following year, ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. From its formation, the Restored Government claimed the state's antebellum capital of Richmond (which also became the Confederacy's national capital) as its own de jure capital city. It eventually moved there near the end of the war after the Confederate States government and General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia evacuated it as their capital in late March 1865, and the city returned to Federal control.


When the Second Wheeling Convention met in its first session, in June 1861, it adopted "A Declaration of the People of Virginia". The declaration stated that the Virginia Declaration of Rights required any substantial change in the form or nature of state government to be approved by the people. Since the Virginia secession convention had been convened by the legislature, not the people, the declaration pronounced the secession convention illegal, and that all of its acts—including the Ordinance of Secession—were ipso facto void. It also declared the pro-secession government void and called for a reorganization of the state government, taking the line that all state officials who had acceded to the Ordinance of Secession had effectively vacated their offices. The members and officers of the Restored Government had themselves not been elected by the people to the offices they had assumed, but instead convened on the basis of local petition and other irregular accreditation, some "more or less self-appointed".

The convention then elected Francis Harrison Pierpont as governor, along with other executive officers, with Wheeling as the provisional state capital. President Abraham Lincoln recognized the Restored Government as the legitimate government of the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. The United States Congress seated the two new United States senators chosen by its legislature, and five U.S. representatives elected from the territories that remained loyal to the Union. Its Congressional delegation in the 37th United States Congress entirely made up of Unconditional Unionists. U.S. Senators elected were Waitman T. Willey and John S. Carlile. Representatives were seated from where delegates in the Richmond Convention of 1861 had voted to remain in the Union. They were the western 10th, William G. Brown, the 11th, Jacob B. Blair, and 12th, Kellian V. Whaley, in Congressional Districts of counties that would mostly become West Virginia, along with the 7th, Charles H. Upton, from Alexandria and Fairfax County, and the 1st, Joseph E. Segar in the Eastern Shore and Tidewater Peninsulas. Following the loss of its governance over the population of West Virginia, Congress in the 38th United States Congress did not seat either Senators elected by the Restored General Assembly, nor Representatives elected in truncated elections in Union occupied areas of Virginia; the entire state's delegation went vacant.

By the end of 1861 large Confederate forces had abandoned western Virginia, but small brigades of Confederate soldiers commanded by William Lowther Jackson and Albert G. Jenkins operated throughout the area during the war. The Restored Government attempted to exercise de facto authority, at least over the western counties, but had control of no more than half of the fifty counties that became West Virginia. On August 22, 1862, the Restored Government's Adjutant General, Henry I. Samuels, reported to Gov. Pierpont that there were 22 counties in which they could raise Union volunteers, but " several of the Counties I have named, a draft would be an operation of extreme difficulty..."

Government moves to Richmond

After the fall of Richmond and the end of the Civil War in May 1865, the executive officers moved the government from Alexandria to Richmond, which the Restored Government had always considered to be its official capital. The government operating under the Constitution of 1864 thereafter assumed civil authority for the entire Commonwealth of Virginia, until adoption of the Constitution of 1869. Some West Virginians expressed concern that once restored to the Union the government of Virginia might seek to challenge the validity of the authority the Restored Government possessed in consenting to West Virginia's admission to the Union. To alleviate these concerns, the Congress set as a condition for Virginia's readmission to Congress that it affirm in its 1869 Constitution that the authority by which the State of West Virginia was created out of Virginia territory had indeed been valid, thus giving its consent to the creation of West Virginia retroactively to 1863.

Officers of the Restored Government


  • Francis Harrison Pierpont (1861–1865)

Lieutenant Governors

  • Daniel Polsley (1861–1863)
  • Leopold Copeland Parker Cowper (1863–1865)

Attorneys General

  • James S. Wheat (1861–1863)
  • Thomas Russell Bowden (1863–1865)
  • Ambler, Charles H. Francis H. Pierpont: Union War Governor and Father of West Virginia (1937), the standard scholarly biography
  • Ambler, Charles H. and Festus P. Summers. West Virginia, the Mountain State (2nd ed. 1958) pp 202-6 online
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