West Virginia Military Records
This entry was originally written by Johni Cerny, in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
West Virginia shares its early military history with Virginia (see Virginia Military Records). Virgil A. Lewis, the Soldiery of West Virginia (1911, reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2002), has rosters of soldiers from West Virginia who served in the French and Indian War, Indian Wars, Lord Dunmore’s War, the Revolutionary War, Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, the War of 1812, Mexican War, and the Civil War. See also:
McKinney, Tim. West Virginia Civil War Almanac. Charleston, W.Va.: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1998.
The Roster of Union Soldiers, 1861–1865. Vol. 4. Wilmington, N.C.: Broadfoot Publishing, 1999. Alphabetical listing of Union soldiers in West Virginia. Provides name, regiment, and company.
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
Berckefeldt, Paul, ed. Index to the Soldiery of West Virginia. Pueblo, Colo.: Pathfinders Books, 1985.
Bockstruck, Lloyd DeWitt. Virginia’s Colonial Soldiers. 1988. Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1998.
Johnson, Ross B. West Virginians in the American Revolution. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977.
Reddy, Anne Waller. West Virginia Revolutionary Ancestors. 1977. Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001. Indexes claims reviewed by the “court of claims” for nonmilitary service.
West Virginia’s military divergence came during the Civil War. At the Virginia secession convention in 1861, a majority of the state’s western delegates opposed leaving the Union. In later meetings at Wheeling, those delegates declared secession to be an illegal attempt to overthrow the federal government and the Confederate government at Richmond to be void of authority. They voted to restore the Virginia state government and elect new officers. The governor-elect received federal recognition and governed until Congress admitted West Virginia as the 35th state on 20 June 1863 on the condition that all slaves in its jurisdiction were set free.
As a participant in the Civil War, West Virginia cannot be declared a Union or Confederate state. Like Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and other border states, the loyalties of its citizens were divided. Lacking proof of the exact number of soldiers who fought on either side, historians now estimate that at least 10,000 served the Confederacy and approximately 23,000 fought with the Union Army. Consult the standard references for Confederate soldiers (see pages 8-9).