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Southwest Virginia, the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, and the Union, 1816-1865

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Title: Southwest Virginia, the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, and the Union, 1816-1865
Author(s): Noe, Kenneth William
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Johannsen, Robert W.
Department / Program: History
Discipline: History
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): History, United States
Abstract: Charles Henry Ambler's thesis of antebellum western Virginia depicted the state as divided into two antagonistic geographic sections, with the creation of West Virginia the inevitable result. Ambler did not take into account southwest Virginia, that part of the "West" that aligned itself with eastern Virginia during the sectional crisis. This study attempts to demonstrate that slave-intensive staple agriculture, made more possible by the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, created economic and ideological ties that resulted in an east-southwest alliance in the 1850s. While the ideological rapproachement collapsed during the Civil War, the economic ties survived, setting the stage for rapid industrial development in the Southern Appalachain Mountains.By 1850, southwest Virginia differed from the northwestern region of the state. Slavery, while small scale in comparison to the cotton states, supported both a mountain elite and vigorous regional economy. Religious and commercial ties, notably the marketing of agricultural and industrial products, negated the isolation the mountainous topography threatened to create. Southwest Virginians desired a railroad to open up the region further to capitalist development, and bitterly opposed their anti-improvement state government.A small, influential group of eastern Virginians joined southwest Virginians in lobbying for a railroad. Their goal was political. Men like Henry A. Wise believed a railroad would unify the fractious state in time for the expected national slavery crisis. During the gubernatorial administration of southwesterner John B. Floyd, the boosters succeeded in chartering and funding the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. To safeguard their gains, they joined with others in obtaining the reform Constitution of 1851, which gave the mountaineers more power in return for greater protection of slavery.The railroad fulfilled the hopes of its supporters. In the 1850s, capitalist slave-based tobacco agriculture significantly displaced subsistence farming. As a result, southwest Virginians strongly endorsed secession and the Confederacy until war-weariness late in the war eroded support.
Issue Date: 1990
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/20642
Rights Information: Copyright 1990 Noe, Kenneth William
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog: AAI9114364
OCLC Identifier: (UMI)AAI9114364
 

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