Join us on April 12 when our speaker, Larry Denton, discusses the topic of Unionists who resided in Virginia during the Civil War.
Meeting time: 7:30 p.m., April 12, 2016
Location: Thomas Balch Library, 208 West Market Street, Leesburg, Virginia
Topic: Unionists in Virginia
A rarely told, but exceedingly important, story of the Civil War era is the effort that anti-secession Virginians, dubbed “Unionists” by the press, played in trying to save the nation from war during the secession winter. These Virginians included such prominent men as John Brown Baldwin, George W. Summers, John Janney, and Jubal Early, some of whom would end up becoming prominent Confederates.
These Unionists won an incredible victory over the Southern Rights Democratic Party, the party of the secessionists, in the election for delegates to the Virginia State Convention (the Secession Convention), on February 4, 1861, garnering 63 percent of the votes across the state. They immediately began to negotiate with William Henry Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State, to find a way to preserve the peace. Exactly two months to the day later, they delivered an equally incredible victory to the Lincoln Administration (and the nation) in defeating an Ordinance of Secession. This just eight days before the firing on Fort Sumter.
In Unionists in Virginia: Politics, Secession and Their Plan to Prevent Civil War, Denton writes, “In hindsight, it is easy to see the reasoning of many Virginians in relation to their Unionism. In mid-April 1861, looking forward, and not knowing that war would soon envelope them, these men were loyal, patriotic Americans who believed the leadership of the country would not desert them. In the end, the heroic Unionists of Virginia were betrayed by the politicians in Washington – and by the aristocrats in their very own state.”
To their enduring credit, Denton continued, “The Unionists of Virginia felt there was a better way than that of total war.”
Larry Denton, an authority on the secession crisis, is a descendant of several Maryland families that predate the Revolutionary War. He is a graduate of Western Maryland College, and earned a master’s degree, with honors, from Johns Hopkins University. Spanning academia, government, and industry, the breath of his professional career influenced his scholarly research and writings on the Civil War.
From 1968 to 1978 he held a variety of academic administrative posts at the Johns Hopkins University. In 1978 he accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Associate Administrator (a Presidential Appointee) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Washington, D.C. He participated in the first scientific delegation to China (in the spring of 1979), where he assisted the U.S. delegation in negotiating the now long-standing international agreement for the exchange of atmospheric and oceanic scientists.
After NOAA, he served as a senior consultant to AAI, Raytheon, GE, and Lockheed Martin, firms involved in upgrading the National Weather Service infrastructure.
Denton has authored three books: A Southern Star for Maryland: Maryland and the Secession Crisis (Publishing Concepts, 1995); William Henry Seward and the Secession Crisis: The Effort to Prevent Civil War (McFarland & Company, 2009); and Unionists in Virginia: Politics, Secession and Their Plan to Prevent Civil War (History Press, 2014). Now retired, he resides on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with his wife Susan near the town of Oxford.