Editor's Note: This article is part of an occasional series on the Civil War sesquicentennial provided by members of the Wheeling Civil War 150
The pages of Wheeling's Daily Intelligencer in August 1861, printed under the hand of famed editor Archibald W. Campbell, were full of details of life in the city that now was home to the Restored Government of Virginia, soldiers training at Camp Carlile on the Island, and constant talk of "treason and secession."
Campbell's Intelligencer, which he bought in 1856 at the age of 23, along with John McDermot, almost immediately aligned itself with the emerging Republican Party. Initially, this was unpopular amongst Wheeling's elite business interests and it was thought the newspaper would fold quickly.
Of course, such was not to be and Campbell's allegiance to the party of Abraham Lincoln, by 1861, enabled him to boast in his smaller masthead that the Daily Intelligencer had the "Largest Circulation of any Paper in Western Virginia." This month 150 years ago, the young yet seasoned and respected editor was in the midst of a campaign of words supporting the "patriotic men in North-Western Virginia" and in staunch opposition to Eastern Virginia's interests and the Confederacy.
On Tuesday, Aug. 6, after exclaiming the "good news" that the government had promised new shipments to Wheeling of "arms and equipments," Campbell's newspaper said: "We shall soon be in the position to wipe out the last vestiges of treason and secession from our borders. The invaders are already driven ignominiously beyond our limits, and our gallant troops are pursuing them. Let us make the work complete. Let us show the Eastern tyrants that we are a free people, that we always intend to remain free and that the haughty yoke of Eastern Virginia has been lifted from our necks forever."
Surely those of us now discussing issues surrounding the U.S. Constitution would have been equally taken by an argument advanced that August by Campbell. In arguing the conflict is "not a war against slavery," the editor said that "it is a war for the integrity of the Government, for the Constitution, and the supremacy of laws." Later in the same columns, he wrote, "We must succeed. This government must not, cannot fail. The Constitution - which is based upon principles immutable, and upon which rest the rights of man, and the hopes and expectations of those who love freedom throughout the civilized world - must be maintained."
The Daily Intelligencer as well was reporting that August in detail and in depth on the Second Wheeling Convention. On Aug. 14, several columns of type reporting convention actions were introduced with the following statement: "It appears to be pretty generally understood now that the Convention is going to take some steps toward dividing this State. Just what it is to be cannot yet be determined."
A week later, on Aug. 21, under a small headline reading "The New State Ordinance," the newspaper said, "We would call attention this morning to the report of the proceedings of the Convention yesterday, by which it will be seen that the body has at last agreed upon a harmonious conclusion in favor of a division of the State." Campbell's paper thereafter printed the ordinance as reported from the committee but promised to print the full ordinance, with amendments incorporated, the next day "so that our readers can have it to file away for reference."
Campbell said, "The measure is not quite all that the more ardent divisionists would have preferred, but if we are not greatly mistaken in the temper of the people, and in what will be the expression of it in the election to be held, we shall all be citizens of the State of Kanawha before many months roll round."
As news spread of the state's potential division, Campbell a few days later reprinted a piece from the Morgantown Star, which opined: "The name of the proposed new State formed from this portion of Virginia - Kanawha - is not the one we would have given, but it is, nevertheless, a very pretty one, but not so good as 'New Virginia,' or 'West Virginia.' We still love the name of Virginia, and now that our Convention has commenced breaking the chains forged for us by the tyrants of the East, we are proud to say that we were born in West Virginia."
Apparently, it was common for newspapers a century and a half ago to report about each other. In August alone, the Daily Intelligencer discussed at length the loathsome behavior of a newspaper in St. Clairsville with alleged Confederate leanings. A letter from the editor of the Knoxville Whig, W.G. Brownlow, pointed out that he, as a principled man, "will yield to the demand of an armed mob" by turning over "to them our office and what little property we have" but "we shall refuse, most obstinately refuse, to the day of our death to think or speak favorably of such a Confederacy as this ..."
And, Campbell put in a short plug for The Wellsburg Herald, which, he said, was "being published at a loss to the editor." Along with its "invaluable services to the Union cause, it is a local auxiliary to the best interests of" Brooke and Hancock counties, and "we hope that our people generally in Western Virginia who are able to do so will lend the Herald a helping hand."
The newspaper took great interest also in the goings on at Camp Carlile. Several editions reported on the soldiers as well as the prisoners at the Wheeling Island camp.
Under the phrase "A Good Joke," the newspaper reported, "Ever since the establishment of Camp Carlile and since the first secessionist was ejected from the grounds, it has been regarded as a capital joke among Union men to have their friends put out by a squad of soldiers. The soldiers are not expected to know everybody and whenever a commissioned officer is advised that there is a secessionist on the grounds he forthwith issues an order to have him ejected. The person so ejected may be a Union man or not - the soldiers do not know and frequently waggish fellows have their friends ejected just for the fun of the thing. It is by no means an uncommon thing to see a Union man going out of the camp at the point of the bayonet, looking very silly, while his friends are bursting their sides with laughter. A case of this kind occurred yesterday to the infinite amusement of everybody who witnessed it."
Eugene Zane, ostensibly a member of the extended Zane family, would not have been amused by the Intelligencer's report of "Arrest of Secessionists." In fact, it is easy to imagine that the newspaper was tossed across the room by more than one Zane who read it that day, Aug. 31, 1861.
"Last evening six secessionists were arrested at the house of Dr. Alfred Hughes, corner of Fourth and Quincy streets. It seems that on Thursday evening, a batch of young men succeeded in leaving the city for the rebel army, and it was suspected that the six persons found at Hughes' designed doing the same thing.
"Three of the young men were citizens: Jacob Swietzer, John Goshorn and Eugene Zane," and the other three were prisoners who had been released from captivity, one who had been in the hospital for an extended time and two who were at Camp Carlile. The men "were taken to the Custom House, where a large crowd soon collected."
With no details, the newspaper then reported that Goshorn was released and that Swietzer and the ex-prisoners were "sent over to Camp Carlile." As to Zane, the Intelligencer reported, "Zane was released, as it was thought he was not likely to go to the rebel army or anywhere else, except in the house when it rains."
Hughes' house was searched but nothing of a "contraband character" was found. Hughes ultimately was arrested for disloyalty in 1861, tried in April of 1862 and spent eight months in Camp Chase in Columbus after being sent there in June of that year.