The country’s 35th state to enter the Union has an intriguing story full of voter fraud, lying politicians and out and out coercion. With the Civil War already begun, some of the far western counties of Virginia were unwilling to accept the majority vote on April 15, 1861, by the counties attending a convention in Richmond to secede from the Union.

With the backdrop of the war heating up, and Washington scrambling to raise Union forces, the attention in the mountain counties of western Virginia was focused on another secession vote but this one from Virginia, not the Union.

What happened during the next two years, as the war raged around and within the counties petitioning to become a new state within the Union, is a complex and very American political story. Reporter Bill Archer of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph in West Virginia has written a thorough and very readable account of that chapter of the Civil War.