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West Virginia

West Virginia: Mountain State

CAPITAL: Charleston
JOINED UNION: June 20, 1863
STATE BIRD: Cardinal
STATE FLOWER: Rhododendron
MEANING OF STATE NAME: Like Virginia, named after England's Queen Elizabeth I, the "Virgin Queen"
1992 POPULATION: 1,812,194
LAND AREA: 24,087 square miles
ECONOMY: Coal, tourism, plastic products, aluminum, steel
HISTORY: West Virginia shared its early history with Virginia, of which it was a part until 1861. The secession from the Union gave Virginia's western counties the opportunity to form their own government and state. Coal played an important role in West Virginia's history, and in the history of America's labor movement. Bitter strikes by miners and subsequent violent confrontations with company security forces, shaped the state.

America's Greatest General 1861 - 1865


All night long Robert E. Lee paced the floor of his study in his home at Arlington, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. He had just been offered the dream of any American soldier -- command of the U.S. Army. But the Civil War had just started and Lee was a Virginian.

With the coming of the dawn, Lee -- son of Revolutionary War hero General "Light Horse Harry" Lee -- made his decision. He opposed secession and slavery, but considered himself more a Virginian than an American, and could not raise his sword against his native state. He would fight for the South.

In his brilliant command of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, he came to be regarded as a great general, a great human being, and a hero to all Americans -- a man beloved by his own soldiers and respected by his opponents. Thanks to his skill, Lee time and again was able to defeat much larger Union Armies. His victories toll like a bell through American history: the Seven Days, Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania. During the last year of the war, it was his leadership that kept the starving Confederate Army in the field.

Lee, born on January 19, 1807, was not like other generals: he seldom wore a weapon, would never shout or swear at others, he was polite, and had a kind heart. He once got off his horse during a battle to put a fallen bird back in its nest. Lee was so respected by his soldiers that they would remove their hats when he rode past and reach out just to touch his horse.

Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865 and spent the rest of his life working for the reunion of the nation. He refused offers, which would have brought him a great deal of money. Instead, he became president of little Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia. There he died on October 12, 1870, and was mourned by the entire nation -- North and South alike.

Thomas Jefferson's Legacy

On the Fourth of July, 1826, 50 years to the day after the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson died. The same day, just a few hours later, John Adams spoke his last words and died: "Thomas Jefferson," he said, "still survives."

Jefferson and Adams had long been acquainted. In 1776 they were appointed to write the Declaration of Independence. Adams recalls that they argued about it, with Jefferson suggesting Adams write it and Adams saying Jefferson should. But Adams won the argument. A Virginian should write such an influential document, he said, and besides, "I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise." And finally, Adams said: "You can write ten times better than I can."

So Jefferson wrote one of the most important documents in United States history, a justification for the colonies to end their political ties to Great Britain. After the American Revolution the United States was governed by the Articles of Confederation. But it was a failure, so a delegation sat down to write out a new governing document, the US Constitution. Though Jefferson approved of the Constitution, he was disturbed that it contained no Bill of Rights. Later Congress created a Bill of Rights, including many of Jefferson's ideas, such as freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and trial by jury.

In 1801 Jefferson was elected president by the House of Representatives, becoming the third president. During his presidency, he bought the 828,000-square-mile Louisiana Territory from France, doubling size of the United States at less than three cents an acre.

In 1814, toward the end of his life, he was invited to become a member of the Board of Trustees of Albemarle Academy in Charlottesville, near his hilltop home of Monticello, later to become the University of Virginia.

Jefferson designed the college's buildings and landscaping, wrote curriculum and recruited faculty. Though there were other universities at this time, it was the first in the United States with no religious affiliation.

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