College of Visual and Performing Arts
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University


LLI: Two Virginia Secessions and a Bitter Divorce: The Birth of West Virginia

Presented ByLifelong Learning Institute, Manassas
When/WhereFriday, Apr 24, 2020 10:30amHylton Performing Arts Center, Gregory Family Theater, Science and Technology

Instructors: Jack W. Lewis and Carol Lewis

Many Virginians choose to know very little about how our neighbor state of West Virginia was born. And perhaps for good reason, since its violent birth resulted in the loss of over a third of Virginia’s territory and brought disgrace on the head of Robert E. Lee when he failed to hold the northwestern Virginia counties for the Confederacy. Not to mention that the birth of West Virginia was likely illegitimate and is still being debated by legal minds today! In this class, the instructor will take a detailed look at the complicated, audacious, and fascinating story behind West Virginia’s secession from Virginia and the Confederacy and the people who brought it about. He’ll reveal some little-known facts about the War in the process that will likely send you back to your textbooks in disbelief. For instance, did you know that the first land battle of the War was fought in the little town of Philippi, Virginia (now West Virginia)?

Jack W. Lewis has had varied careers as a U.S. Coast Guard officer and icebreaker designer, marine engineer, corporate CEO, textbook author, software and robotics developer, horse breeder/trainer, and, late in life, a registered nurse, volunteer paramedic, and washtub bass player in an old-time string band. Educated as an engineer at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and MIT, he founded two successful marine engineering companies, but as an amateur historian he tried never to live too far from a Civil War battlefield. When he discovered that one of his great-grandfathers from Pennsylvania joined the first Virginia Cavalry in 1861, he was intrigued. His further discovery that it was the Union First Virginia Cavalry led to his award-winning novel, Storm Coming: Historical Novel of the Civil War in Western Virginia. Jack lives with his wife Carol in the middle of Jefferson National Forest in rural western Virginia in a county that almost made the cut into West Virginia.

This event is open to the public. For more information about the Lifelong Learning Institute, Manassas, visit

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