A New Book About the 1861 Battles in Western Virginia


By W. Hunter Lesser


W. Hunter Lesser has had a twenty-year career as an archaeologist and historical interpreter His writings on America's past have spanned topics from ancient Native American sites to Kentucky moonshine stills A lifelong student of the Civil War, he served as a technical advisor for the Conservation Fund's The Civil War Battlefield Guide. He resides in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia.


Rebels at the Gate is a haunting exploration of the earliest days of the Civil War. Set in the lush hills and mountains of Virginia, it recalls fundamental issues so polarizing that the people of Virginia were willing to divide their state over them - a decision that would ultimately influence the outcome of the war.

 In a defiant act to sustain President Lincoln's war effort, Virginia Unionists created their own state government in 1861 - destined to become the new state of West Virginia. Their actions blocked what should have been Confederate control of the territory and closed one of their key gateways to the Union states.

Against this backdrop, Union and Confederate troops became embroiled in the war's first campaign. Amid Virginia's rugged mountains, a Union army led by George McClellan engaged in combat with Confederates directed by Robert E. Lee.

This first campaign secured "Western" Virginia for the Union, dictated future battlegrounds, chiseled raw recruits into hardy veterans Americans and forged leaders who shaped the course of the Civil War.

Rebels at the Gate is a spellbinding account of the early battles that split a state and forever changed a nation.