At the outset of the Civil War, those in northwestern Virginia were doubly conflicted. It was not just a matter of Union or Confederacy. Many who believed in the Union also were strongly attached to Virginia and the political issues causing secession. Many who favored secession and the Confederacy also wanted to preserve the Union, but could see no way to do that given the politics of the day.
While few in northwestern Virginia had supported Lincoln, many decided the need to maintain the Union and support the Constitution overwhelmed their emotional and political views. However, many were diehards and immediately, without conflict, became rabid supporters of the Union or the Confederacy, with no middle ground. They also knew their lives and fortunes hung in the balance.
In Parkersburg both Union and Confederate military units formed early on. Union troops occupying the town in effect put the town under martial law. Union camps were established around the town for these troops.This left Confederate sympathizers with the option of either leaving and joining formal Confederate units in eastern Virginia or other southern states or organizing guerilla units outside Parkersburg.
Wirt, Calhoun and Jackson counties quickly became favorite hideouts for these guerilla units who saw as their mission as the disruption of anything that smelled of "Union" or "Yankee."
The guerillas attempted to take over the new oilfields at Burning Springs. In response, the first military units moved by Gen. McClellan were instructed to gain control of the Wirt County area, including Burning Springs. There were at least three major battles/skirmishes at the Burning Springs between Union troops and Confederate raiders and guerillas.
After West Virginia gained statehood, Parkersburg was a natural choice for our first capital, but it was determined that there was too much Confederate activity in the region. Wheeling was the safer choice.