Peter Van Winkle served in the United States Senate as a Unionist [Republican] during the period from 1863 to 1869, the period during which the Civil War raged. Van Winkle represented the State of West Virginia, and served as one of its first United States Senators, following the admission of West Virginia to the Union in 1863.
Although Van Winkle was a United States Senator from West Virginia, he was born in New York City on September 7, 1808. He was admitted to the then Virginia bar in 1835, and began to practice law in Parkersburg, Virginia [West Virginia was part of Virginia prior to admission of West Virginia to the Union in 1863]. Van Winkle became active in politics about ten years following the start of his law practice. He became president of the Parkersburg town board of trustees in 1844, and served in that position until 1850. In 1850 he was a member of the Virginia State Constitutional Convention, and in 1861 he was a member of the Wheeling, West Virginia Reorganization Convention. In 1863 he became a delegate to the State Convention which framed the Constitution of West Virginia. In that same year, 1863, he also began to serve as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. And again in that same year, upon admission of West Virginia as a state into the Union, Van Winkle was elected as a Unionist to the United States Senate, and served from August 4, 1863 until March 3, 1869.
As a United States Senator, Van Winkle served as Chairman of the Committee of Pensions in the Fortieth Congress. In 1866, Van Winkle also served as a delegate to the Southern Loyalist Convention in Philadelphia.
Less than a year following his entry into the United States Senate, Van Winkle made an impassioned speech in the United States Senate about the horrors of the Civil War then raging in its full ferocity. Parts of the speech follow below.
“The burdens of the existing war in the shape of contributions of men and money have been at least proportionately borne by States further north, and their free gifts for the relief of sick and wounded soldiers have been poured forth like water, and have doubtless exceeded ours; yet they have escaped the devastation and ruin to which we have been subjected. There is wailing and affliction in almost every household of the North; but we also mourn the husband and the father, the son and the brother. We have seen the accumulations of life-long industry perish in a moment; ashes and ruins conceal the spots where the homes of many a happy family once stood; desolation usurps the place of cultivated fields, and the eye roams at will over acres of fertile lands with nothing to arrest its observations but noxious weeds, and in many cases, un-gathered crops rotting on the ground. Of the former occupants many are with the armies of the Union, fighting the battles of their country; some sleep sweetly in gory winding-sheets beneath the soil they have defended, while the wives, children, and aged parents of both are aliens in their own land, dwelling or wandering among those who, however friendly, are yet strangers, earning a subsistence by unusual employments, or in some cases maintained by the contributions of the benevolent and patriotic.”
The above quote provides an interesting insight into the horrors of the Civil War, especially as suffered by the population that was directly or indirectly affected. It clearly made a horrible impression on Van Winkle, and he felt obliged to include his observations and feelings into the historical records of the United States Senate. Following his United States Senate service, Van Winkle resided in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He passed away on April 15, 1872, and was interred in River View Cemetery.
Van Winkle, Peter Godwin, [1809-1872], (Biographical Directory of the US Congress)
Van Winkle, Peter Godwin [1808-1872], (Information Please)
Speech of the Hon. P. G. Van Winkle, of West Virginia,(Cornell University)
E-BOOKS AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON; GOOGLE: Kindle Store Pegels
PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS, CURRENT AND HISTORIC
EIGHT PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICAN FAMILIES: THE ROOSEVELTS, VANDERBILTS AND OTHERS, 2015
FIFTEEN PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICAN FAMILIES: THE VAN BURENS, KOCH BROTHERS, VOORHEES AND OTHERS, 2015
PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS IN U.S. GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP POSITIONS, 2015
DUTCH PEGELS INVOLVED IN WARS
ALLIED EUROPE CAMPAIGN—1944/1945: TACTICAL MISTAKES, 2017
THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN THE NETHERLANDS: MEMOIRS, 2017
FRENCH REVOLUTION, NAPOLEON AND RUSSIAN WAR OF 1812, 2015