West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian region of the Southern United States, though it is also considered part of the Mid-Atlantic Southeast Region.[Note 1] It is bordered by Pennsylvania to the northeast, Maryland to the east and northeast, Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, and Ohio to the northwest. West Virginia is the 41st-largest state by area and ranks 38th in population, with around 1.791 million residents. The capital and largest city is Charleston.
West Virginia became a state following the Wheeling Conventions of 1861, at the start of the American Civil War. Delegates from the Unionist counties of northwestern Virginia decided to break away from Virginia, which also included secessionist counties in the new state. West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, and was a key border state during the war. It was the only state to form by separating from a Confederate state, the first to separate from any state since Maine separated from Massachusetts, and was one of two states (along with Nevada) admitted to the Union during the American Civil War. While a portion of its residents held slaves, most of the residents were yeoman farmers, and the delegates provided for the gradual abolition of slavery in the new state constitution and the state’s legislature passed the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery on February 3, 1865.
The northern panhandle extends adjacent to Pennsylvania and Ohio, with the West Virginia cities of Wheeling and Weirton just across the border from the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, while Bluefield is less than 70 miles (110 km) from North Carolina. Huntington in the southwest is close to the states of Ohio and Kentucky, while Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry in the Eastern Panhandle region are considered part of the Washington metropolitan area, in between the states of Maryland and Virginia. The unique position of West Virginia means it is often included in several U.S. geographical regions, including the Mid-Atlantic, the Upland South, and the Southeastern United States. It is the only state that is entirely within the area served by the Appalachian Regional Commission; the area is commonly defined as “Appalachia“.
The state is noted for its mountains and rolling hills, its historically significant logging and coal mining industries, and its political and labor history. It is also known for a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities, including skiing, whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and hunting.