When the state of Virginia voted to secede from the United States during the Civil War (1861-65), the people of the rugged and mountainous western region of the state opposed the decision and organized to form their own state, West Virginia,in support of the Union. Congress granted statehood to West Virginia on June 20, 1863. The West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry was the site of John Brown’s ill-fated 1859 raid on the federal armory there. AlthoughBrown’s plan to arm a largescale slave revolt with weapons from the armory ultimately failed andBrown was hanged, the raiddid succeed in inflaming white Southern fears of slave rebellions and increased the mounting tension betweenNorth and Southprior tothe Civil War.Today, West Virginia is a major coal-producing state, supplying 15 percent of the nation’s coal. The New River Gorge Bridge near Fayetteville is the longest steel arch bridge in the world. Every October, the town hosts a Bridge Day celebration when the road is closed to traffic and individuals are allowed to parachute and bungee jump off the bridge; the event attracts close to 100,000 participants and spectators each year. Famous West Virginia natives include actor Don Knotts, gymnast Mary Lou Retton and test pilot Chuck Yeager.