The Missouri Secession

Remnants of the popularly elected Missouri legislature gathered in the Masonic Hall at Neosho, 70 miles southwest of Major General John C. Fremont’s Federal Army of the West at Springfield. The lawmakers met to consider leaving the Union, even though a new Unionist government claimed to be the legitimate governing body over Missouri.

One of the few Unionist legislators in attendance claimed that only 10 senators and 39 representatives were present, short of the 17 senators and 67 representatives needed for a quorum under Missouri law. Nevertheless, exiled secessionist Governor Claiborne F. Jackson addressed the body:

“It is in vain to hope for a restoration of amicable relations between Missouri and the other United States of America under the same government, and it is not desirable if it could be accomplished… Men, women and children, in open day and in the public thoroughfares, were shot down and murdered by a brutal soldiery with the connivance of Government officers. Our citizen soldiers were arrested and imprisoned, State property was seized and confiscated without warrant of law, private citizens were insecure in their persons and property; the writ of Habeas Corpus had been nullified and the brave Judges who had attempted to protect by it, the liberties of the citizens had been insulted and threatened and a tyrant president revealing in unencumbered powers had crowned all these acts of unconstitutional aggression by declaring war against a number of the States comprising the former Union.”

Both houses approved an “Act Declaring the Political Ties Heretofore Existing Between the State of Missouri and the United States of America Dissolved.” Jackson signed the Ordinance of Secession into law three days later, officially taking Missouri out of the Union. Since the legislators had been popularly elected, the Confederacy joined the U.S. in claiming that Missouri was one of its states. Anticipating admission into the Confederacy, the exiled legislature approved a motion appointing two senators and seven representatives to the Confederate Congress.

However, a second state government also operated in Missouri, having been created by Unionist delegates to the Missouri constitutional convention in July. The convention reassembled this month to consider further measures to ensure that the provisional government remained loyal to the U.S. Delegates approved a measure suspending the upcoming popular elections until the following August. This gave provisional Governor Hamilton R. Gamble time to replace elected officials suspected of favoring secession with Unionists. Another measure permitted administering “test oaths” to disqualify anti-Unionist voters or elected officials.

The delegates also approved organizing a provisional state militia, with men between the ages of 18 and 45 who passed the “test oath” eligible for duty; the Federal government would fund this new militia. In addition, delegates adopted measures to raise revenue by issuing bonds, and they voted to cut the salaries of state employees by 20 percent.

For the time being, two governing bodies would operate Missouri, with the United States recognizing the provisional government at Jefferson City, and the Confederacy recognizing the elected government at Neosho.


  • Catton, Bruce and Long, E.B. (ed.), Terrible Swift Sword: Centennial History of the Civil War Book 2. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. (Kindle Edition), 1963.
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971.
  • Robbins, Peggy (Patricia L. Faust ed.), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.
  • Thomas, Emory M., The Confederate Nation. HarperCollins e-books, Kindle Edition, 1976.

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