Tag Archives: Claiborne F. Jackson

Missourians Lobby the Confederacy

December 16, 1861 – Missouri General Sterling Price sent another message to Confederate President Jefferson Davis asking him to provide more support for their secessionist cause.

Confederate General Sterling Price | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

General Sterling Price | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Price, commanding the Missouri State Guards, had written to Davis in November requesting Confederate aid. He wrote again on December 16 urging Davis to order General Ben McCulloch, commanding secessionists in Arkansas, to join with Price’s Guards: “I have repeatedly assured your Government that such co-operation would enable me to take and maintain possession of three fourths of the State and to gather around me at least 50,000 recruits.”

Price explained that thousands of secessionists were gathering throughout Missouri, but they “cannot come to me in the present condition of the State… most of them are compelled to stay at home to give whatever protection they can to their families against the armies and marauding gangs which are laying waste and desolating the State.”

According to Price, the main problem was that volunteers who “would gladly join the army, if they could get to it,” were “prevented from doing so by the extension of the enemy’s lines across the State and their occupation of every approach to the army.”

While this letter was in transit, Davis responded to Price’s letter of November 10 requesting aid. Davis assured Price that he was “most anxious to give to Missouri all the aid in our power, and have been hopefully looking for the tender of troops from Missouri and Arkansas, to be organized into brigades and divisions under the laws of the Confederate States.”

However, Davis had “at present no troops to give you except those under General McCulloch, and you are aware of their condition… You may rest assured that the welfare of Missouri is as dear to me as that of other States of the Confederacy, and that I will do all in my power to assist her in her struggle to maintain the common cause and to vindicate her freedom and sovereignty.”

Exiled Missouri Governor Claiborne F. Jackson, now in New Orleans, wrote to President Davis on the 30th in response to Davis’s suggestion that Price assimilate his Missouri State Guards into the Confederate army. Jackson explained that Price’s Guards had been “left alone to face a foe of more than five times their strength,” but they still “successfully held in check the Lincoln forces in our state.”

Jackson expressed concern that “General Price and his men being thus forsaken by those on whom they relied for aid can scarcely be expected they will enter the Confederate Army with that alacrity and promptness they would do under more favorable auspices.” Missouri had been “left to the mercy of the thieving jayhawker and murderous Hessian,” while the soldiers’ “towns and their houses (were) destroyed by fire, their property stolen, their country laid waste, and their wives and children driven from their homes to perish or to live as best they can.”

Jackson was also concerned that even if the Guards were absorbed into the Confederate army, Price would not be. As such, he asked Davis to put Price in command of the Confederacy’s fledgling Western Department, hoping that Davis had “already been clothed with power to make the appointment.”

The exiled governor wrote to Price that same day: “Why it is that he (Davis) can’t give you the appointment at once I am utterly at a loss to determine… (but) I will not censure the President until I know he has wronged us.” Jackson notified Price that money had been raised to buy a new sword for the general, as “a beautiful present from the young ladies of New Orleans.”

While Jackson enjoyed New Orleans and violent partisanship continued in Missouri, Davis disputed members of the Confederate Congress over military command in Missouri. This prompted him to write, “I have, long since, learned to bear hasty censure in the hope that justice if tardy is sure, and in any event to find consolation in the assurance that all my ends have been my country’s.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 148-49

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The Missouri Secession

October 28, 1861 – Remnants of the popularly elected Missouri legislature gathered at Neosho to consider leaving the Union, even though a new Unionist government claimed to be the legitimate governing body over Missouri.

Missouri State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

Missouri State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

A group of ousted legislators met in the Masonic Hall at Neosho, 70 miles southwest of Major General John C. Fremont’s Federal Army of the West at Springfield. One of the few Unionist legislators in attendance claimed that only 10 senators and 39 representatives were present, short of the required 17 senators and 67 representatives for a quorum under Missouri law. Nevertheless, exiled pro-secession 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 approve 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, Missouri would operate with two governing bodies, with the U.S. recognizing the provisional government at Jefferson City and the Confederacy recognizing the elected government at Neosho.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 77; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 133; Robbins, Peggy, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 501-02; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q461

The Battle of Carthage

July 5, 1861 – Secessionists defeated a Federal detachment in a minor clash as both sides scrambled to link with larger forces in southwestern Missouri.

By July, secessionists and Federals had both fielded several military units to ensure that Missouri either remained in the U.S. or joined the Confederacy. On the Federal side:

  • The main force under Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon remained at Boonville in central Missouri since late last month due to heavy rain.
  • Major Samuel D. Sturgis led some 2,200 Regulars and Kansas volunteers to the Harrisonville area in western Missouri near the Kansas border.
  • Colonel Franz Sigel, a former German revolutionary, commanded a 1,100-man Home Guard of mostly German immigrants at Springfield in southwestern Missouri.

Lyon, the overall commander, sought to join forces with Sturgis at Osceola, 90 miles northeast of Carthage in southwestern Missouri. From there, they would march to join with Sigel at Springfield, east of Carthage.

On the Confederate side:

  • General Sterling Price had left the secessionist Missouri State Guard to obtain recruits, but he only netted 800; they were at Poole’s Prairie, six miles south of Neosho in far southwestern Missouri.
  • The Missouri State Guard, led by Governor-in-exile Claiborne F. Jackson, camped at Lamar, 20 miles north of Carthage, after having retreated from Lyon’s Federals at Boonville.
  • A third force of two Arkansas brigades under Colonel Ben McCulloch entered Missouri on July 4 and linked with Price’s recruits.

On the night of the 4th, a detachment of Colonel Sigel’s Home Guard that had searched for Governor Jackson’s forces bivouacked a mile southeast of Carthage. When Federals went into town to commandeer supplies, they learned that Jackson was 10 miles north with a small force moving toward them. They informed Sigel of this news.

Jackson had been focused on Lyon’s Federals behind him, but now he received intelligence that Sigel was in his front. Despite lacking military experience, Jackson decided without advice from his military officers to defend the high ground outside town against Sigel’s Federals. Meanwhile, Sigel issued orders to attack before dawn.

The next morning, Sigel’s Home Guard confronted some 6,000 Missouri secessionists (though only about 4,000 were armed) about nine miles north of Carthage. Neither Sigel nor Jackson had a definitive battle plan when the forces collided.

The Battle of Carthage, or Dry Fork Creek | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The Battle of Carthage, or Dry Fork Creek | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Jackson invited attack from atop the ridge, confident that his superior numbers could repel the enemy. Sigel, despite knowing that he was outnumbered and had no cavalry, obliged by sending his infantry down the opposite slope and into the woods, where secessionist pickets were stationed a few miles in front of their main force.

An hour-long artillery duel ensued, and when the cannon stopped, the Federals pushed back the enemy pickets, crossed Dry Fork Creek, and advanced three miles to the main secessionist defenses. The Missourians nearly folded under the bold Federal drive, and the enemy’s artillery unnerved Jackson so much that he ordered 2,000 of his unarmed cavalrymen to take cover in the woods.

Federals observed the enemy troopers moving into the brush toward the Federal rear, which Sigel interpreted as a flank attack. He therefore ordered his men to disengage and sounded the retreat back across Dry Fork Creek.

The Federals withdrew through Carthage, using their cannon to hold off the enemy’s pursuit before regrouping at Spring River. There they fended off another flank attack before withdrawing to Sarcoxie, where they halted for the day. Jackson’s men stopped at dark, having fought from 10 a.m. to nearly 9 p.m. and driving the Federals 12 miles back. The Federals suffered 13 killed and 33 wounded or missing, while Confederates lost 10 killed and 64 wounded (though Sigel reported that he had inflicted 350 to 400 casualties).

The secessionist victory temporarily halted the Federal drive into far southwestern Missouri. It also bolstered the morale of pro-secession Missourians who had been demoralized after the humiliating defeat at Boonville last month. Nevertheless, Jackson’s men did not follow up against Sigel; instead they resumed their withdrawal in hopes of linking with General Price.

Meanwhile, a detachment of Ben McCulloch’s Arkansans under Captain James McIntosh captured a Federal detachment of 94 soldiers at Neosho. McCulloch had joined forces with Price, and now they were en route to link with Jackson.

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Sources

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, William C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 118; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 55;Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 91-92; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 19-21, 24-25; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 138-40

The Federal Grip on Missouri Tightens

June 4, 1861 – General Sterling Price, representing the pro-Confederate Missouri State Guard, issued a proclamation in response to a rumor that the new Federal commander in the state sought to disarm Missourians.

Confederate General Sterling Price | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Confederate General Sterling Price | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon, an abolitionist with strong support from the Lincoln administration, had become commander of Federal forces in Missouri less than a week ago. Rumors quickly abounded that Lyon intended to impose martial law on the state, including confiscating personal firearms. Price proclaimed:

“The purpose of such a movement could not be misunderstood; and it would not only be a palpable violation of the agreement referred to, and an equally plain violation of our constitutional rights, but a gross indignity to the citizens of this State, which would be resisted to the last extremity.”

To avoid a statewide uprising, Lyon invited both Price and pro-Confederate Governor Claiborne F. Jackson to meet with him and Francis P. Blair, Jr., his political ally and liaison to the Lincoln administration, in St. Louis. Lyon assured them that they would be “free from molestation” if they came. The men accepted, and the meeting took place at the Planters’ House on June 11.

Thomas Snead, a journalist and aide to Governor Jackson, called this a curious pro forma meeting because neither side seemed willing to concede anything to the other. Jackson and Price contended that the right to recruit Missourians belonged to them, not Federal officials. Lyon and Blair said that they would not tolerate state officials trying to dictate where Federal troops would be stationed or moved.

Jackson pledged to disband the State Guard, prohibit arms from entering the state, protect all citizens equally regardless of their political persuasion, suppress all insurgent activity within the state, prevent Confederate troops from entering the state, observe strict neutrality, and keep Missouri in the Union as long as its neutrality was respected. In exchange, Jackson and Price asked Lyon to disband the illegally organized and armed Home Guard, and refrain from raising any more Federal recruits or occupying any territory besides what he already had.

Jackson called such terms “humiliating,” but he was willing to abide by them to keep the peace. Lyon, knowing the governor’s strong support for secession, did not trust his pledge. Conversely, Jackson distrusted Lyon’s and Blair’s intent because of their strong abolitionist ties and inclination toward military rule. In fact, Lyon outright announced that the Lincoln administration intended to place Missouri under martial law until it was in the “exact condition of Maryland.”

Four hours of discussion settled nothing. Lyon finally rose and declared: “Rather than concede to the state of Missouri for one single instant the right to dictate to my government in any matter however unimportant, I would see you, and you, and you, and you, and every man, woman, and child in the state dead and buried. This means war.” He then stormed out and immediately began issuing orders for troop mobilization.

Jackson and Price quickly returned to the state capital and Jefferson City and ordered the destruction of bridges over strategic waterways. The next day, Jackson called for 50,000 volunteers to prevent Lyon from overthrowing the popularly elected state government. He declared:

“A series of unprovoked and unparalleled outrages has been inflicted on the peace and dignity of this Commonwealth, and upon the rights and liberties of its people, by wicked and unprincipled men professing to act under the authority of the Government of the United States.”

Missouri had no law requiring an organized state militia, and few weapons were available to defend the state. But Jackson was determined to oppose Federal intervention in state affairs. Upon receiving intelligence that Federal forces were advancing on the capital from St. Louis, Jackson made preparations to transfer state records and archives to Boonville, 80 miles above Jefferson City on the south bank of the Missouri River. Meanwhile, Price’s State Guardsmen continued destroying bridges to hinder the Federal advance.

Jackson, Price, several legislators, and a small militia force evacuated Jefferson City on the 14th. Lyon’s Home Guards arrived on steamboats the next day and seized the capital without resistance. The Guards, many of whom were German immigrants, had been met on their journey from St. Louis by “cheering crowds at various points along the riverbank, which was not too surprising given the large number of Germans in those counties.” The Federals were also greeted at the Jefferson City docks by “an enthusiastic group of local Germans.” Bands played patriotic music as the troops raised U.S. flags over the city.

Meanwhile, Jackson and Price fled with their party up the Missouri River to Boonville. Cavalry under Captain Joseph O. “Jo” Shelby, who had gained prominence during the border war, joined them along the way. The overall force, poorly armed and trained, made camp at Boonville.

Lyon led 1,700 Home Guards up the Missouri on the 17th. They disembarked at Camp Bacon below Boonville, where they confronted about 1,500 Missouri militia. A sharp skirmish ensued as Jackson formed a line of defense. However, Lyon’s two cannon sent them fleeing in a rout after about 20 minutes.

Lyon occupied the town as Jackson and Price withdrew to the southwest. Both sides each lost three killed and 10 wounded; Federals captured one militiaman. A Federal soldier wrote, “We were both missionaries and musketeers. When we captured a man we talked him nearly to death; in other respects we treated him humanely. The Civil War was a battle of ideas interrupted by artillery.”

Despite the light casualties, this proved a major defeat for the secessionists because it gave the Federals control of northern Missouri and the lower Missouri River. It also allowed Lyon to disperse all Confederate sympathizers in the region. Lyon sternly warned Missourians that aiding their governor meant “treason.” He dispatched a force to pursue Jackson’s and Price’s men before they could link with Ben McCulloch’s force in Arkansas.

The secessionist militia advanced 25 miles to Cole Camp, where Lyon and Blair had stationed about 700 Home Guards to pursue them. The Guards were led by a Colonel Cook, who was especially hated in Missouri because he was the brother of B.F. Cook, a man who had been executed for his part in John Brown’s 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry. The secessionists attacked at dawn on the 19th and soundly defeated the Guards, killing at least 15 and capturing 362 muskets. This small victory temporarily reinvigorated secessionist morale.

The next day, some 800 secessionists led by Colonel John S. Marmaduke faced a Federal attack about five miles below Boonville. The Missourians ignored calls to retreat and fought an hour and a half before finally retreating in good order and inflicting heavy casualties. The “barefoot rebel militia” showed surprising tenacity.

As Jackson became a governor in exile with his withdrawal from Jefferson City, Unionist delegates to a state convention declared his office vacant and appointed Hamilton R. Gamble as provisional governor. Gamble was a moderate politician who opposed secession while favoring a compromise between state and Federal officials. The ousting of the popularly elected governor helped tighten Federal control over Missouri this month.

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Sources

Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 7389-413; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 50-52; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 297; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 37-39; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 84-87; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 291-92; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 16-17; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 133-36; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q261; Wikipedia: List of Governors of Kansas

Lyon Replaces Harney in Missouri

May 31, 1861 – Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon replaced Brigadier General William S. Harney as commander of the Federal Department of the West. Lyon quickly began working to destroy secessionism in Missouri.

The Lincoln administration worked hard to keep the border state of Missouri in the Union, despite Governor Claiborne F. Jackson’s support for secession. Jackson declared that President Lincoln had provoked civil war and tended toward despotism by issuing his militia proclamation. Jackson asserted that Missourians sympathized with the Confederacy, and state forces seized Federal ordnance in Kansas City.

Federal Cpt. Nathaniel Lyon | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Federal Cpt. Nathaniel Lyon | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

While William S. Harney was in Washington to discuss strategy, his second in command, Nathaniel Lyon, seized the allegedly pro-secessionist Camp Jackson, sparking a riot in St. Louis. Harney returned and helped restore order.

Secessionist members of the Missouri legislature hurriedly assembled at midnight on May 13 at the Jefferson City State House. Fearing that Lyon’s Federals would soon drive west from St. Louis to attack the town, they quickly approved a measure giving the state government absolute power to raise an army and defend Missouri against Federal aggression.

Harney, still trying to maintain order, issued a proclamation the next day calling on Missourians to ignore the bill. The St. Louis Republican denounced Harney for encouraging the people to disregard their popularly elected legislators: “We are bound hand and foot; chained down by a merciless tyranny; are subjugated and shackled.” Federal troops soon closed the newspaper’s offices.

Although Missourians condemned Harney for overriding their state government, Lincoln administration officials began souring on Harney because he seemed reluctant to back his proclamations with action. Lyon showed no such reluctance as he deployed Federal troops to protect Unionists at Potosi. The troops seized several alleged Confederate sympathizers.

Francis P. Blair, Jr. | Image Credit: Wikisource.org

Francis P. Blair, Jr. | Image Credit: Wikisource.org

Influential Republican politician Francis P. Blair, Jr. was one of Lyon’s biggest supporters. Blair’s brother-in-law, Franklin Dick, met with President Lincoln on the 16th to argue on Blair’s behalf that Lyon needed to replace Harney. Dick noted that Harney had a southern background, and “a number of his St. Louis relatives had become avowed secessionists.”

The next day, Lincoln issued an order promoting Lyon from captain to brigadier general, and giving Blair the authority to replace Harney with Lyon. But then Lincoln reconsidered and wrote to Blair that he may have issued the order prematurely. He gave Blair discretion to observe the situation and decide whether Harney should be removed. Blair waited for the time being.

On May 18, former Missouri Governor Sterling Price became a major-general of the State Guard. By that day, “more than 1,000 volunteers had gathered at Jefferson City” to oppose the Federal occupiers. Three days later, Harney and Price negotiated an agreement to hopefully end the animosity between Federal troops and state militia:

“The undersigned, officers of the United States Government and of the government of the State of Missouri, for the purpose of removing misapprehension and of allaying public excitement, deem it proper to declare publicly that they have this day had a personal interview in this city, in which it has been mutually understood, without the semblance of dissent on either part, that each of them has no other than a common object, equally interesting and important to every citizen of Missouri–that of restoring peace and good order to the people of the State in subordination to the laws of the General and State governments.”

Harney agreed that he would not bring any more Federal troops into Missouri as long as Price’s State Guard maintained law and order. This agreement enraged Blair and Lyon, who denounced it as a treasonous surrender of Missouri to the secessionists. The St. Louis Republican Committee sent a message to Lincoln strongly condemning the Harney-Price agreement. Members urged Lincoln to place Missouri under military rule and assured the president that they had the troop strength to enforce that rule.

When Governor Jackson and General Price refused to disband the Missouri State Guard, Blair wrote to Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, a political ally, calling Jackson a “traitor.” Unionists began sending letters to Washington describing alleged “outrages” committed by Jackson to justify Federal military rule over Missouri. In response, Lincoln ordered Harney to stop this alleged mistreatment. Lincoln also warned the commander to be suspicious of state officials claiming to be loyal to the U.S.

Finally on May 31, Blair exercised the authority Lincoln had given him and replaced Harney with Lyon. Blair asserted that Harney’s removal was necessary to annul the hated Harney-Price agreement that essentially granted Missouri neutrality. Harney had also faced criticism from administration officials for not acting decisively enough upon allegations that Unionists were being persecuted.

The tentative peace that Harney and Price had negotiated soon degenerated into internal warfare, as Lyon and his backers resolved to drive the secessionists out of Missouri.

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Sources

Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 7309-20, 7343-55; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 41, 44-45, 47; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 6292; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 89; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 28, 31-32, 35; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 388-89; Guelzo, Allen C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 45, 454; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 69-70, 72-80; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 290; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 15-16; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 814; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q261

The Fall of Camp Jackson

May 10, 1861 – Federal troops led by Captain Nathaniel Lyon sparked a riot in St. Louis by preëmptively seizing the allegedly secessionist Camp Jackson on the city’s western outskirts.

Brigadier General Daniel M. Frost, a former army officer and politician, had set up a training base for Missouri militia at Lindell’s Grove in western St. Louis, in accordance with Missouri law. Called Camp Jackson, it was named for Governor Claiborne F. Jackson, a pro-secessionist who requested its creation. The camp came under close Federal scrutiny for its alleged Confederate ties.

Federal Cpt. Nathaniel Lyon | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Federal Cpt. Nathaniel Lyon | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

On May 8, Captain Lyon secretly reconnoitered Camp Jackson. Borrowing a carriage from the mother-in-law of influential Federal politician Francis P. Blair, Jr., Lyon pretended to be an elderly woman paying a visit to her son. He rode into the “nest of traitors” wearing a shawl, dress, and sunbonnet, concealing his red beard with a veil, and carrying two revolvers hidden in a wicker basket.

Lyon returned to his camp and reported observing streets named for Confederate leaders such as Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard, Confederate flags flying over some tents, and troops carrying arms taken from the Federal arsenal at Baton Rouge. Later that night, crates arrived at Camp Jackson from Baton Rouge; they were labeled “marble” but they contained four cannon and ammunition. These were sent in response to Governor Jackson’s request that the Confederacy provide artillery for the secessionists to seize the Federal arsenal at St. Louis.

Although General Frost planned to disband the camp on May 11, Blair urged Lyon to seize it due to the militia’s “unscrupulous conduct, and their evident design” to facilitate Missouri’s secession. Lyon, suspicious of Jackson’s call for militia, proved willing to overstep any legal boundaries to make sure that the St. Louis arsenal remained in Federal hands.

Lyon led his 7,000 men (four regiments of German immigrants and two regiments of Regular soldiers) in a preëmptive attack on some 625 secessionists at Camp Jackson. Frost had directed his men to disassemble their muskets in preparation for disbanding the next day. He sent a message to Lyon assuring that he intended no hostility toward the Federals, concluding: “I trust, after this explicit statement, we may be able by fully understanding each other to keep far from our borders the misfortunes which unhappily afflict our common country.”

Lyon refused to receive the message and directed his Federals to surround the camp. Frost replied to Lyon’s demand to surrender:

“I, never for a moment having conceived an idea that so illegal and unconstitutional a demand as I have just received from you would be made by an officer of the United States army, am wholly unprepared to defend my command from this unwarranted attack, and shall therefore be forced to comply with your demand.”

Frost and his men surrendered without resistance, and the Federals found large supplies of Confederate ordnance in the camp. When the secessionists refused to swear loyalty to the U.S., Lyon resolved to publicly humiliate them by marching them at gunpoint through the city to the St. Louis arsenal. The escorting Federals were predominantly Germans belonging to the Unionist Home Guard, or “die Schwartze Garde.”

Enraged residents and city leaders gathered to protest “Hessian” aggression and shouted, “Damn the Dutch!” and “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!” Some protestors threw stones or brickbats at the soldiers. When a shot rang out, the Federals fired into the crowd, killing or mortally wounding some 28 people, including women and children. Lyon dismissed the Germans upon reaching the arsenal, but mobs looted and burned sections of St. Louis throughout the stormy night. Some 30 people died, most of whom were Germans. City saloons were closed.

The St. Louis Riot | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The St. Louis Riot | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The militiamen were detained as prisoners, although it remained unclear whether they were prisoners of war (even though no war had been declared in Missouri) or under arrest for breaking a law (even though no charges were presented or any law cited as having been violated).

Lyon’s rashness may have saved the arsenal (and possibly Missouri itself) for the U.S., but it also prompted many Missourians to join the secessionists. Governor Jackson reported the Federal capture of Camp Jackson to the Missouri legislature, and within 15 minutes the legislators approved a measure forming a State Guard and “switching funds from the state’s charitable institutions and schools to the militia.” Financing included a $1 million state government loan through the issuance of state bonds. Jackson and his secessionist supporters relocated from the state capital at Jefferson City to Neosho.

The next day, General William S. Harney, commanding the Federal Department of the West, returned to St. Louis to take command of the garrison there. He expressed dismay with Captain Lyon’s actions the previous day that sparked rioting in the city.

Harney met with General Frost, imprisoned with his men at the St. Louis arsenal. Frost explained that “in accordance with the laws of the State of Missouri, which have been existing for some years, and in obedience to the orders of the Governor, on Monday last I entered into an encampment with the militia force of St. Louis County for the purpose of instructing the same in accordance with the laws of the United States and of this State.” Frost protested that his men were imprisoned even after having sworn an oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution.

Meanwhile, rioting continued in St. Louis as Federals placed the city under military rule. At Fifth and Walton, the 5th Reserve Regiment fought with protestors, leaving at least two soldiers and four civilians dead. Residents began fleeing the city to avoid the military’s wrath. The Memphis Packet Company provided steamboats for frightened people who did not leave by buggy, horse, or train.

On Sunday the 12th, General Harney issued a proclamation:

“The military force stationed in this department by authority of the Government, and now under my command, will only be used in the last resort to preserve the peace. I trust I may be spared the necessity of resorting to martial law, but the public peace must be preserved, and the lives and property of the people protected.”

A witness stated that by that afternoon, some 3,000 residents had left “over the river, down the river, up the river, anywhere to escape the fury of the Dutch.” While the violence prompted many Missourians to resent Federal rule, the Federal military response suppressed secession sentiment in St. Louis.

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Sources

  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 7284-96
  • Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 41-43
  • Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 389
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 89
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 29-30
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 388-89
  • Guelzo, Allen C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 454
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 70-71, 72-74
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 290-91
  • Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 15-16
  • Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 133
  • Robbins, Peggy, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 501-02
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q261

Keeping Kentucky and Missouri Loyal

April 26, 1861 – President Abraham Lincoln met with a Kentucky Unionist to keep that state loyal, while Federal troops in Missouri worked to keep weapons out of secessionist hands.

Kentucky State Flag | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Kentucky State Flag | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

On April 17, Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin responded to Lincoln’s call for volunteers to destroy the Confederacy: “Your dispatch is received. I say emphatically, Kentucky will furnish no troops for the wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern states.” Magoffin received support from both Unionists and secessionists in his state, largely because Kentuckians sought neutrality in any struggle between North and South.

Kentucky’s dominance of the Ohio River meant that if it joined the Confederacy, the state could threaten Ohio’s security and even the Great Lakes trade that furnished the material for northern factories, foundries, and furnaces. On the other hand, if Kentucky joined the U.S., it could threaten Tennessee’s security. Thus, both the Federals and Confederates handled Kentucky with caution out of fear it would join the opposing side.

Secessionists had the influential support of Kentuckian John C. Breckinridge, the former U.S. vice president under James Buchanan. Addressing a large crowd at Louisville, Breckinridge denounced Lincoln’s militia proclamation as illegal. Governor Magoffin also began leaning toward the Confederacy; on the 24th he called on militia to defend the state and scheduled the legislature to meet in special session on May 5. Magoffin sought to persuade legislators to abandon “neutrality” and follow Tennessee’s lead in aiding the Confederacy.

To combat the secessionist wave, Lincoln met with Garret Davis, a prime leader of Kentucky’s Union Party. Lincoln assured Davis that he did not intend to occupy Kentucky, even though “he had the unquestioned right at all times to march the United States troops into and over any and every state.” As long as the state “made no demonstration of force against the United States, he would not molest her.” This satisfied Davis that Lincoln would not invade Kentucky if the state maintained its neutrality.

Meanwhile another vital border state, Missouri, also began moving toward the Confederacy. Missouri Governor Claiborne F. Jackson strongly rejected Lincoln’s call for 3,123 men from his state:

“Your requisition, in my judgment, is illegal, unconstitutional, and revolutionary in its object, inhuman and diabolical, and cannot be complied with. Not one man will the State of Missouri furnish to carry on any such unholy crusade.”

Jackson then wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis requesting artillery to help Missourians seize the 60,000 stands of arms at the Federal arsenal in St. Louis.

Missouri State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

Missouri State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

Sensing that the situation in Missouri was more ominous than Kentucky, the Lincoln administration moved more aggressively against secessionism. On the 23rd the War Department recalled General William S. Harney, the renowned commander of the Department of the West, from his St. Louis headquarters to Washington to discuss strategy. Politician Francis P. Blair, Jr., representing Republican interests in Missouri, had persuaded the Lincoln administration to pull Harney out so command would pass to Captain Nathaniel Lyon, a fellow Republican. The command included the vital St. Louis arsenal.

A second order, orchestrated by Blair, granted Lyon extraordinary powers in Harney’s absence to “muster into the service the 4 regiments which the Governor had refused to furnish” according to President Lincoln’s militia proclamation. Lyon was to raise as many as 10,000 recruits to maintain Federal control of St. Louis; he had already been secretly arming a force of primarily German immigrants called the Republican Home Guards.

Meanwhile, President Davis wrote to Governor Jackson confirming that Jackson’s envoys had arrived in Montgomery and declaring that the Confederate government would support Missouri secessionists if they seized the St. Louis arsenal. Davis hoped that such support would entice Missouri into joining the Confederacy.

Lyon soon learned that Jackson was organizing 700 secessionist militiamen in western St. Louis. He and Blair responded by enlisting militia Captain James H. Stokes of Chicago into Federal service by transferring muskets from the arsenal across the Mississippi River to Illinois.

Rumors of Lyon’s order to Stokes spread throughout St. Louis, and a crowd of secessionists gathered at the arsenal on the night of the 25th. Lyon decoyed them by positioning several thousand troops on hills around the city while sending boxes of obsolete flintlock muskets to a docked steamboat. As the crowd seized these boxes, Stokes and his Illinois troops docked another steamboat near midnight. They made off with over 10,000 modern muskets and other supplies.

The arms were safely transferred to Alton, Illinois, where they were distributed to Illinois militia. On April 30, Secretary of War Simon Cameron expanded Lyon’s authority even further by authorizing him to declare martial law and enforce it with his rapidly increasing force. Granting Lyon these sweeping powers while depriving Missourians of weapons proved a serious detriment to secessionist aspirations.

—–

Sources

  • Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 41-42, 43
  • Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 86
  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 7238
  • Davis, William C., First Blood: Fort Sumter to Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 13-15
  • Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 35-38
  • Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 389
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 25-26
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 63-66
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 290-91
  • Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 11-15
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q261