Tag Archives: Secessionists

Halleck Cracks Down in Missouri

December 22, 1861 – Federal Major General Henry W. Halleck issued General Orders No. 32 as part of his program to suppress alleged disloyalty in Missouri.

Maj Gen H.W. Halleck | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Maj Gen H.W. Halleck | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Halleck announced that a “state of insurrection” existed in the state, but unlike John C. Fremont, Halleck requested permission from his superiors at Washington to impose martial law. Permission was granted on December 2 in a message signed by President Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward:

“General: As an insurrection exists in the United States and is in arms in the State of Missouri, you are hereby authorized and empowered to suspend the writ of habeas corpus within the limits of the military division under your command, and to exercise martial law as you find it necessary, in your discretion, to secure the public safety and the authority of the United States.”

Two days later, Halleck issued General Orders No. 13, which addressed the issue of secessionist spies operating within Federal lines:

“The mild and indulgent course heretofore pursued toward this class of men has utterly failed to restrain them from such unlawful conduct. All persons found in disguise as pretended loyal citizens, or under other false pretenses, within our lines, giving information to or communicating with the enemy will be arrested, tried, condemned, and shot as spies. It should be remembered that in this respect the laws of war make no distinction of sex; all are liable to the same penalty.”

Halleck singled out “wealthy secessionists who render aid, assistance, and encouragement to those who commit these outrages, although less bold,” proclaiming them “equally guilty.” To penalize them, Halleck directed that Federal commanders round up the thousands of Unionist refugees in St. Louis and “quarter them in the houses, and to feed and clothe them at the expense of avowed secessionists and of those who are found guilty of giving aid, assistance, and encouragement to the enemy.”

The orders instructed departmental commanders to adhere to the Confiscation Act regarding any fugitive slaves entering Federal lines. Halleck added, “Should Congress extend this penalty to the property of all rebels in arms, or giving aid, assistance, and encouragement to the enemy,” added Halleck, “such provisions will be strictly enforced.” Halleck concluded:

“Peace and war cannot exist together. We cannot at the same time extend to rebels the rights of peace and enforce against them the penalties of war. They have forfeited their civil rights as citizens by making war against the Government, and upon their own heads must fall the consequences.”

Later this month, a Federal colonel stationed 80 miles west of St. Louis reported “that several parties of secessionists are gathering and committing depredations in Montgomery County, within 10 miles of us.” Halleck directed the colonel to “send strong force to cross in the direction of Warrenton. Arrest all secessionists and bridge-burners.”

Meanwhile, Federal scouts intercepted a copy of Special Orders No. 14, written by Major General Sterling Price of the Missouri State Guards: “You are hereby ordered to immediately cause to be destroyed all railroad bridges and telegraph wires in your vicinity.” Halleck responded by issuing General Orders No. 32, which targeted citizens sabotaging Federal operations by burning bridges, destroying railroads, and cutting telegraph wires:

“These men are guilty of the highest crime known to the code of war and the punishment is death. Any one caught in the act will be immediately shot, and any one accused of this crime will be arrested and placed in close confinement until his case can be examined by a military commission and if found guilty he also will suffer death.”

Moreover, any “pretended Union man” who had evidence against secessionists but did not share it with Federal authorities would also be arrested. Federal commanders were to confiscate “the slaves of all secessionists in the vicinity and if necessary the secessionists themselves and their property.” Halleck concluded:

“Hereafter the towns and counties in which such destruction of public property takes place will be made to pay the expenses of all repairs unless it be shown that the people of such towns or counties could not have prevented it on account of the superior force of the enemy.”

As Federals scattered secessionists at Fulton and repaired the railroad at Warrenton, Halleck wrote to General-in-Chief George B. McClellan that the sabotage was “the most annoying features of the war… effected by small parties of mounted men, disguised as farmers, but well armed. They overpower or overawe the guards, set fire to the bridges, and escape before a force can be collected against them. Examples of severe punishment are the only remedies.”

Halleck issued orders to 15 Federal commanders at 15 points throughout the state: “Look out for bridge-burners. It is reported that concerted attempts will be made to destroy railroads and telegraph lines. Shoot down every one making the attempt.” Brigadier General John Pope dispatched cavalry to Lexington, where they destroyed two ferryboats that secessionists could have used to cross the Missouri and join Price’s retreat toward Springfield.

The day after Christmas, Halleck proclaimed martial law in St. Louis and along all railroad lines in Missouri. Two days later, the Federal sweep through Missouri that Halleck envisioned began when Brigadier General Benjamin M. Prentiss’s forces attacked secessionists near Hallsville, inflicting 50 casualties (five killed, 35 wounded, and 10 taken prisoner) and capturing 90 horses and 105 stands of arms. The sweep continued into the next year.

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References

Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 99; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 88, 92-93; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 145-46, 150-51; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 8, p. 453, 456-57, Series II, Volume 1, p. 236-28

The Blackwater Creek Engagement

December 18, 1861 – Federals under Brigadier General John Pope overwhelmed a force of Missouri State Guards and demoralized secessionists in the western part of the state.

Brig-Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Brig-Gen John Pope | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Pope commanded the District of Central Missouri, covering the area between the Missouri and Osage rivers, with headquarters at Sedalia. His main task was to break up the pockets of pro-secession State Guards assembling and trying to join forces with Major General Sterling Price’s main army at Osceola in western Missouri.

On December 5, some of Price’s men successfully ferried about 2,500 volunteer Guards across the Missouri River at Lexington and led them to Osceola. In response, Pope wrote to Major General Henry W. Halleck, commanding the Federal Department of Missouri: “I would respectfully suggest that to quiet all the disturbances and uneasiness engendered by the presence of so large a hostile force in this region, an advance in force against Price be made as soon as possible.”

Pope expressed confidence that his 15,000 armed, trained, and disciplined Federals could defeat whatever force that Price may have, and they could mobilize within two hours. Pope also outlined a strategy of confusing State Guard pickets with cavalry diversions before moving southwest, crossing the Osage River, and attacking with his main force before Price could gather more recruits.

Halleck responded by urging Pope to move, but not in the direction that Pope had requested. Instead Halleck directed Pope to move northwest toward Lexington and disperse the recruits that Price had not yet collected. Halleck also restricted Pope to using just his one division (Pope had requested two others). Although Pope disagreed with the order, he replied that he would begin moving the next morning.

Pope gathered 4,000 troops for the northwest march on the 15th when he learned that about 4,000 State Guard recruits had already left Lexington to join Price at Osceola; they were now probably near Warrensburg, 60 miles north of Price’s force. Pope received permission to change his marching orders to cut the recruits off between Warrensburg and Clinton. The Federals moved out but covered just 11 miles before camping southwest of Sedalia.

The next day, Pope’s Federals moved toward Warsaw, covering 23 miles in one of the longest marches of the war. Federal cavalry entered Chilhowe and learned that 3,600 Guards were camped six miles north of Warrensburg, near the Black River. Pope dispatched a force to Milford, just north of the suspected encampment, and another force to block the road extending southwest from Warrensburg.

The Federals attacked on the 18th, sending the Guard recruits across the Black River and capturing the bridge. The recruits were compelled to surrender when they fled southward and ran into the second Federal force blocking their path.

Pope reported that he had captured “1,300 men… three colonels… one lieutenant-colonel, one major, and 51 commissioned company officers,” along with about “500 horses and mules, 73 wagons heavily loaded with powder, lead tents, subsistence stores, and supplies of various kinds… also 1,000 stand of arms.”

Although this was likely exaggerated, it still made for an impressive victory. Over three days, Pope’s Federals had marched 100 miles and captured over 1,500 prisoners, 2,000 weapons, and 100 wagons. This severely damaged the secessionist cause in western Missouri and convinced Price that he could no longer rely on either recruits or Confederate aid.

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References

Anders, Leslie, “The Blackwater Incident,” Missouri Historical Review, LXXXVIII, No. 4, July 1994, p. 420-25; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 88-89; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 8, p. 39-40

The Controversial Fremont Proclamation

August 30, 1861 – Major General John C. Fremont, commanding the Federal Military Department of the West, issued orders imposing martial law throughout Missouri and authorizing Federal troops to confiscate the property of disloyal Missourians, including slaves.

Major General John C. Fremont | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Major General John C. Fremont | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Fremont had been struggling to maintain control in Missouri ever since he had taken department command in late July. St. Louis had been a hotbed of resentment against Federal rule ever since the riots in May, and Fremont’s lavish headquarters within that city did not help matters. Defeats at Carthage in July and Wilson’s Creek in early August weakened Fremont’s military authority. Efforts to install an unelected Unionist state government, internal feuding with the politically influential Blair family (staunch Lincoln allies), and reports of corruption and mismanagement further damaged Fremont’s credibility and invited more anti-Unionist activity in his department.

After Wilson’s Creek, Fremont responded to growing resistance to his authority by declaring martial law in the city and county of St. Louis. A Federal provost marshal was assigned to enforce the decree upon residents. Fremont then desperately called upon Secretary of War Simon Cameron to provide reinforcements against the growing Confederate military presence in eastern Missouri: “Let the governor of Ohio be ordered forthwith to send me what disposable force he has; also governors of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Order the utmost promptitude.”

In response to unfavorable reports about him in the St. Louis press, Fremont issued orders closing the Missourian and the War Bulletin, two allegedly pro-Confederate newspapers. Fremont accused them of being “shamelessly devoted to the publication of transparently false statements respecting military movements in Missouri.”

As the military situation worsened, on August 30 Fremont resolved to “demand the severest measures to repress the daily crimes and outrages which are driving off the inhabitants and ruining the State.” Without seeking approval from superiors, he expanded his St. Louis martial law declaration to the rest of Missouri under Federal control. This consisted of the zone extending “from Leavenworth, by way of the posts of Jefferson City, Rolla, and Ironton, to Cape Girardeau, on the Mississippi River.”

Fremont’s order stated that any Missourians suspected of having Confederate or secessionist sympathies “taken with arms in their hands within these lines shall be tried by court-martial, and if found guilty will be shot” by firing squad. This contradicted military tradition, under which captured suspects would be held as prisoners of war, not summarily executed.

But the second part of Fremont’s proclamation went even further. It declared that “those who shall take up arms against the United States, or who shall be directly proven to have taken an active part with their enemies in the field,” would have their property “confiscated to the public use. And their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared freemen.”

Fremont claimed that this order was needed to combat the “disorganized condition, helplessness of civil authority and total insecurity of life” in Missouri. However, it quickly had the odd effect of uniting both Unionists and secessionists in opposition and outrage.

To Unionists, freeing slaves contradicted the policy that President Abraham Lincoln had pledged in his inaugural address (i.e., he would not interfere with slavery where it already existed). It also contradicted the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution, under which Congress declared that the war was being fought to preserve the Union, not to free slaves. And perhaps most importantly, it far exceeded the Confiscation Act, which authorized Federal commanders to confiscate slaves only when directly aiding the Confederate war effort, and then to place them under Federal supervision, not free them.

Secessionists asserted that Fremont had revealed the Republican Party’s true purpose for waging war–to free slaves. And Fremont’s threat to shoot anyone suspected of disloyalty prompted anti-Unionist guerrillas operating throughout the state to issue threats of their own to retaliate against any actions that Fremont may take. This had the potential to turn Missouri into a state of unending violence and terror.

Only the Radical faction of the Republican Party applauded Fremont’s move, but they still comprised a minority voice in the Federal government. Many Radicals (and even some moderates) maintained greater loyalty to Fremont than Lincoln, as Fremont was an avowed abolitionist and had been the Republicans’ first-ever presidential candidate in 1856.

But the critics far exceeded the supporters, with many in both North and South calling Fremont’s order “dictatorial.” At the very least, the order crept beyond the military realm in which Fremont belonged and encroached upon Lincoln’s political prerogative as commander in chief. However, Fremont’s popularity within the party, which rivaled Lincoln’s, made this a delicate issue for Lincoln to handle.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 49-50; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 12265; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 67, 71; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 6608; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 291-92; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 95-96; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 56, 60; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 389-90; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 108-09, 112-13; 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. 352; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 30-32; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 814-15; 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), Q361

Federals Threaten Kentucky’s Neutrality

August 19, 1861 – President Abraham Lincoln received a letter from Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin urging the removal of Federal troops from the state to in an effort to maintain neutrality in the conflict.

Kentucky State Flag | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Kentucky State Flag | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The Federal military presence in Kentucky continued to threaten that state’s tenuous neutrality. It also helped Unionists get elected to the Kentucky legislature, as Unionists won majorities in the August 5 elections of 76-24 in the House of Representatives and 27-11 in the Senate. This was a greater Unionist victory than the June 20 election. Prior to this contest, Lincoln had resisted banning trade with the Confederacy through Kentucky in fear of forcing that state to go Confederate. But this election emboldened Lincoln to issue a proclamation banning trade with all “rebellious” states.

Meanwhile, Unionists established Camp “Dick Robinson” near Lexington. The camp attracted recruits from Ohio, as well as mountaineers from eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. Although they declared that they were simply “Home Guards” organizing only for defense, secessionists and neutralists argued that the camp blatantly violated Kentucky’s neutrality.

Soon afterward Brigadier General Robert Anderson, the Federal commander at Fort Sumter who had been in command of Federals in Kentucky, was given command of the Department of the Cumberland. This encompassed not only Kentucky but also Tennessee, except for the part of Kentucky bordering Cincinnati belonging to the Department of the Ohio and a part of western Tennessee along the Mississippi River belonging to the Department of the West.

As a native Kentuckian, Anderson set up headquarters in Cincinnati to avoid embarrassing his “neutral” home state. The growing tensions between the Unionists and the neutralists and secessionists ultimately afflicted Anderson, already in frail health, with nervous exhaustion.

To stop any further Federal encroachment on Kentucky neutrality, two commissioners delivered a letter from Governor Magoffin to President Lincoln on the 19th. Magoffin wrote:

“From the commencement of the unhappy hostilities now pending in this country, the people of Kentucky have indicated an earnest desire and purpose, as far as lay in their power, while maintaining their original political status, to do nothing by which to involve themselves in the war. Up to this time they have succeeded in securing to themselves and to the State peace and tranquillity as the fruits of the policy they adopted. My single object now is to promote the continuance of these blessings to this State…

“Now, therefore, as Governor of the State of Kentucky, and in the name of the people I have the honor to represent, and with the single and earnest desire to avert from their peaceful homes the horrors of war, I urge the removal from the limits of Kentucky of the military force now organized and in camp within the State. If such action as is here urged be promptly taken, I firmly believe the peace of the people of Kentucky will be preserved, and the horrors of a bloody war will be averted from a people now peaceful and tranquil.”

Lincoln responded five days later:

“I may not possess full and precisely accurate knowledge upon this subject; but I believe it is true that there is a military force in camp within Kentucky, acting by authority of the United States, which force is not very large, and is not now being augmented… In all I have done in the premises, I have acted upon the urgent solicitation of many Kentuckians, and in accordance with what I believed, and still believe, to be the wish of a majority of all the Union-loving people of Kentucky…”

Lincoln asserted that “While I have conversed on this subject with many eminent men of Kentucky, including a large majority of her Members of Congress, I do not remember that any one of them, or any other person, except your Excellency and the bearers of your Excellency’s letter, has urged me to remove the military force from Kentucky, or to disband it.” Lincoln went on:

“Taking all the means within my reach to form a judgment, I do not believe it is the popular wish of Kentucky that this force shall be removed beyond her limits; and, with this impression, I must respectfully decline to so remove it. I most cordially sympathize with your Excellency in the wish to preserve the peace of my own native State, Kentucky. It is with regret I search for, and can not find, in your not very short letter, any declaration or intimation that you entertain any desire for the preservation of the Federal Union.”

That same day, George W. Johnson delivered a letter from Magoffin to President Jefferson Davis:

“Recently a military force has been enlisted and quartered by the United States authorities within this State… Although I have no reason to presume that the Government of the Confederate States contemplate or have ever proposed any violation of the neutral attitude thus assumed by Kentucky, there seems to be some uneasiness felt among the people of some portion of the State, occasioned by the collection of bodies of troops along their southern frontier. In order to quiet this apprehension, and to secure to the people their cherished object of peace, this communication is to present these facts and elicit an authoritative assurance that the Government of the Confederate States will continue to respect and observe the position indicated as assumed by Kentucky.”

Davis responded to Magoffin on the 28th:

“In reply to this request, I lose no time in assuring you that the Government of the Confederate States neither desires nor intends to disturb the neutrality of Kentucky… The Government of the Confederate States has not only respected most scrupulously the neutrality of Kentucky, but has continued to maintain the friendly relations of trade and intercourse which it has suspended with the United States generally.

“In view of the history of the past, it can scarcely be necessary to assure your Excellency that the Government of the Confederate States will continue to respect the neutrality of Kentucky so long as her people will maintain it themselves. But neutrality, to be entitled to respect, must be strictly maintained between both parties; or, if the door be opened on the one side for the aggressions of one of the belligerent parties upon the other, it ought not to be shut to the assailed when they seek to enter it for purposes of self-defense. I do not, however, for a moment believe that your gallant State will suffer its soil to be used for the purpose of giving an advantage to those who violate its neutrality and disregard its rights, over others who respect both.”

It would be only a matter of time before the two warring factions brought their conflict onto Kentucky soil. A prelude to that clash came on August 22, when U.S.S. Lexington, a Federal side-wheeled steamboat-turned-timberclad gunboat, captured the Confederate steamer W.B. Terry at Paducah. Confederates fled aboard the steamer Samuel Orr up the Tennessee River.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 6790-873; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 64, 67-68, 70; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 397-98; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 54, 56, 58; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 105-06, 109, 111; 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. 294-95; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 70-71; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 199; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 196; 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), Q361