Tag Archives: St. Louis

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

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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

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.

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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