The Civil War

What flag is this ? It is known as the "battle flag of Missouri" or the "Sterling Price flag". This was the flag carried by various units of Missouri Confederate troops. This included the hard fighting 1st Missouri Infantry, largely recruited in St. Louis and commanded by Gen. John Stevens Bowen of Carondelet. The majority of these flags were captured at Vicksburg, Mississippi after that city fell to Union forces. [Flag courtesy of Jim Martin of Houston, TX.]


The Greatest and Most Terrible War Missouri Ever Witnessed

A complete revolution of Antebellum Society.


Battle of Wilson's Creek, August 10, 1861, as depicted in illustration at the Missouri State Capitol, Jefferson City.


"The Conflict...gave rise to two Missouri State Governments, one for the Confederacy and one for the Union."

This  became the first time in history when the U.S. government found itself in open combat with a professed loyal State of the Union. The conflict eventually gave rise to two Missouri State governments, one that  joined the Confederacy, and the other a provisional Union government under U.S. military occupation. Neutrality, so cherished by the majority of Missourians, became  forbidden ground as citizens were compelled to fight for the Union or for Gov. Jackson's Missouri State Government which ultimately became part of the Confederate States.

"The provisional Union government of Missouri, was as stubbornly pro-slavery as the Confederate government of Missouri..."

These opposing sides within the State gave Missouri an unique history, rich in adventure and heroism as well as sufferings from a multitude of atrocities. The provisional Union government of Missouri was as stubbornly pro-slavery as the Confederate government of Missouri. On Jan 11th, 1865, it radically changed its course. On that day, under pro-Union Governor (Thomas C. Fletcher), the State became the first slave State to outlaw slavery during the Civil War. By war's end 8,400 black Missourians were recruited in the Union Army, some seeing action at the last armed action of the war, the "Battle of Palmito Ranch", Texas (May 11-13 1865). 

"On Jan 11th, 1865, it radically changed its course."

Initially, President Lincoln never intended to wage a war against slavery. As time passed, Lincoln realized he needed to use the abolition of slavery as a weapon against the Confederate States. Missouri, occupied by a loyal pro-slavery government,  was excluded from Lincoln's  Emancipation Proclamation. But its issue, on Jan 1, 1863, caused the State to be inundated by refugee slaves fleeing Arkansas as a result of the proclamation.. The exhilaration felt by the multitudes of newly freed slaves caused a gradual ripple effect on Missouri's slaves (who were still under bondage). Missouri's slave population went from approximately 85,000 in 1862 to 22,000 in 1864. Like Missouri's white population, not all slaves left the farms out of choice. Many were forced to flee due to troops fighting, bushwhackers, or adverse military action (i.e. Gen. Thomas Ewing's infamous Order No. 11, the burning of four western counties--displacing 20,000 civilians.).

"The antebellum society that was based upon a limited Federal government and the institution of slavery was no more."

On June 1865, the remaining Confederate forces of Missouri either accepted terms of surrender or like many, never surrendered. Those that refused to surrender crossed over the Rio Grande and lived for years of exile in Mexico.  At this time, the original government of Missouri, once championed by the late Governor Claiborne F. Jackson, faded away into oblivion. 

"The War by many standards,  was a complete revolution of the United States..."

The Civil War that tore Missouri apart had finally ended. Soldiers, both of the blue and gray, returned not to the same State they had known since birth. The antebellum society that was based upon a limited Federal government and the institution of slavery was no more. The war was known to Northerners as the "War of Rebellion". To Southerners it was the "War for Southern Independence".  Regardless of what name,  most today would agree it was by many standards, a complete revolution of the United States. The rights of States in relation to the Federal government have been transformed or re-interpreted. And the most beneficial result of the war,  the abolition of slavery, fulfilled an unaccomplished act of the first American Revolution, that "all men were created equal"

"the abolition of slavery, fulfilled an unaccomplished act of the first American Revolution, that "all men were created equal."

The war's importance in shaping America's future, has been neglected for far too long. For this reason its history and its complete uncensored story must be preserved for future generations.


St. Louis

      St. Louis, one of the most interesting communities during the Civil War. It was of deeply divided sentiments during the 1861-1865 war. Many families were of split allegiance. The largest numbers served in the Union Army, however many others (estimated at 5,000) went South, either banished South for "disloyal" thoughts or to fight for the Confederacy. A large population of pro-Confederate civilians were cut-off from the South and remained behind in St. Louis for the entire duration of the war. Many continued to support the South in their own way, perhaps smuggling medicines, spying, assisting Confederate prisoners of war, discouraging enlistment or even committing acts of sabotage. 



Some of these pages, while authored by me, are located on the website of the Missouri Civil War Museum, where I am a volunteer.

  Interested in the Missouri Civil War ? Please visit the Missouri Civil War Museum at WWW.MISSOURICIVILWARMUSEUM.ORG


In order to counter the threats within the population, martial law was proclaimed and maintained for the full duration of the war. Volunteer detectives were recruited from all walks of life. They included factory workers, housewives,  street vendors, housecleaners, gardeners, and shopkeepers, ect. If anyone of these undercover detectives heard a "disloyal" comment, the suspect could be imprisoned on the whims of the provost marshal. Simple statements that today would be attributed as innocent opinion such as, "I don't like the way Lincoln is fighting this war." or "I don't think you should enlist, you may get yourself killed", may cost a person his freedom. And to many, the stay at St. Louis' infamous Gratiot Street Prison was a death sentence where hundreds of POW's and "political prisoners" died of small pox, measles, dysentery or from simple exposure.

The new Confederate monument, dedicated April 26, 2002 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Shields-Lincoln Recreation Area in West Alton, Missouri. This is on the former site where Confederate POWs inflicted with smallpox were buried, a former island in the Mississippi River. Taking part in the ceremony were the 9th Missouri Sharpshooters (Reenactors) of Bridgeton, Mo. 

On the monument are engraved the names 223 soldiers and 16 civilians. 

For the Union

 St. Louis was the home (or place of birth) of  prominent Union Generals, like Francis P. Blair, Benjamin Bonneville, Philip P. Brown Jr., John Smith Cavender, Augustus Louis Chetlain,  Frederick T. Dent, Albert G. Edwards, Bernard G. Farrar, Thomas Clement Fletcher, James Fremont, Ulysses S. Grant, William Selby Harney, Orson Henry Hart, John Henry Holman, Madison Miller, John McNeil, John W. Noble, Peter J. Osterhaus, Lewis Baldwin Parsons, Gabriel Rene Paul, Franz Sigel, William T. Sherman, Samuel Parsons Simpson, Andrew Jackson Smith, John Dunlap Stevenson, John Wesley Turner, William M. Wherry and William D. Wood. It also was the base of operations for Union Generals, Thomas Ewing Jr. Nathaniel Lyon, Henry Halleck, John M. Schofield. Most senior Commander Winfield Scott was assigned to the St. Louis Arsenal in the years before the Mexican war. 

St. Louis is the burial location of many Union soldiers that only had a transient or indirect connection to the city. Two most famous of these are, Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell and Maj. Gen. John Pope. 

Furthermore, in St. Louis were Federal facilities such as the St. Louis Arsenal, Benton Barracks, Gratiot Street Prison, and Jefferson Barracks. No list of Union achievements could be complete without mention of James B. Eads' designed iron-clad gunboats, U.S.S. Baron De Kalb,  U.S.S. Carondelet, U.S.S. Louisville, U.S.S. Pittsburgh. In addition other ironclad ships or monitors were built or modified in St. Louis : U.S.S. Benton, U.S.S. Chickasaw, U.S.S Choctaw, U.S.S. Essex, U.S.S. Milwaukee, U.S.S. Neosho, U.S.S. Osage, and the U.S.S. Winnebago. Eads' construction took place at the mouth of the River Des Peres as it empties into the Mississippi River in the Carondelet area of St. Louis. Still, lesser known monitors, of Eriksson Class (identical to the U.S.S. Monitor that battled the C.S.S. Virginia ("Merimack") in the East. These were the U.S.S. Etlah, U.S.S. Shiloh were built under the direction of the engineer, D.G. Wells, in the St. Louis shipyards. 

St. Louis was also the center of attention for the pre-war Dred Scott Federal court decision that accelerated sectional hostilities all across the nation. Furthermore, the streets of St. Louis were witness to the national crisis of Camp Jackson and the resulting accidental massacre of civilians by Federal troops. St. Louis was also an area of recruitment and organization of at least five regiments of U.S. Colored Troops.

For the Confederacy

St. Louis was also home to many Confederate Generals (like  Basil Duke, John S. Bowen, Daniel M. Frost, Colton Greene, James Harding, John McCausland and in post-war days: Brig. Gen. Edwin Price (Mo. State Guard), Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart, and .) Although his war service is little known, resident Gen. Meriwether Lewis Clark (Missouri State Guard), was the son of famous explorer, Capt. William Clark.  Even Gen. Robert E. Lee resided here during his assignment to Jefferson Barracks as a young officer in the U.S. Army. It was Lee that helped save the City of St. Louis, when the Mississippi River began meandering away from the inland port city. Jefferson Davis, "Stonewall Jackson", Joseph E. Johnston, James Longstreet were all stationed at Jefferson Barracks prior to the breaking out of the Civil War. 

There was also St. Louis gunners on board the famed Confederate ironclad, the C.S.S. Arkansas. It was St. Louisans versus St. Louisans in the "battle of the ironclads" on the Yazoo and Mississippi rivers of the West. The C.S.S. Arkansas, built in the backwaters of Mississippi, not only sunk the U.S.S. Carondelet in shallow water, but single-handedly shot its way through the Federal fleet blockading the City of Vicksburg. 

Slavery, a Complex Issue

Historians and educators often oversimplify the role slavery played in the Civil War.  It was complex and there was a wide range of beliefs regarding the "institution", as it was commonly referred in antebellum sources. There were abolitionists, that were active for the sole benefit of the slave himself and the principle that "all men are created equal". For example, the people involved in the "underground railroad" and many New England abolitionist societies based their actions on these principles. But for the majority of Missourians, along with other Midwesterners involved in the anti-slavery movement, the motivation was less than noble. The so called, "Free Soil" party and many of the early founders of the Republican party were not interested in fighting slavery for the benefit of the slave but for the racial agenda of creating a pure "Anglo-Saxon" America  (meaning freeing slaves and deporting them from their native land to colonize them elsewhere like in Africa or Central America.) Initially, Abraham Lincoln was among this philosophy. He had originally believed the western territories should be reserved for the white man, but there is evidence he gave up most of these ideas when he became a supporter of black soldiers in the U.S. forces. Other Union leaders also changed their views after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but still others, not only opposed black soldiers, but also any emancipation not coupled with colonization. Some even argued bitterly against granting black Americans rights of citizenship after the war. 

Contrary to popular belief, Missouri slaves were not freed by Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 20 April 1863. Why ?  Lincoln's 1863 proclamation did not include Slave States recognized as loyal to the Union. In Missouri there were many slaveholders that were loyal to the Union. Many felt that if Missouri became Confederate, their slave property would be put at risk. Under the U.S. Constitution, the Fugitive Slave Act guaranteed the return of slaves that escaped to Free States. Missouri was surrounded by Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas that were Free States. If Missouri seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy, they could not expect to have slaves returned under the Fugitive Slave Act of the U.S. Constitution. For this reason, many Missouri slaveowners sided with the Union and not with the Confederacy. Because of the strong influence of these loyal slaveholders, Missouri did not officially outlaw slavery until 11 Jan 1865, by that time the slaves had already  essentially freed themselves.

Were all Confederates Pro-Slavery ? Absolutely not. Slaveowners were a minority of the population, not only in Missouri but in every slave State. Many Southerners, like Robert E. Lee, considered slavery evil. In Missouri there were other issues involved other than slavery. For example, in Missouri the occupation of the State by out- of-State troops produced widespread outrage by the local population, especially in rural areas.. Statewide enforced martial law infringed on everyday civil liberties (arbitrary arrest, freedom of speech and movement, right for assembly, freedom of the press). But on the other hand, these such strong measures made the city of St. Louis, relatively free of most guerrilla activity.

Myth:  All Missouri Union Authorities  Were Anti-Slavery.

"Every damned abolitionist in the country should be hung.."  ".. I am willing to go as far as any living man to protect the institution of slavery in the State of Missouri. I have no prejudice against the institution. I have been raised with the institution, and I know something of it."

---Lt. Col. James O. Broadhead, Provost Marshal, U.S. Army, St. Louis, Mo.




Variety of Views Regarding Slavery.

To complicate the issue further there were even Confederates that supported the abolition of slavery and the recruitment of black Confederate soldiers. But because of the greater influence of  pro-slavery aristocrats and the less centralized power of the Confederate Presidency, the abolishment of slavery and widespread enlistment of black soldiers never became realized. 

 The following is a listing of individuals that supported various views regarding slavery. This just a listing of a few examples, and not an all inclusive list. Importantly I should stress that most people's views were not static on slavery.

"Higher-law"* (anti-slavery) Unionist:

* Those fighting slavery for the desire to benefit the slaves. That all men were created equal. Note: Fremont and Brown were formerly subscribers to the "Free Soil" party which was motivated by white separatism. 

 "Free Soil" Anti-slavery ("Territories for White Men Only")* Unionist:

* Emancipation tied with removal of black Americans from the U.S.

"Pro-slaveholders Democracy"* Unionist:

*meaning supporting the traditional democracy of the State of Missouri that included the protection of ownership rights for slaveholding citizens (inclusive of free non-slaveholders).

Anti-Slavery Confederates:

"Pro-Slaveholder's Democracy"* Confederates:

*meaning supporting the traditional democracy of the State of Missouri that included the protection of ownership rights for slaveholding citizens (inclusive of free non-slaveholders).

More information on slavery,  visit Slavery in St. Louis


The Berthold Mansion, Minuteman HQ

     The Berthold Mansion, an "early Creole house" of St. Louis once stood at the northwest corner of Fifth and Pine. It served briefly in the early days of the war as a recruiting station and was the Headquarters of the pro-secessionist Minutemen militia. On March 3, 1861 a pro-Southern flag was raised from its roof top and was was defended by fifty militiamen armed with a "swivel gun" artillery piece, muskets and revolvers. A pro-Union crowd of "Wide Awake" militia attempted to climb the porch but they were quickly thrown down onto the pavement by the Minutemen. Following this the "Wide Awakes" became armed and St. Louis police was called to maintain the peace. The police were reinforced by Daniel Frost's State Militia numbering seven hundred. Gen. Frost and St. Louis city officials sought to defuse the confrontation. Frost's militia intended to "keep the peace and prevent aggression by either side". The flying of the pro-secessionist flag was deemed "imprudent" considering the political situation. The Minutemen, on the other hand, refused to take it down and actually were hoping the "Wide Awakes" would attack them so they could justify taking over the Federal arsenal. After a few abortive rushes, and some street fist-fights, the "Wide-Awakes" backed off after realizing the Minutemen side was stronger. Earlier in the day, the Minutemen also took down the U.S. flag over the courthouse and raised a secession banner in its place.  The "Wide Awakes" quickly removed this second banner very soon after it was placed. It should be noted that these were the actions of pro-secessionist private citizens and not the State of Missouri. In fact Gen. Sterling Price, Gen. Daniel Frost, Thomas S. Snead, Samuel Churchill and other future Confederate officers, at this time were opposed to such demonstrations.


Abolitionist Terror on the Lower South

(A Southern Perspective)

Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy explains why the seven lowermost States  (Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas) seceded after the election of Abraham Lincoln. (Keep in mind that the elected government of Missouri and the rest of the upper South did not secede for these reasons.)

Jefferson Davis recorded in his book,  "The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government" (1881)  "...Still forbearing, still hoping, still striving for peace and union, we waited until a section President [Lincoln], nominated by a sectional convention, elected by a sectional vote--and that the vote of a minority of the people--was about to be inducted into office, under the warning of his own distinct announcement that the Union could not permanently endure "half slave and half free"; meaning thereby that it could not continue to exist in the condition in which it was formed and its Constitution adopted.  The leader of his party (William H. Seward) [of the Republican party], who was to be the chief of his Cabinet, was the man who had first proclaimed an "irrepressible conflict" between the North and the South, and who had declared that abolitionism, having triumphed in the Territories, would proceed to the invasion of the States.  Even then the Southern people did not finally despair until the temper of  the triumphant party had been tested in Congress and found adverse to any terms of reconciliation consistent with the honor and safety of all parties."

"No alternative remained except to seek the security out of the Union which they had vainly tried to obtain within it.  The hope of our people may be stated in a sentence.  It was to escape from injury and strife in the Union, to find prosperity and peace out of it."

As Davis makes clear, the South feared that the North would wage a abolitionist war. In fact, this war had already begun on a limited area confined to the Kansas-Missouri border region. But John Brown raid on Harper's Ferry in Oct. 1859, gave warning that this war would soon spread like wildfire across the entire South. The election of Abraham Lincoln of the [Republican] party that had an abolitionist plank, was interpreted as the alarm bell for the Southern secessionist movement. 

By seceding, it was felt by some that this upcoming war could be averted.  Others saw it as a solution to lay aside hostilities and reduce the chances of future abolitionist uprisings. It was kind of a "safety" in preserving their traditional way of life without continual threats. For wealthy plantation owners there was another major reason  for withdrawing from the union. For instance, many southern aristocrats were outraged over the refusal of some northern States to return runaway slaves under the Fugitive Slave Law. But for the greater part of the population, who did not own slaves, averting a life threatening terrorist attack or full scale invasion was without question the chief concern. Newspapers articles of the time period reveal that this was a chief fear of  nearly all white Southerners of the deep South. How much of this hype was artificially generated by the slaveholding elite is uncertain.

But fear and indignation of abolitionist-led terrorism was the one common trait among nearly all white Southerners regardless of wealth. For example George Williamson, a wealthy aristocrat and Louisiana Commissioner to the Texas Secession Convention, argued that Texas should follow Louisiana's path and secede from the union. On  February 11th 1861 he argued, "If she [Texas] remains in the union the abolitionists would continue their work of incendiarism and murder. Emigrant aid societies would arm with  Sharp's rifles predatory bands to infest her northern borders.... Experience justifies these expectations." 

Even some northerners saw the John Brown raid as part of a grander plot for widespread war.  "This most fiendish plot, of these fanatics -- if successful in Virginia and Maryland -- we have no doubt was intended to be carried throughout the entire Southern States -- having for its object plunder, violations of female chastity, and an indiscriminate slaughter of all who should oppose its fearful march. These enormities, that would inevitably have followed, as certainly as night does day, would have been the results; and ending only with all the horrors of a servile war... "--Locomotive (Democratic newspaper of Indianapolis, Indiana, 22 October 1859)

During the Presidential race even Democratic candidate, Stephan A. Douglas, played on the fears of the South by stating, "Mr. Lincoln advocated boldly and clearly a war of section, a war of the North against the slave States--a war of extermination to be continued relentlessly until the one or the other shall be subdued, and all the States shall either become free or become slave." (9 July 1858, Chicago, IL) While Southern newspapers, all of them pro-Democrat,  picked up every word of Douglas' warning, none of them printed Lincoln's rebuttal to the contrary.  Clearly the South was left in the dark about Lincoln's real intentions. But the South was not alone at distrusting Lincoln, some of the harshest words came from the "State Register", published in Springfield, Missouri, Lincoln's home town newspaper.

"...It was scarcely credible, when the first dispatch [about the John Brown Raid] was received yesterday, that the object of the ruffians could be other than plunder, but late dispatches, including those we publish this morning, show, conclusively, that the movement was a most extensive one, having for its object the uprising of the negroes throughout the south, a servile war, and its consequences - murder, rapine and robbery.

"...Their [radical abolitionist movement] open-mouthed treason, which culminates in precisely such outrages as that at Harper's Ferry, is but the logical sequence of the teachings of Wm. H. Seward and Abraham Lincoln -- the one boldly proclaiming an "irrepressible conflict" between certain states of the Union, because of their local institutions, and the other declaring from stump and hustings, the country round, that the Union cannot continue as the fathers made it - part slave and part free states. When such men, by specious demagogism, in the name of freedom and liberty, daily labor to weaken the bonds of our glorious governmental fabric, the work of sages and patriots, themselves the holders of black men as slaves, is it to be wondered at that ignorant, unprincipled and reckless camp followers of the party for which these leaders speak, attempt, practically, to illustrate the doctrines which they preach, and in advocacy of which they seek to obtain control of the national government..." 

"..Who is so blind as not to see the inevitable tendency of black republican teaching? Now we have a bloody, glaring, ghastly fact before us. The "conflict" by blows has commenced. The proofs of an extensive and ramified organization is disclosed, the object of which is to stir the southern slaves to bathe their hands in the blood of the whites of the south. Traitorous scoundrels, with white faces, but black hearts, lead them, and the country is stunned with their deeds of infamy, treason and blood." --The "Irrepressible Conflict" -- Fruits of the Lincoln-Seward Doctrine. Springfield, Illinois, State Register [Republican] (20 October 1859)

The Republican Banner and Nashville Whig on 25 October 1859 regarding the Brown raid railed, "...that the "irrepressible conflict" proclaimed by Seward, was the direct cause of the outbreak, and the Republican party are responsible for retaining Seward at the head of their councils. Instead of repudiating Brown and his fanatical followers as the Republican party all do, they can only vindicate their party with success, by repudiating Seward and all those who proclaim sentiments calculated to fire the minds of fanatics."--THE "IRREPRESSIBLE CONFLICT." (note while this paper was called the "Republican Banner", it was of Democrat sentiments.)  Southern papers also claimed Seward was one of the conspirators that funded the John Brown raid. So it seems Seward, who Lincoln would select as part of his cabinet, may have been feared as much as  Lincoln himself.

After reading the above emotional rhetoric there is little wonder why the lower Southern  voted to secede when Lincoln was elected President. But what about Missouri and the rest of the upper South ?

Missouri and the Upper South

For the upper South, while the fear of abolitionist instigated violence was always a concern,  it was generally believed that secession would NOT correct the problem. After all, abolitionist could always overrun their borders and unlike the deep South, they had no border States to buffer the northern threat. Due to this close proximity to the North, the upper South sought to remain a part of the United States. As long as the Federal government respected State sovereignty they could live with Abraham Lincoln being President. 

But such hopes were not destined to be. For after the lower South seceded, Lincoln made the fatal mistake of calling on Federal troops to invade the lower South. Worse yet, Lincoln wanted the loyal Southern States to contribute troops and assist with the invasion. It was Stephen Douglas' premonition of an "war of extermination" coming true.  Following Lincoln's April 1861 call for troops, the States of Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia seceded. Although Missouri vacillated with varying sentiments, Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson replied to the President, "Sir:--Your requisition is illegal, unconstitutional and revolutionary; in its object inhuman & diabolical. Not one man will Missouri furnish to carry on any such unholy crusade against her Southern sisters." On Oct 31, 1861, after being subjected to months of civil war, the Constitutionally elected  government of Missouri finally seceded from the union and became the 12th State of the Confederacy. 


 The Cause: Slavery or State's Rights ?


While the abolition of slavery is frequently quoted as a cause of the Civil War by northern sources (and popular historians like James M. McPherson), "State's rights" is staunchly defended as the real cause for the war by most Confederate veterans (and many of their descendants). Even in the deep South, there was a difference of opinion. There was the wealthy aristocratic class that had vastly different interests than the bulk of Southerners who belonged to the nonslaveholding poorer classes. But there was also a marked difference between the "upper South" and the "lower South". Why the difference in opinion ? I have studied both sides of the argument and I will attempt to make an explanation. While the "spark" may have been one thing,  we shall see the issue is more complex than what was taught in elementary school history. 

Motivations for the Lower South were Different:

        It is an established fact that Confederate President Jefferson Davis, a Mississippian of the deep South, attributed  the cause of the war to the hostile nature of the radical abolition movement.  This was certainly the overall spark that ignited the lower most seven States of the South into secession. This explanation may be correct, but it does not do justice to the immediate motivations of the upper South. At first call these States (Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia) rejected secession. They eventually seceded solely (*see note) because they objected to Lincoln's plans to invade the deep South to "restore the Union". To them secession was in defense entirely of State sovereignty or the belief that each State had the right  to secede peacefully from the Union. 

Did the deep South secede to defend slavery ? Yes and No. Take you pick: Yes--slavery was the primary point of contention, between the North and South. It was attempting to retain the status quo of  Southern society, which included preserving slavery free from abolitionist threats of violence. In addition, the violations in the Fugitive Slave law (not being enforced by some northern States) also influenced the slave owning southern aristocrats to draft up the secession papers.  No--It did not matter what the point of contention was about, it could have been tariffs, another sore spot between the North and South. The very fact that acts of violence were being threatened and promoted was the chief reason the bulk of the population voted to separate from the union. Even  those personally opposed to slavery in the South voted to secede. To the non-slave holding majority, there was no practical interest in taking radical action for the sake of the aristocrat's indignation regarding violations in the fugitive slave law.

Some have suggested that poor Southern whites voted to secede to preserve slavery for the purpose of protecting white-supremacy. While this was true to a limited degree, it was not the most practical and obvious motivation. Protection from acts of terrorism is a basic human instinct, one that still motivates action in modern day America.

In Missouri, historian James N. Primm, in his book, "Lion of the Valley: St. Louis, Mo, 1764-1980", mentions that some slaveholders opposed the Confederacy because its existence was a threat to the return of fugitive slaves. For example, if Missouri became a Confederate state, there would be no way to retrieve runaways into Illinois, which would then be another nation. If Missouri remained "Union", the return of runaway slaves was guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution (although not actually enforced by some northern States, especially in New England).  In addition, the North, especially in the Midwest provided a living example on how the white dominated social strata, through segregation and discrimination, could maintain white-supremacy long after slavery was abolished. In fact the Republican party prided itself as the "white man's party" and sought to end slavery for the purpose of  creating an all white society (i.e. deportation by way of "colonization") For example the Republican slogan for Missouri was: "Missouri for white men and white men for Missouri!" as coined by Missouri's Francis Preston Blair, who later became an Union General. See also: Source: "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War", by Eric Foner, Oxford University Press, New York, 1995.]

What caused the upper South to secede? As mentioned above,  for the upper South ( Arkansas, Kentucky*, Missouri*, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia), State rights was the main cause, since these States seceded only in opposition to Lincoln's call for using military force in violation to each State's right to secede (State Sovereignty). 

[*Missouri and Kentucky were claimed as States by the Confederacy. Kentucky never legally seceded, although it had two governments, one  Confederate and the other Union. Missouri, seceded more legitimately, although not recognized by its pro-Union citizens who formed their own provincial government. Missouri also had other justifications for seceding (i.e. Camp Jackson massacre, and declaration of war by Capt. Nathaniel Lyon, later promoted to General)].

A Common Southerner's view: Since the issues surrounding slavery was always intimately interconnected to the issue of State sovereignty, State's rights became the common denominator for both the upper and lower South. For that reason, State's rights is viewed as the "cause" by most Confederate veterans and many of their descendants today. 

My Perspective: While I recognize there were other issues involved, it was the slavery issue that was the foremost emotional subject on the minds of the antebellum population. The rift on slavery created a U.S. Congress that was dysfunctional in being able to resolve the other issues (tariffs, Federal expenditures, ect.).  Elected government representatives were having fist fights and beating each other with clubs in the halls of Congress.  Without the slavery controversy politicians and businessmen would have been able to work out their differences. So had slavery been abolished during the American Revolution as it should have, the Civil War would never have happened.

Top Ten Events Leading to the Civil War.

  1. 1860 Fugitive Slave Act passed. (North considers it a violation of their State’s rights to return slaves.)
  2. 1852 Publication of the novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Rallied support for abolitionist cause.
  3. 1854 Kansas Nebraska Act. Allows extension of slavery in areas formerly kept free by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Causes the beginning of the Missouri-Kansas border war.
  4. 1854-1857 Dred Scott decision. Slavery permitted in the territories, where ever a slaveholder seeks to live. Northerners see it as a possible precedent to enforced slavery in the northern states. Like the fugitive slave act it was a threat to the north’s State’s rights.
  5. 9 July 1858 Lincoln’s "House Divided" speech in presidential campaign against Democrat Stephen Douglas. "A house divided against itself cannot stand….this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free." South receives speech as a threat to revolution in the slave states.
  6. 9 July 1858, Stephen Douglas speech in response to Lincoln’s "House Divided" speech. "Mr. Lincoln advocated boldly and clearly a war of section, a war of the North against the Slave States—a war of extermination to be continued relentlessly until the one or the other shall be subdued, and all the States shall either become free or become slave." These words receive wide distribution in the South. Lincoln issues his rebuttal that he intended no war, but virtually all Southern newspapers do not publish his response.
  7. Oct. 1859 Abolitionist, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia and attempt to start a slave rebellion. His actions are given wide applause in New England States, who upheld him as a martyr. South sees it as terrorism, an example of more to come.
  8. Nov 1860 Election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States. (Lincoln was not even a candidate on the ballot for most Southern States.)
  9. Dec 20, 1860 South Carolina becomes the first of seven slave states in the lower South to secede from the Union.
  10. April 1861. Lincoln’s call for troops to put down the rebellion in the lower South. In the upper South, it is seen as a violation of State’s rights (the right of secession). In opposition four more Southern States secede. Plus two other states,: Missouri and Kentucky become divided and enter into open warfare between Union and pro-Southern factions.



"Securing Missouri For the Union"

A  Missouri Neutralist Critique

"Let them (the border States) stand as a wall of fire between the belligerent extremes, and with their strong arms and potential counsel keep them apart. Let them stand pledged, as they now are, to resist any attempt at coercion, plighting their faith, as we do not hesitate to plight the faith of Missouri, that if the impending war of the Northern States against the Southern shall, in defiance of our solemn protest and warning actually occur (which God in his mercy forefend!) we shall stand by Virginia and Kentucky and our Southern sisters--sharing their dangers and abiding their fortunes and destiny--in driving back from their borders the hostile feet of Northern invaders. Of the South, we are for the South." --William F. Switzler, "Missouri Statesman", April 15, 1861

The Lincoln administration, operating through Sen. Frank Blair and Capt. Nathaniel Lyon in St. Louis, sought to go around the Missouri State government and use Missouri as a springboard to invade the South. After all, the most important supply of manpower, steamboats and arms in the West was located at St. Louis. All three were critical resources that must be used in this major military operation. But before that could be accomplished,  Missouri had to be,  as the northern propaganda mill phrased it---"secured for the Union". 

Laying the wartime propaganda aside,  how could Missouri be secured to the Union, when it was already decided  by the State Convention (in 1861), by a 98-1 vote that "no adequate cause [existed] to impel Missouri to dissolve her connections with the Federal Union."

As author/historian Christopher Phillips, Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati,  states in his book, "Missouri's Confederate: Claiborne Fox Jackson.." that  "Until the federal government attempted to make war upon a sovereign state, or to coerce one of the loyal states to make war upon the seceded states, neutrality was anything but secession." Unfortunately, Lyon and Blair saw it differently and sought to violate the State's neutrality, as declared by its citizens.  

Furthermore, they had secretly organized a Republican militia force known as the "Wide Awakes", that were to be used as Federal Volunteers against the State, an act illegal by both Missouri and Federal law. "Congress alone had authority to create federal volunteers, who were neither state militia or members of the U.S. Army")

Most Missourians wanted their State to "stand as a wall of fire between the belligerent extremes, and with their strong arms and potential counsel keep them apart..."  To stand with other border States, like Virginia and Kentucky, "to resist any attempt at coercion". In order to provide this wall of separation, Missouri was to remain neutral and to secure its boundaries by force of arms if necessary. No troops recruited from Missouri was to be used in the invasion of the South. The State militia, known as the Missouri Volunteer Militia, was to obtain arms wherever available to enforce this objective. It was also desired that the arsenals within Missouri were secured from Federal control to State authority.

Both Lyon and Blair desired Missouri to take an active role in putting down the rebellion in the Confederate States. Against the laws of the State they armed and recruited Federal forces to overpower the State's neutrality. First objective was to terminate the pre-arranged peacefully agreed transition of the St. Louis Arsenal to Missouri state authority. Second objective was to surround, disarm and capture the Missouri Volunteer Militia at Camp Jackson (May 10, 1861).  Third objective was to declare Missouri law null and void in its intention to remain neutral. Fourth objective was to use Missouri and its resources as a staging ground for the invasion of the South.

Missouri's opposition to these objectives first displayed itself with outrage in the crowds that gathered around Lyon's troops while they were marching the prisoners from Camp Jackson.  Unfortunately, Lyon's troops had to react to shots fired at them from crowds that lined the streets. Over 100 men, women and children killed or wounded. Street riots followed in the City of St. Louis. In the following days, Lyon's troops would repeatedly fire on crowds suspected of stone throwing and issuing pistol shots.

Albert Castel, history professor at Western Michigan University, records in his book, "Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West", that "all in all, Lyon and Blair, far from aiding the Union cause with their militant conduct, had created a situation which might easily engulf that cause in disaster."

In effect, Lyon and Blair actions put a neutral pro-union State into jeopardy.  It was now in risk of secession,  and all out civil war. In fact, the State immediately after the Camp Jackson affair, passed a "Military Bill", that authorized the forming of the Missouri State Guard, and "appropriated all of the money in the State treasury ($82,000,000) for purchase of war materials", and empowered the governor with "almost dictatorial powers to put down rebellion and repel invasion."

In the meantime, Gov. Jackson and Sterling Price met with Gen. Wm. S. Harney of the U.S. Army to work out a peaceful resolution, known as the Harney-Price accord. Frank Blair and Nathaniel Lyon then worked behind the scenes to have Harney removed from command.  Lyon prepared his troops to march on Jefferson City to overthrow the Missouri State Government. Prominent citizens of St. Louis, in hope of obtaining a last minute peace arranged for a June 11th 1861 meeting between Lyon, Blair with Price, Jackson and the governor's assistant, Thomas Snead. "Lyon and Blair demanded that the state government cooperate in suppressing the Southern rebellion, and that it permit federal military occupation and the organization of home guards." 

Lyon would have no discussion short of his demands. Lyon abruptly ending the meeting by shouting, "Rather, than concede to the State of Missouri for one single instant the right to dictate to my government in any matter however important, I would see you, and you, and you, and you, and every man, woman, and child in the State, dead and buried!" Then after pausing, "This means war. In an hour of my will call for you and conduct you out of my lines." Castel writes that Lyon, then spun "around on his heel, he strode out of the room, his sabre clankling." That began the war in Missouri, all by the dictates of a newly promoted general officer, Nathaniel Lyon. An action that overstepped Congressional authority, drove thousands of its citizens to enlist in the Confederate Army, engaged Missouri into a bloody fraternal war, and eventually overthrew the Constitutional elected government of Missouri.  There were other solutions but they were not to be found in the incompetence of Lincoln, Blair and Lyon during the spring of 1861.


  The Union Army Declared War on Neutrality

"Those who are not for us will be regarded as against us...There can be no individual neutrality in the rear in Missouri. Let the people where you go distinctly understand this."

----Gen. H. W. Halleck, U.S. Army, writing to Col. J. W. Birge, Dec. 16, 1861.


Was the State of  Missouri now safely secured for the Union ? Although Lyon marched quickly to secure the State capitol at Jefferson City, he never took control of the Missouri legislature or secured the official State seal for that matter.  As such, his only alternative was to simply "declared vacant all state offices, swept the General Assembly out of existence ..and later vacated the Mo. Supreme Court and then even circuit clerks". Next a "Provisional Government" of Missouri was setup by the Union Army. Furthermore, on at least three occasions the provisional government was in grave danger. The first being in August of 1861 when the Confederate forces of Gen. Ben McCulloch and the Missouri State Guard under Gen. Sterling Price converged to defeat Gen. Nathaniel Lyon at the Battle of Wilson's Creek. Had McCulloch agreed with Price to pursue the retreating Federal Army, the State of Missouri could have been secured to its rightful government. Secondly, Had Confederate Gen. Earl Van Dorn chose not to have divided his forces and won the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern (March 7-8 1862), a serious Confederate invasion of Missouri might have followed. Lastly, had Price's October-November 1864 Missouri Expedition had been commanded by a competent cavalry commander, like Marmaduke or Shelby, Jefferson City, if not St. Louis could have been easily been taken.

So answering the question, was Missouri saved for the Union ?  The answer is: No, the legitimate Constitutional government of Missouri was lost forever. Missourians had already spoken at the ballot box, they wanted neutrality.  So neutrality was lost and the peace was lost forever. And in fact, the Provisional Government of Missouri, as established by the Union Army, was at risk of being lost as well.  If anything, they jeopardized everything including the Constitution and the lives of every man, woman, and child in the State (even those "dead and buried", as Lyon himself phrased it). The best that can be said is that the State was used as a springboard in the war against the South, with her manpower and resources being used by both sides during 1861-1865. The postwar Missouri government, aside from the relic of the State seal had to be recreated  from scratch. 

An opposing non-neutral viewpoint to this issue can be found at "Blair and Lyon Save the Union" 

Interesting Missouri Quotes


Above is a Confederate Missouri State three-dollar bill that was issued in 1862.

"The time has arrived, when every patriot ought to show his hand, acting in stern and harmonious action, until the iron heel of the despot shall be removed from the neck of Missouri."--William Carr Lane, former Mayor of St. Louis ( Stated after Gen. Nathaniel Lyon's illegal May 10th 1861 capture of the Missouri Volunteer Militia at Camp Jackson and massacre of citizens on the streets of St. Louis by Federal forces.)

"If Unionism means such atrocious deeds as I have witnessed in St. Louis, I am no longer a Union man."
--Uriel Wright, member of Missouri Constitution Convention, stated after witnessing the massacre of civilians in the streets of St. Louis. 

"The City of St. Louis has been invaded by citizens of other states, and a part of the people of said city are in a rebellion against the laws of the state."--Missouri State Legislature, May 1861

"All our efforts toward conciliation have failed. We can  hope nothing from the justice or moderation of the agents of the Federal Government in this State. They are energetically hastening the execution of their bloody and revolutionary schemes for the inauguration of civil war in your midst; for the military occupation of your State by armed bands of lawless invaders; for the overthrow of your State government; and for the subversion of those liberties which that Government has always sought to protect; and they intend to exert their whole power to subjugate you, if possible, to the military despotism which has usurped the powers of the Federal Government...You are under no obligation whatever to obey the unconstitutional edicts of the military despotism which has enthroned itself in Washington, not to submit to the infamous and degrading sway of its wicked minions in this State...Rise, then, and drive out ignominiously the invaders who have dared to desecrate the soil which your labors have made fruitful, and which is consecrated by your homes." --Missouri Gov. Claiborne F. Jackson, June 12 1861 Governor's Proclamation

"It is a great mistake to suppose that...[Missouri] could at this time be classified as a Union state.  It is true there was amongst them all a reverence for the Union and it was hoped that all difficulties could be amicably settled and the Union preserved without raising the question of primary allegiance to their own state...But it may be confidently assumed that at least two-thirds of the voters of the state outside of St. Louis held that 'if the North (meaning the Federal Government), pending the attempt to adjust matters peaceably, should make war upon any Southern state, Missouri would take up arms in its defence.' This was the declaration but such is not Unionism." James O. Broadhead, a St. Louis Republican and Unconditional Unionist member of the Missouri State convention.

Lincoln's Views on Emancipation

There is a lot of confusion regarding Lincoln's actions regarding slavery. This may explain a few misconceptions.

"...When, early in the war, Gen. Fremont attempted military emancipation, I forbade it, because I did not then think it an indispensable necessity. When a little later, Gen. Cameron, then Secretary of War, suggested the arming of the blacks, I objected, because I did not yet think it an indispensable necessity. When, still later, Gen. Hunter attempted military emancipation, I again forbade it, because I did not yet think the indispensable necessity had come. When, in March, and May, and July 1862 I made earnest, and successive appeals to the border states to favor compensated emancipation, I believed the indispensable necessity for military emancipation, and arming the blacks would come, unless averted by that measure. They declined the proposition; and I was, in my best judgment, driven to the alternative of either surrendering the Union, and with it, the Constitution, or of laying strong hand upon the colored element. I chose the latter. In choosing it, I hoped for greater gain than loss; but of this, I was not entirely confident. More than a year of trial now shows no loss by it in our foreign relations, none in our home popular sentiment, none in our white military force, -- no loss by it any how or any where. On the contrary, it shows a gain of quite a hundred and thirty thousand soldiers, seamen, and laborers. These are palpable facts, about which, as facts, there can be no cavilling. We have the men; and we could not have had them without the measure."

"Now let any Union man who complains of the measure, test himself by writing down in one line that he is for subduing the rebellion by force of arms; and in the next, that he is for taking these hundred and thirty thousand men from the Union side, and placing them where they would be but for the measure he condemns. If he can not face his case so stated, it is only because he can not face the truth."

--A. Lincoln
April 4, 1864.
Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler

"I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been , in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races [applause]: that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."--From speech by A. Lincoln, September 18, 1858, Charleston, Illinois



The house of Confederate Major James Morgan Utz which was located at 615  Utz lane in Hazelwood. This historic home  threatened with demolition by a subdivision  has been moved to a nearby Hazelwood City park, near Lindbergh and I-270.


This was the farmhouse where  Maj. James Morgan Utz grew up. He was the son of Franklin T. and Amelia Utz.  Utz was executed in St. Louis on Christmas Day, 1864, as a "special agent" for the Confederacy. He had received a pardon from President Lincoln but it arrived minutes too late. His tombstone is engraved, "Friend weep for him who sleeps beneath this sod:  His cruel fate in sympathy deplore; But while you mourn, remember that his God has called him hence where sorrows are no more."


Some pages of special interest.

Miscellaneous Confederate Resources: (not necessarily about St. Louis)


Engraving on the Gen. Nathaniel Lyon monument located at Lyon Park at the intersection of Arsenal and South Broadway in St. Louis. It depicts Union Gen. Lyon holding a council of war with his officers. Gen. Lyon was later killed at the Battle of Wilson's Creek on Aug 10, 1861.  Monument commemorates the capture of Camp Jackson (May 10, 1861) by Gen. Lyon and the Missouri Volunteers. This monument was originally installed in 1929 on the site of Camp Jackson, but later in 1959 moved to Lyon park (adjacent to the St. Louis Arsenal). Note: There are two monuments to Gen. Lyon in Lyon park. See also:

[Large view of 1929 Lyon  monument]      [1874 Lyon Monument]


Col. Friedrich Franz Hecker monument (Benton Park, St. Louis, Mo.) Hecker commanded
the German, 24th Illinois Infantry ("Hecker Regiment") and the 82nd Illinois Infantry. Hecker
resided near Belleville, Illinois but when the war started he joined as a private in a St. Louis
Union regiment. At the Battle of Chancellorsville, he severely wounded while carrying the
battleflag during a charge on a Confederate position. He was also a leader in the failed
German Revolution before comming to America. The monument in Benton Park, located in south St. Louis (Wyoming Street),  was erected  Oct 1, 1882 before a crowd of 15,000. Also see German woodcut of Col. Hecker.

Other pages of  interest:



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