Missouri in the Civil War

American Civil War Homepage

Missouri in the American Civil War

Missouri and the Civil War (1861-1865)

Missouri (1861-1865), part 1

Probably none of the loyal states passed through more stormy
scenes nor presents a more thrilling history in the early years
of the war than Missouri. Her admission into the Union in 1821
was accompanied by acrimonious debate on the slavery question
and gave to the line 36 degrees 30 minutes and the Missouri
Compromise prominent places in the history of the republic.
Closely identified with the Kansas troubles, and the only slave-
holding border state west of the Mississippi, it may be truthfully
said that the great conflict between the North and South was
developed within her limits. According to the census of 1860
the population of the state was 1,182,012, of whom 114,931 were
slaves. A majority of the white population were either emigrants
or descendants of emigrants from the older slave states, and this
fact, together with the attitude of Missouri during the Kansas
imbroglio, led the advocates of secession to believe that she would
promptly respond to the call of the older slave states and sever
her connection with the Union.
This belief was still further strengthened by the vote of the
state in the elections of 1860. In the campaign of that year the
contest in Missouri was between the Democrats and the Consti-
tutional Unionists, or American party. At the state election in
August Claiborne F. Jackson, a strong southern sympathizer
and states rights man, carried the state for governor by a plu-
rality of 9,863 over Sample Orr, the American candidate. At
the beginning of the campaign Jackson announced his intention
of supporting Stephen A. Douglas for the presidency. Upon
this the Breckenridge Democrats, the more radical wing of the
party, nominated Hancock Jackson, who received 11,415 votes
that would otherwise have gone to the regular Democratic nom-
inee. James B. Gardenhire, the Republican candidate, received
but 6,135 votes. At the presidential election in November Doug-
las received 58,801 votes, Bell 58,372, Breckenridge 31,317, and
Lincoln 17,028. Missouri was the only state in the Union car-
ried by Douglas.

The legislature elected in 1860 met at Jefferson City on the last
day of that year. Gov. Robert M. Stewart, in his farewell mes-
sage, said: "Our people would feel more sympathy with the
movement (secession), had it not originated amongst those who,
like ourselves, have suffered severe losses and constant annoy-
ances from the interference and depredations of outsiders. Mis-
souri will hold to the Union so long as it is worth the effort to
preserve it. She cannot be frightened by the past unfriendly
legislation of the North, nor dragooned into secession by the re-
strictive legislation of the extreme South."

This message was delivered on Jan. 3, 1861. The next day
Gov. Jackson was inaugurated. Notwithstanding he had sup-
ported Douglas, who represented the ideas of the northern De-
mocracy, he soon gave evidence of his fealty to the dogma of se-
cession. In his inaugural message he insisted that "the destiny
of the slaveholding states in this Union is one and the same; that
it will be impossible to separate Missouri's fate from that of
her sister states who have the same social organization; that in
the event of a failure to reconcile the conflicting interests which
now threaten the disruption of the existing Union, interest and
sympathy alike combine to unite the fortunes of all the slave-
holding states; that Missouri will not shrink from the duty which
her position on the border imposes, but determine her to stand
by the South; that the state was in favor of remaining in the
Union so long as there was any hope of maintaining the guaran-
tees of the constitution; and that he was utterly opposed to the
doctrine of coercion, in any event, as leading to consolidation
and despotism." He closed his inaugural by saying that he be-
lieved Missouri was entitled to a voice in the settlement of the
questions then pending before the country, and recommended
the immediate call of a state convention "that the will of the peo-
ple may be ascertained and effectuated," significantly adding —
"It may soon become necessary to send delegates to a convention
of the southern states, or of all the states."

Thus, while the retiring governor made an impassioned appeal 
for the maintenance of the Union, Gov. Jackson made an equal- 
ly plausible and eloquent appeal for secession, and the issue was
squarely before the people of Missouri. With ready acquies-
cence the general assembly entered at once upon the considera-
tion of a bill providing for a state convention. After considera-
ble discussion such an act was passed on Jan. 17, and was ap-
proved by the governor the next day. By its provisions delegates
were to be elected on Feb. 18, the convention to meet at Jeffer-
son City ten days later, "to consider the then existing relations
between the government of the United States, the people and the
governments of the different states, and the government and
people of the State of Missouri; and to adopt such measures for
vindicating the sovereignty of the state and the protection of its
institutions as shall appear to them to be demanded."

The large vote given to Gov. Jackson and the overwhelming
sentiment in favor of secession in the legislature made that ele-
ment overconfident, as the disunionists agreed to an amendment
to the bill, providing that: "No act, ordinance, or resolution of
said convention shall be deemed to be valid to change or dissolve
the political relations of this state to the government of the Unit-
ed States, or any other state, until a majority of the qualified
voters of this state, voting upon the question, shall ratify the

In the meantime the secessionists outside of the legislature had
begun the organization and equipment of troops. This move-
ment had its origin in a meeting at St. Louis on Jan. 7, when
Basil W. Duke, O. W. Barrett, J. R. Shaler, Colton Greene.
Rock Champion and others were chosen as officers to enlist and
muster companies of "Minute Men" for the defense of Missouri.
The headquarters of the Minute Men were at the corner of Pine
and Broadway, though the recruits were organized and drilled in
various parts of the city. So far the movement toward secession
had made favorable progress, and its advocates were correspond-
ingly elated.

But the Union men had not been idle. During the political
campaign of 1860 uniformed Lincoln marching clubs, called the
"Wide Awakes," had been organized. Under the leadership of
Francis P. Blair and others these clubs were transformed into
Home Guards for the defense of the government. Blair also
planned, and with the assistance of his coadjutors, held a series
of Union meetings that crystallized the anti-secession sentiment
and wielded an important influence in holding Missouri in the
Union. Blair has been described as "forty years of age, daring,
eloquent and resourceful, an ex-soldier of the Mexican war, a
disciple of Andrew Jackson and Benton in Democratic politics,
who fought for Benton in that chieftain's losing battle in and
out of the legislature, who became a Republican as soon as that
party was organized in Missouri, who served several years in
Congress and was then a member, and who was admirably fitted
for the leadership which he assumed in Missouri's cyclonic days
at the opening of 1861."

The first of these Union meetings, sometimes called Blair's
St. Louis rally, was held in Washington hall, at the corner of
Third and Elm streets, Jan. 11, 1861. Two days before the
steamer Star of the West, sent by the national government with
supplies and reinforcements for Fort Sumter, was fired upon in
Charleston harbor by South Carolina troops, and public excite-
ment was at its height in St. Louis when the Washington hall
meeting assembled. Blair was the principal speaker. In his ad-
dress he insisted that only one great issue — Union or secession —
was before the people; that all political parties had been ab-
sorbed by two great organizations, the one favoring the Union,
the other disunion; that it was the duty of every man who
loved his country to join with every other man who favored the
preservation of the Union, without regard to past political affilia-
tions. Some of his Republican associates opposed the abandon-
ment of their party organization. To these Blair replied: "Let
us see that we have a country first before talking of parties."
This was the first meeting in Missouri, and the first of any
consequence anywhere in the United States, to openly combat
the doctrine of secession. Its results were important and far-
reaching. It temporarily disbanded the Republican party in
Missouri and formed in its place a Union party, open to all who
believed in the preservation of the Union as the first prerequisite
to the settlement of the vexed questions then engaging the at-
tention of the American people. It merged the Wide Awakes
into a Central Union club, in which any good Union man was
eligible to membership, no matter to what party he had previ-
ously belonged. It led to the establishment of the Committee of
Safety, composed of Oliver D. Filley, then mayor of St. Louis,
Francis P. Blair, James O. Broadhead, Samuel T. Glover, John
How and Julius J. Witzig, which upheld the cause of the Fed-
eral government, and it gave intelligent direction to the senti-
ment which finally defeated the secessionists and held Missouri
steadfastly in the Union.

At this time there were many men in Missouri who, while
they were opposed to secession, held to the view that the national
government had no constitutional right to coerce a state, the
people of which wanted to withdraw from the Union. Most of
these men had been supporters of Douglas and Bell in 1860, and
were known as conditional Union men. The day following the
Washington hall meeting this element held a meeting at the
east front of the court-house in St. Louis, 15,000 to 20,000 peo- 
ple being present. Judge Hamilton R. Gamble and Lewis V.
Bogy were among the speakers, and the addresses of all the
speakers were noted for their conservative tone. These meet-
ings, although held a week before the passage of the bill calling
a state convention, paved the way for the short but exciting can-
vass for the election of delegates to the convention. In that con-
test there were three parties. The secessionists were led by Gov.
Jackson, Lieut.-Gov. Thomas C. Reynolds, U. S. Senators James
S. Green and Trusten Polk, Ex-Senator David R. Atchison,
John B. Clark, John W. Reid and a majority of the members of
the legislature. The unconditional Unionists marched under the
leadership of Blair and the other members of the Committee of
Safety, B. Gratz Brown, William McKee and Edward Bates,
who afterward became attorney-general in Lincoln's cabinet. The
conditional Unionists, who outnumbered both the other elements,
were marshalled by Judge Gamble, Lewis V. Bogy, Nathaniel
Paschall, Sterling Price, A. W. Doniphan, John S. Phelps, Will-
iam A. Hall and a host of others throughout the state. In the
election the Unionist side was overwhelmingly victorious, not a
single avowed secessionist being elected as a delegate, while the
majority in the entire state in favor of maintaining the Union
was some 80,000 votes.

The total number of delegates was 99, apportioned among the
several senatorial districts in the proportion of three delegates
for each member of the state senate. As this convention played
an important part in shaping the destinies of Missouri, a com-
plete list of the delegates may be of interest to the reader. They
were as follows: 1st District — R. B. Frayser, J. G. Waller and
G. Y. Bast; 2nd — John B. Henderson, G. W. Zimmerman and
Robert Calhoun; 3d — Warren Woodson, Eli E. Bass and Joseph
Flood; 4th— W. J. Howell, John T. Redd and J. T. Matson; 5th
— E. K. Sayer, Henry M. Gorin and N. F. Givens; 6th — William
A. Hall, Sterling Price and Thomas Shackelford; 7th — Freder-
ick Rowland, Joseph M. Irwin and John Foster; 8th — A. M.
Woolfolk, Jacob Smith and William Jackson; 9th — J. T. Tin-
dall, James McFerran and J. S. Allen; 10th — G. W. Dunn, R. D.
Ray and J. H. Birch; 11th — Robert Wilson, P. L. Hudgins and
EUzy Van Buskirk; 12th W. P. Hall, Robert M. Stewart and
R. W. Donnell; 13th— A. W. Doniphan, J. H. Moss and E. H.
Norton; 14th — J. K. Sheeley, Abram Comingo and R. A. Brown;
15th — Akeman Welch, A. C. Marvin and C. G. Kidd; 16th —
J. F. Phillips, S. L. Sawyer and Vincent Marmaduke; 17th — J.
J. Gravelly, Nelson McDowell and J. R. Chenault; 18th — A. S.
Harbin, R. W. Crawford and M. H. Ritchie; 19th — Sample Orr,
Littleberry Hendricks and R. W. Jamison; 20th — M. W. Tur-
ner, J. W. Johnson and W. L. Morrow; 21st — A. W. Maupin,
C. D. Eitzen and Zachariah Isbell; 22nd — W. G. Pomeroy, V. B.
Hill and John Holt; 23d — C. L. Rankin, M. P. Cayse and Jo-
seph Bogy; 24th — S. C. Collier, Philip Pipkin and W. T. Lee-
per; 25th — Harrison Hough, R. A. Hatcher and O. Bartlett;
26th — N. W. Watkins, J. C. Noell and J. R. McCormick; 27th —
J. Proctor Knott, J. W. McClurg and John Scott; 28th— Will-
iam Douglass, J. P. Ross and Charles Drake; 29th — (St. Louis)
S. M. Breckenridge, John How, M. L. Linton, Hudson E.
Bridge, T. T. Gantt, Hamilton R. Gamble, John F. Long, Uriel
Wright, Ferdinand Meyer, Henry Hitchcock, Robert Holmes,
J. O. Broadhead, Solomon Smith, Isador Bush and John H.

Pursuant to the provisions of the act calling it into existence,
the convention met in the court-house at Jefferson City on Feb.
28. The next day a permanent organization was effected by the
election of Sterling Price president; Robert Wilson, vice-presi-
dent; and Samuel A. Lowe, secretary, after which the conven-
tion adjourned to meet in St. Louis on March 4. The first act
of the convention, when it reassembled in Mercantile Library
hall in St. Louis, was to appoint a committee on Federal rela-
tions, with Judge Gamble as chairman, to which all matters
touching Missouri's relations with the national government
should be referred. Immediately following the appointment of
the committee Luther J. Glenn, commissioner from the State of
Georgia, was introduced. He read the ordinance of secession
adopted by Georgia and strenuously urged the convention to pass
a similar ordinance and thus have the State of Missouri unite
with the other Southern states in the formation of a Confederacy.
His speech was greeted with hoots, groans and hisses from the
large number of citizens gathered in the lobby, with an occa-
sional outburst of applause from the secessionists, the demon-
strations being suppressed with great difficulty by the presid-
ing officer. Mr. Glenn's communications were referred to a
special committee of seven, with instructions "to report such
action as you may deem respectful and a suitable response
on the part of this state."

Numerous resolutions were presented to this committee by
members of the convention, and it was not until March 21 that
Mr. Henderson, chairman of the committee, presented a report,
containing a long and earnest argument against secession and
in favor of the maintenance of the Union, concluding with a
series of resolutions to the effect that "so far as the communica-
tion made by Mr. Glenn asserts the constitutional right of seces-
sion, it meets our disapproval; that, while we reprobate, in com-
mon with Georgia, the violation of constitutional duty by north-
ern fanatics, we cannot approve the secession of Georgia and her
sister states, as a measure beneficial either to Missouri or to
themselves; that in our opinion a dissolution of the Union would
be ruinous to the best interests of Missouri."

A minority report set forth that "while denying the legal right
of a state to secede from the Union, we recognize, in lieu there-
of, the right of revolution, should sufficient reason arise therefor;
that while, in common with the State of Georgia, we deplore
the sectional disregard of duty and fraternity so forcibly present-
ed by her commissioner, we do not despair of future justice, nor
will we despair until our complaints have been unavailingly sub-
mitted to the northern people; that the possession of slave prop-
erty is a constitutional right, and as such, ought to be recognized
by the Federal government; that if it shall invade or impair that
right, the slave-holding states should be united in its defense, and
that in such events as may legitimately follow, this state will
share the danger and destiny of her sister slave states."

Both reports were laid on the table and made a special order
for the third Monday of the following December, but neither
report was ever heard from afterward, because the action of the
special committee had been anticipated by the committee on
Federal relations, which reported on March 9 the following
I. — That at present there is no adequate cause to impel Mis-
souri to dissolve her connection with the Federal Union, but on
the contrary she will labor for such an adjustment of existing
troubles as will secure peace, as well as the rights and equality
of all the states.
2. — That the people of this state are devotedly attached to the
institutions of our country, and earnestly desire that by a fair
and amicable adjustment, all the causes of disagreement that at
present unfortunately distract us as a people, may be removed,
to the end that our Union may be preserved and perpetuated,
and peace and harmony be restored between the North and
3. — That the people of this state deem the amendments to the
constitution of the United States, proposed by the Hon. John J.
Crittenden, of Kentucky, with the extension of the same to the
territory hereafter to be acquired by treaty, or otherwise, a basis
of adjustment which will successfully remove the causes of dif-
ference forever from the arena of national politics.
4. — That the people of Missouri believe the peace and quiet of
the country will be promoted by a convention to propose amend-
ments to the constitution of the United States, and this conven-
tion therefore urges the legislature of this state to take the
proper steps for calling such convention in pursuance of the fifth
article of the constitution, and for providing by law for an elec-
tion of one delegate to such convention from each electoral dis-
trict in this state.
5. — That in the opinion of this convention, the employment
of military force by the Federal government to coerce the sub-
mission of the seceding states, or the employment of military
force by the seceding states to assail the government of the Unit-
ed States, will inevitably plunge this country into civil war, and
thereby entirely extinguish all hope of an amicable settlement of
the fearful issues now pending before the country; we there-
fore earnestly entreat, as well the Federal government, as the
seceding states, to withhold and stay the arm of military power,
and on no pretence whatever bring upon the nation the horrors
of civil war.
6. — That when this convention adjourns its session in the city
of St. Louis, it will adjourn to meet in the hall of the house of
representatives at Jefferson City, on the third Monday of De-
cember, 1861.
7. — That there shall be a committee, consisting of the presi-
dent of this convention, who shall be ex-officio chairman, and
seven members, one from each Congressional district of the state,
to be elected by this convention, a majority of which shall have
power to call this convention together at such time prior to the
third Monday in December next, and at such place as they may-
think the public exigencies require; and in case any vacancy shall
happen in said committee by death, resignation, or otherwise
during the recess of this convention, the remaining members or
member of said committee shall have power to fill such vacancy.
An amendment was offered by Mr. Moss to the 5th resolution
as follows: ''Believing that the fate of Missouri depends upon
a peaceable adjustment of our present difficulties, she will never
countenance or aid a seceding state in making war on the gener-
al government, nor will she furnish men or money for the pur-
pose of aiding the general government in any attempts to coerce
a seceding state." This amendment was rejected by the conven-
tion by more than a two-thirds vote. After an able and exhaus-
tive debate on the resolutions they were finally adopted, almost
as they were reported by the committee, on the 19th, and the
convention adjourned on the 22nd.

Thus it happened that two separate committees of the conven-
tion reported against secession, which course had been sanc-
tioned in advance by the voters of the state in the election of del-
egates to the convention.

In the meantime the legislature had been doing all in its power
to force the state into secession. On the evening of Jan. 18 —
the day of the passage of the act calling the convention — Daniel
R. Russell, commissioner from Mississippi, addressed a large
audience in the hall of the house of representatives. The State
of Mississippi had seceded on Jan. 9, and there could be no mis-
taking the object of Mr. Russell's visit. But the Missouri legis-
lature had, only a few hours before, passed a bill with the express
provision that no ordinance of secession should be valid until
ratified by the voters of the state, and the Mississippi commis-
sioner failed to accomplish anything, unless it was to strengthen
the secession sentiment among the members of the general as-

The so-called "Peace Congress," which was proposed to be
held in the city of Washington, D. C, on Feb. 4, 1861, met with
considerable favor in the Missouri legislature, and on Jan. 30
that body selected the following delegates to the Congress: Wal-
do P. Johnson, John D. Coalter, A. W. Doniphan, Harrison
Hough and A. H. Buckner. These gentlemen left at once for
Washington, but the Peace Congress failed to meet the hopes
and expectations of its promoters.

On March 9 — the same day the committee on Federal rela-
tions reported the resolutions against secession to the state con-
vention — Senator John Hyer, of Dent county, introduced the fol-
lowing resolutions in the state senate, and they were adopted by
an overwhelming vote:
I. — That our senators in Congress be instructed, and our rep-
resentatives be requested, to oppose the passage of all bills or
acts granting supplies of men or money to coerce the seceded
states into submission or subjugation.
2. — That should any such acts or bills be passed by the Con-
gress of the United States, our senators are instructed, and our
representatives requested, to retire from the halls of Congress.
3. — That the governor of this state is hereby requested to
transmit to our senators and representatives in Congress, re-
spectively, a copy of these resolutions.

James S. Green's term as U. S. senator expired on March 4,
1861, and it became the duty of this session of the legislature to
elect his successor. The contest was unusually interesting and
exciting, owing to the general situation that prevailed through-
out the country, and the political complexion of the legislature.
In the general assembly four parties were represented. Of the
33 senators 15 were Breckenridge Democrats, 10 Douglas Dem-
ocrats, 7 Union or Bell-Everett men, and 1 Republican. In the
house there were 47 Breckenridge Democrats, 36 Douglas Dem-
ocrats, 37 Bell-Everett men and 12 Republicans. With a full
vote on joint ballot 87 votes were necessary to a choice and, as
none of the parties was strong enough of itself to control this
number of votes, a great deal of log-rolling, attended by some
rancorous debate, was indulged in to secure a coalition of some
of the discordant divisions. While the balloting was going on
a large number of distinguished citizens were voted for, but
without success. On the eighth ballot Mr. Green received 76
votes, when Mr. Churchill, a state senator from St. Louis, hav-
ing heard Green charged with being a secessionist, telegraphed
to him at Washington to learn where he stood on the question.
On Jan. 29 Green sent back the following reply:

"You are right; my remarks in the Globe prove it. I am for
every effort, even that of Crittenden, but when we fail to get
justice and security, I am for separation. Let us now have per-
manent adjustment or pacific division."

This answer forever destroyed Mr. Green's chances of reelec- 
tion and after several days of fruitless balloting Waldo P. John-
son, a Breckenridge Democrat, was chosen, receiving 87 votes.
The general assembly adjourned on March 28, after a turbulent
session, but it was soon to be called together again by a procla-
mation of the governor "for the purpose of enacting such laws
and adopting such measures as may be deemed necessary and
proper for the more perfect organization and equipment of the
militia of the state, and to raise money and such other means
as may be required to place the state in a proper attitude of

While these things were occurring in the state convention and
the general assembly, other and more stirring events were trans-
piring outside of those two bodies. The St. Louis Committee
of Safety felt confident that the ballots of the people would ulti-
mately have to be reinforced by bullets, before the state could
be permanently saved to the Union, and pressed forward with
the utmost vigor the organization of the Home Guards. This
was done as secretly as possible, while on the other hand the
Minute Men, having the sanction of the state authorities, worked
openly. Blair, at the head of the Home Guards, had great diffi-
culty in securing arms and equipments for his men, though some
were obtained from private sources and some from Gov. Yates
of Illinois.

In the U. S. arsenal at St. Louis were 60,000 stands of arms,
a number of cannon and large stores of munitions of war. While
the state convention was holding out a faint hope of an amicable
adjustment of the differences between the North and South,
both Blair and Gov. Jackson recognized that war was inevita-
ble, and both looked with longing eyes upon the arsenal. Each
realized that whichever side got possession of the arsenal would
control St. Louis, and the side that controlled St. Louis would
eventually control the state. Then began a struggle between
Blair and the Committee of Safety on one side and Jackson and
the legislature on the other for the arsenal, located in the south-
ern part of the city, which was occupied almost exclusively by
a German population.

In 1854, during the so-called "Know Nothing" movement, they
had some unpleasant experiences with a mob which visited them,
and which destroyed considerable property in that part of the
city before the Germans were aroused to the necessity of self-
defense. This experience was brought to the minds of some of
the prominent Germans at this time, and they were told that if
they would declare in favor of neutrality they could rest assured
that, notwithstanding the dangerous outlook, their property
would not be interfered with or put in jeopardy in case of a clash
between the state and Federal troops in the matter of the taking
of the arsenal. Thus these leading and wealthy citizens were
induced by those who pretended to be friendly to their interests,
to call a public meeting of Germans early in April at the St.
George market house, on Carondelet avenue and Sidney street,
in the vicinity of the arsenal, for the purpose of passing resolu-
tions favoring neutrality. The meeting was largely attended,
the market house being filled. That the programme was prear-
ranged seemed evident, from the fact that the committee of seven
which, on motion, was duly appointed by the chairman. Dr.
Adam Hammer, to prepare resolutions expressive of the sense
of the meeting, in less than five minutes after such appointment
presented resolutions, which could not have been prepared in
less than an hour, recommending the adoption of a neutral course. 

When the outspoken condemnation of the resolutions by a speaker
brought forth the patriotic sentiment of the audience, the speaker
was declared out of order by the chairman, and thereupon the
audience left the hall en masse at the suggestion of the speaker,
organized a new meeting in front of the market house, unani-
mously elected as chairman Roderick E. Rombauer, an uncom-
promising Unionist (afterwards a captain in the three months'
service, and later presiding justice of the St. Louis court of ap-
peals), and passed resolutions expressive of an abiding devotion
to the Union cause, regardless of all consequences. Thus was
the peaceable taking of the arsenal by the state authorities made
impossible. To the credit of these prominent Germans be it said
that nearly all of them entered the service of the United States
under the first call.

See also
Source: The Union Army, vol. 4


Return to American Civil War Homepage

Return to top