The Missouri Campaign By Jefferson Davis
There was great similarity in the condition of Missouri to that of Kentucky. They were both border states, and, by their institutions and the origin of a large portion of their citizens, were identified with the South. Both sought to occupy a neutral position in the impending war, and offered guarantees of peace and order throughout their territory if left free to control their own affairs. Both refused to furnish troops to the United States government for the unconstitutional purpose of coercing the Southern states. Both, because of their stronger affinity to the South than to the North, were the objects of suspicion, and consequent military occupation by the troops of the United States government. At the inception of this unwarrantable proceeding, an effort was made by the governor of Missouri to preserve the rights of the state without disturbing its relations to the United States government. If it had been the policy of the government to allow to Missouri the control of her domestic affairs, and an exemption from being a party to the violation of the Constitution in making war against certain of the states, the above-described effort of the governor might and probably would have been successful. The form and purpose of that effort appear in the compact entered into between Major General Price, commanding the militia or "Missouri State Guard," and General Harney, of the United States army, commanding the Department of the West, a geographical division which included the state of Missouri.
During a temporary absence of General Harney, Captain Lyon, commanding United States forces at St. Louis, initiated hostilities against the state of Missouri under the following circumstances:
In obedience to the militia law of the state, an annual encampment was directed by the governor for instruction in tactics. Camp Jackson, near St. Louis, was designated for the encampment of the militia of the county in 1861. Here for some days companies of state militia, amounting to about eight hundred men, under command of Brigadier General D. M. Frost, were being exercised, as is usual upon such occasions. They presented no appearance of a hostile camp. There were no sentinels to guard against surprise; visitors were freely admitted; it was the picnic ground for the ladies of the city, and everything wore the aspect of merrymaking rather than that of grim-visaged war.
Suddenly, Captain (afterward General) Nathaniel Lyon appeared with an overwhelming force of Federal troops, surrounded this holiday encampment, and demanded an unconditional surrender. Resistance was impracticable, and none was attempted; the militia surrendered, and were confined as prisoners; but prisoners of what? There was no war, and no warrant for their arrest as offenders against the law. It is left for the usurpers to frame a vocabulary suited to their act.
After the return of General Harney, Brigadier General D. M. Frost of the Missouri militia appealed to him from his prison, the St. Louis arsenal, on May 11, 1861, representing 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." He further sets forth that every officer and soldier of his command had taken an oath to sustain the Constitution and laws of the United States and of the state of Missouri, and that while in the peaceable performance of their duties the encampment was surrounded by the command of Captain N. Lyon, United States army, and a surrender demanded, to which General Frost replied as follows:
CAMP JACKSON, May 10, 1861.
SIR: 1, never for a moment having conceived the 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.
I am sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, commanding Camp Jackson,. At. Captain N. Lyon, commanding United States troops.
General Frost's letter to General Harney continues: "My command was, in accordance with the above, deprived of their arms, and surrendered into the hands of Captain Lyon; after which, while thus disarmed and surrounded, a fire was opened on a portion of it by his troops, and a number of my men put to death, together with several innocent lookers-on, men, women, and children." On the occasion of the attack upon Camp Jackson, "a large crowd of citizens, men, women, and children, were gathered around, gazing curiously at these strange proceedings, when a volley was fired into them, killing ten and wounding twenty non-combatants, mostly women and children. A reign of terror was at once established, and the most severe measures were adopted by the Federals to overawe the excitement and the rage of the people."
The massacre at Camp Jackson produced intense excitement throughout the state. The legislature, upon receipt of the news, passed several bills for the enrollment and organization of the militia, and to confer special powers upon the governor of the state. By virtue of these, general officers were appointed, chief of whom was Sterling Price.
Because of the atrocities at St. Louis, and the violent demonstrations consequent upon them, not only in St. Louis but elsewhere in the state, General Price, well known to be what was termed "a Union man," and not only by his commission as commander in chief of the militia of the state, but also, and even more, because of his influence among the people, was earnestly solicited by influential citizens of St. Louis to unite with General Harney in a joint effort to restore order and preserve peace. With the sanction of Governor Jackson he proceeded to St. Louis, the headquarters of the Department of the West, an after some preliminary conference, entered into the following agreement, which, being promulgated to the people, was received with general satisfaction, and for a time allayed excitement. The agreement was as follows:
ST. Louis, May 21, 1861.
The undersigned, officers of the United States Government and of the government of the State of Missouri, for the purpose of removing misapprehension and of allaying public excitement, deem it proper to declare that they have this day had a personal interview in this city, in which it has been mutually understood, without the semblance of dissent on either part, that each of them has no other than a common object, equally interesting and important to every citizen of Missouri-that of restoring peace and good order to the people of the State in subordination to the laws of the General and State governments.
It being thus understood, there seems no reason why every citizen should not -confide in the proper officers of the General and State governments to restore quiet, and, as among the best means of offering no counter-influences, we mutually commend to all persons to respect each other's rights throughout the State, -making no attempt to exercise unauthorized powers, as it is the determination of the proper authorities to suppress all unlawful proceedings which can only disturb the public peace. General Price, having by commission full authority over -the militia of the State of Missouri, undertakes with the sanction of the Governor of the State, already declared, to direct the whole power of the State officers to maintaining order within the State among the people thereof. General Harney publicly declares that, this object being assured, he can have no occasion, as he has no wish, to make military movements that might otherwise create excitement and jealousy, which he most earnestly desires to avoid.
We, the undersigned, do therefore mutually enjoin upon the people of the State to attend to their civil business, of whatever sort it may be, and it is hoped that the unquiet elements which have threatened so seriously to disturb the public peace may soon subside, and be remembered only to be deplored.
W. S. HARNEY,
Brigadier- General commanding.
Major-General Missouri State Guard.
The distinct position of General Harney, that the military force of the United States should not be used in Missouri except in case of necessity, together with the emphatic declaration of General Price that he had the power and would use it to preserve peace and order in Missouri, seemed to remove all danger of collision in that state between the federal and local forces. In conformity with this understanding, General Price returned to the capital of the state, and sent to their homes the militia who had been assembled there by the governor for the defense of the capital against an anticipated attack by the troops of the United States.
Those who desired to preserve peace in Missouri had just cause to be gratified at the favorable prospect now presented. Those who desired war had equal ground for dissatisfaction. A few days after the promulgation of the agreement between General Price and General Harney, the latter was removed from command, as many believed, because of his successful efforts to allay excitement and avoid war. Rumors had been in circulation that the Missourians were driving the "Union men" from their homes, and many letters purporting to be written in different parts of the state represented the persecution of Union men. It was suspected that many of them were written in St. Louis, or inspired by the cabal. An incident related in confirmation of the justice of this suspicion is that General Harney received a letter from St. Joseph, stating that ex-Governor Stewart and a number of the most respectable men in St. Joseph bad been driven from their homes, and that, unless soldiers were soon sent, the Union men would all have to leave. He called upon the Hon. F. P. Blair, an influential citizen of St. Louis, and asked him if he knew the writer of the letter. The reply was: "Oh, yes, he is perfectly reliable; you can believe anything he says. "2 General Harney said he would write immediately to General Price. Dissatisfaction was then manifested at such delay; two or three days later, a letter from ex-Governor Stewart was published in the St. Joseph News, in which was a marked paragraph of the copy sent to General Harney: "Neither I nor any other Union man has been driven out of St. Joe." An attempt has been made to evade the conclusion that General Harney was relieved from command because of his pacific policy. The argument is that the order was dated May 16th, and his agreement with General Price was on the 21st of the same month, an argument more specious than fair, as it appears from the letter of President Lincoln of May 18, 1861, to Hon. F. P. Blair, that the order sent from the War Department to him was to be delivered or withheld at his discretion, and that it was not delivered until the 30th of the month, and until after General Harney had not only entered into his agreement with General Price, but had declined to act upon sensational stories of persecution, on which applications were made to send troops into the interior of Missouri. During the days this order was held for his removal, with discretionary power to deliver or withhold it, the above-recited events occurred, and they may fairly be considered as having decided the question of his removal from that command.
The principal United States arsenal at the West was that near to St. Louis. To it had been transferred a large number of the altered muskets sent from Springfield, Massachusetts, so that in 1861 the arias in that arsenal were, perhaps, numerically second only to those of Spangled. These arms, by a conjunction of deceptive and bold measures, were removed from the arsenal in Missouri and transported to Illinois. To whom did those arms belong? Certainly to those whose money had made or purchased them. That is, to the states in common, not to their agent the general government, or to a portion of the states which might be in a condition to appropriate them to their special use, and in disregard of the rights of their partners.
Not satisfied with removing the public arms from the limits of Missouri, the next step was that, in total disrespect of the constitutional right of the citizens to bear arms for their own defense, and to be free from searches and seizures except by warrants duly issued, the officers of the general government proceeded to search the houses of citizens in St. Louis, and to seize arms wherever they were found.
Missouri had refused to engage in war against her sister states of the South; she was therefore first to be disarmed, and then to be made the victim of an invasion characterized by such barbarous atrocities as shame the civilization of the age. The wrongs she suffered, the brave efforts of her unarmed people to defend their hearthstones and their liberties against the desecration and destruction of both, form a melancholy chapter in the history of the United States, which all who would cherish their fair fame must wish could be obliterated.
The people generously confided in the disposition of the general government to observe their rights, and continued to hope for a peaceful settlement of the questions then agitating the country. This was evinced by the fact that not a single secessionist was elected to the state convention, and that General Price, an avowed "Union man," was chosen as president of the convention. Hence the general satisfaction with the agreement made between Generals Harney and Price for the preservation of peace and non-intervention by the army of the United States. General Harney, the day before the order for his removal was communicated to him, wrote to the War Department, expressing his confidence in the preservation of peace in Missouri, and used this significant expression: "Interference by unauthorized parties as to the course I shall pursue can alone prevent the realization of these hopes." The "unauthorized parties" here referred to could not have been the people or the government of Missouri. Others than they must have been the parties wishing to use force, provocative of hostilities.
As has been heretofore stated, after his agreement with General Harney at St. Louis, General Price returned to the capital and dismissed to their homes the large body of militia that had been there assembled.
After the removal of General Harney, believed to be in consequence of his determination to avoid the use of military force against the people of Missouri, reports were rife of a purpose on the part of the administration at Washington to disarm the citizens of Missouri who did not sympathize with the views of the federal government, and to put arms into the hands of those who could be relied on to enforce them. On June 4th General Price issued an address to the people of Missouri, and in reference to that report said: "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."
The call of President Lincoln for seventy-five thousand volunteers removed any preexisting doubt as to the intent to coerce the states which should claim to assert their right of sovereignty. Missouri, while avowing her purpose to adhere to the Union, had asserted her right to exercise supreme control over her domestic affairs, and this put her in the category of a state threatened by the proceedings of the United States government. To provide for such contingency as might be anticipated, Governor Jackson on June 13th issued a call for fifty thousand volunteers,, and Major General Price took the field in command. In this proclamation Governor Jackson said: 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.
In his endeavor to maintain the peace of the state, and to avert, if possible, from its borders a civil war, he caused the aforementioned agreement to be made with the commander of the Northern forces in the state, by which its peace might be preserved. That officer was promptly removed by his government. The governor then, upon the increase of hostile actions, proposed, at an interview with the new officer commanding the forces of the United States government, to disband the state guard, and break up its organization; to disarm all companies that had been armed by the state; to pledge himself not to organize the militia under the military bill; that no arms or munitions of war should be brought into the state; that he would protect the citizens equally in all their rights, regardless of their political opinions; that he would repress all insurrectionary movements within the state; would repel all attempts to invade it, from whatever quarter, and by whomsoever made; and would maintain a strict neutrality and preserve the peace of the state.
And further, if necessary, he would invoke the assistance of the United States troops to carry out the pledges. The only conditions to this proposition made by the governor were that the United States government should undertake to disarm the "Home Guard" which it had illegally organized and armed throughout the state, and pledge itself not to occupy with its troops any localities in the state not occupied by them at that time.
The words of a governor of a state who offered such truly generous terms deserve to be inserted: "Nothing but the most earnest desire to avert the horrors of civil war from our beloved State could have tempted me to propose these humiliating terms. They were rejected by the Federal officers."
These demanded not only the disorganization and disarming of the state militia and the nullification of the military bill, but they refused to disarm their own "Home Guard," and insisted that the government of the United States should enjoy an unrestricted right to move and station its troops throughout the state whenever and wherever it might, in the opinion of its officers, be necessary either for the protection of its "loyal subjects" or for the repelling of invasion; and the plainly announced that it was the intention of the administration to take military occupation of the whole state, and to reduce it, as avowed by General Lyon, to the "exact condition of Maryland."
We have already stated that the revolutionary measures which the United States government had undertaken to enforce involved the subjection of every state, either by voluntary submission or subjugation. However much a state might desire peace and neutrality, its own will could not elect. The scheme demanded the absolute sovereignty of the government of the United States, or, in other words, the extinguishment of the independence and sovereignty of the state. Human actions are not only the fruit of the ruling motive, but they are also the evidence of the existence of that motive. Thus, when we see the governor of the state of Missouri offering such generous terms to the government of the United States in order to preserve peace and neutrality, and the latter, rejecting them, avow its intention to do its will with the authorities, the property, and the citizens of the state, and proceed with military force to do it, its actions are both the evidence and the fruit of its theory. These measures were revolutionary in the extreme. They involved the entire subversion of those principles on which the American union was founded, and of the compact or Constitution of that union. The government of the United States, in the hands of those who wielded its authority, was made the bloody instrument to establish these usurpation on the ruins of the crushed hopes of mankind for permanent freedom under constitutional government. For the justness and truthfulness of these allegations I appeal to the impartial and sober judgment of posterity.
The volunteers who were assembled under this proclamation of Governor Jackson, of June 13th, had few arms except their squirrel rifles and shotguns, and could scarcely be said to have any military equipment.
The brigadier generals who were appointed were assigned to geographical divisions, and, with such men as they could collect, reported in obedience to their orders at Booneville and Lexington. On June 20, 1861, General Lyon and Colonel F. P. Blair, with an estimated force of seven thousand well-armed troops, having eight pieces of artillery, ascended the Missouri River, and debarked about five miles below Booneville. To oppose them, the Missourians had there about eight hundred men, poorly armed, without a piece of artillery, and but little ammunition. With courage which must be commended at the expense of their discretion, they resolved to engage the enemy, and after a combat of an hour and a half or more, retired, having inflicted heavy loss upon the enemy, and suffering but little themselves. This first skirmish between the federal troops and the Missouri militia inspired confidence in their fellow citizens, and checked the contemptuous terms in which the militia had been spoken of by the enemy. Governor Jackson, with some two hundred fifty to three hundred of the militia, engaged in the action at Booneville, started toward the southwestern portion of the state. He marched in the direction of a place called Cole Camp and, when within twelve or fifteen miles of it, learned that a force of seven hundred to one thousand of the enemy had been sent to that point by General Lyon and Colonel Blair, with a view to intercepting his retreat. The design, however, was frustrated by an expedition consisting of about three hundred fifty men, commanded by Colonel O'Kane, who had assembled them in a very few hours in the neighborhood south of the enemy's camp. There were no pickets Out except in the neighborhood of Jackson's forces, and Colonel O'Kane's surprised the enemy where they were asleep in two large barns. The attack was made at daybreak, the enemy routed after suffering the heavy loss of two hundred six killed and more wounded, and more than a hundred prisoners. Three hundred sixty-two muskets with bayonets were captured. The Missourians lost four killed and fifteen or twenty wounded.
General Price, with a view to drawing his army from the base-line of the enemy, the Missouri River, ordered his troops to the southwestern portion of the state. The column from Lexington marched without transportation, without tents or blankets, and relied for subsistence on the country through which it passed, being in the meantime closely pursued by the enemy. The movement was successfully made, and a junction effected in Cedar County with the forces present with Governor Jackson. The total when assembled was about thirty-six hundred men.
This, then, was the patriot army of Missouri. It was a heterogeneous mass representing every condition of Western life. There were the old and young, the rich and poor, the grave and gay, the planter and laborer, the farmer and clerk, the hunter and boatman, the merchant and woodsman. At least five hundred of these men were entirely unarmed. Many had only the common rifle and shot-gun. None were provided with cartridges or canteens. They had eight pieces of cannon, but no shells, and very few solid shot, or rounds of grape and canister.
Rude and almost incredible devices were made to supply these wants: trace-chains, iron rods, hard pebbles, and smooth stones were substituted for shot; and evidence of the effect of such rough missiles was to be given in the next encounter with the enemy.
Governor Jackson continued his march toward southwestern Missouri.
He had received reliable intelligence that he was pursued by General Lyon from the northeast, and by Lane and Sturgis from the northwest, their supposed object being to form a junction in his rear, and he subsequently learned that a column numbering three thousand had been sent Out from St. Louis to intercept his retreat, and had arrived at the town of Carthage, immediately in his front. These undisciplined, poorly armed Missourians were, therefore, in a position which would have appalled less heroic men-a large hostile force in their rear, and another, nearly equal in numbers to their own, disputing their passage in front. They cheerfully moved forward, however, attacked the enemy in position, and after a severe engagement routed him, pursued him to a second position, from which he was again driven, falling back to Carthage, where he made his last stand and, upon being driven from which as was subsequently ascertained, continued his retreat all night. The killed and wounded of the enemy, left along the route of his retreat over a space of ten miles, were estimated at from one hundred fifty to two hundred killed, and from three to four hundred wounded. Several hundred muskets were captured, and the Missourians were better prepared for future conflicts. Our loss was between forty and fifty killed, and from one hundred twenty-five to one hundred fifty wounded.
In the next battle after that of Carthage, which has been noticed, Missourians were no longer to be alone. General McCullough, commanding a brigade of Confederate troops, marched from Arkansas to make a junction with General Price, then threatened with an attack by a large force of the enemy under General Lyon, which was concentrated near Springfield, Missouri. The battle was fiercely contested, but finally won by our troops. In this action General Lyon was killed while gallantly endeavoring to rally his discomfited troops and lead them to the charge. While we cannot forget the cruel wrongs he had inflicted and sought still further to impose upon an unoffending people, we must accord to him the redeeming virtue of courage, and recognize his ability as a soldier. On this occasion General Price exhibited in two instances the magnanimity, self-denial, and humanity which ever characterized him. General McCullough claimed the right to command as an officer of the Confederate States army. General Price, though he ranked him by a grade, replied that "he was not fighting for distinction, but for the defense of the liberties of his countrymen, and that it mattered but little what position he occupied. He said he was ready to surrender not only the command, but his life, as a sacrifice to the cause.", He surrendered the command and took a subordinate position, though "he felt assured of victory."
The second instance was an act of humanity to his bitterest enemy.
General Lyon's "surgeon came in for his body, under a flag of truce, after the close of the battle, and General Price sent it in his own wagon. But the enemy, in his flight, left the body unshrouded in Springfield. The next morning, August 11th, Lieutenant Colonel Gustavus Elgin and Colonel R. H. Musser, two members of Brigadier General Clark's staff, caused the body to be properly prepared for burial."
After the battle of Springfield, General McCullough returned with his brigade to his former position in Arkansas. John C. Fremont had been appointed a general, and assigned to the command made vacant by the death of General Lyon. He signalized his entrance upon the duty by a proclamation, confiscating the estates and slave property of "rebels."
"On the 10th of September, when General Price was about to go into camp, be learned that a detachment of Federal troops was marching from Lexington to Warrensburg, to seize the funds of the bank in that place, and to arrest and plunder the citizens of Johnson County, in accordance with General Fremont's proclamation and instructions General Price resumed his march and, pressing rapidly forward with his mounted men, arrived about daybreak at Warrensburg, where he learned that the enemy bad hastily fled about midnight. He then decided to move with his whole force against Lexington. He found the enemy in strong entrenchments and well supplied with artillery.
The place was stubbornly defended. The siege proper commenced on September 18, 1861, and with varying fortunes. Fierce combats continued through that day and the next. On the morning of the 20th General Price ordered a number of bales of hemp to be transported to the point from which the advance of his troop had been repeatedly repulsed. They were ranged in a line for a breastwork and, when rolled before the men as they advanced, formed a moving rampart which was proof against shot, and only to be overcome by a sortie in force, which the enemy did not dare to make. On came the hempen breastworks, while Price's artillery continued an effective fire. In the afternoon of the 20th the enemy hung Out a white flag, upon which General Price ordered a cessation of firing, and sent to ascertain the object of the signal. The Federal forces surrendered as prisoners of war, to the number of thirty-five hundred; also, seven pieces of artillery, over three thousand stand of muskets, a considerable number of sables, a valuable supply of ammunition, a number of horses, a large amount of commissary's stores, and other property. Here were also recovered the great seal of the state and the public records, and about nine hundred thousand dollars of which the Bank of Lexington had been robbed. General Price caused the money to be at once returned to the bank.
After the first day of the siege of Lexington, General Price learned that Lane and Montgomery, from Kansas, with about four thousand men, and General Sturgis, with fifteen hundred cavalry, were on the north side of the Missouri River, advancing to reinforce the garrison at Lexington. At the same time, and from the same direction, Colonel Saunders, with about twenty-five hundred Missourians, was coming to the aid of General Price. General D. R. Atchison, who had long been a United States Senator from Missouri, and at the time of his resignation was President of the Senate, was sent by General Price to meet the command of Colonel Saunders and hasten them forward. He joined them on the north bank of the river, and, after all but about five hundred had been ferried over, General Atchison still remaining with these, they were unexpectedly attacked by the force from Kansas. The ground was densely wooded, and partially covered with water. The Missourians, led and cheered by one they had so long and reservedly honored, met the assault with such determination, and fighting with the skill of woodsmen and hunters, that they put the enemy to rout, pursuing him for a distance of ten miles, and inflicting heavy loss upon him, while that of the Missourians was but five killed and twenty wounded.
The expedient of the bales of hemp was a brilliant conception, not unlike that which made Tarik, the Saracen warrior, immortal, and gave his name to the northern pillar of Hercules.
The victories in Missouri which have been noticed, and which so far exceeded what might have been expected from the small forces by which they were achieved, had caused an augmentation of the enemy's troops to an estimated number of seventy thousand. Against these the army of General Price could not hope successfully to contend; he therefore retired toward the southwestern part of the state.
The want of supplies and transportation compelled him to disband a portion of his troops; with the rest he continued his retreat to Neosho. By proclamation of Governor Jackson, the legislature had assembled at this place, and had passed the ordinance of secession.