By the spring of 1861 the people of Missouri were already familiar with the strife and sectionalism that plagued the country when the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Ft Sumter on April 12, 1861. Since the mid-1850’s1850s and the events now known as “Bleeding Kansas“, Missourians, far from the east, had fought and suffered over the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Missouri Compromise and the Dred Scott case and yes, slavery. Guerrilla warfare ravaged the state and it’s people all during the war and even afterwards.

There many things about Missouri during the Civil War that made it significant. Some were vital events, some, well, bragging rights. But it is beyond a doubt that this border state played a huge role in the conflict that would define our nation.

Missouri sent more men to war, in proportion to population, than any other state. Missouri had 199,111 volunteers. Approximately 27,000 Missouri civilians and soldiers were killed during the Civil War.

Missouri also saw many firsts: the first land battle of the Civil War which took place in Boonville Missouri on June 17, 1861. Ulysses S. Grant found his first battle of the war in Belmont, MO on November 7, 1861. The first Union general of the war, Nathaniel Lyon, was killed at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. In Greene County Missouri, Private Joseph W. Cole of Co. O 1st Kansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment would become the first Civil War soldier to be executed on July 14, 1861.

Other interesting facts about Missouri: Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to Brigadier General while serving in Ironton, MO. and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) served a whole two weeks with Hannibal Missouri Confederates before tiring of the whole things and “retiring”. Missouri was the only state to have representatives in both the United States Congress and the Confederate Congress.

Not counting undocumented skirmishes, Missouri saw what is considered to be 27 battles within her borders. Missouri ranks third in the number of battles within her borders only behind Virginia and Tennessee. Some of the battles were little more than 20 minute skirmishes. Some, like Wilson’s Creek, Westport and Fort Davidson, were bloody and horrific and saw a huge loss of life.

The following battles all took place in Missouri:

1. Booneville
2. Carthage
3. Liberty
4. Cole Camp
5. Wilson’s Creek
6. Dry Wood Creek
7. Lexington (#7 and #24)
8. Fredericktown
9. Springfield (#9 and #19)
10. Belmont
11. Mt. Zion Church
12. Roans Tan Yard
13. New Madrid/Island 10
14. Kirksville
15. Independence (#15 and #26)
16. Lone Jack
17. Newtonia
18. Clark’s Mill
20. Hartville
21. Cape Girardeau
22. Fort Davidson (Pilot Knob)
23. Glasgow
25. Little Blue River
27. Byram’s Ford
28. Westport
29. Marmiton River

It was always clear that Confederate Missouri Militia General Sterling Price and Confederate Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch rarely, if ever, saw eye to eye on matters. Strategic differences and the simple fact that McCulloch was, more or less, forced to cooperate with Price by President Jefferson Davis.

The Confederate victory at Wilson’s Creek in August of 1861, southern forces in Missouri under the command of both Price and  McCulloch, was a moral booster for Southern sympathizing Missourians, who found a renewed spirit and hope for their cause in Missouri. This lead to the Militia making it’s way northward through Missouri and ended in the town of Lexington along the Missouri River. “The Battle of the Hemp Bales” as it was also called was a temporary victory for Price and his Militia, bur General McCulloch decided to not follow his southern sympathizing brethren and held to the southwestern portion of Missouri. By November, McCulloch had secured that portion of the state. He makes it clear in his dispatch to Confederate General Samuel Cooper, that the rift between himself and Price was ever far from being resolved when he wrote,

HEADQUARTERS DIVISION, Springfield, Mo.,
November 19, 1861.

General S. COOPER,
Adjt. and Isp. General, C. S. Army, Richmond, Va.:

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that on the night of the 15th instant I received information at my headquarters, 72 miles from here, that the Federal troops had started back toward Saint Louis from this place. On the 16th I started with all my available mounted troops, without wagons, and after a rapid march arrived near here last night. I was in hopes before arriving that I might be able to overtake some of the trains of the enemy, but on my arrival I found that they were too far to attempt even a pursuit, they being at least 100 miles ahead.

From all the information I can obtain the enemy’s strength was at least 30,000, with an abundance of artillery. There was evidently considerable disaffection in their ranks, and on leaving here Lane, with his Kansas troops, carried off 500 or 600 negroes, belonging to Union men as well as secessionists. From what I can learn they intend to fortify Rolla, Sedalia, and Jefferson City, and to garrison each of those places. The Union men have nearly all fled with the Federal troops, leaving this place almost deserted. From all the information I can get of General Price’s movements he seems to be making his way in the direction of the Missouri River. An attempt of the kind, in my opinion, can only terminate as did his previous expedition to that country. Considering it inexpedient to attempt a winter campaign in this country, I shall return to the borders of Arkansas, and put my command in winter quarters by the 15th of December. As there will be much to do to make the many arrangements necessary for an early spring campaign, I respectfully request the authority of the Department for me to visit Richmond for that purpose. As soon as the troops are in winter quarters my presence here could be dispensed with for a few weeks.

Hoping my views may meet the approval of the Department, I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
BEN. McCULLOCH, Brigadier-General, Commanding.

McCulloch also wrote to CSA Secretery of War J. P. Benjamin on the same day with the following account:

HEADQUARTERS, Springfield, Mo.,
November 19, 1861.

Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of War:

SIR: I shall return to Arkansas, put my troops in winter quarters soon, and ask permission to come immediately to Richmond, so as to give the administration correct information regarding affairs in this region before it acts on matters here. The Federals left eighth days since with 30,000 men, quarreled among themselves, and greatly injured their cause by taking negroes belonging to Union men. General Lane went to Kansas, General Hunter to Sedalia, and General Sigel to Rolla.

I have the honor to be, with respect, your obedient servant,

BEN. McCULLOCH,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

It’s obvious that McCulloch did not agree with Price’s actions and began preparations to move his command out of Missouri to be used elsewhere for the Confederacy. With the rift turning into rivalry, the overall command of the Trans-Mississippi district was turned over to Major General Earl Van Dorn. Price was commissioned a Major General in the Confederate Army and combined Price’s militia and McCulloch’s soldiers together to form the Army of the West and would engage Union General Samuel Curtis at the Battle of Pea Ridge (or Elkhorn Tavern) in Arkansas in March 1862.

Price and McCulloch never mended their fences and at Pea Ridge, General McCulloch was killed in combat, shot out of his saddle and killed instantly by a Union sharpshooter.

With the regular and most of the pro-southern militia pulled out of Missouri, the pro-southern cause was left instead in the hands of guerillas like William Clarke Quantrill, William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, George Todd, Dave Poole, Cole Younger, William Gregg and John McCorkle to defend the southern and Missouri cause, which was fought with an entirely different style than that of the regular army.