Missouri’s Confederate General Assembly At Cassville October 31, 1861

“The Federal authorities have for months past in violation of the Constitution of the United States, waged a ruthless war upon the people of the State of Missouri, murdering our citizens, destroying our property, and… desolating our land. War now exists between the State of Missouri and the Federal Government…”- Claiborne Fox Jackson, October 21, 1861.

When the elected government of Missouri was forced out of the capital by Union forces under the command of Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon, all of the secessionist legislators who followed Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson were basically in a state of limbo. A provisional government was being instituted by the members of the State Convention in Jefferson City, while Jackson was in Richmond meeting with Confederate President Jefferson Davis in an effort to get Confederate support, even though Missouri had not formally seceded.

In a two-story brick courthouse in Cassville, Missouri, that was known as Missouri’s “second Confederate capitol,” members of the state legislature gathered between October 29 and November 7, 1861, to complete a legislative agenda that they had begun the preceding week in Neosho. In Neosho the General Assembly had passed an ordinance dissolving Missouri’s tie to the United States and another bill ratifying the provisional constitution of the Confederate States of America.

On October 31, 1861, Missouri’s “rebel” legislature moved to the Barry county courthouse in Cassville to continue its third and special session of the Twenty-first General Assembly begun 10 days earlier in Neosho. Before the Cassville session adjourned November 7, it was suggested that the next meeting be held in Pineville, McDonald County. The legislature rejected this proposal, resolving instead to assemble in New Madrid in March 1862. The New Madrid session was never held.

An important event of the Cassville session occurred November 4 when Governor Jackson notified the senate that he had appointed Sterling Price as major general of the Missouri State Guard. He also appointed the following brigadier generals: Nathaniel W. Watkins, 1st division; Thomas A. Harris, 2nd division; John B. Clark, 3rd division; W. Y. Slack, 4th division; A. E. Steen, 5th division; M. M. Parsons, 6th division; J. H. McBride, 7th division; and James S. Rains, 8th division. Three days later, however, an act was passed which permitted the dissolution of the Missouri State Guard as such. Entitled “an act to pay Volunteers of the Missouri State Guard,” it provided that if any member of the guard should enlist in the Confederate States army he should, with the assent of the commanding officer of his regiment, be given a full discharge from the Guard.

The senate, in a bill passed November 1 and already passed by the house, appropriated $10,000,000 to repel any invasion of Missouri and to sustain the State in an effort to maintain sovereignty. An issue of defense bonds, in denominations of from $1 to $500, was authorized to finance this appropriation.

Toward the end of the war the 49th Missouri volunteers captured the proceedings of the “rump” senate and also other papers and documents in Alabama. These records, forwarded to the Missouri secretary of state, were ordered printed by the house of representatives of the twenty-third general assembly, thus making available the only primary data of this “rebel” legislature. Among the captured documents is Jackson’s approval, November 8, 1861, of a house bill providing for an election for representatives to the Confederate States of America.

Governor Jackson’s hopes for a Confederate invasion of Missouri faded at the Battle of Pea Ridge in northwestern Arkansas on March 7-8, 1862. This major Confederate defeat doomed the fledgling Confederate state government to existence in perpetual exile. Governor Jackson would be dead of cancer before the year expired. His Lieutenant Governor, Thomas C. Reynolds, carried on the executive functions in various locations before finally establishing his capital-in-exile at Marshall, Texas, during the waning months of 1863.

The late Civil War historian, Shelby Foote, stated that,

…Guerrilla bands might rip and tear [Missouri]… raider columns of various strengths might cut swaths of destruction up and down [the state], but…[Missouri’s] star in the Confederate flag, placed there like Kentucky’s by a fleeing secessionist legislature, represented nothing more from now on than the exiles who bore arms beneath that banner.

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