Missouri had a star on the Confederate flag and a lot of people nowadays believe that Missouri was strongly Confederate state. But was it really or is it just a myth?

If you look at the election results from 1860, the answer is a resounding “No!” Three candidates were running that were pro-Union. Bell was a Southerner and believed slavery should not expand to other states, but also that it was protected by the Constitution. For that reason, he was denounced as a traitor by Southern politicians. Only after Fort Sumter was fired upon did Bell side with Tennessee and the south. Breckenridge was decidedly Southern rights. Adding the results of the three pro-Union ones together, we find that only 24% of Missourians voted for the Southern candidate.

1860 Election Results in Missouri

Abraham Lincoln – Republican Party 17,028

John Bell – Constitution Union Party 58,372

Stephen Douglas – Democratic Party 58,801

Total For Union Supporters 134,201

John Breckenridge – Southern Democrat 31,362

A lot of people will argue that Missouri gave fairly equal amounts of soldiers to both the south and north. The numbers, however, are again very lop-sided, in favor of the north. 110,000 Missouri men became Union soldiers while 40,000 signed up for service with the rebels. Thirty six percent of Missouri’s Civil War soldiers were Confederates or in Missouri’s militia under Missouri State Guard General M. Jeff Thompson. While much more than the 24% of the population who first voted with the south prior to the war, it still doesn’t equal the number of Missourians in blue. Again, Missouri was a Union state.

Even after the war, the answer was still negative. Only 79 United Confederate Veterans camps were established in Missouri. 594 Grand Army of the Republic Camps (Union soldiers only) were established.

So Missouri was not so much a divided state as it was a state with a sliver of the pie cut out of it!

 

Viewing the war in its broadest context, a historian could fairly conclude that a determined general of the North had bested a legendary general of the South, probably the most brilliant tactician on either side, because the Union could bring to bear a decisive superiority in economic resources and manpower.

Robert E. Lee’s mastery of the art of warfare staved off defeat for four long years, but the outcome was never really in doubt. Ulysses S. Grant—and Abraham Lincoln—held too many high cards. And during the last year of the war, the relations between the Union’s Commander in Chief and his General in Chief set an unexcelled example of civil-military co-ordination.

In this costly war, the Union Army lost 138,154 men killed in battle. This figure seems large, but it is scarcely half the number – 221,374 – who died of other causes, principally disease, bringing the total Union dead to 359,528. Men wounded in action numbered 280,040. Figures for the Confederacy are incomplete, but at least 94,000 were killed in battle, 70,000 died of other causes, and some 30,000 died in northern prisons.

With the advent of conscription, mass armies, and long casualty lists, the individual soldier seemed destined to lose his identity and dignity. These were the days before regulation serial numbers and dog tags (although some soldiers made individual tags from coins or scraps of paper). But by the third year of the war various innovations had been introduced to enhance the soldier’s lot. Union forces were wearing corps badges which heightened unit identification, esprit de corps, and pride in organization. The year 1863 saw the first award of the highest United States decoration, the Medal of Honor. Congress had authorized it on July I2, 1862, and the first medals were given by Secretary Stanton in 1863 to Pvt. Jacob Parrott and five other soldiers. They had demonstrated extraordinary valor in a daring raid behind the Confederate lines near Chattanooga. The Medal of Honor remains the highest honor the United States can bestow upon any individual in the armed services.

Throughout the western world, the nineteenth century, with its many humanitarian movements, evidenced a general improvement in the treatment of the individual soldier, and the U.S. soldier was no exception. The more severe forms of corporal punishment were abolished in the U.S. Army in 1861. Although Civil War medical science was primitive in comparison with that of the mid-twentieth century, an effort was made to extend medical services in the Army beyond the mere treatment of battle wounds. As an auxiliary to the regular medical service, the volunteer U.S. Sanitary Commission fitted out hospital ships and hospital units, provided male and, for the first time in the U.S. Army, female nurses, and furnished clothing and fancier foods than the regular rations. Similarly, the U.S. Christian Commission augmented the efforts of the regimental chaplains and even provided, besides songbooks and Bibles, some coffee bars and reading rooms.

The Civil War forced changes in the traditional policies governing the burial of soldiers. On July 17, 1862, Congress authorized the President to establish national cemeteries “for the soldiers who shall die in the service of the country.” While little was done during the war to implement this Congressional action, several battlefield cemeteries – Antietam, Gettysburg, Chattanooga, Stones River, and Knoxville – were set up, “. . . as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives . . .” in lieu of some nameless corner of a forgotten field.

As the largest and longest conflict of the nineteenth century in the western world, save for the Napoleonic struggle, the American Civil War has been argued and analyzed for the more than a hundred years since the fighting stopped. It continues to excite the imagination because it was full of paradox. Old-fashioned, in that infantry attacked in the open in dense formations, it also foreshadowed modern total war. Though not all the ingredients were new, railroads, telegraph communications, steamships, balloons, armor plate, rifled weapons, wire entanglements, the submarine, large-scale photography, and torpedoes – all products of the burgeoning industrial revolution – gave new and awesome dimensions to armed conflict.

In Part I we looked at the motives for fighting as a guerrilla instead of a regular soldier during the Civil War. Author Bruce Nichols explained that there were five motivations for adopting the role of a guerrilla – bitterness, anger, hope, desperation and excitement. We covered bitterness and anger and we now move on to hope, desperation and excitement.

Nichols points out that many Missourians were hopeful that Federal carelessness would result in a victory for the southern sympathizers. This was actual a real and relevant hope, as there were plenty of mistakes made by the Union commanders in the West. As the war began to have an eastern focus, many of the talented leadership headed that direction, leaving behind less than stellar leadership. For those not in Missouri, the idea of needing top-notch leadership there seemed a waste. Why waste good officers and men in an area that they had considered “won” and where the guerrillas presented nothing more than occasional inconveniences that would aid in relieving boredom of the soldiers assigned there. Nothing was further from the truth.

Hope was also a motivator for southern sympathizers to free Missouri from it’s Union strangle. This is a major reason why men fought as guerrillas. Confederate Major General Theophilus Holmes wrote that

…we cannot be expected to allow our enemies to decide for us whether we shall fight them in masses of individually, in uniform, without uniform, openly or from ambush. Our forefathers and yours conceded no such right to the British in the first Revolution…

Guerrillas were  a part of the grand scheme for the Confederates and more than the outlaws the North branded them as.

Another motive was desperation, and this is one that most fail to consider or do not understand. Missourians were forced from all viewpoints to participate in the fight. There was no such thing as neutrality. Guerrillas would sometimes force men to join their bands, with the threat of death if they refused.  Some tried to move away, but realized that in doing so it meant forever, as coming back left them marked as a traitor. The Union drafting men and forcing them to either side with the Union or with the Confederates. As Nichols points out it separated the “sheep from the goats.” There were plenty examples of who bushwhackers, donning Union uniforms, would be able to ascertain the loyalties of a man, leaving the man however in a position never knowing how to answer – if he chooses Union because of the uniform, he is shot. If he chooses rebel and they are Union soldiers, he is arrested and then shot. Desperation led many people in Missouri to do things they never would have contemplated outside of war. And it left it’s scar on everything and turned simple men, women and children into a hardened, desolate people.

The last motive is excitement, and while you would think this to be a minute portion of the motives, it clearly was as equal a factor as the rest.  Young men, pumped by patriotism, family and the sheer thrill of that lifestyle, sought out to join guerrilla bands. Harrison Trow, a member of William Quantrill’s band, wrote after the war that

As strange as it may seem, the perilous fascination of fight under a black flag – where the wounded could have neither surgeon or hospital, and were all that remained to the prisoners was the absolute certainty of speedy death – attracted a number of young men to the various guerrilla bands…

The bravado of these men was clear; men such as William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson, Jesse and Frank James, Coleman Younger, Archie Clements, Dave Poole, and William Gregg, lived hard, fast lives. Their exploits of daring, and even recklessness, exemplified the nature of the Missouri guerrilla.

 

I made a stop this weekend at a cemetery just north of my home in Topeka called Rochester Cemetery. It is one of the oldest in the city and holds the remains of many of the settlers and founders of Kansas. My real interest however is of course the Civil War and the soldiers who served and are buried there.

I stopped by the office and spoke with the caretaker there and we had a wonderful discussion about some of the history of the cemetery. However, they had a fire around 1901 and many of their records prior to that were lost. I mentioned that the SUVCW camp I belong to does work days at the Topeka Cemetery and various projects related to the G.A.R. section there and he told me that there is a section full of Civil War soldiers and a monument to them.

I drove up to section 4 of the cemetery and sure enough there was the monument along with a flagpole and the resting place of about 30 Union Civil War soldiers. He didn’t know a lot about them but he did point me towards another monument that had a G.A.R. emblem on it. That tombstone belonged to John Armstrong, who assisted John Brown and John Ritchie with the Underground Railroad in Topeka (research since my visit shows he was a member of the Lincoln Camp #1 of the G.A.R.)

After writing the names from the headstones I have decided to make Rochester Cemetery a project of mine. My goal is to accomplish a few things:

  • Locate and document all the Civil War soldiers who are buried in the cemetery
  • Get headstones for Civil War soldiers who are buried there who have no headstone
  • Hold work days at the cemetery during the summer months same as at the Topeka Cemetery
  • Join in on Memorial Day festivities with representation of the Civil War, SUVCW and Old Abe Camp #16
  • Help update the cemetery records and replace lost information regarding the Civil War soldier

I am not the Graves Registration Officer of our camp, but it is something I am very interested in and want to assist our current GRO. Lord willing that I eventually hold the office of Camp Commander, once I have fulfilled that duty I would like to possibly work on holding the GRO position in the future.

This looks to be a project that is going to take quite some time to get anywhere near completing. But I think it will be a worthwhile venture and a huge learning experience for me.