Although dwarfed in population compared to several Northern states, Missouri, nevertheless, provided more cavalry to the Union army than any other Union state - a fact that is rarely discussed.
According to the 1860 U.S. census, Missouri had a free population of 1,067,081 and an additional slave population of 114,931.
The land that is now Missouri was acquired from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase and became known as the Missouri Territory. Part of the Territory was admitted into the Union as the 24th state on August 10, 1821.
Missouri was initially settled by slaveholding Southerners coming up the Mississippi River and Missouri River. Missouri entered the Union in 1821 as a slave state following the Missouri Compromise of 1820, in which it was agreed that no state north of Missouri's southern border with Arkansas could enter the Union as a slave state. Maine entered the Union as a free state in the compromise to balance Missouri. In 1854 the Kansas Nebraska Act nullified the Missouri Compromise and said the two states could decide on their own whether to enter as a free or slave state. The result was a de facto war between pro-slavery residents of Missouri (called Border Ruffians) and Kansas free-staters to influence how Kansas entered the Union.
The Union Army states that “Missouri was one of the last as well as one of the first states to feel the curse of Civil War. During the contest she furnished to the Federal government a total of 109,111 men, exclusive of the militia she maintained to keep peace within her borders and protect her people from the raids of the guerrillas, Jayhawkers and other predatory bands who were actuated more by the prospect of plunder than by principles or patriotism.” The total number of Missourians who supported the Confederacy and joined its armies in various Southern states is unknown. Estimates, however, range from "more than" 40,000 to 100,000, with the best estimate of 90,000. See also Total Union and Confederate Casualties.
During the Civil War, in 1861, fighting ensued between Union forces and a combined army of General Price's Missouri State Guard and Confederate troops from Arkansas and Texas under General Ben McCulloch. After winning victories at the battle of Wilson's Creek and the siege of Lexington, Missouri, and suffering losses elsewhere, the Confederate forces retreated to Arkansas and later Marshall, Texas, in the face of a largely reinforced Union Army.
The institution only became prominent in the area following two major events: the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney (1793). This led to a mass movement of slave-owning proprietors to the area of present-day Missouri and Arkansas, then known as Upper Louisiana. However, the spread of major cotton growth was limited to the more southerly area, near the border with present-day Arkansas. Instead, slavery in the other areas of Missouri was concentrated into other major crops, such as tobacco, hemp, grain and livestock. A number of slaves were hired out as stevedores, cabin boys, or deck hands for the ferries of the Mississippi River.
Compromise of 1850: As a result of the Mexican War (1846-1848), the United States won vast acreage in the West (present-day California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Texas). This acquisition renewed the controversy over slavery in the territories. California applied for admission as a free state in 1850. Southern political leaders were concerned that this would upset the balance of 15 free and 15 slave states. They also were disturbed by Northern agitation to end slavery in the District of Columbia and by the passage of "personal liberty" laws in the Northern states. The personal liberty laws aimed to restrict the cooperation of state officials in enforcing the Federal fugitive slave law. Southern senators blocked the admission of California and a crisis was at hand. Prolonged negotiation finally produced a series of measures that became known as the Compromise of 1850. Aspects of the compromise included 1) admission of California as a free state; 2) a stronger fugitive slave law; 3) assurance that Congress would not interfere with the interstate traffic in slaves in the South; and 4) prohibition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia. Finally, an act allowed the citizens of the remaining territories to be carved out of former Mexican land to decide for themselves on allowing slavery. Optimists believed that these measures constituted a lasting settlement of the divisive issue of slavery, but this was not to be.
Three distinct political groups occupied Kansas: pro-slavers, free-staters and abolitionists. Violence broke out immediately between these opposing factions and continued until January 29, 1861, when Kansas entered the Union as a free state. This era became forever known in the state as "Bleeding Kansas."
The majority of slaveowners in Missouri arrived from the agricultural lands of North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. By 1860, only 36 counties in Missouri had 1,000 or more slaves; The value of all the slaves in Missouri was estimated by the State Auditor's 1860 report at approximately $44,181,912 ($1,142,838,790 as of 2013).
As one of the Border States, Missouri was exempt from President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation decreeing the freedom of slaves in all territory then held by Confederate forces. Governor Thomas C. Fletcher, however, abolished slavery in Missouri by executive proclamation on January 11, 1865.
By 1860, Missouri's initial Southern settlers had been supplanted with a more diversified non-slaveholding population, including many Northerners, German and Irish immigrants. With war seeming inevitable, Missouri thought it could stay out of the conflict by remaining in the Union, but staying neutral—not giving men or supplies to either side and pledging to fight troops from either side who entered the state. The policy was first put forth in 1860 by outgoing Governor Robert Marcellus Stewart, who had Northern leanings. It was notionally reaffirmed by incoming Governor Claiborne Jackson, who had Southern leanings. Jackson however, stated in his inaugural address that in case of Federal "coercion" of Southern states, Missouri should support and defend her "sister Southern states". A Constitutional Convention to discuss secession was convened with Sterling Price presiding. The delegates voted to stay in the Union and supported the neutrality position.
In the United States presidential election, 1860, Abraham Lincoln received only 10 percent of the state's votes, while 71 percent favored either John Bell or Stephen A. Douglas, both of whom wanted the status quo to remain (Douglas was to narrowly win the Missouri vote over Bell—the only state Douglas carried besides New Jersey) with the remaining 19 percent siding with Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge.
In the election of 1860, Missouri’s newly elected governor was Claiborne "Fox" Jackson, a career politician and an ardent supporter of the South. Jackson campaigned as a Douglas Democrat, favoring a conciliatory program on issues that divided the country. After Jackson’s election, however, he immediately began working behind the scenes to promote Missouri’s secession. In addition to planning to seize the Federal arsenal at St. Louis, Jackson conspired with senior Missouri bankers to illegally divert money from the banks to arm state troops, a measure that the Missouri General Assembly had so far refused to take. See also Missouri Civil War Timeline of Events.
After the secession of Southern states began in 1861, the Missouri legislature called for the election of a special convention on secession. The convention voted decisively to remain within the Union. Pro-Southern Governor Claiborne F. Jackson ordered the mobilization of several hundred members of the state militia who had gathered in a camp in St. Louis for training. Alarmed at this action, Union General Nathaniel Lyon struck first, encircling the camp and forcing the state troops to surrender. Lyon directed his soldiers, largely non-English-speaking German immigrants, to march the prisoners through the streets, and they opened fire on the largely hostile crowds of civilians who gathered around them. Soldiers killed unarmed prisoners as well as men, women and children of St. Louis in the incident that became known as the "St. Louis Massacre."
These events heightened Confederate support within the state. Governor Jackson appointed Sterling Price, president of the convention on secession, as head of the new Missouri State Guard. In the face of Union General Lyon's rapid advance through the state, Jackson and Price were forced to flee the capital of Jefferson City on June 14, 1861. In the town of Neosho, Missouri, Jackson called the state legislature into session. They enacted a secession ordinance. However, even under the Southern view of secession, only the state convention had the power to secede. Since the convention was dominated by Unionists, and the state was more pro-Union than pro-Confederate in any event, the ordinance of secession adopted by the legislature is generally given little credence. The Confederacy nonetheless recognized it on October 30, 1861.
With the elected governor absent from the capital and the legislators largely dispersed, the state convention was reassembled with most of its members present, save 20 that fled south with Jackson's forces. The convention declared all offices vacant, and installed Hamilton Gamble as the new governor of Missouri. President Lincoln's administration immediately recognized Gamble's government as the legal Missouri government. The Federal government's decision enabled raising pro-Union militia forces for service within the state as well as volunteer regiments for the Union Army.
Union provisional government
On July 22, 1861, following Lyon's capture of the Missouri capital at Jefferson City, the Missouri Constitutional Convention reconvened and declared the Missouri governor's office to be vacant. On July 28, it appointed former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Hamilton Rowan Gamble as governor of the state and agreed to comply with Lincoln's demand for troops.
In October 1861, the remnants of the elected state government that favored the South (including Jackson and Price) met in Neosho, and voted to formally secede from the Union. The measure gave them votes in the Confederate Congress, but otherwise was symbolic since they did not control any part of the state. The capital was to eventually move to Marshall, Texas. When Jackson died in office in 1862, his lieutenant governor, Thomas Caute Reynolds, succeeded him. See also Missouri Civil War Timeline of Events.
According to the 1860 U.S. census, Missouri had a free population of 1,067,081 and an additional slave population of 114,931.
During the Civil War, Missouri, a Border State of divided loyalties, supplied nearly 110,000 troops (including Native Americans and colored) to the Union and as many as 90,000 troops to the Confederacy (many joined Confederate units in neighboring states such as Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee). Missouri provided the Union with 64 regiments and 20 companies of infantry, 30 regiments and 26 companies of cavalry, 6 batteries of artillery, and numerous independent and unattached units. A remarkable testimony of Missouri's loyalty to the United States was the fact that the state provided more cavalrymen to the Union than any other state. By war’s end, Missouri men, who served the Union military, suffered nearly 14,000 in killed and thousands more in wounded. Casualties for the state’s loyal men to the Confederacy are unknown.
Missouri was a keystone in the Union cause. The nation's major western lines of communication and travel were anchored in the state, including the Pony Express, and the California, Oregon, and Santa Fe Trails. The three major waterways of the nation, the Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio rivers, either passed through or touched the state. According to the 1860 census, Missouri ranked eighth in population, making it an excellent manpower resource for the Union Army. The state was rich in deposits of raw materials -- lead for bullets, iron for cannonballs. Its agricultural production could feed an army. The state was also host to numerous arsenals, including the St. Louis Arsenal.
There were battles and skirmishes in all areas of the state, from the Iowa and Illinois border in the northeast to the edge of the state in the southeast and southwest on the Arkansas border. Counting minor engagements, actions and skirmishes, Missouri saw over 1,200 distinct fights. Only Virginia and Tennessee exceeded Missouri in the number of clashes within the state boundaries.
In the Civil War, Missouri was a Border State that sent men, armies, generals, and supplies to both Union and Confederate sides, had its star on both flags, had separate governments representing each side, and endured a neighbor-against-neighbor intrastate war within the larger national war. The first major Civil War battle west of the Mississippi River was on August 10, 1861 at Wilson's Creek, Missouri, whereas the largest battle in the war west of the Mississippi River was the Battle of Westport at Kansas City in 1864.
Conflicts and battles in the war were divided into three phases, starting with the Union removal of Governor Jackson and pursuit of Sterling Price and his Missouri State Guard in 1861; a period of neighbor-versus-neighbor bushwhacking guerrilla warfare from 1862 to 1864 (guerrilla warfare would continue after the war and until at least 1889); and finally Sterling Price's attempt to retake the state in 1864. See also Missouri Civil War Battles: The Definitive Timeline of Battles and Events.
The Democrats were to return to being the dominant power in the state by 1873 through an alliance with returned ex-Confederates (almost all of whom had been part of the pro-slavery Anti-Benton wing of the Missouri Democratic Party prior to the Civil War). The reunified Democratic Party exploited themes of: racial prejudice; a (largely fictional) version of a Missouri "Lost Cause" which purported Missourians as victims of Federal tyranny and outrages; and depiction of Missouri Unionists and Republicans as traitors (to the state) and criminals. This capture of the historical narrative was largely successful, and secured control of the state for the Democratic Party through the 1950s. The ex-Confederate/Democratic resurgence also defeated efforts to empower Missouri's African-American population, and ushered in the state's version of Jim Crow legislation. (This was motivated both by widespread racial prejudice and concerns that former slaves were likely to be reliable Republican voters.)
Many newspapers in the 1870s Missouri were vehement in their opposition to national Radical Republican policies, for political, economic, and racial reasons. The outlaws James-Younger gang was to capitalize on this and become folk heroes as they robbed banks and trains while getting sympathetic press from the state's newspapers—most notably the Kansas City Times. Jesse James, who killed with bushwacker Bloody Bill Anderson at Centralia, was to excuse his murder of a resident of Gallatin, during a bank robbery, saying he thought he was killing Samuel P. Cox, who had hunted down Anderson after Centralia. In addition, the vigilante activities of the 'Bald Knobbers' in south-central Missouri during the 1880s have been interpreted by some as a further continuation of Civil War related guerrilla warfare.