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Missouri's War

The Civil War in Documents

Silvana R. Siddali

Publication Year: 2009

Civil War Missouri stood at the crossroads of America. As the most Southern-leaning state in the Middle West, Missouri faced a unique dilemma. The state formed the gateway between east and west, as well as one of the borders between the two contending armies. Moreover, because Missouri was the only slave state in the Great Interior, the conflicts that were tearing the nation apart were also starkly evident within the state.

Deep divisions between Southern and Union supporters, as well as guerrilla violence on the western border, created a terrible situation for civilians who lived through the attacks of bushwhackers and Jayhawkers.

The documents collected in Missouri's War reveal what factors motivated Missourians to remain loyal to the Union or to fight for the Confederacy, how they coped with their internal divisions and conflicts, and how they experienced the end of slavery in the state. Private letters, diary entries, song lyrics, official Union and Confederate army reports, newspaper editorials, and sermons illuminate the war within and across Missouri's borders.

Missouri's War also highlights the experience of free and enslaved African Americans before the war, as enlisted Union soldiers, and in their effort to gain rights after the end of the war. Although the collection focuses primarily on the war years, several documents highlight both the national sectional conflict that led to the outbreak of violence and the effort to reunite the conflicting forces in Missouri after the war.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Front Matter

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pp. xiii-xiv

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Series Editors’ Preface

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pp. xv-xvi

The Civil War in the Great Interior series focuses on the Middle West, as the complex region has come to be known, during the most critical era of American history. In his Annual Message to Congress in December of 1862, Abraham Lincoln identified “the great interior region” as the area between the Alleghenies and the Rocky Mountains, south of Canada and north of the “culture of cotton.” Lincoln ...

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pp. xvii-xx

As early as November 1861, the Missouri Republican published reports of blasted farms, gangs of horse thieves, and a “war amongst neighbors and brothers.”1 More than any other border state, Missouri suffered criss-crossing raids by guerrilla fighters, invasions by soldiers of both armies, and bitter internal violence. Indeed, for many Missourians, civil warfare began years before the battle of Fort Sumter. ...

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pp. 21-22

I thank Christine Dee most of all, not only for giving me the opportunity to work on this project but also for all her constant support, friendship, and guidance. This book would not have been possible without her excellent commentaries. I’m also grateful to Gillian Berchowitz for her patient and cheerful help in shepherding the project through to completion. I am grateful to Rick Huard for his extraordinary care and ...

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pp. 1-5

In early January 1856, the Kickapoo Rangers, a group of proslavery Missourians, left their homes to cross the border into the Kansas Territory. They had heard that the first election under the new antislavery constitution was shortly to be held near Leavenworth, and the rangers were determined to prevent the hated abolitionists from gaining ground in the neighboring territory. On January 15, the...

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1. Slavery in Missouri

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pp. 6-30

In 1820, Missouri’s white settlers wanted their territory to enter the Union as a slave state, even though most of them did not own slaves. They had come from the Upper South states of Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia and brought with them a firm commitment to the institution of slavery. When these settlers first decided to move westward, they chose the Missouri Territory rather ...

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2. Missouri Divides

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pp. 31-57

The new state of Missouri proved to be a roaring success. Settlers farmed the fertile lands along the rivers, hunted furs, mined lead, and generally found prosperity in the 1820s and 1830s. Barges, flatboats, and steamboats navigating the Missouri and Mississippi rivers carried tobacco, hemp, and furs to the rest of the nation and to ships that crossed the Atlantic. The river trade and hundreds of miles of ...

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3. Missourians Confront War

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pp. 58-83

As states from the deep south seceded from the Union during the winter of 1860–61, Governor Claiborne F. Jackson urged the General Assembly to call a convention to consider the state’s relationship with the federal government. He believed that in doing so, he was guiding Missouri along the path followed by the Southern states. In Missouri, however, the results were rather different: the ...

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4. Missouri’s Battles

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pp. 84-120

Violence and bloodshed had plagued the boundary areas of Missouri for years before the Civil War began, especially in the western and northern counties of the state. During the war, battles over the future of slavery continued or renewed old conflicts originating in the state’s territorial period, and political allegiances intensified as open warfare gripped the state. For the first two years of ...

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5. Civilians Cope with War

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pp. 121-154

Throughout 1861 and 1862, Union army commanders struggled with two urgent problems: how to eliminate outrages committed by guerrilla bands and how to drive regular Confederate forces out of the state. Groups of guerrilla fighters, both pro-Southern bushwhackers and pro-Union jayhawkers, were targeting enemy soldiers and civilians alike. The laws of warfare at the time did not ...

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6. Bushwhackers, Jayhawkers, and Prisoners

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pp. 155-189

In August 1863, General Thomas Ewing Jr. had had enough of the guerrilla warfare that was raging across western Missouri. Ewing ordered that any citizens giving aid to William Clarke Quantrill and his men were to be arrested. Ewing soon detained thirteen women in the makeshift jail in Kansas City, Missouri. Among the detainees were Mary, Martha, and Josephine Anderson, sisters ...

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7. First Steps toward Emancipation

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pp. 190-214

Before the war, a majority of Missouri voters supported the institution of slavery, but this attitude did not automatically translate into support for secession. Conservatives—like Provisional Governor Hamilton Gamble, Democratic senator John B. Henderson, and Missouri State Convention delegate Samuel M. Breckinridge, for example—had always believed that slavery would be safeguarded ...

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8. Reconciliation and Promises

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pp. 215-242

By late autumn 1864, General Sterling Price’s dream of a Confederate Missouri had ended. The state was safe in the Union and free from the burden of slavery, but still tormented by guerrilla and criminal violence. Refugees who had fled or been forced out of the western counties were slowly beginning to return, but they faced severe hardships due to the missed planting season and depreda-...


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pp. 243-252

Discussion Questions

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pp. 253-256


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pp. 257-267

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 263-268


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pp. 269-274

E-ISBN-13: 9780821443354
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821417324

Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Missouri -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources.
  • Missouri -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Social aspects -- Sources.
  • Missouri -- Politics and government -- 1861-1865 -- Sources.
  • Slavery -- Missouri -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
  • Slavery -- Political aspects -- Missouri -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
  • African Americans -- Missouri -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
  • African Americans -- Missouri -- Social conditions -- 19th century -- Sources.
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