January 2, 1863: Lincoln on the Government Running Churches

Major General Samuel Curtis


In examining the voluminous correspondence of President Lincoln during the Civil War, I have come to appreciate the endless difficulties and problems that confronted him each day.  One piece of correspondence underlines this fact.

Missouri was a state bitterly divided during the Civil War and for years afterwards.  Dr. Samuel P. McPheeters was a prominent Presbyterian minister in Saint Louis.  He had taken the loyalty oath to the Union, but his sympathies were clearly with the Confederacy and this would come out in some of the sermons he preached.  Major General Samuel Curtis, the commander of the Department of Missouri, took exception to one of his sermons and ordered his Church closed.  McPheeters traveled to Washington and went to see Lincoln along with Attorney General Bates and Dr. R. L. Stanton who was a leader in the Presbyterian church in the US and a friend of Lincoln.  Bates went along because as Attorney General he had always looked askance at military measures taken against civilians, and because he was a leader of the conservative faction of the Republican party in Missouri and Curtis was aligned with the radical faction of the party in Missouri that pressed for ever harsher sanctions against rebel sympathizers.

Dr. Stanton left a record of the meeting:

“I can best illustrate my position in regard to your St. Louis quarrel by telling a story.   A man in Illinois had a large watermelon patch, on which he hoped to make money enough to carry him over the year. A big hog broke through the log-fence nearly every night, and the melons were gradually disappearing. At length the farmer told his son John to get out the guns, and they would promptly dispose of the disturber of their melon-patch. They followed the tracks to the neighboring creek, where they disappeared. They discovered them on the opposite bank, and waded through. They kept on the trail a couple hundred yards, when the tracks again went into the creek, but promptly turned up on the other side. Once more the hunters buffeted the mud and water, and again struck the lead and pushed on a few furlongs, when the tracks made another diver into the creek. Out of breath and patience, the farmer said, ‘John, you cross over and go up on that side of the creek, and I’ll keep upon this side, for I believe the old fellow is on both sides.’

Gentlemen,’ concluded Mr. Lincoln, ‘that is just where I stand in regard to your controversies in St. Louis. I am on both sides. I can’t allow my generals to run the churches, and I can’t allow your ministers to preach rebellion. Go home, preach the Gospel, stand by the Union, and don’t disturb the government with any more of your petty quarrels.”

Lincoln wrote to General Curtis about McPheeters and underlined his opposition to the government attempting to run churches: (more…)

Published in: on January 2, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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August 21, 1863: Raid on Lawrence Kansas


The bloodiest atrocity of the Civil War occurred one hundred and fifty-eight years ago.  The Civil War in Kansas and Missouri was war to the knife and the knife to the hilt.   “Captain” William C. Quantrill had been a practitioner in the bloody art of raid and counter-raid since 1861.  He planned the raid to kill Senator Jim Lane, leader of the Jayhawkers of Kansas, in retaliation for Lane’s plundering of Osceola, Missouri in 1861 during which nine pro-Confederate men had been executed following a drum head courtmartial.  The collapse of a house used as a jail for pro-Confederate women in Kansas City, Kansas on August 13, 1863 inflamed Confederate partisans.  Four women were killed, including the 15 year old sister of “Bloody Bill” Anderson, Quantrill’s chief lieutenant.  Gathering 450 raiders, Quantrill rode into Lawrence at dawn on August 21, 1863.

The raiders embarked upon a four hour orgy of murder and plunder of the unarmed citizenry.  Between 185 to 200 men and boys were murdered.  The cut off point for boys was the vague standard of whether they could carry a rifle.  The youngest boy slain was 12 or 14 years old.  No outrages were committed against the women of the town, other than seeing their husbands, brothers and sons, and other male relatives and friends, gunned down before their eyes.  Lane, ironically, escaped by running into a cornfield in his nightshirt.

In the aftermath of the raid, General Thomas Ewing, Jr. issued General Order No. 11 ordering the evacuation of Confederate civilians from four Missouri western counties: (more…)

Published in: on August 21, 2021 at 11:59 pm  Comments Off on August 21, 1863: Raid on Lawrence Kansas  
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The Honey War

The Honey War


Boundary disputes between states and territories were not uncommon in the 19th century, but few have caused the participants in The Honey War.  The Honey War resulted from a dispute over the boundary line between the state of Missouri and what was then the territory of Iowa.  The constitution of the state of Missouri defined the boundaries of the state:

Beginning in the middle of the Mississippi River, on the parallel of thirty-six degrees of north latitude; thence west along the said parallel of latitude to the St. Francois River; thence up and following the course of that river, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the parallel of latitude of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes; thence west along the same to a point where the said parallel is intersected by a meridian line passing through the middle of the mouth of the Kansas River, where the same empties into the Missouri River; thence, from the point aforesaid, north along the said meridian line, to the intersection of the parallel of latitude which passes through the rapids of the River Des Moines, making said line correspond with the Indian boundary-line; thence east from the point of intersection last aforesaid, along the said parallel of latitude, to the middle of the channel of the main fork of the said River Des Moines; thence down along the middle of the main channel of the said River Des Moines to the mouth of the same, where it empties into the Mississippi River; thence due east to the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi River; thence down and following the course of the Mississippi River, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the place of beginning.

Confusion developed over what rapids were referred to on the River Des Moines.  Iowa claimed land south to 15 miles into modern Missouri and Missouri claimed land 9.5 miles into modern Iowa.

In 1839 the dispute heated up with Iowans chasing Missouri tax collectors out of what is now two Iowa counties at pitchfork point.  Missouri tax collectors supposedly cut down three trees containing bee hives to collect the honey in lieu of taxes.

Missouri militia was sent out under Major General David Willock, who quite sensibly was unwilling to engage in blood shed over an issue that should be resolved by Congress.  Three companies of Iowa militia were mustered although their military effectiveness was suspect according to a contemporary witness:

in the ranks were to be found men armed with blunderbusses, flintlocks, and quaint old ancestral swords that had probably adorned the walls for many generations. One private carried a plough coulter over his shoulder by means of a log chain, another had an old-fashioned sausage stuffer for a weapon, while a third shouldered a sheet iron sword about six feet long. (more…)

Published in: on September 22, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Honey War  
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January 8, 1863: Second Battle of Springfield, Missouri

An unusual example of urban combat during the Civil War, the hard-fought Second Battle of Springfield, Missouri on January 8, 1863 was one of the endless engagements that made Missouri one of the most fought over states during the Civil War.  The Union had heavily fortified Springfield and used it as linchpin of Union control of southwestern Missouri.

The Union garrison numbered only 1324 Union veteran troops, but four strong forts surrounded the city and Missouri Union militia swelled the number of the defenders to slightly more than 2000 men.  Brigadier General Egbert Brown, the commander of the garrison decided to stand and fight.

The Confederates consisted of about 2000 veteran cavalry under General John S. Marmaduke.  The standout unit among the Confederates was the Iron Brigade led by Colonel Jo Shelby, one of the more talented Confederate cavalry commanders of the War. (more…)

Published in: on January 8, 2019 at 11:30 pm  Comments Off on January 8, 1863: Second Battle of Springfield, Missouri  
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Missouri Waltz

Something for the weekend.  Missouri Waltz.  Published in 1914, the melody was by John Valentine Eppel, arrangement by Frederic Knight Logan, with James Royce Shannon supplying the lyrics.  Initially the song sold poorly, but its popularity increased over the years.  After Harry Truman became President it became associated with him, and was played constantly when he appeared during his long uphill campaign throughout the nation in 1948.  In 1949 Missouri adopted it as its state song. (more…)

Published in: on October 8, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Missouri Waltz  
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Price’s Raid

Price's Raid

The last significant military offensive of the Confederacy west of the Mississippi, Price’s Raid started on August 28, 1864 when Major General Sterling Price, a former governor of Missouri, departed Camden, Arkansas on his horse Bucephalus.  Leading three divisions of Confederate cavalry, approximately 12,000 troopers, in the longest raid of the war, traveling 1, 434 miles across Missouri, into Kansas, through the Indian Territory and back into Arkansas.  During the raid Price and his men fought some 43 battles and skirmishes.

The raid was launched more out of Department Head Lieutenant General Kirby Smith’s frustration than anything else.  With the Union control of the Mississippi, Smith and his Trans-Mississippi Theater was effectively cut off from the West of the War.  Smith hit upon the idea of sending Sterling Price into Missouri to retake it for the Confederacy.  With 12,000 men, Price had no chance of doing that.  The Union had some 35,000 troops stationed in Missouri, tens of thousands of pro-Union Missouri militia on call, and ample reinforcements available from the east by rail or by river.  What Price could do however, was to assist the pro-Confederate guerillas who were part of a conflict that pre-dated the Civil War with the struggle between Kansas and Missouri in the fifties, and which would continue in Missouri through Reconstruction and, with outlaw gangs like that led by Jesse James, well into the 1870’s.

Price named his force the Army of Missouri.  All cavalry, the infantry units he had been initially promised being diverted for other tasks, his army lacked much essential equipment, many of his men being barefoot and dressed in near rags.  However, Price, although he had his failings as a commander, did not lack daring, and on September 19, he led his three divisions into his home state of Missouri.

On September 27 at Fort Davidson, near Ironton, Missouri, Price had his first battle and his first victory of the raid, but incurred high casualties.  Union troops were rushing to defend Saint Louis and Price, realizing that taking Saint Louis was well beyond his strenth, veered off to the west and Jefferson City.  Finding Jefferson City too heavily fortified, Price led his army to Booneville, north of Jefferson City.  Here on October 10, 1864 his troops got out of hand and alienated the pro-Confederate populace of the town.  On October 11, his troops repulsed a Union attack.  Bloody Bill Anderson and his gang of cutthroats joined Price’s force at Booneville, with Price outraged by the Union scalps displayed by Anderson and his men.  Ordered by Price to attack the North Missouri Railroad, Anderson and his men instead plundered numerous small towns north of the Missouri river, further alienating public sentiment.

At Glasgow, Missouri on October 15, Price gained the surrender of the Union garrison and a treasure trove of supplies, rifles, uniforms and horses.  His forces also took Sedalia, Missouri the same day.  Price’s army stayed in Glasgow for three days, which allowed the Union to bring troops to attack his force.

Riding towards, Kansas City, Price won several victories, but his progress was checked by Major General Samuel Curtiss leading a 22,000 man Union force he designated the Army of the Border.  On October 23,  at Westport, Missouri, now part of Kansas City, Price in four hours of attack was unable to break the Union lines, each side incurring 1500 casualties.

Price then began a long retreat along the Kansas-Missouri border, pursued by Union forces.  His command was reduced to near starvation as it made its way back through the Indian Territory and Texas.  On December 2, 1864 Price led back into Arkansas 6,000 of the 12,000 troops he started out with.

Here is Price’s report of his raid, which gives a fairly rosy hue on a campaign that ultimately accomplished nothing of value for the Confederacy: (more…)

Published in: on October 15, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Price’s Raid  
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October 29, 1862: Battle of Mound Island

The First Kansas Colored Volunteers was formed of escaped slaves from Missouri and Arkansas in August of 1862.  Because blacks could not officially join the Union Army at the time, the regiment was not mustered into Federal service until January 13, 1863.  Eventually it would be designated the 79th United States Colored Troops.

On October 27, 1862, the First Kansas was sent to the Toothman Homestead in Bates County, Missouri to break up a Confederate guerilla force near there.  The First Kansas found more guerillas than anticipated, supported by Confederate Missouri State Guards, and fortified the Toothman Homestead.  October 28 was spent in skirmishing.

On the 29th a skirmish between a First Kansas patrol and the Confederates led to a general engagement.  The Confederates withdrew.  The First Kansas sustained casualties of 8 killed and 11 wounded.  Confederate losses are uncertain although the First Kansas claim to have inflicted around 40 casualties. (more…)

Civil War Tourism: Missouri

With the Civil War Sesquicentennial, a boom in Civil War tourism is underway.  Of course, Civil War tourism has been a constant feature of American life since 1865, with Civil War veterans themselves taking the lead in the process.  Normally, a civil war such as America experienced in the 1860s would be a wound for a nation that would never heal.  In our nation it became an odd source of national pride, patriotism and an opportunity to make a buck.  America, what a country! (more…)

Published in: on August 23, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Civil War Tourism: Missouri  
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May 10, 1861: Civil War Comes to Missouri

Few states were more bitterly divided in the Civil War than Missouri.  With a pro-Confederate governor and a pro-Union legislature, the Missouri government was truly a house divided against itself.  On May 10, 1861, regulars and pro-Union Missouri militia, largely German immigrants from Saint Louis, under the command of Captain Nathan Lyons, forced the surrender of 669 pro-Confederate militia at Camp Jackson, just outside Saint Louis.  Marching the prisoners through Saint Louis, Lyons and his men encountered hostile mobs. (more…)

Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on May 10, 1861: Civil War Comes to Missouri  
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