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The Civil War in Missouri

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This Means War


Missourians' complex identities led to complex choices, not all of which were made freely. Everyone took up some kind of position, whether on the front lines or at home.

The moderate residents of Missouri were in a precarious position. Powerful political figures on opposing ends pulled Missouri in two directions. On one side, Missouri governor Claiborne F. Jackson, a Southern Rights proponent, determined to get Missouri out of the Union. He was matched by Unionist Frank Blair Jr., founder of the state's Republican Party, who stood resolute in his determination to keep Missouri from seceding. As tensions rose locally and nationally, passionate Union loyalists and Confederate secessionists declared their allegiances emphatically. However, those who had no clear leanings were forced to choose a side as well. Once he was elected governor, Jackson revealed his true intentions by declaring in his inaugural speech that "Missouri then…will best consult her own interest, and the interest of the whole country, by a timely declaration of her determination to stand by her sister slaveholding States…." He called for a state convention to determine Missouri's future, but the governor badly overestimated the citizens' desires to side with the South. Convention representatives voted overwhelmingly to remain in the Union, passing by 98 to 1 a resolution declaring "at present there is no adequate cause to impel Missouri to dissolve her connections with the Federal Union."

On the eve of war, tensions in Missouri heightened as militias armed themselves and military and political leaders strategized ways to gain an upper hand in the state.

St. Louis quickly affirmed its identity as a Northern city by using its industrial power in the war effort.

The Battle of Wilson's Creek in 1861 showed that military medical services on both sides were ill prepared and ill equipped to treat and transport wounded soldiers.

Recruitment notices in Missouri often appealed to men's sense of public duty and allegiance.

Faces of Soldiers

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Battle of Wilson's Creek

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Mississippi Valley Sanitary Fair

Explore the fair like they did in 1864

Thematic Collections: This Means War

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