The Civil War in Missouri

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A State Divided

In the 100 years before the Civil War, Missouri experienced dramatic transformations. It changed from a foreign wilderness outpost in the mid-1700s to a U.S. territory in the early 1800s before finally achieving statehood in 1821.

During this transitional period the institution of slavery remained a constant, but the composition of Missouri’s population did not. Missouri retained its multicultural identity and a diversity of customs, but its earliest inhabitants—first Native Americans and then French and Spanish settlers—were supplanted by hordes of other European immigrants and American settlers from both Northern and Southern states. Each group brought its own attitudes and beliefs about slavery. Missouri became increasingly divided over the issue, eventually becoming a battleground where its own citizens were pitted against each other in bitter conflict.

The Civil War in Missouri is about more than battles and strategies. It is about the men, women, and children from all walks of life who survived or perished in the turmoil of a state divided against itself. It is about the struggle to abolish slavery and the opposing fight to preserve and maintain it; it is about the definition of loyalty and how to prove it; it is about the hardships encountered by Missourians from one end of the state to the other; and it is about the heartache of losing life, property, and values to a violent, unforgiving war.


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