The Civil War in Missouri

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Broadside Declaring Major General John C. Frémont’s Proclamation of Martial Law

MHM Archives

In his attempt to protect the public, suppress disloyalty, and maintain order, John C. Frémont, commanding the Department of the West in 1861, gave the military full authority over civilians by issuing a proclamation of martial law for St. Louis City and County. Citing the "disorganized condition" of the state and "the helplessness of the civil authority," he extended martial law throughout Missouri two weeks later. Frustrated with "murderers and marauders who infest nearly every county in the State," Frémont established a region of occupation northeast of a line drawn from Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, on the western border, through Jefferson City, Rolla, and Ironton to Cape Girardeau that he was confident his army could control. Anyone "taken with arms in their hands" in this area, Frémont warned, "shall be tried by Court Martial, and if found guilty will be shot."