The Civil War in Missouri

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The Fateful Meeting in the St. Louis Hotel

From McElroy’s The Struggle for Missouri, 1909
MHM Library

On June 11, 1861, Governor Jackson, General Price, and his aide, Thomas Snead, met with General Nathaniel Lyon, Colonel Frank Blair Jr., and aide-de-camp Horace Conant to propose neutrality. After more than four hours of discussion it became evident that no solution could be reached. As Snead later recalled, Lyon rose to his feet and closed the meeting by stating, “Rather than concede to the state of Missouri…the right to dictate to my government in any matter however unimportant, I would see you, and you, and you, and you, and you [pointing to each man in the room], and every man, woman, and child in the state dead and buried. This means war.” Conant remembered Lyon’s remarks as slightly less inflammatory.

Claiming himself to be an ardent supporter of peace, Lyon feared that the relationship between Missouri and the United States had reached a tipping point, and now it was “far better, that the blood of every man, woman, and child of the State should flow than that she should successfully defy the Federal Government.” Regardless of which version of Lyon’s speech is correct, his action of abruptly ending the meeting had the same result. There would be no negotiated peace between opposing factions. Open war in Missouri would begin.