The Civil War in Missouri

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Camp Jackson

ca. 1861
MHM Photographs and Prints

On May 6, 1861, less than a month after the firing on Fort Sumter initiated the Civil War, troops of the Missouri Volunteer Militia marched to Lindell Grove to set up Camp Jackson, named in honor of Missouri governor Claiborne F. Jackson. Publicly, the encampment was peaceful—the militia troops had been called in for their annual drill, and citizens ventured to the grounds to watch them—but secretly it had subversive intentions. Governor Jackson, a secessionist, had plans for the militia troops to capture the coveted U.S. Arsenal at St. Louis. However, Captain Nathaniel Lyon acted preemptively, and on the morning of May 10, he marched his 8,000 Union soldiers to Camp Jackson and captured the smaller militia force that numbered less than 800. Lyon’s actions may not have been necessary; in anticipation of an attack on the arsenal, U.S. forces had already moved the arms and munitions from the arsenal to safety across the Mississippi River to Illinois days before. The surrender itself was made without any incident, but as Union soldiers accompanied prisoners on the march back to the arsenal, crowds lined the streets to watch, and in some cases intimidate, the troops. Suddenly, shots were fired under circumstances that are still disputed today. Some claimed that the Union soldiers fired first, while others claimed that the soldiers fired in self-defense. Regardless, once order was restored, 30 soldiers and civilians, including a woman and a girl, lay dead and wounded, the first casualties in Missouri of the Civil War.