Part IV

The Situation On The Border And In The West.

       A glance at the Western States at this date shows that in the far northwest of the Confederacy war broke out coincidently with the movements on the Atlantic side. Arkansas, at first indisposed to join the Confederacy, took its place with the seceded States immediately after coercion was inaugurated. The governor answered Lincoln's requisition with a prompt reply on the 22d of April that his State would furnish no troops to subjugate the South. The State then seceded on the 6th of May, and its convention authorized the raising of 60,000 soldiers. The arsenal at Little Rock fell into the possession of State troops; Forts Smith, Pine Bluff and Napoleon with their stores were seized and occupied; the organization of State troops was effected with some rapidity, although no formidable invasion of the State had occurred; and several commands were sent on to Virginia. The army of the State was organized in two divisions, commanded by Generals McCulloch and Pearce. With creditable energy Arkansas put into line in the first year about 20,000 men, out of a total voting population of about 50,000. Portions of these troops, marching to the support of Price in Missouri, very greatly aided in saving that State for the first year from Federal control. Later in the war its men fought bravely in the general Confederate field from Maryland to Texas.
       Missouri, which had given 148,000 votes against Lincoln and only 17,000 in his favor, and retained a bitter memory of the Kansas troubles, was among the first of the Southern States to suffer the distress of armed invasion. The governor, in January, had declared for the Union as long as it would observe the Constitution which created it, but regarded coercion as an oppression which must be resisted. The convention which met first at Jefferson in February, and then at St. Louis in March, was decidedly against immediate secession. After prolonged discussion it was resolved that Missouri desired the perpetuity of the Union, that the Crittenden resolutions made a good basis for adjusting all difficulties, and that Federal troops should be withdrawn from forts where there was danger of collision, in order to prevent civil war in the State. With exceeding caution, justified, as many of its public men thought, by its specially endangered position, Missouri moved at first with an earnest purpose to prevent the horrors of war.
       But war was not only inevitable; it was at hand. The fateful proclamation of the President of the United States seemed to Governor Jackson, of Missouri, to start a civil war and to precede a consolidated despotism--and he said so; but he counseled the legislature to take no precipitate and passionate step. Great excitement was caused by the warlike news from Washington city, amidst which arms were secretly conveyed out of Missouri from the unprotected arsenal at St. Louis and delivered into the keeping of hostile parties at Springfield, Ill. This abstraction of arms, with which the forces of the State might have been equipped, and the surrender of Camp Jackson, at the same date, caused an alarm that precipitated the passage by the legislature of the pending military bill, which authorized the governor to equip the military and take command in person, so as to suppress riots and insurrections in the State.
       General Harney, of the Federal army, came to St. Louis April 15th, assumed command of the military department, and agreed with Major-General Price, representing the governor, upon a plan to preserve the peace, which proved futile because it was disapproved at Washington. Another attempt at agreement, proposed by Governor Jackson, was made June 11th, in which he and General Price acted for Missouri, while Frank P Blair and General Lyon represented the United States. This also failing, the governor issued his proclamation on the 12th of June, describing his extraordinary efforts to avoid war, and the causes of their failure, and at the same time called for 50,000 men "for the purpose of repelling invasion and for the protection of the lives, liberty and property of the citizens."
       General Lyon had insisted, in the peace conference with Jackson and Price, on the complete occupation of the State by the military forces of the United States, in order to reduce it, as avowed by himself, "to the exact condition of Maryland," and on the governor's rejection of these terms prepared at once to overthrow the State government by his military force. The day following the governor's proclamation, Lyon moved with 1,500 men from St. Louis upon Jefferson city, which he seized, and proceeded toward Booneville, where he was met in battle by the governor, who with Colonel Marmaduke had collected a small body of Missourians. The affair was small in casualties, but signified fully that the Federal government was resolved on the conquest of the State. After this there was rapid increase of military events. June was consumed in recruiting and marching to positions. The Federals had gained great advantage in the prolonged negotiations for peace, during which the increasing and arming of commands went on. The adjoining State of Illinois also stood prepared to throw 10,000 troops across the State lines on any day. Lyon sent out many scouting parties and various expeditions which harassed Missouri. Many small encounters occurred, and one of larger measure at Carthage, where General Price, with General Rains and Governor Jackson, defeated Sigel on the 5th of July. About a month later Lyon lost his life in battle at Wilson's creek, or Oak Hills, in which Price and McCulloch, with Missouri and Arkansas regiments, won a Confederate victory. The situation in Missouri at this period, while the first battle of Manassas was taking place in Virginia, shows that military operations were in hot progress in the far west; but the general view here taken of the border States in these first months of the war as they were related to the entire field of operations, requires a change of attention from this interesting stage of Missouri's affairs, to take into consideration the opening of the war in Kentucky.
       Kentucky's attitude in the general convulsion of the country was very much like that of Missouri and Maryland. In all public expressions by conventions and popular assemblies, Kentucky spoke unitedly the aversion of the people to war and a purpose to abide the administration of President Lincoln unless coercion and subjugation became his manifest policy. Crittenden, her distinguished and venerable Senator, had declared Kentucky's position in the celebrated resolutions which the United States Congress had rejected. Yet, after the demand for troops to be furnished by the State to subjugate the South, Kentucky was in a dilemma. April and May were passed by the people in a condition of general alarm, and at the end of this waiting it was found that the neutrality which they had hoped for had been made impossible. Already had the agents of the Federal government made large enlistments in the army. An encampment of Federal soldiers had been established under Nelson on Kentucky ground, and Governor McGoffin's petition to President Lincoln for their removal had been not only refused, but with the refusal he declined to entertain Kentucky's plea for neutrality. President Davis had replied to the governor's letter on the neutrality question that his government would respect Kentucky's desire, provided such neutrality were strictly observed toward both parties. But even during this correspondence the northern borders were occupied by Federal volunteers, while near the southern line Confederate forces were camping, and within the State the young men were dividing in hostile camps.
       Military operations began in western Virginia immediately after the secession of the State. The political movement made in May to cut a new State out of the western side of Virginia, was encouraged by a prompt gathering of United States troops in Ohio and Pennsylvania. General McClellan, the commanding general of the department, moved across the Ohio early in May, and with Rosecrans began a military occupation of this part of Virginia. Governor Letcher met the movement by forwarding such troops as could be spared, and the Confederate government, taking upon itself the defense of this region, sent General Wise into the Kanawha valley and commissioned General Floyd to raise a brigade in southwest Virginia to co-operate with Wise. Colonel Porterfield, commanding a small body of Confederates, was also sent to seize the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, but his force was inadequate to the task. Garnett and Pegram, overmatched by Rosecrans and McClellan, were forced away from the mountain positions they had attempted to hold. The Confederates won in several affairs, but the day went against them at Phillipi, June 3d; Rich mountain, July 11th, and Carrick's ford, July 13th. As the outcome of these combats the Federals under McClellan held military control of northwestern Virginia, and this important left flank of the Confederate general line of defense was broken down as early as the 15th of July.
       The military situation in Maryland, another of the States lying between the South and the armies of invasion, may be considered here in association with the state of affairs in Missouri, Kentucky and western Virginia. It is doubtless true that Maryland would have decided to unite with the Confederate States if the question had been left to the free action of its people. Its importance to the Confederacy was not exceeded by that of any other State. Unfortunately, the Confederate government was not able to occupy this valuable ally at once, and it fell quickly into the firm grasp of the Federal forces. Across the route on which the troops called for by Lincoln's proclamation were to march to Washington, lay this southern commonwealth pleading like Kentucky and Missouri for neutrality and imploring the stay of the threatening conflict. Maryland asked that her soil be relieved from the odium of being the passage ground of troops called to invade Virginia and the South. The reasonable request was refused, and on the 19th of April a body of Federal troops on the way to Washington landed in Baltimore, marched through its streets and encountered an excited population. Mutual firing ensued, during which the first blood of the Southern revolution was shed. The event startled the administration at Washington and caused a temporary apparent change of policy, but within a few days it became clear that Maryland was to be devoted to complete subjugation. General Butler, placed in command to execute this policy, began by fortifying the position at the Relay house, and on the 5th of May took military possession of Baltimore and converted it into a military encampment. Civil authority was entirely overthrown, arrests of officials and citizens followed, and the State government was subverted.

This Page last updated 02/10/02