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The St. Louis Massacre

        In Missouri the conflicts of unconditional Unionists, conservative Unionists, and secessionists produced unusual turbulence and governmental confusion. The governor, Claiborne F. Jackson, leading the movement for secession, was able to persuade the legislature to call a convention; but when the convention was chosen its personnel was so overwhelmingly Unionist that it adjourned on March 22 without passing the ordinance of secession which the governor had desired. The Jackson element and the Union element were soon armed in opposing groups, and forebodings of trouble were seen when a force accused of being pro-Confederate formed a camp at St. Louis (Camp Jackson) while at the same time and in the same city the aggressive Nathaniel Lyon was in command of a pro-Union force which he had newly organized. Though the officers and men of Camp Jackson professed their support of the Union, Lyon, believing their protestations to be misleading, moved upon them in force, surrounded them with superior numbers, and compelled their surrender (May 10, 1861). Street fighting then occurred between Union soldiers and enraged citizens, resulting in twenty-eight deaths; and reports were spread of a massacre of defenseless persons, including women and children. Indignation at this massacre would have been enough to produce a reaction; but there were other elements in the complex situation. One factor was that of native Americanism versus foreigners. Since the Germans of Missouri, as elsewhere, were solidly Republican, anti-slavery, and Unionist, the force of anti-foreign prejudice, fanned so recently into flame by the Knownothings, a potent force with the populace, became a powerful ally of the anti-Unionists. Governor Jackson with his legislature now organized a state military force, putting it under the command of ex-Governor Sterling Price, a man of character and influence who had served the Mexican War. He had been a Unionist, presiding at the convention which bad repudiated secession, but now he had become outraged at the conduct of Lyon and the extreme Unionists as to join the secession ranks. Internecine war resulted.1 At tile battle of Wilsons Creek (August 10, 1861) Federal troops were defeated, but at Pea Ridge (March 6-8, 1862) they won a smashing victory and all except a small portion of the territory of the state fell under Unionist control.
Source:  "The Civil War and Reconstruction" by Randall and Donald

This Page last updated 02/16/02


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