150 Years Ago Today, Missouri Was About to Join the Confederacy

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Cpt. Nathaniel Lyon -- Unionist, religious, and pretty brutal - IMAGE VIA
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  • Cpt. Nathaniel Lyon -- Unionist, religious, and pretty brutal
"Sophocles himself could not have better staged the tragedy that unfolded in Missouri in the spring and summer of 1861."
So wrote University of Cincinnati Professor Christopher Phillips over the weekend in The New York Times with a fascinating little piece on "Missouri's War Within the War." If you wanna brush up on your history, folks, know this: 150 years ago today, our state was falling apart.

By the time the weather turned warm in 1861, the majority of Missourians wanted to stay in the Union, but didn't want the federal government instructing them how to deal with slaves -- a position of "qualified loyalty," as Phillips puts it.

Things got really dramatic in May, when federal forces laid siege to what they considered a secessionist state militia encampment (near the current St. Louis University campus). This touched off a serious riot in the city.

Then, on June 11, Missouri governor Clairborne Fox Jackson denounced the federal government and called upon tens of thousands to resist. Hours later, Cpt. Nathaniel Lyon -- a religious and brutal Union officer known for slaughtering Indians and severely punishing his own men -- set off up the Missouri River to take control Jefferson City.

And so, on this day in 1861, Union troops were streaming toward the capital. They soon clashed with state troops in Boonville. A month later, Missouri was decisively on the Northern side.

There are tons of interesting comments on the Times website; one guy even wrote this:
Missouri is nine miles from my house. I went to college in Missouri and to grad school at Mizzou. I know Missouri.....General Lyons is still a hero amongst the loyal citizens of Missouri. His heroism will never be forgotten by the people. I apologize for such a long exegesis but this matter remains personal to many of us.
After all these years, the Civil War is still personal to area residents? Not that Lyons is unimportant, but Daily RFT would wager most people have no idea who he is.

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