“The Confederate Camp” by J. W. Tucker, Missouri Army Argus, Osceola, Mo., Dec. 12, 1861
We have written on Joseph W. Tucker before (see J.W. Tucker and the Boat-Burners and “Sultana: A Case for Sabotage” in North and South magazine) and no doubt will do so again. Tucker is an endlessly fascinating topic, the hottest “fire-eater” in Missouri and a man who appears to have had his thumb in every secret scheme and society that the Missouri Confederates ever cooked up.
Having maneuvered all state printing business to his unambiguously pro-secession Missouri State Journal in the months before the war commenced, his St. Louis offices were raided in June of 1861 by the Union authorities. Found there was a letter from Governor Claiborne Jackson, unambiguously stating his plans to take the state out of the Union. This letter was used against the Governor when the State Convention —by this time shorn of almost all members who were not Unconditional Unionists— met in July and removed Jackson from office.
A footnote in Christopher Phillips’ Missouri’s Confederate seems to suggest that this letter may have been a fake, possibly planted by the Unionists to be found during their search and used against both Tucker and Jackson. This is an interesting possibility, but to our minds is unlikely. Thomas L. Snead knew both of these men very well, and worked closely with them during the war. It is hard to believe that if the letter were a fake that one or both of them would not have apprised him of the fact. Yet Snead makes no mention of it in his book The Fight For Missouri. As this letter was one of the grounds used (though there can be little doubt that the Convention was going to supplant Jackson with one of its own no matter what) to remove the Governor, certainly Snead would have mentioned it had one of the principals ever claimed the letter to be a forgery.
On trial for Treason in St. Louis, Tucker jumped a $10,000 bail and headed straight for the camp of the Missouri State Guard. There he started the Missouri Army Argus and followed after the Guard. As the Guard was sworn into Confederate service in late ’61 and early ’62, he and his paper continued to tag along. Following the Missourians across Ole Man River, Tucker situated his paper first at Jackson, Miss., and finally at Mobile, Ala. as the Argus & Crisis. Wherever Tucker and his paper were based, two things were constant —it was the unofficial voice of Governor Claiborne Jackson and Gen. Sterling Price, and it was often a thorn in the side of the Confederate government at Richmond.
Below is one of the few surviving articles from the Missouri Army Argus. This article was written at a time when the Missouri Confederate leadership was doing everything it could to encourage soldiers of the State Guard to re-enlist as members of the Confederate States Army. It is, quite frankly, a recruiting pitch —as full of promises as a politician on the stump.
Missouri Army Argus
December 12th, 1861
J. W. Tucker
THE CONFEDERATE CAMP.
We visited the encampment of Missouri troops, enlisted into the Confederate States’ service, yesterday, with feelings of pride and gratification.
The organization of State Guards, while it comprised the best fighting material in this or any other country, has proved very loose and defective. The largest army of troops thus organized would never constitute a very reliable force for military purposes. Without detailing reasons why this is so, every one is conscious of the fact, and all experience demonstrates its truth. The army of the Confederate States will present all the order, discipline, compactness, power, and efficiency of regular soldiers. It will constitute the regular army, while the State Guards, if the organization be maintained at all, will be regarded as the militia troops.
The popularity of the Confederate army in Missouri will sweep all before it. It is the army to conquer and hold the State. It is, in the language of sportsmen, the card that will win. That army will become the Old Guard of our history. It will be admirably armed and equipped, and well provided with all things necessary to the soldier’s comfort. The troops thus employed will be regularly paid in money every two months. The entire corps will be under the command of General Price.
Reason as we may, only this movement can save the State and insure its complete protection. Missouri can never be free by her own unaided efforts. Our Southern allies open wide their arms to embrace her as one of their family. Their money and their men are pledged to our defence. Flock to the Confederate camp, brave boys, and raise a war-cry there which shall shake the hills and strike terror into the ranks of the oppressors!
There will be connected with the Confederate camp a most magnificent sutler’s establishment, where every comfort and delicacy known to the shops of a great city can be purchased. The parties have already ordered up from the South the necessary supplies.
Rally to the Confederate camp, boys, join hands with your comrades in arms and hurl defiance into the teeth of the cruel and bloody tyrants that waste and afflict the State.
Who will NOT go?
Thousands have already enrolled their names, and those names WILL BE RECORDED IN HISTORY.