On the Number of Confederate States

On the Number of Confederate States:

A Mini-Rant

by G. E. Rule

Q: So, what set you off this time?

A: I was reading William W. Freehling’s The South vs The South and he referred in the preface to “the eleven Confederate states”.

Q: Oh. Left out Missouri and Kentucky, did he?

A: Yup.

Q: Well, he’s hardly the only one to have done that, right?

A: True. This isn’t an anti-Freehling rant; he just wins the “match that lit Geo’s fire this time” award.  His book will be on our Missouri Civil War Syllabus; on the Union list.

Q: You’d think he’d know better, wouldn’t you?

A: He does know better. They all know better.

Q: So he’s doing it just to annoy you?

A: Hardly. Let’s not get paranoid here.

Q: Then why?

A: Well, this is speculative, but I think there is a natural desire to try to make neat and tidy a situation that by its very nature was unneat and untidy. This is what historians do; try to organize complex situations in a way that makes sense for the reader. Unfortunately, that just isn’t appropriate when a key attribute of the situation itself is its untidy nature. Organizing this aspect of the Civil War as regards Missouri and Kentucky is a disservice that results in miscommunication, not clarification.

Q: Well, look, how can you say Missouri wasn’t a Union state when the Union controlled it virtually throughout the war?

A: Where did I say it wasn’t a Union state?

Q: Umm.  Up there where you said it should be listed as one of 13 Confederate states.

A: Ah. See, there’s the problem. You are trying to impose a neat, tidy, binary, mutually exclusive view of the world onto a situation that was everything but neat, tidy, etc. Insisting that Missouri and Kentucky be listed as Confederate states is not the same as saying that the Confederates controlled those states.

Q: Then how do you define a “Confederate state”?

A: That’s easy; by reference to the group that “owned” that definition. The Congress of the Confederate States of America is the only rational referee for what was and wasn’t a “Confederate State”.  They admitted Missouri in November of 1861 and Kentucky in December of the same year.

Q: Doesn’t the Union get a say in that definition?

A: Yes, indeed. The Union got the ultimate say. The Union said all along—and by May of 1865 were able to enforce that understanding—that there were no Confederate states. However, this isn’t too interesting a point for discussing the war itself.

Q: Really, the Union claimed there were no Confederate states? No war?

A: Right. Just a “rebellion”, but the Union often talked out of both sides of its mouth on this issue when it suited the needs of the moment, particularly with foreign governments. Under international law, it was necessary for there to be a “war” so that Southern ports could be blockaded, foreign ships stopped and searched, etc. The correspondence with the British government was particularly convoluted (and nasty) on this point. Pretty much that was handled the way the Mafia would handle it; “Gee, that sure is a nice colony you have up there in Canada. Would be a darn shame if something happened to it. You’ve heard of the Monroe Doctrine, right?  Uh huh. Well, have a nice day.”

Q: So, if the Union said there were no “Confederate states”, what were they fighting?

A: The 11 states that the Union said were in rebellion. Yes, that’s where the 11 comes from.  This list of 11 states bears an unremarkable resemblance to the 13 Confederate states, with only Missouri and Kentucky missing. Of course, Missouri ended up being under martial law for practically the entire war, and Kentucky for a good chunk of it, but according to the Union they were never actually “in rebellion”. This had more to do with being nice to the Pro-Union forces in those states than anything else—though it did have some benefits. During the war there were congressmen and senators from Missouri at Washington, DC (just as there were in the Confederate congress at Richmond), and at the end of the war Missouri and Kentucky were never subjected to Congressional Reconstruction because they had never officially (by the Union definition) been “in rebellion”. The Union gets to own their definition of “in rebellion” just as the Confederates get to own their definition of a “Confederate state”.

Q: So which list should we use? The Union’s list of 11, or the Confederates list of 13?

A: Both. It just depends on the context. Indeed the Confederate list of 13 actually makes Freehling’s point better than the Union list of 11, as it shows that even from the start a major part of the Confederacy was not under their control.

Q: Well, but isn’t there some question of the legitimacy of Missouri’s secession from the Union at that rump meeting of the Assembly at Neosho? Something about quorums, whether the legislature had the right in the first place, etc?

A: You’re kidding, right? How is this different from the previous question/answer about the Union’s view of these matters and their ultimately successful effort to enforce that view? Read Parrish’s Turbulent Partnership: Missouri and the Union 1861-1865 on “one of the most unusual extralegal actions any state ever witnessed” in the setting up of the Pro-Union Provisional Government with Hamilton R. Gamble as governor. Look into the creation of the state of West Virginia for another example. All of these are good examples of the essential messiness of civil wars. Over-organizing it does violence to the ability to actually understand it. If things had gone differently, perhaps the state of “West Virginia” would have disappeared to become a footnote in history and the subject of a mini-rant by the webmaster of www.civilwarwheeling.com.

Q: Just for the sake of argument I’ll concede the technical point for the moment. But it doesn’t really make much of a difference, does it?

A: Oh yes it does. All the difference in the world on several important points. If you believed that Claiborne Jackson (or, later, Thomas C. Reynolds) was your governor and your state was part of the Confederate States of America, your view of the loyalty oath the Provost Marshall wanted you to take was likely to be quite different than if you believed that Hamilton R. Gamble was your governor and that Missouri was part of the Union. Also, just what was “sabotage”? Makes a big difference if you believe that the rightful government of Missouri had ordered you to blow up that bridge or tear up those rails to prevent their use by “the invader”–and just as big a difference that the fellows who caught you at it had a different view of the matter. We’ve seen evidence that there was a man in St. Louis who was the “official representative” of the Confederate government in the city. He probably didn’t advertise the fact in the newspapers, but if you were of a certain belief and could find him, then he was the highest ranking government official in St. Louis, and those rude boys in blue were just putting on airs.

Q: Hmph. Well, I doubt you’ll get anything like consensus on this argument.

A: So what else is new?

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

commentary by D. H. Rule

You’d think such an enormously defining event in a nation’s history as our Civil War would be studied and examined carefully in our schools and common histories, yet it’s not. If you could memorize “1861 to 1865” and vaguely recall the words “Fort Sumter” and “Emancipation Proclamation” you pretty much could pass any high school history test on the Civil War.

What history is known in this country is very skewed and often inaccurate. The situation over the past few years has gotten worse in this regard as the Confederate battle flag has become relabeled as being solely a symbol of racism without any regard to historical context. I’m a neutral in this whole fuss–both sides have very valid points of view. Personally, I don’t care if one state or another has the battle flag as part of their state flag or flying over some monument. By the same token I can see how many would find the flag as offensive. Historically, most of these flags didn’t began flying until quite recently; as part of centennial remembrances so the heritage side of the argument has as many flaws to it as does the symbol of racism side.

What I do find offensive is the assault on history. By sterilizing the nation of any traces of history we find distasteful, we lose far more than we gain. The quote I use on the very first page of this website says my viewpoint clearly: “There were no good guys or bad guys, there were only Americans fighting Americans.” I have no Confederate ancestors. Nor Union. My history is American history and that includes the history of the United States of America equally with the Confederate States of America. It’s wrong to deny one half in favor of the other.

So, let’s talk about some of the lessons of history that are overlooked or not taught:

The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves…

Not really. The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves only in those states that had seceded from the Union. In other words, it only freed slaves in those states where the Federal government did not then have the power to actually enforce the Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation was based far more on politics than humanitarianism.

Who were the last slave owners in the nation?

Southerners? Confederates? Try again. Northern Unionists. Yes, slavery was legal in Union states past the end of the war. There were legally owned slaves in Union states throughout the war. A real cute irony comes into play with this–as the Union forces conquered states south of Missouri, slaves who had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation could go north to Missouri and St. Louis and become slaves again, all totally legal under Union rule.

The abolitionists of Kansas wanted all people to be equal and free. They certainly weren’t racists…

Kansas was the hotspot in the pre-Civil War years. Abolitionists from the East flooded in with boxes of guns labeled as Bibles being shipped to them from the East. They wanted Kansas to be a free state. At one point these charming lovers of freedom and brotherhood for all proposed banning all African-Americans from Kansas, both free and slave, as a solution to the problem. Nice folks.

Kansans raided into Missouri to “rescue” slaves and take them to freedom in Kansas. Yet when you look closely, you can see the motivation for the majority was simple theft from wealthy Missourians (the origin of the word “jayhawker” seems to be a Nebraska word meaning “horsethief”). Slaves might be appropriated to help carry the plunder back to Kansas. Do you think they asked these slaves if the wanted to be rescued, or do you think they kidnapped them against their wills? Do you think these slaves all wanted to be dragged away from their homes and families?

It’s no defense of slavery to understand that the abolitionists often treated the slaves every bit as much as chattel with no free will of their own as did the actual slave owners. Precious few white people in those days truly regarded black people as people, and that includes Abraham Lincoln, himself. He was remarkably unsympathetic to the fate of his African-American brethren. When a Union officer asked for help to feed and assist freed slaves, Lincoln answered that they were free men now, let them “root hog, or die.”

Union people were fighting to free the slaves, Confederates to keep them slaves…

Some were, certainly not all. Here’s some examples of the staggering ambiguity of the war:

General U. S. Grant’s wife, Julia Dent Grant, owned slaves throughout the war. She brought them with her when she went to visit Grant in his various camps, choosing routes that avoided states where the slaves might automatically be freed. Those who acknowledge this always emphasize that they were his wife’s slaves. Grant, through his own words, was not particularly opposed to slavery at the time of the war. He came–as did many–to the realization of the wrongness of slavery in later years.

James O. Broadhead, Union Provost Marshal of St. Louis was vehemently opposed to abolition, quoted as having said,

every damned abolitionist in the country ought to be hung.” Abraham Lincoln removed John Charles Fremont from command in St. Louis in part because Fremont has peremptorily freed a slave of Col. Thomas L. Snead’s wife. It was not legal for Fremont to have done so.

Col. John M. Wimer, CSA who died in Confederate service, shortly before the war had been elected mayor of St. Louis as an Emancipation Party candidate.

General Sterling Price, CSA the great Confederate general, had been a Unionist until the Federal government overstepped any legal or constitutional boundaries in Missouri. States rights are not just an excuse invoked by those who don’t want to mention slavery (well, not always). States rights was a real issue to many.

There were American Indians who owned African-American slaves and fought on the side of the Confederacy. Several free blacks were part of Quantrill’s unit.

These are just a few examples out of the convoluted thousands that existed. This is part of the reason why the Confederate battle flag controversy is not, historically, as simple as it’s being made out to be. Slavery was the keystone issue of the conflict. But it was not the only issue, nor was it the deciding issue for countless individuals on both sides.

Abraham Lincoln…

The Abraham Lincoln I’ve come to know through research and reading diverse sources is very different from the classic Lincoln of popular American history. That Lincoln is a sad-faced granite statue who is a mournful icon of freedom. The real Lincoln is a complex, interesting human, with virtues and faults. He was a politician through and through. He had a great sense of humor and certainly didn’t put himself on a pedestal. The Constitution didn’t get in his way when he decided on something (I don’t count this as a virtue). He could be cruel to the point of viciousness in his policies. He was Commander in Chief in a war that sent over 600,000 Americans to their deaths yet was, himself, reluctant to sign death warrants for individuals. He put a halt to many of the executions that had been taking place in the early part of the war. Where many around him considered the Confederates guilty of treason, I don’t think Lincoln did, or if he did was willing to let it go for the good of the nation. He wanted reconciliation, not retribution. Many thought Lincoln was soft on the Rebels, yet he certainly wasn’t willing to let the South go. Reconstruction probably would have gone far better had Lincoln survived. I find I respect the real Lincoln less than I did the mythical Lincoln… yet I like him more.

The war ended when Lee surrendered…

Goodness, no. The Department of the Tran-Mississippi didn’t surrender for over a month. People were still fighting after Lee’s surrender. The war was not over. The Civil War wasn’t the War of the East and Lee didn’t surrender the whole Confederacy.

By all its many names…

In this website you’ll find the war called “the Civil War.” This was a considered choice of names. Clarity is the simple reason. Southerners seem to prefer “The War Between the States,” which does have the virtue of accuracy, from a pre-war perspective. Consider the states at that time as individual independent nations, which is effectively how the nation was intended to be when it was formed, and you can see how this name applies. Personally, I like the name selected by Congress “The War of the Rebellion.” It harkens back to the founding fathers and their rebellious spirit and actions, and suits my own libertarian leanings. “The War of Northern Aggression” is too editorially biased, as would a comparable “War to Free the Slaves” be. “The Late Unpleasantness” is too many generations removed at this point.

“Civil War” works on many levels, and it’s particularly appropriate for a study of the war in Missouri where neighbors were literally fighting neighbors, and the divisions were as close as people seated across the dinner table from each other. The primary reason for choosing to use “Civil War” almost exclusively on the website is that current readers recognize than name, and so do the search engines.

In summation, the best way to learn about, and come to understand, or try to understand, the Civil War is to read first-hand accounts from both sides. You have to try to understand the society as a whole to get the context, and of the nation and its structure, neither of which are the same as our current society and culture. Don’t judge the people then by the standards of the present. Don’t try to apply the “everybody knows” filters of now to then.

D. H. Rule

Choosing Sides

Choosing Sides

by D. H. Rule

The United States is… The United States are…
The Confederates were lazy white racists fighting to preserve slavery The Confederates were noble knights of sterling character fighting to preserve states rights against Federal tyranny
The Unionists fighting to free the slaves, were patriots battling traitors The Northern Unionists were fighting to tyrannize the South and destroy its sacred heritage

That about sums up the two prevailing views of the Confederates and Unionists. To both sides I would say:


Our ten-second sound-bite driven world wants distinctive sides and clear, easy-to-define controversy. We want to rewrite history to fit what we wish had been rather than what was, or to create better villains than really existed. We want distinctive good guys and bad guys. As with everything, reality falls into the fussy boundary area between the sides.

The motives of the governments and grand ideals had little to do with how the individuals chose their side of the conflict.

In Missouri, in particular, choosing sides was far more complicated than perhaps anywhere else in the nation. If one was born and raised in Alabama, one almost inevitably went with the Confederacy. Likewise, a New Yorker born and raised, would almost inevitably be a Unionist. Missouri was a border state, not only between north and south, but on the border to the western frontier. Missouri had a mixture of people from diverse backgrounds.

For a person in Missouri the primary factors in choosing sides were:

  • Family heritage
  • Nationality
  • Opinion on preserving the Union
  • Opinion on the rights of states to secede
  • Opinion on preserving slavery
  • Opinion on abolishing slavery
  • Federal oppression
  • Practical, business reasons
  • Youthful rebellious spirit

The side a person chose can almost be told from the family’s history. If the family came to Missouri along the southern migration path—Virginia to Tennessee or Kentucky, then on to Missouri—the person usually went with the Confederacy. If the migration path was northerly, through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois into Missouri, the person usually went with the Union. Family allegiance, and social and cultural upbringing, tended to be the influencing factors.

My research suggests that most Missourians chose sides based primarily on family affiliation with a region, northern or southern. Those who tended to identify themselves as “Southerners” went with the Confederacy while those who identified themselves as “Northerners” went with the Union. This was not an absolute, of course. Many of the most adamant Rebels I’ve researched were actually Eastern Yankees by upbringing.

National backgrounds was another factor. The Germans of St. Louis (of which there were many) were strongly Union based on their homeland’s recent experiences. By the same token, the Irish immigrants had powerful reasons to mistrust strong central governments, and to be wary of the signs of government oppression, and went strongly for the Confederacy.

Then, as in other parts of the country, the keystone issues of the conflict came into play—slavery and preservation of the Union.

The slavery issue had the devote extremists on both sides. These actually tended to be the fringe elements and of relatively small numbers. To be sure, they were vocal and vehement but, as with extremists now, were not representative of the mainstream. On one side were the hardcore abolitionists. On the other, were the equally stubborn proponents of slavery.

For most, the issues of slavery or abolition were matters of leaning rather than the sole deciding factors in which side they chose.

Missouri, though a slave state, was not as strongly entrenched either socially or economically as many of the deep south states. St. Louis had relatively few slaves, though it was a sales and transport hub by virtue of its position on the river.

Few who chose the Confederate side owned, or had ever owned, a slave. Yet many notable Unionists in St. Louis did own slaves, and some continued to do so throughout the war. James O. Broadhead, Union Provost Marshal, is quoted as having said, “every damned abolitionist ought to be hanged.” General U. S. Grant’s wife was a slave-owner.

A number of people who otherwise were in favor of slavery believed even more strongly that the Union should be preserved. Their counterparts believed that states had the right to secede. It’s been said that the difference before and after the War is that before we said, “the United States are,” and after we said, “the United States is.” For a huge number of people at this time patriotic allegiance was to their individual state, not to the nation as a whole.

Then, almost unique to Missouri, was the role the Federal government played in pushing people to the Confederate side. Absalom Grimes, who later, as he put it, “became very enthusiastic in the Rebel cause,” spend the early secessionist days of 1861 sitting it out in neutrality, expecting that the secessionist fuss would blow over in a few weeks. He and fellow river pilots, Sam Clemens (later Mark Twain) and Sam Bowen were pushed toward the Confederate side when Union General John B. Gray tried to impress them into service ferrying Union troops. All three went on to join an irregular Confederate unit in north-east Missouri. In later years Mark Twain would say he quit river piloting because the war ended that occupation. No, he could have continued piloting but he would not do so for the Union.  Yet Mark Twain was later known for his anti-slavery views and friendship with General/President Grant.He also didn’t like getting shot at and the pilot’s house on a steamboat was the easiest target.

Union General John Charles Fremont, and his successors, and martial law undoubtedly account for a number of people choosing the Confederate side. Missouri was under martial law throughout the war. The repression, and violations of Constitutional rights, was extreme. People were arrested and imprisoned without charges, sometimes just on the word of another claiming they had made “treasonable comments,” or for “hurrahing Jeff Davis.” Newspapers were censored and their editors arrested for printing any but approved material. Families of Confederates were targeted and treated abominably. Property was confiscated and women and small children were forced into exile. Due process of law vanished.

For a number of St. Louis business people, and their counterparts further north, the Mississippi River was the critical transportation route to the sea. If the river was cut in half by the formation of a new country, their lifeline was cut off.

Another factor in ‘choosing sides’ I must include is simply a youthful, rebellious spirit. Frontiersmen and pioneers tend toward a greater sense of independence and certainly have no fondness for taking orders from Eastern city people. Couple this with the general tendency of young men toward adventure and the Confederacy’s battle for independence must have seemed an exciting mirror to their own parent’s trek into the frontier and their grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ struggle against the British in the Revolutionary War.

Patriots and People

Patriots and People

by D. H. Rule

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere. –Thomas Jefferson,  1787.

Were the Confederates patriots? Yes, in the finest tradition of American history—that of rebellion. This country was born of rebellion and a rebellious attitude keeps it strong. “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing,” one of our nation’s fathers said. That same man was also the author of one of the most seditious documents ever written, the Declaration of Independence.

When I started studying and researching the Civil War I began with the Confederate side because it’s the side we don’t hear as much about. The winners write the history and the shape of the nation we live in is the result of the Union victory. And, quite frankly, I find the Rebels more interesting. They took the greater chance; faced the greater odds; risked more both personally and collectively. Every single one of them, the leaders in particular, faced the very real chance of being executed for treason if they lost. At the war’s end the Missouri Confederate soldiers fully expected that they’d never be allowed to return home.

While I’ve found admirable people on both sides, I’ve also found fanatics and extremists on both sides. Atrocities were committed by Union people and Confederate. No one wins any prizes for having ultimate nobility.

The Missouri Confederates I’ve been researching cover the range of virtues and faults, with both noble deeds and wicked. For a while they were, to me, distant and remote historical figures, almost like fictional characters whose stories I was constructing and reconstructing. Then one day I went to to take some pictures for the upcoming book on Gratiot Street Prison.

On a rainy day in St. Louis, Missouri, after battling traffic and poorly marked historic sites, I came to the National Cemetery at Jefferson Barracks. There I diligently followed my map and instructions to find the graves I had come to seek out. I had my cameras and tripod, my notebook and guidebook. I’d done my research and only needed to take a few photos. By the numbers on the gravestones I searched for number 4601 among the pointed-topped Confederate graves.

I found it. I read the name on it. Stephen R. Smith. I knew his story, had read several different accounts of his death. But to me he was, essentially, a character in a book. Then I glanced at the tombstone next to his. And I knew that name too. And that of the next one, and the next, and the next. I knew the names, and I knew their stories. I’d helped a descendant find information on one. I’d read the letter one fellow had written to his wife the night before he was shot in retaliation for someone else’s atrocity, so becoming part of yet another atrocity.

There were so many of them. Row upon row stretching out through the rain at this lonely patch of ground. As I stood there, no longer thinking about taking pictures, they quit being characters in a book and became people—real people who lived and died, usually far too young and often in terrible ways. There were so many stones stretching out in endless rows. Some had rounded tops—Union—and some had peaked tops—Confederate. It didn’t matter. They’d joined a fellowship of Americans who died for their country. They were all Americans and their lives, and deaths, shaped the nation in which we live today. They need to be remembered.

Blair and Lyon Save the Union

illustration from “Struggle for Missouri” by John McElroy, 1909 “Rather than concede to the State of Missouri for one single instant the right to dictate to my Government in any matter however unimportant, I would  see you, you, you and every man, woman, and child in the state dead and buried.

“This means war.”Brigadier-General Nathaniel Lyon

to Claiborne Jackson, Sterling Price, and Francis P. Blair, Jr. at the Planters House in St. Louis, Missouri, June 1861

by G. E. Rule

Further Reading: Damned Yankee: The Life of General Nathaniel Lyon
by Christopher Phillips

Frank Blair: Lincoln’s Conservative by William Earl Parrish

In January of 1861, Frank Blair’s Unionist cause in Missouri was sorely beset by a host of problems.  The incoming governor of the state, Claiborne Jackson, was a known secessionist. So was a majority of the state legislature.  “Unconditional Union” men made up a small minority of the population of the state, and an even smaller minority of the ruling class.  The Union commander of the tiny force guarding the vitally important St. Louis arsenal was politically unreliable and prepared to hand over the arsenal to the commander of the Missouri State Guard should the latter demand it on authority of the state government.  It appeared highly unlikely that Missouri, and vital St. Louis, could be kept in the Union.

Yet by June, a mere five months later, St. Louis was secure, and the 60,000 muskets in the arsenal were denied to the Confederacy by the fiery new Union commander, Nathaniel Lyon. Commanding regiments largely raised by Blair, Lyon put Governor Jackson and the secessionist members of the state legislature to flight from the state capitol never to return, and Union control—though shaky at times and tenuous in some sections of the state—was never again seriously threatened in Missouri.

It is hard to overestimate the importance this victory had on the course of the war.  The 60,000 muskets in the arsenal would have increased the number available in the entire Confederacy by over one-third at a time when each one was practically worth its weight in gold.  Control of St. Louis for the CSA would have meant control of the Missouri River and a connecting of the heavily pro-confederate population north of that river with the rest of the south.  The industry of St. Louis would have been a huge addition to the lightly industrialized Confederacy, and the further choking of the Mississippi river very possibly may have given critical mass to the idea of a CSA-friendly “Northwest Confederacy” of the states of what we today would call the Midwest.  Such a movement, had it come to fruition, would clearly have made it impossible for the rest of the northern states to prosecute the war with any hope of success.

While Grant and Sherman are often given enormous credit for winning the war for the Union in 1863-1865, it is perhaps not unfair to say that Frank Blair and his champion Nathaniel Lyon saved the Union in the early months of 1861.

For an opposing viewpoint see “Securing Missouri for the Union” (off-site)

Governor of Missouri, Claiborne Fox Jackson

When asked by Lincoln to supply four regiments to the Union Army, Governor Jackson said, “Your requisition, in my judgment, is illegal, unconstitutional, and revolutionary in its objects, inhuman and diabolical, and cannot be complied with.”

Frank Blair raised seven regiments for the Union in St. Louis when the governor refused the Federal call for troops from Missouri to put down the rebellion

After the war, Major-General Frank Blair –who had done more than all of Missouri’s Radical Republicans combined to keep her in the Union when the issue was in doubt in early 1861– declined to take the Oath of Loyalty in 1866 and was refused the right to vote.  When asked why he would not take the Oath, Blair cheerfully explained that while he would gladly take an Oath professing his loyalty to the Union and Missouri going forward, the fact of the matter was that he had taken up arms against the government of Missouri in May and June of 1861 and hence could not meet the draconian terms of the current Oath.

Cross Purposes

by G. E. Rule

Jeff Davis and Sterling Price disliked each other from the start. The starchy Confederate President distrusted Price’s conversion from “Conditional Unionism” and his efforts in the spring of 1861 to buy time for the Missouri State Guard to organize by negotiating with Union General Harney. Further, when Price became a hero across the south after the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, some pushed Price as a possible successor to Davis. The galling fire kept up by Price’s editorial crony, Joseph W. Tucker, on CSA policy towards Missouri also soured Davis’ opinion of the Missouri hero. But worst of all was Price’s incessant badgering of Davis for more men and resources to reclaim Missouri from the Union or, failing that, at least allowing the Missouri Confederates to try to retake the state on their own.

For Sterling Price, it was Missouri above all else. He became a good Confederate, but only because he felt the Union had abused his beloved state at Camp Jackson. Price and most of the Confederate Missouri leadership never fully trusted the CSA government at Richmond. They felt Missouri was being neglected for the benefit of other theatres, and too many of her finest sons were spilling their blood on the wrong side of the Mississippi River. More seriously, Price was deeply concerned that when push came to shove, if the CSA government were offered a deal that gave independence to the South but continued Missouri in the Union, they would accept it.

Further Reading: General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West
by Albert E. Castel

It was felt a unified North would never accept Missouri as part of the Confederacy. The importance of St. Louis as “the Gateway to the West”, and its sizable pro-Union German population, would lead them to insist on keeping Missouri above any other state. Perhaps, went the argument, the North could eventually be forced to allow the Deep South its independence, but never Missouri.

Enter the Order of American Knights. OAK was born in St. Louis to encourage the creation of a “Northwest Confederacy” (today’s Midwest). Should the Northwest Confederacy be formed, the remaining northern states would no longer have the strength, nor the geographical consanguinity, to insist on keeping Missouri. Sterling Price was its military head, and Clement Vallandigham its civil one.

OAK engaged in conspiracy, sedition, and sabotage towards this end. Price lieutenants like Tucker, Courtenay, Grimes, and Louden were prominent participants. While the success of OAK and the Northwest Confederacy would have benefited the entire CSA, there is no doubt that the primary beneficiary was always intended to be Confederate Missouri.