Today, we are pleased to welcome guest author Greg Bailey.
More than any other state Missouri was divided by the Civil War. Missouri was a slave state, but slavery did not dominate the economy as in other states. Proslavery Missourians took up arms to extend slavery into the Kansas and Nebraska territories. The Dred Scott case began in the still-standing Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. After the failed Revolution of 1848, throughout Europe large groups of “Forty Eighters,” mostly Germans, fled their homelands for the safety and prospects for a better life in the United States. The large number of Germans settling in St. Louis were radically antislavery.
Tensions between the newcomers and the “native Missourians” built as the Civil War approached. The state was sharply divided but a majority was willing to stay in the Union if slavery was protected. More radical factions took up arms.
For instance, pro-Southern militia set up camp where the campus of St. Louis University stands today. On May 10, 1861 Federal forces captured the camp and marched the prisoners to the arsenal. Along the way, though, a mob of Southern sympathizers formed, jeering at the mostly German Union soldiers. Amid shouts of “Damn the Dutch,” someone in the crowd shot and killed an officer. The soldiers opened fire on the crowd, killing twenty eight including women and children.
St. Louis remained under Union control during the war even as numerous battles were fought around the state. In May 1863, a group of Southern sympathizers, many of whom were women, were officially banished from the city, loaded on boats, and sent south on the Mississippi. After the final defeat of the Confederates in Missouri, a new state constitution required a stringent loyalty oath. To take the oath, the person had to swear that they never expressed any support for the Confederates. Few honest people would take the oath.
The bitter aftermath of the Civil War in Missouri produced one of the stranger documents in American history. The 1866 list of 8,519 names of men disenfranchised in St. Louis County, which at the time still included the city of St. Louis, was produced by an unnamed compiler or group of compilers and published by The Missouri Democrat, a strongly antislavery and pro-Union newspaper in St. Louis. Most people on the list were disqualified from voting only because they were not American citizens. Many of those listed were identified as British, which at the time also included the Irish. Others lost their right to vote for being “assessed secessionists” or “assessed sympathizers” or simply“disloyal,” along with those who actively fought on the Confederate side.
The overall ban on voting continued until 1870 when the oath was overturned. By then, the wounds had begun to heal. But even now the Civil War generates controversy. A largely forgotten monument to Confederate soldiers in Forest Park has recently come under fire as part of the campaign to remove Southern flags and other symbols from public property. The annual dinner of the state Democratic Party was recently forced to drop the names of slave owners Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson in favor of Harry Truman.