Most “official” sources claim that 110,000 Missouri men fought for the Union and some 30,000 fought for the Confederacy.
I’ve always questioned these figures for several reason:
1: Does this number include Union soldiers from neighboring states whose units were designated as “Missouri” units?
2: Does this number include the number of Missouri men who fought for the South in “irregular” or “partisan” units?
3. Does this number include Missouri men who were forced to join Enrolled Missouri Militia units or face jail time for “desertion”?
I’m guessing this number does not include the number of Southern men forced to join Union militia units and then fled with their newly furnished weapons.
I have stumbled across an example from the latter group in the September 21, 1865 issue of The Weekly Free Press (Atchison, Ks). An article in the paper reports that an election was held in Salem, Dent County, Missouri for the purpose of electing officers of a unit of Missouri Militia (Union) and that after the election the new company of Union militia celebrated by getting drunk, riding out of town and shouting for the Southern Confederacy.
On Jan. 31’st, 2020 I published a story asking “Who Murdered the Patterson Family?”. It was an attempt to find out who could have murdered Confederate Officer William Patterson and his entire family outside of Dallas (current day Marble Hill, Missouri).
As I stated in the previous article I had found information in a clipping from the June 28, 1866 Daily Union and American newspaper reporting Bollinger County Sheriff James Rogers was appointed by Missouri Governor Fletcher and that he was being charged with murder for acts he committed during the Civil War. The paper reported:
“General J.R. McCormack, who is a candidate for the Conservative nomination for Congress in the third district, delivered a speech in Dallas, Webster County [Editors note: mistake by newspaper, Dallas present day Marble Hill, Missouri is in Bollinger County] on the 14th inst. , and he was attentively listened to. Shortly afterward a squad of five or six ruffians surrounded him, when one of them, named James Rogers, without provocation, knocked the Doctor down, the blow for a time rendering him speechless.
On recovering , he found the ruffians had left. Rogers is Sheriff of Bollinger county, an officer of the peace, appointed by Governor Fletcher. He is also charged with committing murder during the troubles in Southeast Missouri, and to have been guilty of swindling the Government in some lead and beef contracts down there.”
I wondered how James Rogers was “appointed” the Sheriff of Bollinger County, Missouri or how Erich Pape was “appointed” sheriff after Rogers. These questions were answered when I stumbled upon a March 18, 1865 issue of the Chicago Tribune which reported:
“The State Convention passed an ordinance today, vacating all offices of Circuit Judges, Circuit Attorneys, Criminal Judges, Sheriffs, Probate Judges, and clerks, and All Courts of Record, from and after May 1’st, by a vote of forty-three to five. The offices are all to be filled by the Governor. By this ordinance, eight-hundred offices eight hundred offices are made vacant at one blow. Governor Fletcher promises to reappoint all the loyal men, elected by the people, the object being to get rid of the disloyal.”
I get the distinct feeling that disloyalty was a very weak excuse and that the main object was to get rid of all forms of Civil Government in order to insulate and protect themselves from being prosecuted for war crimes.
On the September 13, 1929 the Republic Tribune (Union, Missouri) carried a lengthy article about the Will Mayfield College stating that:
“Due to hard times in the Mississippi Valley the Will Mayfield College of Marble Hill, Missouri had some hard struggles this last year and there was some doubt in the minds of many as to the future of Will Mayfield.”
Despite the doubt of many about the forthcoming year the headline of the paper read “Will Mayfield College Opened With Fine Attendance.”
On July 17, 1885 Grainfield, Kansas’s newspaper, the Grainfield Cap Sheaf, reported the capture of a Bollinger County, Missouri murderer.
According to the paper, a man by the last name of Salisbury had went to another farmer’s residence and “cooly called him out”, informing him that he was going to kill him. Salisbury shot the farmer in the leg, demanded he stand back up and delivered a second fatal shot. The paper reported that the murder had taken place seven years prior and was said to be over a dispute of stock.
Salisbury then traveled to Kansas and was ultimately tracked down when he sold his property in Missouri. He was also suspected of taking part in another murder in Kansas.
The July 13, 1878 St. Louis Globe-Democrat published an article entitled “The Last of the Moonshiners” about John Bollinger, a moonshiner who was over 70 years of age. Bollinger might have been in “advanced age” as the paper describes him, but he still had plenty of fight left in him. The paper stated , “When captured Bollinger was very violent in his language toward the officers and swore that if he had been at the distillery when they came they never would have taken it; he would have shot them down like dogs.”
In post-war Bollinger County, Missouri lawlessness prevailed. It seems with little opportunity many turned to distilling corn liquor or “moonshine”. Before the war it was not illegal to do so but after the war it was considered to be against the law due to the fact that the government did not get “its share” through taxation.
There are several accounts in newspaper archives from throughout the United States about the crackdown on illegal distilleries in the county. It was not uncommon for federal authorities to make appearances and arrests.
It was also not uncommon for the citizens to intervene in the apprehension of moonshiners. Sometimes they were successful, other times not so much. The May 22, 1871 issue of the Chicago Tribune carries the story of an unsuccessful attempt to free prisoners from Federal authorities.
One account of Bollinger County, Missouri during the Civil War called it a “hotbed of secession”, Historian Glen Bishop, (whose speech at the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History was covered in the September 4, 2011 Southeast Missourian Newspaper) stated that 6 out of 10 men in Bollinger County sided with the South during the war.
Not surprisingly, many of these men either fled the state or lost their property during the war. A common practice was to claim back taxes owned on the land that were not paid during the hostilities. When the land owners couldn’t pay, they county took the land. In other instances during the war men who were charged with being Southern sympathizers would have to take an “Oath of Allegiance” and put up a bond. If the accused did not have the cash for the bond, they were allowed to use their property. In the event they were accused of disloyalty again, the property was forfeited and often time the accused sent to prison.
It is important to remember that during and after the War most Southerners were Democrats and most Unionists were Republican, of course most Southerners could not hold office or vote until the Drake Constitution (which served as the basis for Missouri Reconstruction) was abolished in 1875.
By 1872 land in Bollinger County could be found advertised in papers throughout the United States but as some would find out, the land was not much of a bargain. Evidence of this can be found in the August 5, 1872 Inter Ocean newspaper (Chicago, Illinois) and the August 8, 1872 Boston Globe (both articles being republished from the St. Louis Globe).