Confederate States Brig. Gen. Benjamin McCulloch, having won a victory Aug. 10, 1861, at Wilson’s Creek, Mo., issued a proclamation to the people of Missouri Aug. 12. He asked them to pick a side. “Missouri must now take her position, be it North or South,” he wrote.
Missouri, a border state, supplied troops (nearly 110,000 to the North and 40,000 to the South) and equipment to both sides. Separate state governments represented each side during the war, and both the Union and Confederacy considered Missouri theirs.
Initially, Missouri tried to stay neutral by remaining in the Union but not contributing men or supplies. After Wilson’s Creek, Union Gen. John C. Fremont imposed martial law, but the remnants of the elected government voted to secede.
The state suffered from its own internal war, in addition to the larger one. “Conflict in Missouri was characterized by savage guerilla warfare that led to the destruction of entire towns,” writes Michael O. Varhola in Life in Civil War America.
Learn more about Missouri in the Civil War in Varhola’s book and at the state’s sesquicentennial website.
Also, the free Missouri Digital Heritage (one of our 101 Best Websites for genealogy) has a Civil War section with several collections of digitized records, newspapers and research guides that’ll help you trace ancestors of the era and walk in their shoes.
Get research guidance for Civil War service members from Missouri and elsewhere in our Family Tree University course Civil War Research: Find Your Ancestors in the War Between the States, with instructor Diana Crisman Smith. The next session starts Aug. 29. (You can use code FTU0811 to get 20 percent off tuition.)