Official website of the City of Kimmswick Government.

Kimmswick, historic charm on the Mississippi River since 1859

City of Kimmswick,
Missouri 63053

The Civil War in Missouri 1861-1865

Visit the Kimmswick Historical Society Museum located at Third and Vine Streets.


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Saturday and Sunday

1:00 pm to 4:00pm

The deepening sectional crisis between northern and southern states over the expansion of slavery erupted into open warfare on April 12, 1861, when the South fired upon federal troops at Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. Secession for Missouri was the major question at a specially-called state convention held in St. Louis that spring. Pro-Union candidates dominated the convention; no declared secessionist was even elected as a delegate. The convention delegates voted to keep Missouri in the Union. Missourians themselves, though, remained split on the issues of slavery and state's rights throughout the war.

After the war began, Lincoln asked the states' governors for 75,000 men to defend the Union; he specifically requested four Missouri regiments. Missouri's governor, the pro-Southern Claiborne Fox Jackson, refused, claiming the requisition of soldiers was unconstitutional. Learning of Jackson's refusal to provide troops for federal service, staunch Unionist Frank Blair, whose family was influential in St. Louis and Washington, D.C., offered a pro-Union group of volunteers, known as the "Wide-Awakes." These units were known as the Home Guards; formation of such groups was encouraged across the state.

Jackson called for a special legislature to convene in Jefferson City in early May 1861, with the idea of obtaining legislative
approval to adequately arm state militia forces. He also hoped to move against the federal arsenal in St. Louis. Jackson called up 50,000 Missouri men to enroll in the new state guard, designed to resist the federal occupation of Missouri.


Struggling to keep Missouri neutral, Blair and Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon met with Jackson in St. Louis to negotiate the role of state and federal troops in the state. However, the peace negotiations broke down. When Lyon marched on Jefferson City, Jackson and his "army" fled to Boonville, leaving the capital city in Lyon's possession on June 15, 1861.

Less than two months later, the two opposing forces met in the second major clash of the war after Bull Run. For over six hours, the two sides clashed at Wilson's Creek, just southwest of Springfield, until the federal troops were forced to retreat, leaving southwestern Missouri in Confederate hands for six months. More than 540 men were killed and over 1600 wounded. In March 1862, at the Battle of Pea Ridge Arkansas, the Union Army forced the Confederates to retreat, removing Jackson's state guard from Missouri.


The Battle of Pea Ridge effectively ended the threat of Confederate military control in Missouri for the duration of the war. Jackson's general, Sterling Price, commander of the state guard, was forced to retreat from the state; he took his remaining soldiers to join the Confederate troops in battles east of the Mississippi River. After Pea Ridge, the Confederate government transferred its major forces to the eastern theater, which it considered more important to the war effort. Union troops were also primarily reassigned to the east, in accord with Governor Gamble's request to keep federal troops out of Missouri. Union strategy supported this request, which it hoped would neutralize hostility in Missouri.

Missouri, however, was militarily strategic because of the necessity of maintaining communication and transportation via the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The federal government recruited soldiers in Missouri and established garrisons at St. Louis, Rolla, Boonville, Hermann, Jefferson City, and Bird's Point in the Bootheel. The major battles in the state ended after Wilson's Creek, but the remainder of the war in Missouri saw frequent bushwhacking activities and violent skirmishes.

In November 1861, Hamilton Gamble, serving as provisional governor after Jackson fled the state, sought permission to organize a new state guard. Lincoln authorized the organization of the Missouri State Militia (M.S.M.) to cooperate with the federal troops in maintaining order within the state. The M.S.M. was armed, equipped, and clothed at the expense of the federal government, but could only be used within the state, except for cases where immediate defense of the state was necessary. State officials mustered in the troops; later, federal officers mustered them out. About 10,000 men served in the M.S.M.

A second, larger and more encompassing military organization was developed in Missouri in the summer of 1862. The enrolled Missouri Militia (E.M.M.) was organized for state service, but served periodically under United States officers. The E.M.M. was Gamble's response to guerilla warfare throughout the state. Its primary duty was to halt guerilla
activity and defend peaceable citizens. All able-bodied men capable of bearing arms were required to enroll at the nearest military post, where they were organized into companies, regiments, and brigades. There was a $10 fine for failure to enroll; it was possible to procure exemption for one year by paying a fee. The total aggregate strength was around 52,000 men. The commander of the M.S.M., who was also the U.S. commander for the military district of Missouri, was in charge of the E.M.M.

Disloyal men had to enroll their name and surrender all arms, but they were permitted to return peaceably to their homes, after promising not to engage in outlaw activity.

In all, 109,000 Missouri men served the Union, while 30,000 fought with the Confederacy. These numbers account for 60% of the men eligible for military service. Over 14,000 died for the Union; unfortunately, there are no figures available for Missouri's Confederate dead. The state's soldiers fought at Vicksburg, Shiloh, Corinth, Chickamauga, and hundreds of skirmishes throughout the war.


Source: Missouri State Archives: Soldiers' Records: War of 1812 - World War I

Kimmswick City Hall is located at 6041 Third Street, Kimmswick, MO 63053
Mail should be sent to City of Kimmswick, Post Office Box 27, Kimmswick MO USA 63053-0027
City Hall hours are Monday - Friday 7:30am to 4:00pm.
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