A Pro-Union Governor for Missouri; Lee Arrives in Western Va.

Wednesday, July 31, 1861

Ever since Missouri’s pro-secessionist governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, was run from the capital, Jefferson City, by Union forces, the state had operated under no formal government. Order was kept on the county level but, on the state level, nothing of any lasting importance could be accomplished. The paltry force of Missouri State Guards under Jackson had been whipped at Boonville and retreated to the southwest corner of the state. What was left of the government traveled along with them, but could do little with Union forces controlling most of the state.

With the state offices in Jefferson City left vacant, a pro-Union state convention met on July 22. They resolved to elect a new governor as well as other officers in November of 1861. For the time being, however, a provisional government would be established to bring the faltering Missouri back under the Union flag.

While the majority of convention delegates supported the elections, a very vocal minority contested that a convention had no authority to impeach an elected governor, let alone the entire upper echelon of state offices. That was a job that only the legislature could do.

Passionately arguing for the majority was Hamilton Rowan Gamble, a pro-Union state chief justice and slaveholder, who ruled in Dred Scott’s favor when the case was at the state level in 1852. Gamble conceded that impeachment and conviction by the state legislature was the only constitutional way to remove state officers. A state convention, however, superseded the state constitution. This convention, opined Gamble, held the same authority as all the people of the state gathered together “on one vast plain.” Since the convention was the voice of the people, it had no need to rely upon the voice of the legislature.

A state convention, such as this, Gamble asserted, had the power not only to replace state officials, but to replace the state constitution, if necessary. To prove this, he delved into the history of state conventions that ratified the United States Constitution in the late 1700s. They met and decided without submitting their rulings to a vote of the people.

If that wasn’t convincing enough, the Missouri State Constitution itself allowed for a convention to alter “their Constitution and form of Government, whenever it may be necessary to their safety and happiness.”

Due not only to his skills at debate, but to his middle-of-the-road politics and connections in Washington (Attorney General Edward Bates was his brother-in-law), Gamble was selected by the convention as the Provisional Governor of Missouri.

Gamble’s politics attracted barbs from both secessionists and abolitionists. The pro-South faction wished for the return of Governor Jackson and was prepared to do what they could do make that happen. Abolitionists, on the other hand, despised Gamble’s pro-slavery policies, which kept Missouri a slave state.1

Military forces in support of Claiborne Jackson, which included not only the Missouri State Guard, but Confederate forces under General Ben McCulloch, had gathered at Cassville. Together, they formed a force of 12,000 effectives. McCulloch, who was now commander of the entire force, was disappointed to see that most of the State Guard troops were armed only with shotguns and squirrel rifles. Two thousand more weren’t armed with anything at all. There was little he could do about that.

Connecting Cassville to Springfield was the Wire Road, which closely followed the old Butterfield Stagecoach route (which, if followed to California, would pass the traveler through Fort Fillmore, New Mexico). On this date, the entire force stepped off for Springfield where Union General Lyon’s ill-supplied and dwindled down force of 5,000 were encamped.2


Lee Arrives in Western Virginia

Confederate General Robert E. Lee had been ordered to supervise the western Virginia front after the loss at Rich Mountain and the setbacks in the Kanawha Valley. From Staunton, Virginia, Lee traveled the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike [modern US 250] forty-seven miles to Monterey.

Though Lee wasn’t officially placed in control of the Confederate Army of the Northwest, he would, nevertheless, sign his correspondence to Richmond as the “General Commanding.” Officially commanding this army was General Henry Rootes Jackson, who took over after the death of General Garnett at Corrick’s Ford, gathering the remnants of it at Monterey.3

Little has been written about Lee’s stay with Jackson’s command at Monterey. There’s not even a consensus on when he arrived and departed. Most sources seem certain that Lee left Richmond by rail on July 28,4 though some state it was “about August 1st.”5. The train to Staunton arrived in the evening of the 28th, delivering Lee, along with aids, Colonel John A. Washington and Captain Walter Taylor (as well as two slaves, Meredith and Perry).

Lee wrote to his wife, “the day after I arrived at Staunton, I set off for Monterey.”6 Upon reaching Monterey, Lee “spent a day conferring with Gen. H. R. Jackson and inspecting the troops there encamped with General Jackson.”7 It should have only taken Lee two days to travel the good road from Staunton to Monterey, which would place his arrival on July 30th. The day spent “conferring” with Jackson would have to have been on the 31st, as the next day, August 1st, he left for Huntersville, which he reached on August 3rd.8

At any rate, Lee’s inspection of General Jackson’s lines showed him the demoralized conditions of the Army of the Northwest. An outbreak of measles had taken over the camp and it had rained every day for the past week.

With the near-defeat turned victory at the Battle of Bull Run, Lee could understand that this war would not be a quick one. Lee was asked by the ladies of Augusta County, Virginia to present a flag they had made for the troops. At Monterey, he formally gave the standard to the 21st Virginia Infantry, but turned to one of its captains and whispered, “I would advise you to roll up that beautiful banner, and return it to the ladies for safe keeping. You are now in for a number of years of hard military service, and you will not need your beautiful flag.”9

  1. Lincoln’s Resolute Unionist: Hamilton Gamble, Dred Scott dissenter and Missouri’s Civil War Governor by Dennis K. Boman, LSU Press, 2006. []
  2. Bloody Hill by Brooksher. []
  3. Gates of Richmond by Lesser. []
  4. Lee wrote to his wife on the 27th, stating, “I leave to-morrow for the army in western Virginia.” []
  5. Recollections of General Lee – letters compiled by his son, Robert. []
  6. Letter from Lee to Mrs. Lee, August 4, 1861. []
  7. Confederate Military History; Vol. III edited by General Clement Evans. This portion was written by Jed Hotchkiss. []
  8. Lee wrote on the 4th that he spent three days traveling from Monterey to Huntersville. Letter from Lee to Mrs. Lee, August 4, 1861. []
  9. Rebels at the Gate by Lesser. []
Creative Commons License
A Pro-Union Governor for Missouri; Lee Arrives in Western Va. by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


View all posts by

2 thoughts on “A Pro-Union Governor for Missouri; Lee Arrives in Western Va.

  1. Continuing the long list of awesome names: Hamilton Rowan Gamble.

    Lee’s comment about the flag is amazing. You can almost sense of the seriousness and intensity of his voice in that sentence. I love that he still presented the flag, but saved his comment for the captains. True class. I wonder if it is more rare now, or Lee was classier than everyone else even then.

    1. Well, Lee was certainly a classy fellow, but there’s one thing to keep in mind. Much of what was written after the war was done basically deifying Lee. Now, that’s certainly understandable, but it does make for some interesting research. My source for the quote is from a great book called “Rebels At The Gate,” but the original source of the quote comes from Jedediah Hotchkiss’s book Virginia. Hotchkiss was actually there (I think – he was in WV at the time w/ the CS army).

      I used it knowing that it could be made up or embellished, but Hotchkiss seems, more or less, trustworthy.

Comments are closed.