Are We a Generation of Driveling, Sniveling, Degraded Slaves?

November 26, 1861 (Tuesday)

Union officers in Missouri were in a complete fog when it came to the whereabouts, strength and plans of General Sterling Price of the secessionist Missouri State Guards. General Henry Halleck, and many others, believed that he had slipped south, across the Arkansas border. Others believed he was still in or around Springfield or Greenfield. Hardly anyone suspected that he was in Marshall, 150 miles north of Springfield and thirty miles north of the Union troops in Sedalia.

On this date, that enemy issued a “Proclamation to the People of Central and North Missouri,” in which, he tried to rally the people to his cause. First, however, he questioned why only one in forty stepped forward to take up arms against the Union.

“Had 50,000 men flocked to our standard with their shot-guns in their hands,” opined Price, “there would not now be a Federal hireling in the State to pollute our soil. Instead of ruined communities, starving families, and desolated districts, we should have had a people blessed with protection and with stores to supply the wants and necessities and comforts of life.”

Then came the campaign speech: “Are we a generation of driveling, sniveling, degraded slaves? Or are we men who dare assert and maintain the rights which cannot be surrendered…? […] Do I hear your shouts? Is that your war-cry which echoes through the land? Are you coming? Fifty-thousand men! Missouri shall move to victory with the tread of a giant! Come on, my brave boys, 50,000 heroic, gallant, unconquerable Southern men! We await your coming.”1

General Price may have been in Marshall, but his army, if it could still be called such a thing, was in Osceola, about 100 miles to the south. Soon, their terms of enlistment would be up and, though many might stay, many more might not. Price hoped to create a larger army along the Missouri River, north of the Union troops.2

Union General Halleck had sent General William Tecumseh Sherman to inspect the troops near Sedalia. There, he found the divisions of Generals Steele and Pope along the North Missouri Railroad, twenty miles apart “with no concert between them.”3

Sherman sent Halleck two messages from Sedalia, both indicating that Price was at Osceola and was aiming for Jefferson City and the North Missouri Railroad. Confederate General McCulloch, whom Sherman seemed less sure about, was, he said, headed for Rolla. Though McCulloch was nearly 200 miles away in Arkansas, Sherman was spot on about Price’s location, though still in the dark about his intention.4

Before leaving Kentucky, Sherman had fallen into a deep depression and nervous exhaustion. These mental and emotional states followed him into Missouri. Just as he was terrified of a Confederate attack upon Louisville, he was now terrified of an attack upon the scattered forces along the North Missouri Railroad. For this reason, and because it was just a good idea, Sherman recommended that Steele and Pope’s scattered regiments be united.5

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Wilkes the Hero

Captain Charles Wilkes of the USS San Jacinto, who captured James Mason and John Slidell, the two Confederate envoys to Europe, from the deck of the British vessel Trent, was honored at a banquet at Boston’s Revere House. It had been two days since he delivered the duo to Fort Warren.

Wilkes was met with applause, ovations and speeches of gratitude. Even Massachusetts’ governor, John A. Andrew, gave a speech, declaring that the capture displayed “not only wise judgment but also manly and heroic success.” He was tickled by the thought that Captain Wilkes had “fired a shot across the bows of the ship that bore the English lion’s head.”

All was rejoicing and celebration in the North, but across the Atlantic, the news was just about to reach the ears of the King crown.6

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These Are Revolutionary Times: West Virginia Stumbles towards Statehood

In Western Virginia, all the right people had voted in October to officially secede from Virginia. Though the voting was shady at best, it was enough for the Constitutional Convention for the proposed new State of Kanawha to meet in Wheeling on this date.

After electing officers for the Convention, the delegates spent much of the first day debating whether or not to swear an oath to the United States. While everyone assembled was a Unionist, some, it seems, were offended by having to prove it. “Nobody in this body I presume would be unwilling to take this oath,” argued a delegate from Marion County. “I am not; but I want us to act as if we had confidence in each other.”

This debate consumed the entire afternoon session. Absolutely nothing was accomplished. The oath was finally taken, a few new delegates were sworn in and the first day of the Constitutional Convention was finally over.

Looking towards the second day and the future of the State of Kanawha, Waitman Willey, a delegate from Monogalia County reasoned, “These are revolutionary times. The house is on fire and we cannot exactly be very technical.”7



  1. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 8, p695-697. []
  2. General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West By Albert E. Castel. []
  3. Memoirs by William Tecumseh Sherman. []
  4. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 8, p379. []
  5. Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion for Order By John F. Marszalek, SIU Press, 2007. []
  6. The Trent Affair by Thomas Le Grand Harris, The Bowen-Merrill Co., 1896. []
  7. Debates and Proceedings of the First Constitutional Convention of West Virginia, November 26, 1861. These are available here, and are well worth a read. []
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6 thoughts on “Are We a Generation of Driveling, Sniveling, Degraded Slaves?

  1. Price’s greatest failing was to consistently overestimate rebel sentiment in Missouri. Even as late as 1864 when he launched his disastrous invasion of the state, he thought the populace would rise up in support of them. In fact, the majority of Missourians fought for the North.
    I’ve never seen that photo of Price. When and where was it taken?

    1. I’m definitely catching the drift that a majority (though not a large majority) of Missourians were either Unionists or didn’t really care enough to kill and die for it either way.

      As for the photo, I’m not sure of the specifics. I just do searches for photos and try to find the ones that folks haven’t seen a billion times. This one might have come from the book Portraits of Conflict: A Photographic History of the Civil War in Missouri, by William Garrett as I found it on a blog post reviewing the book.

  2. Apropos of the Trent affair, there was no King in England at the time. Queen Victoria was on the throne in 1861.

  3. I am very interested in the international connections of our Civil War. Will you be covering the decision by the international banks to deny loans to the South? I have the germ of a theory that the Civil War was an echo of the uprisings of 1848 throughout Europe and the subsequent banking restructuring into the 1860s. Do you or your followers have recommended reading for me in support or otherwise of this idea?

    1. Hi Randy, the international connections are certainly interesting. Unfortunately, covering those beyond things like the Trent Affair isn’t so simple.

      As for books, I’ve not read much on this at all, but a few that I keep seeing pop up are:

      Blue & Gray Diplomacy by Howard Jones (2010)
      Debtor Diplomacy by Jay Sexton (2007)

      and the one that everyone goes to…

      Diplomat in Carpet Slippers by Jay Monaghan (1945)

      My interest in all of this is more on the military side of things, with bits of politics, labor, slavery, irony, etc mixed in. I wish I could cover everything, but upping my daily word allowance from 600 to 1000 to 1200, I’m clearly running out of space. 🙂

      -Eric

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