Missouri Prepares for War; Western Virginia Prepares for Statehood

Wednesday, June 12, 1861

Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson had unceremoniously left St. Louis with secessionist General Sterling Price. Their meeting with Union General Nathaniel Lyon didn’t go so well. It ended with Lyon exclaiming “this means war!” and leaving abruptly.

Jackson and Price arrived back in the capital, Jefferson City, at 2am. The news of the meeting spread by telegraph just as quickly. War was coming to Missouri. The Governor issued a proclamation detailing the recent outrages Missourians had suffered at the hands of the Federal Government.1

In most cases, such proclamations contain statements greatly exaggerated from the truth. However, in the case of Missouri and General Lyons, Jackson needed to do very little embellishment. He noted how the volunteer state soldiers had been taken prisoner, how commerce with Southern (“sister”) states had been suspended, how peaceful citizens had been arrested without being charged for a crime and how “unoffending and defenceless men, women, and children, have been ruthlessly shot down and murdered.” Thanks to General Lyon and the St. Louis Riots, Missouri’s love for the Union was fading.

Moving from that, Jackson stated that the Federal troops were trying to overthrow the state government. To keep them from doing so, he called for 50,000 men to take up arms in the Missouri State Guard “for the purpose of repelling such invasion, and for the protection of the lives, liberties and property of the citizens of this State.”

In closing, the pro-secessionist Governor Jackson reminded Missourians that while their state was “still one of the United States,” their “first allegiance is due to your own State, and that you are under no obligation whatever to obey the unconstitutional edicts of the military despotism which has introduced itself at Washington.” This duty, this allegiance should compel them to “drive out ignominiously the invaders who have dared to desecrate the soil which your labors have made fruitful, and which is consecrated by your homes.”2

Lyon’s actions in St. Louis, combined with Jackson’s proclamation, sent men flocking to join the Missouri State Guards. Lyon, however, had received word from Washington that Union reinforcements would soon be on their way. Deciding not to wait for them, Lyon planned to advance on Jefferson City, 125 miles to the west.3


Western Virginia Begins to Compose

In Wheeling, western Virginia, the convention to establish a separate state, meeting in Washington Hall, entered its second day. Delegates were officially accepted to represent the 39 counties and a president was named. Arthur I. Boreman, a lawyer and state representative from Parkersburg, received the honors.

The purpose of the Convention was clear. They were “to make the requisite preparatory arrangements for the separation from Virginia, and the formation into a new State.”

A Committee on Business was formed to take up that action. Delegates were chosen to draw up a Declaration of Separation to be presented to the Convention and then to Virginia.

The meeting adjourned while the members of the committee met privately to compose their declaration.4


Happenings In and Around Maryland

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, Union General Patterson had received word of Col. Lew Wallace’s 11th Indiana Zouaves’s arrival in Cumberland, Maryland. He was convinced that if a regiment could march across northwestern Virginia and Maryland, the railroad could bring supplies to and from Wheeling (though under guard).

Patterson wished for Wallace’s Zouaves to be supported by two regiments of infantry so they could move east along the B&O Railroad, repairing bridges. Though Cumberland was only 60 miles west of Hagerstown (where Patterson hoped to soon establish his base), he could not assist Wallace. “I resolve to conquer and risk nothing,” said the General, figuring the foe before him at Harpers Ferry too great to risk sending troops to Wallace.

Arriving to assist Patterson were reinforcements of artillery and General Cadwalader from Baltimore, recently transfered from commander of the Department of Annapolis to leading a brigade in the field.

With these new arrivals, Patterson gave marching orders for Saturday the 15th to his five brigades. Two brigades would march from Greencastle to Williamsport, Maryland, the three others would arrive in Hargerstown by rail. After marching through the town and assuring protection of the Unionist citizens, one brigade each would march to Funkstown, Sharpsburg and the Williamsport-Hagerstown Turnpike. 5

Farther south, near Washington, US Col. Stone had advanced his troops to near the Potomac on his Rockville Expedition, established as a sort of ruse for General Patterson’s movements.

Rockville, where Stone was headquartered, was 20 miles north of the White House. However, since many of the Rebels in Virginia were also north of Washington, the roads over which he marched weren’t necessarily considered to be friendly.

Using both roads and the C&O Canal, Stone moved his men from Rockville to Seneca Creek, Seneca Mills, Darnestown, Tennallytown and sent an scouting party to Edwards Ferry on the Potomac.

Earlier in the day, Rebels crossed the Potomac in order to disable the canal at Edwards Ferry. The lock-keeper somehow managed to convince them, after emptying the water from the lock, that it was as good as broken. They returned to their side of the river.6

  1. The Story of a Border City During the Civil War by Galusha Anderson, Little, Brown, and Company, 1908 []
  2. The Proclamation was printed in The Rebellion Record, Vol. 1 by Moore. []
  3. Wilson’s Creek by Piston & Hatcher. []
  4. Proceedings of the First Session of the Second Wheeling Convention []
  5. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p675-678. []
  6. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p675-678. []
Creative Commons License
Missouri Prepares for War; Western Virginia Prepares for Statehood by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


View all posts by