Price Rescues Secessionists in Missouri; Reaction to Lincoln’s Message

December 5, 1861 (Thursday)

The onset of Missouri winter drew a dismal cloud over General Sterling Price. Many of his men had refused to reenlist in the secessionist Missouri State Guards unless given a few weeks furlough to return home for Christmas. The few thousand who remained were hunkered down around Osceola, along the Osage River in western Missouri.

Price had pleaded with the northern Missourians to rally around his colors. Many were answering the call, gathering together in small towns and county seats, hoping to find their way south, through Union lines.

He received word that a band of 2,500 rebels, eager to lend him their lives, had occupied the town across the Missouri River from Lexington. With Union forces between them at Sedalia and Kansas City, Price knew it would be a trial to bring the recruits into his fold.

Nevertheless, he sent a detachment of 1,100 from Osceola to open the way for them.1

Union scouts reported a column of Missouri rebels headed towards Lexington, but mostly they were ignored. There had been many such reports, most turning out to be simple rumor.2

For the better part of a day, the Missouri State Guard ferried the new recruits across the wide Missouri. More could have been ushered to the safety of the main body at Osceola, but the leader of the expedition was afraid that his force had been found out (which it had) and that the Union troops were on their way to break it up (which they were, but not yet).

General Price was elated with the catch, but lamented that he could not cast a larger net to the counties in northern Missouri. There were thousands that wanted to join him, but could not.3

Meanwhile, three of General Halleck’s Union division commanders, Pope, Steele and Dodge, all reported that Price was near Osceola and, more or less, behaving himself.4


Reaction to Lincoln’s “Abortion of a Message” to Congress

President Lincoln’s controversial speech before Congress, which advocated the colonization of blacks, free and slave, was generating much ire from abolitionists.

One of the times’ greatest abolitionists, Strubal York, from the President’s own state of Illinois, had been a supporter of Lincoln during the election. The speech to Congress, however, was a turning point. “Such a Message!,” he spat out in a letter to Senator Lyman Trumbull. “Not one single manly, bold, dignified position taking it from beginning to end — No response to the popular feeling — no battlecry to the 500,000 gallant soldiers now in the field, but a tame, timid, timeserving common place sort of an abortion of a Message, cold enough with one breath, to freeze hell over. I have not seen one intelligent man who approves of it. I take it there are none such in the limits of the Free States.”

York, and many other abolitionists, believed the Government had “a higher and holier mission to perform, than to lavish hundreds of millions of Treasure, and to sacrifice tens of thousands of the lives of our noblest young men, to see how strong it can hold a Traitor’s negro with one hand and how successfully it can fight his master with the other.”

In a fit of anger, York concluded that “Mr. Lincoln must have been facing southward when he wrote this thing.”5

Meanwhile, Senator Lyman Trumbull, to whom the scathing letter was written, introduced a bill into Congress calling “for the confiscation of the property of rebels, and giving freedom to the persons they hold in slavery.”

This took the Confiscation Act a step farther. As it stood, the US Government could only confiscate the slaves who were specifically aiding the Confederate Government. It left alone the slaves owned and worked by private individuals.

Like Lincoln, however, Trumbull also advocated the colonization “of such of them as may be willing to go, in some tropical country, where they may have the protection of the Government, and be secured in all the rights and privileges of freemen.”6

This thought was typical of most, but far from all, abolitionists in the North.

  1. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 8, p730. []
  2. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 8, p399. Other reports on p392 and 394. []
  3. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 8, p730. []
  4. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 8, p407-408. []
  5. Letter from Strubal York to Lyman Trumbull, December 5, 1861. []
  6. Speech of Hon. Lyman Trumbull delivered to the Senate, December 5, 1861. []
Creative Commons License
Price Rescues Secessionists in Missouri; Reaction to Lincoln’s Message by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


View all posts by

3 thoughts on “Price Rescues Secessionists in Missouri; Reaction to Lincoln’s Message

  1. “President Lincoln’s controversial speech before Congress, which advocated the colonization of blacks, free and slave, was generating much ire from abolitionists.” – – – People sometimes forget how political and backbiting these times were. From the perspective of hindsight it’s obvious that repatriation or export of human beings based upon their skin color is totally foolish. Not as bad as slavery, but just as ill conceived. Yet in context with the times and the alternatives presented to Lincoln this probably seemed like a progressive and “reasonable” compromise. The poor fellow was beset from all sides. There were no good answers.

    1. To the South, yes, Lincoln really did seem like a progressive. They seceded and started a war because they feared that Lincoln would emancipate the slaves. At the time, the only stance he really took on slavery was that he didn’t want it in the new territories. The South seemed a bit touchy about it.

      You’re right, he was beset from all sides. It’s really neat to read Frederick Douglass’ writings in late 61 and early 62 about Lincoln. He was not a fan.

      But Lincoln changed quite a bit over the course of the war (as did Douglass). His moderate and racist views would eventually give way to how we remember him today.

      And I guess that’s what we need to keep in mind. Racism and white supremacy were moderate views. The abolition of slavery was considered to be crazy radicalism.

      1. Quite right, and pretty much sums up the difficulty Lincoln faced. During a time when racism was normal, and slavery was not only legal, but regarded as moral and necessary by many he wanted to stop it’s spread. The hard-line elements were not happy from either side. Abolitionists wanted complete freedom and entrenched slave holders wanted guarantees of their “property rights”. Any middle ground brought him the ire of BOTH. Sometimes it sucks to me “moderate”… no matter how much he wanted to reassure everyone.

Comments are closed.