Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson in Richmond, Virginia


CDV of Governor Jackson circa 1860. Courtesy of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield.

On July 29, 1861, Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson addressed a “large crowd assembled in front of the Spotswood House [Hotel]” on the desperate situation out west in his home state. In mid-June, Jackson and former senator and pro-secessionist David Rice Atchison traveled east to the Confederate capital as a diplomatic plea for help with President Jefferson Davis. At the same time, commander of the pro-Confederate Missouri State Guard Sterling Price trained his inexperienced volunteer soldiers in southwest Missouri preparing for a rematch against Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon’s Army of the West that had ousted the secessionists from the state capital at Jefferson City in May.

Jackson and Atchison hoped that Jefferson Davis would further support their efforts to forcibly take back Jefferson City and officially declare Missouri’s loyalty to the Southern Confederacy. In early May, Davis had sent three field guns to Jackson in order to assist in the capture of the largest slave state arsenal, the St. Louis Arsenal.” However, Lyon’s troops captured them first, along with Jackson’s militia force. With this disaster for the Confederates, Davis was unwilling to supply more munitions and aid to Jackson without the state’s official secession from the Union. The summer trip to the East was Jackson’s attempt to regain the trust of Davis. By bringing Atchison along, who served alongside Davis in Congress, Jackson believed his ability to negotiate with Davis would hopefully improve. It did. Davis and the Confederate Congress appropriated $1 million to Missouri’s efforts once the state passed its ordinance of secession.

At the Spotswood Hotel in Richmond, Jackson was determined to express and share his Rebel zeal with the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The goal for Jackson was to show Virginians that Missouri was going to be a decisive battleground, too.

“My friends of Virginia and of the Southern Confederacy, who have assembled here tonight, I greet you with the warmth of an overflowing heart. Had not similar scenes on my way to this place, in demonstration of the interest of the Southern people in the cause in which I am engaged, accustomed me to them, this kind reception might have taken me by surprise. I take it, however, as no compliment to myself personally. I think I understand very well this demonstration and all other welcomes that have greeted me on my way hither. It is but the expression of the profound earnestness of Southern men in the glorious cause in which we are all engaged, to which my energies are pledged, and in which my life, fortune and honor is forever enlisted. [Applause]

I doubt not you want to hear something of Missouri. [Voices “Yes; tell us about her? “] The troubles you have had here, the difficulties you have surmounted, Missouri has felt and encountered to a far greater extent. The people of Missouri are more divided than the people of Virginia. The insidious influences of the enemy have for years been brought to bear on her in the effort to surround the South with a “wall of fire,” occupying as she does the position on the left flank of the Southern States. On account of the geographical situation of Virginia and Missouri, it is apparent to the mind of all that these States must be the great battle-fields upon which this war is to be waged, if Mr. Lincoln shall think proper to continue it. […]

I sympathize deeply with the people of Virginia, as well as you do with the people of Missouri. As I before remarked, the geographical position of the two States makes them the battle grounds by necessary consequence. We are placed in the front ranks; we occupy the out posts. If these are taken it cannot be expected the citadel will long hold out. Hence, I have everywhere, from the time I entered the State of Arkansas until I reached this place, invoked my fellow-citizens to rally to the rescue; if they did not want to see their own homes in flames, their own firesides desolated, they must march forthwith, either to Virginia or Missouri, meet the invader face to face, and drive him from the soil, or die in the noble endeavor.– [Cheers.] […]

I shall return as soon as the cars can take me to the State of Missouri. I shall go to the field, and there I shall remain until the invader is driven from our soil, or we are conquered. [Cheers.] I do not expect the latter to take place, Such men as we have can never be conquered, [cheers.] because they are fighting for that which is dearer than life itself — their rights [Cheers.] I have left behind me wife, children, home, everything that is dear to man. My men are in the same condition.–We would be worse than cowards if we gave up the contest with anything less than life. [Loud cheers.]” [1]

1. “Speech of Gov. Jackson of Missouri,” The Richmond Daily Dispatch, July 29, 1861, University of Richmond Libraries.

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