« PreviousContinue »
POLITICAL MOVEMENTS IN MISSOURI.—THE STATE ELECTIONS
The condition of affairs in Missouri has been somewhat peculiar, from the very outbreak of the rebellion. At the outset the Executive Department of the State government was in the hands of men in full sympathy with the secession cause, who, under pretence of protecting the State from domestic violence, were organizing its forces for active co-operation with the rebel movement. On the 30th of July, 1861, the State Convention, originally called by Governor Jackson, for the purpose of taking Missouri out of the Union, but to which the people had elected a large majority of Union men, declared all the Executive offices of the State vacant, by reason of the treasonable conduct of the incumbents, and appointed a Provisional Government, of which the Hon. H. R. Gamble was at the head. He at once took measures to maintain the National authority within the State. He ordered the troops belonging to the rebel confederacy to withdraw from it, and called upon all the citizens of the State to organize for its defence, and for the preservation of peace within its borders. He also issued a proclamation, framed in accordance with the following suggestions from Washington:
WASHINGTON, August 3, 1861. To His Excellency Gov. GAMBLE, Governor of Missouri:
In reply to your Message, addressed to the President, I am directed to say, that if, by a Proclamation, you promise security to citizens in arms, who voluntarily return to their allegiance, and behave as peaceable and loyal men, this Government will cause the promise to be respected.
SIMON CAMERON, Sccretary of War.
Two days after this, Governor Jackson, returning from Richmond, declared the State to be no longer one of the United States; and on the 2d of November, the Legislature, summoned by him as Governor, ratified a compact, by which certain commissioners, on both sides, had agreed that Missouri should join the rebel confederacy. The State authority was thus divided—two persons claiming to wield the Executive authority, and two bodies, also, claiming to represent the popular will, -one adhering to the Union, and the other to the Confederacy in organized rebellion against it. This state of things naturally led to wide-spread disorder, and carried all the evils of civil war into every section and neighborhood of the State.
To these evils were gradually added others, growing out of a division of sentiment, which afterwards ripened into sharp hostility, among the friends of the Union within the State. One of the earliest causes of this dissension was the action and removal of General Fremont, who arrived at St. Louis, to take command of the Western Department, on the 26th of July, 1861. On the 31st of August he issued a Proclamation, declaring that circumstances, in his judgment, of sufficient urgency, rendered it necessary that “the commanding general of the Department should assume the administrative power of the State," thus superseding entirely the authority of the civil rulers. He also proclaimed the whole State to be under martial law, declared that all persons taken with arms in their bands, within the designated lines of the Department, should be tried by court-martial, and if found guilty, shot; and confiscating the property and emancipating the slaves of "all persons who should be proved to have taken an active part with the enemies of the United States.” This latter clause, transcending the authority conferred by the confiscation act of Congress, was subsequently modified by order of the President of the United States. *
* See page 161.
On the 14th of October, after a personal inspection of affairs in that department by the Secretary of War, an order was issued from the War Department, in effect censuring General Fremont for having expended very large sums of the public money, through agents of his own appointment, and not responsible to the government;-requiring all contracts and disbursements to be made by the proper officers of the army ;-directing the discontinuance of the extensive fieldworks, which the General was erecting around St. Louis and Jefferson City; and also the barracks in construction around his head-quarters, and also notifying him that the officers, to whom he had issued commissions, would not be paid until those commissions should have been approved by the President. On the 1st of November, General Fremont entered into an agreement with General Sterling Price, commanding the rebel forces in Missouri, by which each party stipulated that no further arrests of citizens should be made on either side for the expression of political opinions, and releasing all who were then in custody on such charges.
On the 2d of November, General Fremont was relieved from his command in the Western Department, in consequence of his action in the matters above referred to, his command devolving on General Hunter, to whom, as soon as a change in the command of the Department had been decided on, the President had addressed the following letter :
WASHINGTON, October 24, 1861. SIR:—The command of the Department of the West having devolved upon you, I propose to offer you a few suggestions, knowing how hazardous it is to bind down a distant commander in the field to specific lines of operation, as so much always depends on the knowledge of localities and passing events. It is intended, therefore, to leave considerable margin for the exercise of your judgment and discretion.
The main rebel army (Price's) west of the Mississippi is believed to have passed Dade county in full retreat upon Northwestern Arkansas, leaving Missouri almost free from the enemy, excepting in the southeast part of the State. Assuming this basis of fact, it seems desirable-as you are not likely to overtake Price, and are in danger of making too long a line from your own base of supplies and re-enforcements-that you should give up the pursuit, halt your main army, divide it into two corps of observation, one occupying Sedalia and the other Rolla, the present termini of railroads, then recruit the condition of both corps by re-establishing and improving their discipline and instruction, perfecting their clothing and equipments, and providing less uncomfortable quarters. Of course, both railroads must be guarded and kept open, judiciously employing just so much force as is necessary for this. From these two points, Sedalia and Rolla, and especially in judicious cooperation with Lane on the Kansas border, it would be very easy to concentrate, and repel any army of the enemy returning on Missouri on the Southwest. As it is not probable any such attempt to return will be made before or during the approaching cold weather, before spring the people of Missouri will be in no favorable mood for renewing for next year the troubles which have so much afflicted and impoverished them during this.
If you take this line of policy, and if, as I anticipate, you will see no enemy in great force approaching, you will have a surplus force which you can withdraw from those points, and direct to others, as may be needed--the railroads furnishing ready means of re-enforcing those main points, if occasion requires.
Doubtless local uprisings for a time will continue to occur, but those can be met by detachments of local forces of our own, and will ere long tire out of themselves.
While, as stated at the beginning of this letter, a large discretion must be and is left with yourself, I feel sure that an indefinite pursuit of Price, or an attempt by this long and circuitous route to reach Memphis, will be exhaustive beyond endurance, and will end in the loss of the whole force engaged in it. Your obedient servant,
A. LINCOLN. The Commander of the Department of the West.
General Hunter's first act was to repudiate the agreement of Gen. Fremont with General Price, and, on the 18th of November, General Halleck arrived as his successor.
The action of General Fremont had given rise to very serious complaints on the part of the people of Missouri; and these in turn had led to strong demonstrations on his behalf. His removal was made the occasion for public manifestations of sympathy for him, and of censure for the government. An address was presented to him, signed by large numbers of the citizens of St. Louis, those of German birth largely predominating, in which his removal was ascribed to jealousy of his popularity, and to the fact that his policy in regard to emancipation was in advance of the government at Washington. “ You have risen," said this address, " too fast in popular favor. The policy announced in your proclamation, although hailed as a political and military necessity, furnished your ambitious rivals and enemies with a cruel weapon for your intended destruction. The harbingers of truth will ever be crucified by the Pharisees. We cannot be deceived by shallow and flimsy pretexts, by unfounded and slanderous reports. We entertain no doubt of your ability to speedily confound and silence your traducers. The day of reckoning is not far distant, and the people will take care that the schemes of your opponents shall, in the end be signally defeated.” The General accepted these tributes to his merits, and these denunciations of the government, with grateful acknowledgments, saying that the kind and affectionate demonstrations which greeted him, cheered and strengthened his confidence—“my confidence,” he said, “ already somewhat wavering, in our republican institutions."
The sharp personal discussions to which this incident gave rise, were made still more bitter, by denunciations of General Halleck's course in excluding, for military reasons, which have been already noticed,* fugitive slaves from our lines, and by the contest that soon came up in the State Convention, on the general subject of emancipation. On the 7th of June, 1862, a bill was introduced into the Convention by Judge Breckinridge, of St. Louis, for gradual emancipation, framed in accordance with the recommendation of the President's Mes
* See page 292.