Columbia College–Lake of the Ozarks 'story telling' history professor Jim Pasley continues with the second installment on his series of essays commemorating the Civil War

Jim Pasley (center) with Lake campus alumni John Lavanchy (left) and Roy Roark (right).
This article appeared in the July 4th edition of the Lake Sun newspaper.

Lesson 2: Fighting breaks out in state

To help commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, we asked Columbia College history professor Jim Pasley, also known as the ‘story telling’ teacher to give us a little more insight into the history of the war.
Read Lesson 1
Read Lesson 3
Read Lesson 4

Read Lesson 5
In my last lesson, we discussed the fact that as soon as Missouri Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson was elected, he stated in his inaugural address, “We owe it to our southern brethren to come to the aid of the South.”
Jackson, who had run on a platform that he would keep Missouri in the Union, had tricked the people of Missouri and was a closet secessionist. He now called on the people of Missouri to meet in Jefferson City and to bring whatever arms they had to form a militia.
Eleven thousand local boys now gathered in Jefferson City to support the governor. Jefferson City, at that time, had a population of just 3,000 people. The immediate problem for this rag tag army was a lack of weapons. There was a small state armory located in a two story building at the corner of Broadway and High streets, across from St. Peter’s Church. The armory held seven artillery pieces from the War of 1812 and 200 flint lock rifles.
The Missouri boys who showed up were carrying an assortment of shotguns and hunting rifles, and most had no weapon at all. Gov. Jackson now called upon former Governor and Mexican American War hero Sterling Price to command the newly formed Missouri State Militia, and the decision was made to capture the federal arsenal in St. Louis, which held 60,000 muskets and million 1 million rounds of ammo.
By May 3, 1861, 800 members of Jackson’s militia had set up camp in north St. Louis in preparation to take the federal arsenal. However, St. Louis was dominated by a powerful pro-union politician, Frank Blair. Blair now called upon the local union military commander, Capt. Nathaniel Lyon,  and the gentlemen now recruited four regiments of union soldiers made up of local St. Louis citizens, primarily of German descent.
On May 10, 1861, Capt. Lyon’s 3,000 union forces marched north and surrounded the 800 Missouri militia men forcing them to surrender. The union forces then marched their prisoners south, through the streets of St. Louis, headed for the Gratiot Street prison. The citizens of St. Louis now lined the streets watching as the Missouri militia was forced at bayonet point toward its destination.
This did not sit well with the people of St. Louis. It is one thing to say you will stay in the union. It is something altogether different when the federal government is taking control of state authority. As a result, people along the route of the forced march now started shouting and throwing stones at the union forces. More and more people now joined in and Capt. Lyon, fearing he would lose control of his prisoners, now gave the order to fire into the crowed. When the smoke cleared, 15 unarmed St. Louis citizens lay dead, including women and children. This became known as the St. Louis Massacre.
As word spread throughout the state of what had happened, many people who had sat on the fence now sided with the pro-south governor.
On June 11, 1861, Gov. Jackson and Sterling Price decided to travel to St. Louis to discuss the situation with Capt. Lyon and Frank Blair. They met for four hours. Gov. Jackson said he would stay in the union provided all federal troops are removed from the state of Missouri.
To Frank Blair, this was totally unacceptable, and the discussion turned into a shouting match. Lyon now stated, “If I have to kill every man, woman and child in the state of Missouri to keep it in the Union, I will do so!” He then turned to his second in command and said “This means war. Escort these men out of my lines!”
Gov. Jackson and Sterling Price were then escorted to the train station where they boarded and then traveled back to Jefferson City. On the trip back, they stopped at the Gasconade and the Osage River crossings and blew up the bridges, thus cutting off rail service between St. Louis and the capital.
The governor and Price now cleaned out the state treasury, gathered together their remaining militia, and headed for Boonville, Mo., a town with strong southern sympathies.
Lyon now gathered together a force of 1,700 Union soldiers and traveled to Jefferson City by steamboat. When he arrived, he found the capital building deserted and the treasury cleaned out. He now had his troops arrest many pro-south citizens in Jefferson City. These people were identified by their pro north neighbors. Lyon now set up a makeshift prison in the basement of the Capitol and learned that Jackson had now fled to Boonville.
Lyon now loaded his men up on the steamboats in pursuit of the governor and his militia. On June 17, 1861, Lyon and his 1,700-man force arrived at Boonville and immediately engaged the Missouri militia in a battle that only lasted 30 minutes.
The militia had the high ground just east of town, but they were outnumbered 4-to-1 and the Union forces also had artillery. When the fighting ended, the Missouri Militia had suffered 25 casualties. The Union forces had 11 casualties and had captured 600 prisoners. Jackson and Sterling Price now fled southward toward Springfield, Mo., with their remaining troops.
Lyon was hot on their tail and finally caught up with them on a farm just west of Springfield. When news of his victories reached St. Louis, Lyon received a field promotion to general. Unfortunately for the general, he was not be given the opportunity to enjoy the rights and privileges of his office for long. He will have the distinct honor of being the first general killed in the Civil War. Gen. Lyon will meet his fate during the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, which we will discuss in the next lesson.
Jim Pasley is a Professor of History at Columbia College Lake of the Ozarks.