Guide to Civil War Resources at the Missouri State Archives

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Introduction to the Guide

The phrase "Civil War in Missouri " conjures up images of bushwhackers and jayhawkers, of Order No. 11 in northwest Missouri and St. Louis ' Camp Jackson. There are the tales of General Nathaniel Lyon's death at the Battle of Wilson's Creek in 1861, and General Sterling Price's use of water-soaked hemp bales at the Battle of Lexington later that same year - these, and more, are the stories for which Missouri 's Civil War is famous.

But behind the stories of danger and glory in battle is another story of civil war in Missouri. It is the story of families living in a war-torn state, suffering the depredations of bushwhackers, fleeing for safety and returning to plundered livestock, ravaged farms and land, and burned-out homes. It is the story of government bureaucracy documenting the state of affairs in Missouri, from the first stirrings of rebellion in the antebellum era, to full-scale war and its devastating aftereffects.

Purpose of the Guide

The purpose of the Guide to Civil War Resources is to bring together the many and varied records available at the Missouri State Archives that document the state's history during the tumultuous years leading to the outbreak of war and the actions of state government and private citizens during the conflict and reconstruction. The records summarized here will increase our collective knowledge about the war in Missouri and the pivotal role Missouri played during that time of national crisis. The Guide makes Missouri ' s Civil War history both accessible and meaningful, encompassing the military aspects of the war as well as the social reactions to the fighting, and offers a unique look at a state divided in loyalty.

Records in the Guide

The Guide references documents created at all levels of government: local, state, and federal. It includes records dating from 1844 through 1875, roughly covering state activities from the antebellum era through the final years of federal Reconstruction and the writing of a new state constitution in Missouri. Some themes include slavery, military exploits, the Kansas border war, immigration, constitutional history, civil rights, and segregation, as well as information about marriages, education, and agriculture. The variety of records is immense and includes reports, correspondence, muster rolls, war service cards, legislative bill packets, House and Senate journals, and court records; these records are available in paper format and often on microfilm, and many are accessible through online databases. The Guide is not a comprehensive manual for all archival collections with Civil War components, but rather a sampling of what is available to interested researchers.

Using the Guide

The Guide is arranged in the traditional archival method, using record groups (assigned specific numbers) to identify official records of the various elected officials and state agencies. For example Record Group 005 includes all war-related materials encompassed within the collections of the Office of the Secretary of State. This includes election results, registers of civil officers, constitutional conventions papers, and more. In this guide, the record groups are arranged numerically, beginning with Record Group 000 (State Documents Collection) and ending with Record Group 600 (Supreme Court of Missouri records); unnumbered collections follow. A brief history of the elected office or state agency precedes the description of available records. Within each record group are individual record series. Using Record Group 005 as an example again, we see that there are series for Elections, Commissions, and Special Collections; each of those has smaller sub-series designations for specific records.

Those using the Guide will see that specific examples, such as letters or court cases, are cited within the descriptive text and hyperlinks are provided to specific documents. Additional and similar information is generally available within the same group of records; since the Guide is wide-ranging in scope, it was not possible to incorporate an itemized listing of all records relating to the Civil War in Missouri. The Guide should be used in conjunction with other published finding aids and online databases at the Missouri State Archives.

Civil War activities in Missouri remain high in today's public conscience. There continues to be an enormous interest throughout the state in the events that led to the Civil War - and in the military engagements and guerrilla warfare that marked the war as it was fought in Missouri. The Guide is an innovative venue that encourages interested scholars, family historians, and the general public to explore the war and its aftermath. Public awareness and continuing curiosity about the significance of Missouri in the Civil War creates an environment in which the Guide can help engage citizens in their history, making it both accessible and meaningful.


The Missouri State Archives has the state's largest collection of Civil War documents. This collection attracts researchers and historians from across the United States interested in Missouri 's pivotal role in the expansion of slavery into western territories and the resulting war. For more information about the Missouri State Archives, its collections, and services provided, please contact:

Missouri State Archives
P.O. Box 1747
Jefferson City MO 65102
573-751-3280
E-mail: archref@sos.mo.gov
Website: http://www.sos.mo.gov/archives