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Soldiers' Records: War of 1812 - World War I

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Abstract of Wars & Military Engagements: War of 1812 through World War I

The following provides an abstract of each war or military engagement represented in the Soldiers' Records. While many of the wars are well-known, such as the Mexican War or World War I, others are peculiarly Missourian, including the 1836 Heatherly War, the 1838 Mormon War, and the 1839 Iowa (Honey) War. Each summary includes a short description of events leading up to the military action. Entries for the Civil War and World War I include additional web-based resources that may be consulted.

War of 1812

Just a few decades after the American Revolution, the United States again fought the British in a demand for neutral rights.

The War of 1812 was a serious threat to settlements along the Missouri River corridor. Indian attacks, primarily the work of the Sac and Fox tribes that were instigated by the British, encouraged Missourians to take up arms in the war. The British outposts supplied Indian tribes with guns and ammunition, causing trouble on the Missouri frontier. The attacks were in response to western land hunger. The constant pressure on the federal government to open new lands for American settlers repeatedly forced or persuaded Native American tribes to sign treaties giving over more of their land each year.

Missouri territorial officials organized and raised several companies of rangers. There were no major battles in the territory. Fighting was characterized by a series of Indian raids, skirmishes, and atrocities. Almost all of these took place in the areas north of the Missouri River, either in the Boon's Lick region or along the Missouri and upper Mississippi rivers. During this period, there were two federal forts in Missouri Territory: Fort Bellefontaine and Fort Osage.

The Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812, was signed on Christmas Day in 1814. By 1816, significant Indian resistance to white settlers in Missouri was at an end.

Black Hawk War, 1832

The origin of this war dates back to 1804, when a band of Sac Indians wintered at St. Louis. That particular band of Missouri River Sacs agreed to sign over all claims to territory in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Missouri. The rest of the tribe did not support the agreement, and the tribe split.

Unrest and other land disputes led to the Black Hawk War, when the Sac nation refused to comply with the 1804 agreement. The war was fought under the leadership of Black Hawk, a Sac warrior. He and his followers refused to move from lands around Rock River, Illinois, that had been transferred to the United States by treaty; around 1831, they began raids on nearby white settlements. The governor of Illinois finally called out his troops and Missouri joined in, fearing the warring tribes might cross the river into Missouri. In the spring of 1832, Governor Miller ordered 2000 mounted volunteers to be raised and held in readiness. Two companies patrolled the area between the Des Moines River and the Chariton River in Missouri, and a similar force guarded the western border. The Indians were defeated, however, and their leader Black Hawk captured, before Missouri troops saw service. Black Hawk was imprisoned in Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis for a period.

Heatherly War, 1836

In June 1836, the Heatherly gang, an infamous family living near the Grand River in northwestern Missouri, attempted to sell whiskey to the Potawatomies, a tribe immigrating to new homes west of the Missouri River. The Native Americans refused to buy the whiskey. The gang then stole some of their horses, instead. The Potawatomies pursued the horse thieves and were fired upon when they reached the Heatherly camp; two of the gang were killed. In a cover-up, the Heatherlys then went to the settlements, raising an alarm that thousands of Indians were in the country murdering and robbing. They also claimed that the tribes had killed white men in the Upper Grand River country. Governor Daniel Dunklin sent 200 militiamen to the area with orders to expel all Native Americans from the state. A federal investigation determined that white men preying upon a friendly Native American tribe had provoked the incident and there was no cause for the panic. The militia disbanded. The members of the Heatherly gang were later apprehended.

Seminole War, 1837

The Seminole Indians' refusal to move out of Florida and west of the Mississippi River launched the Seminole War. United States troops were sent to carry out the order, but the tribe successfully defied the federal government. The United States government asked Missouri to furnish troops to fight the Seminole Indians in Florida, requesting two regiments of mounted volunteers, a total of 600 men. U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton stated, "Missourians will go wherever their services are needed."

Colonel Richard Gentry and his troops departed for Florida in October 1837. The first regiment consisted primarily of Boone County residents, although there were also volunteers from Callaway, Chariton, Ray, Howard, and Jackson counties. Four companies of a second regiment were enlisted and attached to the first; two of the companies were composed of men from the Delaware and Osage tribes, who served as scouts and spies. From Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, the group sailed down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, then crossed the Gulf of Mexico to Tampa Bay. The regiments arrived in Florida on November 15; then, they marched through swamps to Lake Okeechobee. The Battle of Okeechobee began on Christmas Day in 1837. About 138 soldiers, mostly Missourians and including Colonel Gentry, were killed or wounded in that battle, which saw the Seminole tribe driven back. Missouri troops returned home in early 1838 and disbanded. Later reports of the cowardice of the Missouri troops at the Battle of Okeechobee stirred controversy and resulted in a federal investigation.

Osage War, 1837

The Osage War in southwestern Missouri occurred when the last remaining Osage Indians refused to move west in 1837. Militia units drove hunting parties of the Osage, Shawnee, and Delaware into Kansas and Arkansas, ending the tribes' hunting expeditions into Missouri.

Mormon War, 1838

The 1830s brought a time of religious conflict to Missouri when western Missouri counties swelled with Mormon migration. In 1831, the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation from God identifying Jackson County as the location of Christ's return. In obedience to God's word the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as the church later came to be known) set about forming a communitarian settlement they named Far West. Mormon clannishness and rapidly rising numbers, however, frightened non-members who believed they would soon be pushed off their land. Eventually, the "old settlers," as they styled themselves, attacked and drove "the Saints" into Clay County, where the local citizens received them sympathetically for what they believed would be a temporary stay. When it became obvious that a permanent Mormon community seemed likely, the troubles began again. Clay County citizens requested removal of the Mormons in 1836. In response, the state legislature created Daviess and Caldwell counties, with the understanding by many that the Mormons would settle in Caldwell County. Mormon settlers, however, felt no such obligation and members soon spread to Carroll, Clinton, Daviess, Chariton, and Livingston counties. Distrust, fear, and soon fiery rhetoric on both sides again emerged. Eventually, open warfare, including raids and individual acts of violence, broke out between the Mormons and non-Mormon neighbors. Governor Lilburn Boggs called the militia to settle the problem. He also issued Executive Order No. 44, of doubtful legality, it declared, "The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for public peace..." Under duress, the Mormons signed away their Missouri property and organized a move to Illinois.

Iowa (or Honey) War, 1839

Although Missouri became a state in 1821, the northern boundary was never properly and legally surveyed. When the territory of Iowa was subsequently created, the southern boundary was simply defined as Missouri's northern boundary, setting up potential for the later conflict. To settle the situation, Congress authorized a joint commission to survey the Missouri/Iowa line. In the 1838 report, four lines were designated as being possible boundary lines, according to the phrasing of the 1820 Missouri boundary delineated by the United States Congress.

The boundary between Missouri and the Iowa Territory soon came into dispute. Governor Lilburn Boggs ordered all officials of Missouri's northern counties to execute the laws of the state up to the northernmost designated line, using the militia if necessary. At the same time, Iowa's Governor Robert Lucas warned Missouri officials to stay out of the disputed border area. Local officials were caught in between, as was a Missouri man who cut three bee trees in the undecided border area. An Iowa territorial court issued a $1.50 fine to the man. To defend Missouri's territorial rights, Governor Boggs called out nearly 800 militiamen from Clark, Knox, and Lewis counties to assemble in Clark County. He rebuffed Governor Lucas' suggestion to let Congress establish the line, leading Lucas to then call out the Iowa militia. After a month's standoff, a committee comprised of men from both militia groups convened and arbitrated a settlement requesting the two governors to submit the boundary question to Congress and suspend military operations. A judicial settlement finally established the boundary in January 1851.

Mexican War, 1846-1848

Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836. The United States quickly recognized the Republic of Texas, but did not admit Texas as a state, due to controversy over slavery expansion. By 1844, though, annexation negotiations began, despite fear of war with Mexico over the issue. Texas was formally admitted to the Union in December 1845. Skirmishes began in the spring of 1846 between General Zachary Taylor's troops, stationed on a disputed strip of land between the Rio Grande and the Nueces rivers, and Mexican troops gathering at the border, intending to invade Texas. In April 1846, the Mexican government declared war; the United States Congress passed a war resolution on May 11, 1846, authorizing the president to call up 50,000 troops and appropriating $10 million for the war effort.

General E.P. Gaines, the officer in charge at New Orleans, feared an imminent Mexican invasion and requested troops from western states. Missouri sent 650 volunteers, but since Gaines was not authorized to raise the troops, his order was overruled and the men sent home. This regiment was known as the "St. Louis Legion." Governor John C. Edwards officially called for volunteers in May 1846; over 1,350 Missourians answered. Eight mounted companies were formed, each consisting of 856 men. Jackson, Lafayette, Clay, Saline, Franklin, Cole, Howard, and Callaway counties each fostered one company, known respectively as Companies A through H.

Men from Cole and Platte counties made up a battalion of infantry numbering 145 men; St. Louis provided a battalion of light artillery of two companies (250 men). These troops, and the First Dragoons of the U.S. Army, made up the Army of the West, serving under General Stephen W. Kearny. Colonel Alexander Doniphan was selected as second in command. After Kearny turned west toward California, Doniphan led the troops to play a major role in several victories in northern Mexico.

Missouri also furnished other troops, including the Second Missouri Mounted Volunteers and a separate battalion of mounted troops. They arrived in Mexico in September 1846 and were followed in July 1847 by the Third Regiment of Missouri Mounted Volunteers.

Southwest Expedition (Kansas-Missouri Border Troubles), 1860

During the antebellum period, many Missourians advocated for the organization of the territory west of the state's border. The land, home to many Native American tribes, was fertile and undeveloped. More importantly to Missouri, as a slave state, was the possibility of sharing a border with a territory that allowed slaves, thus protecting and defending their own interests in that institution.

President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act on May 31, 1854. The act organized the land west of Missouri into two territories, Kansas and Nebraska, with the provision that popular sovereignty would determine if the territories were slave or free.

That act set the stage for a decade of border warfare. Missourians from the western counties began by raiding Kansas's territorial elections, attempting to establish a pro-slavery government through illegal voting and violence. Finally, in October 1857, with federal troop protection, a legal free-territory government was established; in January 1861, Kansas was admitted as a free state.

From the spring of 1858 through December of 1860, western Missourians suffered many depredations from Kansas invaders, referred to as "jayhawkers." The attacks were in retaliation for offenses inflicted on Kansans by aggressive bands of "border ruffians" from Missouri. Vehemently opposed to slavery, the jayhawkers engaged in acts ranging from looting to murder.

In February 1859, the Missouri state legislature appropriated $30,000 to suppress the troubles in western Missouri and bring the jayhawkers to justice. That April, Governor Robert Stewart instructed the state's attorney general to organize militia companies in Bates and Cass counties. There was a brief cessation of hostility during the spring and summer of 1859; James Montgomery, the Kansas guerrilla leader, and his forces were scattered.

Governor Stewart received calls for aid and protection along the border during 1860, as sporadic violence continued. The hostility only heightened with the election of President Abraham Lincoln. In late November, Stewart sent a body of troops from St. Louis and Jefferson City to Vernon County to suppress Montgomery's increased activities. The force was known as the Southwest Expedition, commanded by Brigadier-General Daniel M. Frost. Order was somewhat restored by December, but the border turmoil continued throughout the Civil War.

Civil War, 1861-1865

The deepening sectional crisis between northern and southern states over the expansion of slavery erupted into open warfare on April 12, 1861, when the South fired upon federal troops at Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. Secession for Missouri was the major question at a specially-called state convention held in St. Louis that spring. Pro-Union candidates dominated the convention; no declared secessionist was even elected as a delegate. The convention delegates voted to keep Missouri in the Union. Missourians themselves, though, remained split on the issues of slavery and state's rights throughout the war.

After the war began, Lincoln asked the states' governors for 75,000 men to defend the Union; he specifically requested four Missouri regiments. Missouri's governor, the pro-Southern Claiborne Fox Jackson, refused, claiming the requisition of soldiers was unconstitutional. Learning of Jackson's refusal to provide troops for federal service, staunch Unionist Frank Blair, whose family was influential in St. Louis and Washington, D.C., offered a pro-Union group of volunteers, known as the "Wide-Awakes." These units were known as the Home Guards; formation of such groups was encouraged across the state.

Jackson called for a special legislature to convene in Jefferson City in early May 1861, with the idea of obtaining legislative approval to adequately arm state militia forces. He also hoped to move against the federal arsenal in St. Louis. Jackson called up 50,000 Missouri men to enroll in the new state guard, designed to resist the federal occupation of Missouri. Struggling to keep Missouri neutral, Blair and Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon met with Jackson in St. Louis to negotiate the role of state and federal troops in the state. However, the peace negotiations broke down. When Lyon marched on Jefferson City, Jackson and his "army" fled to Boonville, leaving the capital city in Lyon's possession on June 15, 1861.

Less than two months later, the two opposing forces met in the second major clash of the war after Bull Run. For over six hours, the two sides clashed at Wilson's Creek, just southwest of Springfield, until the federal troops were forced to retreat, leaving southwestern Missouri in Confederate hands for six months. More than 540 men were killed and over 1600 wounded. In March 1862, at the Battle of Pea Ridge ( Arkansas ), the Union Army forced the Confederates to retreat, removing Jackson's state guard from Missouri. The Battle of Pea Ridge effectively ended the threat of Confederate military control in Missouri for the duration of the war. Jackson's general, Sterling Price, commander of the state guard, was forced to retreat from the state; he took his remaining soldiers to join the Confederate troops in battles east of the Mississippi River. After Pea Ridge, the Confederate government transferred its major forces to the eastern theater, which it considered more important to the war effort. Union troops were also primarily reassigned to the east, in accord with Governor Gamble's request to keep federal troops out of Missouri. Union strategy supported this request, which it hoped would neutralize hostility in Missouri.

Missouri, however, was militarily strategic because of the necessity of maintaining communication and transportation via the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The federal government recruited soldiers in Missouri and established garrisons at St. Louis, Rolla, Boonville, Hermann, Jefferson City, and Bird's Point in the Bootheel. The major battles in the state ended after Wilson's Creek, but the remainder of the war in Missouri saw frequent bushwhacking activities and violent skirmishes.

In November 1861, Hamilton Gamble, serving as provisional governor after Jackson fled the state, sought permission to organize a new state guard. Lincoln authorized the organization of the Missouri State Militia (M.S.M.) to cooperate with the federal troops in maintaining order within the state. The M.S.M. was armed, equipped, and clothed at the expense of the federal government, but could only be used within the state, except for cases where immediate defense of the state was necessary. State officials mustered in the troops; later, federal officers mustered them out. About 10,000 men served in the M.S.M.

A second, larger and more encompassing military organization was developed in Missouri in the summer of 1862. The Enrolled Missouri Militia (E.M.M.) was organized for state service, but served periodically under United States officers. The E.M.M. was Gamble's response to guerilla warfare throughout the state. Its primary duty was to halt guerilla activity and defend peaceable citizens. All able-bodied men capable of bearing arms were required to enroll at the nearest military post, where they were organized into companies, regiments, and brigades. There was a $10 fine for failure to enroll; it was possible to procure exemption for one year by paying a fee. The total aggregate strength was around 52,000 men. The commander of the M.S.M., who was also the U.S. commander for the military district of Missouri, was in charge of the E.M.M.

Disloyal men had to enroll their name and surrender all arms, but they were permitted to return peaceably to their homes, after promising not to engage in outlaw activity.

In all, 109,000 Missouri men served the Union, while 30,000 fought with the Confederacy. These numbers account for 60% of the men eligible for military service. Over 14,000 died for the Union; unfortunately, there are no figures available for Missouri's Confederate dead. The state's soldiers fought at Vicksburg, Shiloh, Corinth, Chickamauga, and hundreds of skirmishes throughout the war.

Civil War Provost Marshal Index Database
Provost Marshal records contain thousands of pages of documents detailing the way the provost marshal affected the lives of Missouri citizens who came into contact with the Union Army. This database is an index to the microfilm of the Union Provost Marshal's File of Papers Relating to Individual Citizens.

Civil War Refugees in the Ozarks: Some basic sources for genealogists and Historians

Spanish-American War, 1898

Reports of Spanish brutality in Cuba led many Missourians to support a war with Spain in 1898. The sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, only strengthened the support, as cries of "Remember the Maine!" echoed across the country and jingoistic politicians and yellow journalists urged a free Cuba.

On April 25, the United States Congress declared war on Spain. Missouri was asked to provide five regiments of infantry and one battery of light artillery. Inadequate appropriations made it difficult to camp, feed, clothe, and equip the men. Governor Lon Stephens' determination to be fiscally responsible left the soldiers with leaky tents, insufficient bedding, and worn-out uniforms before the official call to mobilize. However, because the war lasted less than four months, none of these state troops saw action. Battery A of light artillery was sent to Puerto Rico as part of the First Army Corps, but arrived as the armistice was being announced. The Sixth Volunteer Regiment, organized after President William McKinley's second call for troops, arrived in Havana in December to assist with the occupation of Cuba, and served there for three months.

Over 8000 Missourians served in the state's National Guard; none were killed in enemy action, although there were many deaths from accidents and disease. Approximately 3500 Missourians volunteered in the regular armed forces; over half enlisted in the Army.

Individual Missourians in the regular Army and Navy saw action, though, in Cuba and the Philippines at San Juan Hill and Manila Bay, respectively. Several companies of an African American regiment, known as the "Seventh Regiment of Immunes," were raised in Missouri and sent to Georgia for training before being mustered out in February 1899. Some Missouri women who volunteered for nursing service were sent to Santiago. Over $500,000 worth of Missouri mules and horses were purchased for Army use.

World War I, 1917-1918

In April 1917, the United States entered World War I. Over 1300 Missourians joined the regular Army by April 24, 1917. More than 2400 men volunteered as seamen and naval gunners, rapidly meeting the state's quota. The Selective Service Act, passed by Congress on May 18, 1917, required the nationwide registration of all men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one. In Missouri, over 760,000 men registered; many did not pass the physical examination, while others were exempted for work in vital war industries.

Among the first Missourians to head to the front lines were those who traveled to France to set up base hospitals, such as the Base Hospital Unit No. 21 staffed by St. Louis' Barnes Hospital, or joined the American Ambulance Field Service. There was also at least one engineering regiment comprised primarily of St. Louis railroad and construction workers who labored to build and repair French railways.

Before the armistice was signed, 30,780 Missourians volunteered in the regular Army; 14,132 enlisted in the Navy; and 3721 joined the Marines. General John J. Pershing, a native of Linn County, served as commander of the American Expeditionary Force.

The first draftees from Missouri joined with six other mid-western and southwestern states to form the "Fighting 89 th Division." In addition, Missouri African-Americans served in black infantry units in France, particularly the 92nd and the 93rd divisions. Over 9000 black Missourians were inducted into the armed forces.

The Missouri National Guard was mustered into federal service on August 15, 1917. After two months training at Camp Clark, south of Nevada, Missouri, more than 14,000 men combined with the Kansas guard unit to form the "Brave 35th Division," of which Harry Truman was part. The "Brave 35th" arrived in France on May 17, 1918. Missourians were also part of the Forty-second (Rainbow) Division, which included National Guard units from twenty-six states; it arrived in France in November 1917.

By the war's end, over 156,000 Missourians had served in the armed forces; about half of these men served overseas. There were 11,172 casualties. Five Missouri soldiers received the Congressional Medal of Honor.