Saturday, June 11, 2011

150 Years Ago: A Meeting in St. Louis

On Tuesday, June 11, 1861, moderates in Missouri arranged a meeting between Union General Nathaniel Lyon, Frank Blair, Governor Claiborne Jackson and Sterling Price in St. Louis to try to keep the conflict from spreading in the state.  They met around 11 a.m. at the Planter's House hotel.  The meeting lasted for four or five hours and was very stormy; the two sides had opposing goals and neither trusted the other.

At first, Lyon deferred to Blair, his political counterpart, but as the meeting progressed and grew more contentious Lyon became more outspoken.  For a short time it seemed like an uneasy ceasefire between the two sides might be established.  Governor Jackson offered to disband Price's pro-Southern state guards and remain neutral if the Federals would disband the pro-Unionist St. Louis home guards and promise not to move troops into any part of the state not already occupied by Federal soldiers.

Lyon refused, demanding that the militia be disbanded but refusing to disband the home guards.  Then declared,
"Rather than concede to the State of Missouri the right to demand that my government shall not enlist troops within her limits, or bring troops into the State whenever it pleases, or move troops at its own will into, out of, or through the State; rather than concede to the State of Missouri for one single instant the right to dictate to my government in any matter, however unimportant, I would see you, and you, and you, and you, [pointing to each man in the room] and every man, woman, and child in the State dead and buried. This means war. In an hour one of my officers will call for you and conduct you out of my lines."
Rather than wait for the escort out, Jackson and Price left immediately for the capital, Jefferson City.  On the way, Jackson ordered the destruction of key bridges and telegraph lines.  He also issued a proclamation calling for 50,000 militia:
"Rise, then, and drive out ignominiously the invaders who have dared to desecrate the soil which your labors have made fruitful, and which is consecrated by your homes."
Lyon quickly had his troops on the move toward the capital.

Also on this date:  The Wheeling Convention
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