August 21, 1861: Jeff Thompson reads them the riot act


Missouri would be the scene of atrocities committed by both sides during the war, and the secessionist troops, untethered to any formal Confederate command, were often the worst. However, Jeff Thompson was having none of this lawless private feuding, and he made this clear to an officer in the following dispatch.

Camp Benton, Mo., August 21, 1861.
Captain O’REIRDON, Commanding Artillery, Present:

SIR: I am rather astonished that you should encourage the idea that the war in which we are engaged is one to revenge private wrongs and reimburse private losses, by giving your sergeant an order for a watch, which he claims because he lost one. If I understand the purpose of the war, it is for the liberty of my State; that she may have the right to regulate her own affairs and control her own citizens and property without the interference of the abolition government of Abraham Lincoln, and not for private aggrandizement, ambition, or revenge. I hope you will impress this upon your men and caution them against violating General Orders, Nos. 17 and 23.

Yours, very respectfully,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Note, however, that his justification for the war falls clearly into the same category with the well-known statements from South Carolina and other seceding states. They’re fighting for the right to control their own “property” against the “abolitionist government” of Lincoln. Slavery was the issue, as always.

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