April 25, 1862: The distribution of Southern sentiment in Missouri

Slave population MO 1860
Slave Population in Missouri, 1860

The Richmond Daily Dispatch reports strong Confederate sympathies in Missouri, except for the “German and emigrant Yankee population”. It is a peculiarity of Missouri geography that northern (or at least central) Missouri sentiment was more southern, and southern Missouri more with the Union. This follows the distribution of slave ownership, driven by topography — southern Missouri, except the bootheel, is mountainous, and the Ozark freeholders farmed small plots where slaves would have been little help. Central Missouri had the large areas of arable land, and the large plantations along the Missouri river valley were worked by slaves. The mining economy of St. Louis and some counties south and west relied largely on immigrant German workers, many of whom were refugees from the failed revolutions of 1848 and no friends to the Southern aristocracy.


From St. Louis and Missouri.

A gentleman who spent about three weeks in St. Louis, and who left that city a few days since, reports to the Memphis Appeal the existence of a strong Southern feeling, greatly predominating over the Abolition party.–The latter, he states, is composed almost exclusively of the German and emigrant Yankee population. To these may be added a few who are directly interested in army contracts for the Federal Government.

When he left, the Federal force in the city was composed of Hecker’s regiment and two German battalions of home guards. All the remainder had been drawn off to form part of the expeditionary force up the Tennessee river.

Northern Missouri he reports to be almost unanimous in favor of the South, but the impulses of the people are kept down by the presence of Federal troops stationed throughout the country. All the private arms and ammunition have been taken possession of by the enemy, and innumerable outrages upon persons and property have been committed. The whole country is represented to be in a state of complete terror. The Southern part of the State is more divided in sentiment.

The Appeal’s informant, who is a gentleman well informed as to the position of affairs throughout the State, does not for a moment entertain a doubt of the ability of the friends of the Confederacy to redeem Missouri from Abolition rule, with but little assistance.–Give them arms, etc., and they will work out their own political salvation. At present they are patiently, though not sufferingly, biding their time.

Missouri in the 1860 election

Missouri was the only state that had counties that went for each of the four candidates in the 1860 presidential election. Note that St. Louis county and Gasconade county, an iron mining area to the west, voted for Lincoln; this was almost entirely due to German immigrants. The slaveholding belt along the Missouri went for Bell, as was typical of wealthy planters in the South, while the yeomen of the Ozarks went for Breckinridge. It is a political peculiarity that, although Breckinridge was regarded as the secessionist candidate, and himself went over to the Confederacy, many of his voters formed pockets of union sentiment in places like the Ozarks and the pinewoods of eastern Mississippi (including the so-called “Free State of Jones” — see The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War).

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