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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Civil War in Missouri at the start of 1862

A hundred and fifty years ago today, Missourians had finished their subdued Christmas and New Year’s celebrations and were looking ahead with trepidation to a new year of war. Everyone was asking the same questions—how long would the war last, and who would win?

Secessionists hoped for a quick rebel victory. Back East, the Confederacy had won a string of battles, the most spectacular being the First Bull Run. The new government hoped to gain international recognition and maybe even military aid from the British Empire and other European powers.

In Missouri, the situation looked bleaker for the South. While there had been major victories at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek and the Battle of Lexington, the Union held key positions such as the Missouri River, which flows from west to east and cuts the state neatly in half. The main rebel force, under General Sterling Price, was currently in the south of the state at Springfield. Potential recruits were having a hard time making their way from counties north of the Missouri River south to join Price. He couldn’t move north to help him because he had chronic supply problems and was outnumbered by Union forces.

In the central part of the state, rebel guerrillas were cutting telegraph wire, burning bridges, and generally causing mayhem. Union detachments had been successful at defeating and dispersing large groups of rebels, but these smaller bands were proving to be an even greater problem. They would continue to be until the end of the war.

In these early months of the war, few thought it would last another three-and-a-half years. If everyone knew what they were in for, perhaps they would have lobbied their leaders, North and South, to sit down at the negotiating table.

The war would end all too soon for these two Union recruits. Daniel and Joseph Budd both died in 1862. Daniel died of smallpox at the age of 16. Joseph, 18, was killed at the Battle of Vassar Hill on July 18, near Memphis, Missouri. This photo is courtesy Frank Furillo, who is the great-great nephew of both men.

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