Jesse James - MISSOURI and the CIVIL WAR

America's Civil War significantly impacted people living in Missouri. This print, made from a wood engraving, depicts a Civil-War-era refugee family arriving in St. Louis from the northern area of Missouri. They had survived Price's Raid (which occurred in 1864). Henry Louis Stephens (1824-1882) created the work, and it was later published in several places (including Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War, Volume 2, page 595, released circa 1894). Online via the Library of Congress.


When America’s Civil War began, in April of 1861, Jesse James was fourteen years old. As Confederate forces attacked Ft. Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, Jesse was living at home, on the James family farm. His mother Zerelda, now married to her third husband (Dr. Reuben Samuel), still owned slaves and supported the Confederacy. So did the rest of her family.

When President Lincoln called for troops from Missouri - one of the border states  allowing slavery but still part of the Union - the Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, received a curt reply from the state’s governor, Claiborne Jackson:

Your dispatch of the 15th instant, making a call on Missouri for four regiments of men for immediate service, has been received. There can be, I apprehend, no doubt but the men are intended to form a part of the President's army to make war upon the people of the seceded States.

Your requisition, in my judgment, is illegal, unconstitutional, and revolutionary in its object, in human and diabolical, and cannot be complied with. Not one man will the State of Missouri furnish to carry on any such unholy crusade. (Official Records of the Civil War, Series 3, Vol 1, Part 1, pages 82 and 83.)

The governor also had choice words for Missouri’s citizens (who had given Stephen Douglas a slight majority of votes in the 1860 presidential election):

I hold it to be my solemn duty to remind you that Missouri is still one of the United States … and that meanwhile it is your duty to obey all constitutional requirements of the Federal Government. But it is equally my duty to advise you that your first allegiance is due to your own State, and that you are under no obligation whatever to obey the unconstitutional edicts of the military despotism which has enthroned itself at Washington. (Governor’s Proclamation to the People of Missouri, 12 June 1861)

Although a St. Louis mob attacked Union volunteers within the first month of the war, people in Missouri supported both sides. Before the war ended, nearly 110,000 Missourians had served on the Union side and about 40,000 served with the Confederacy. Each side’s flag included a star for Missouri. Fighting in that state - where the Federal government had an arsenal in St. Louis - was not just North versus South, it was often neighbor versus neighbor.

Too young to fight, Jesse worked the farm with the family’s slaves. Nearly four years older than his brother, Frank joined a group of Confederate partisans.

On a life-changing day, during May of 1863, Jesse witnessed an unnerving event. To understand what really happened - and to separate legend from fact - let’s investigate how contemporary sources, and a family member, describe what occurred when Northern troops hanged Dr. Samuel at his home, nearly causing his death.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5189stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 01, 2007

Updated Last Revision: Sep 01, 2017

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"MISSOURI and the CIVIL WAR" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 01, 2007. Dec 11, 2019.
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