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Cassville Reenactment to Show How Missouri, Although Briefly, Was a Southern State

Civil War Hats
KSMU file photo

This year marks the 150thanniversary of the Civil War. Towns all over Missouri are celebrating through reenactments of Civil War events that happened in our area. In October, the city of Cassville will reenact the Claiborne Fox Jackson Legislature and the Secession Convention at Cassville. For our ongoing local history series, Sense of Place, KSMU’s Rebekah Clark looks into what really happened in Cassville, and the impact it had on the entire state during the war. 

It all started with the Old Wire Road when Cassville was a young village in 1835, or so Ted W. Roller tells me. He’s a member of the Barry County Genealogical and Historical Society.  

“The road that went through the main street in front of the courthouse in Cassville was used before Cassville became a town; it was used by the Trail of Tears. It was an old military road from Fort Smith to St. Louis, but when they surveyed it, it was from Fayetteville to Springfield.”

The road became monumental in creating Cassville’s future. When the Civil War started almost thirty years later, telegraph lines were put up on the road to connect the townspeople to war events. Because the town rested on the border between northern loyalists and southern confederates, many natives, neighbors and relatives had incredible conflict.

In 1861, when the Show-Me state was in the midst of confusion, Missouri’s governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, was exiled from Jefferson City by Abraham Lincoln’s administration. Jackson openly supported the south, and opposed all Missouri leaders who stood against slavery, including his former long-time business partner and father-in-law, Thomas Hart Benton. Jackson took all the supporters he could with him from Jefferson City, and together they were later named the Missouri State Guard.

"Northerners elected another governor, but not by the election of the people. It sort of made Jackson in exile, but he was still the dually elected governor.”

That fact is important. Legally at the time, Jackson was still in charge of the governor’s duties, and technically, he could still propose to pass legislation, even though he was no longer in the state capitol. He and his Missouri State Guardsmen, most of whom were state legislators, settled in Cassville. 

They “officially” – and I say that word in quotes -- declared the town the new capital of Missouri. That didn’t last very long, but during that brief time, Jackson tried to rally the state to secede from the Union during what was called the Secession Convention at Cassville.

“The convention was a group of legislators that he could gather in. They sent that to Richmond, VA, which was the confederate capitol for the states that had already seceded. On Nov. 28th, they accepted the secession ordinance that was pasted by the exiled governor and his legislature, and was admitted in the Confederacy as the 12thstate.”

Yes, you heard right. Missouri technically did secede from the Union, at least until Jackson and the Missouri State Guard were formally recognized as illegitimate leaders. Only after that did Missouri become “neutral,” and went back to being a border state.

Cassville then became a military post for both northerners and southerners who fought in local battles, including the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.

“Technically we were southern because most of our settlers were from the states that had slaves. They brought slaves over into this country and used and bought them as property because back then, sad as it was, they were property.”

In honor of this momentous convention, Cassville will host a reenactment celebration on October 28-29. The festivities will include people reenacting the convention, a time-period fashion show, a pie contest, and skits demonstrating the lives of farmers and slaves at the time. For more information, you can visit www.Cassville.com.

For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.