The Lost Cause in Western Missouri

A significant part of Civil War memory in Western Missouri focuses on a localized version of the Lost Cause.  It is similar to the “mainstream” version of the Lost Cause, with some local nuance.  To commemorate local veterans, for example, the city of Nevada, MO (pronounced nuh-vay-duh), instead of a Confederate memorial, has a Bushwhacker Museum.  Bushwhackers, according to the museum’s website, mostly didn’t fight for slavery, because

[i]t was a matter of states’ rights for many, and for others, the reasons were dictated by personal hostilities. Perhaps for most, it was simply a matter of loyalties. If they left Virginia to settle in Missouri, their sympathies were probably still with the South. If their parents were abolitionists from Boston, they sided with the North.[1]

Also in Nevada, the Chamber of Commerce sponsored community festival is called “Bushwhacker Days,” and is held annually in early June.  At the festival, they crown “Bushwhacker Royalty,” tell the “Legends of our Flags,” and have a border raid reenactment.[2]

Nevada was in the part of Missouri that was affected by General Order No. 11.  This was an order issued in 1863 that was intended to remove areas where Bushwhackers found sanctuary in western Missouri.  It effectively depopulated three counties and part of a fourth, by requiring all residents to leave, except those who swore loyalty to the Union.  Those who did swear allegiance were permitted to move to within one mile of Union garrison towns.  The order was issued after a Bushwhacker raid on Lawrence, Kansas, which destroyed much of that city.  George Caleb Bingham, a Missouri artist, painted a somewhat famous picture depicting the effects of the order.  Anecdotally, I remember growing up hearing General Order No. 11 being compared to Sherman’s March to the Sea in terms of local destruction.[3]

Order No. 11 by George Caleb Bingham

As Karen Cox points out in Dixie’s Daughters, “the first group of women to call themselves ‘Daughters of the Confederacy’ was organized in a non-Confederate state, Missouri, in 1890.”[4]  These women helped a group dubbed the Confederate Home Association to found a Confederate Veterans Home in Higginsville, Missouri.  According to the Higginsville Chamber of Commerce, the women sold tickets for ten cents apiece, each one representing a brick in the proposed home.  Today the site is a State Historic Park.[5]  The Missouri State Department of Natural Resources’ web page about the Park has a list of over 1,600 men and women who applied to live in the home.  While many were denied, for lack of documentation of their service, I found one thing very interesting.  There were at least five men who were admitted without service in the Confederate army.  These five, at least, served with a band of irregular guerrillas, under William Quantrill.  I think this shows that the guerrillas were considered important, heroic even, to locals, although they were considered criminals during war time.[6]

[1] “Border War/Civil War Exhibit,” Vernon County Historical Society, 2010, accessed June 21, 2012, at http://www.bushwhacker.org/civil_war.php.

[2] “Bushwhacker Days Schedule of Events,” Nevada Chamber of Commerce, 2012, accessed June 21, 2012, at https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://www.bwdays.com/pdf/events.pdf.

[3] “Ewing Issues Order No. 11,” Missouri State Library, accessed June 21, 2012, at http://www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/event/ewing-issues-order-no-11.

[4] Karen Cox, Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2003), 15.

[5] “Confederate Memorial Missouri State Historical Site,” Higginsville Chamber of Commerce, 2005, accessed June 21, 2012, at http://www.higginsvillechamber.org/memorial.aspx.

[6] “Applicants to the Confederate Home of Missouri,” Missouri Department of Natural Resources: Division of Parks, p. 19, 25, 29, 30, 38, accessed June 21, 2012, at https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://mostateparks.com/sites/default/files/Applicants%20to%20the%20Confederate%20Home%20of%20Missouri.pdf.

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3 comments
  1. catymark said:

    Interesting points! Really enlightening to learn that the Lost Cause does not have one personality but several, depending on where you are. The idea that “war criminals” are memorialized is interesting too. I guess it just depends on what side of the border you’re on to determine whether you’re a criminal or a hero, and if you’re on a boarder state, well then it can go either way.

  2. Kristen Epps said:

    I was actually speaking with Jeremy Neely a few days back about the comparison between Sherman’s march and Order No. 11–funny coincidence! He agreed that the sentiment in western Missouri was similar to that in Georgia (he lives in Lockwood and teaches at Missouri State). He wrote a book called The Border Between Them, and if I remember right, Zach, you read it for your historiography essay?

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