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The Civil War in Missouri

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A Fragile Union

Information Sheets

The Dred Scott case destroyed the delicate agreement between slave and free states and created national anger that helped lead to the Civil War.

Francis Blair became deeply involved in politics in Missouri, doing all he could to support a family friend, Senator Thomas Hart Benton, in his fight against the Whig Party.

Capt. Lyon was at the center of organizing Union supporters who would eventually be mustered into Federal service.

The Minute Men was a paramilitary group established in St. Louis on January 7, 1861.

Slavery had helped to determine Missouri’s economic and social direction since before it became a state.

The 1860 election, in which Abraham Lincoln was elected, was very important. The chaos that occurred during the campaign foreshadowed the war that was coming.

Missouri applied for statehood on December 18, 1818. This created a problem because the Northern states refused to allow another slave state to join the Union.

Thomas Hart Benton was Missouri’s premier politician from the time it became a state in 1821 until 1854.

The Wide Awakes were political clubs in cities across the North, including in St. Louis, during the election of 1860.

Primary Source Activities

The election of 1860 was a defining turning point in United States history. By analyzing the opinions expressed in that election students will learn a great deal about the catastrophic events of the Civil War that followed, and Missouri’s role in it.

The slave experience in Missouri was complex and varied, and illustrates the reality of the cause of the Civil War.

Students will use data from the 1860 United States census to draw conclusions about slavery in Missouri and its effect on the Civil War in the state.

Demonstration content

Students will learn about the struggles and contributions of Joshua McCarter Simpson, an African American abolitionist during the Civil War, and write a song or poem based on their life difficulties.


A History of Missouri 1860-1875 by William E. Parrish

Civil War in St. Louis a Guided Tour by William C. Winter

Civil War St. Louis by Louis S. Gerteis

Dred Scott Decision by Bonnie Lukes

Frank Blair Lincoln's Conservative by William Parrish

Magnificent Missourian: The Life of Thomas Hart Benton by Elbert B. Smith

Missouri Slave Narratives by Federal Writers' Project

Nobody's Boy by Jennifer Fleischner

Runaway and Freed Missouri Slaves and Those Who Helped Them by Harriet C. Frazier

Slavery, Emancipation, and Racism in Missouri 1850-1865 by Donnie Duglie Bellamy

Slavery, Law, and Politics: The Dred Scott Case in Historical Persp. by Don E. Fehrenbacher 

The Missouri Compromise and Its Aftermath, Slavery, and the Meaning of America by Robert Forbes

The Missouri Compromise by Michael Burgan

They Have No Rights: Dred Scott's Struggle for Freedom by Walter Ehrlich