The Civil War in Missouri

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John Wharton’s Loyalty Oath to the Confederacy

1863
MHM Archives

John Wharton enlisted with the Confederate 1st Missouri Light Artillery in Springfield in 1861. He was captured when Vicksburg, Mississippi, fell to Union forces on July 4, 1863. Two days later Wharton signed an oath pledging not to take up arms against the United States, and he was paroled. Less than a month passed before Wharton returned to Confederate service and signed an oath of loyalty to the Confederate States of America.Wharton’s actions speak to the arbitrary nature of Federal authorities trying to identify and define loyalty during wartime. In Missouri, oaths declaring allegiance to the United States were signed by the thousands. For true Unionists the oaths were a binding commitment, but for those like Wharton, the signing of such a document probably meant very little, or was done under duress.Wharton continued to fight for the Confederacy until the following year, when he died outside of Atlanta from a gunshot to the abdomen.