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The Call For Federal Volunteers

United States President Abraham Lincoln in 1861

Three days after the surrender of Fort Sumter on April 13, 1861, United States President Abraham Lincoln reacted quickly by issuing the following proclamation: [28]

Whereas the laws of the United States have been for some time past and now are opposed and the execution thereof obstructed in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings or by the powers vested in the marshals by law.

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of 75,000, in order to suppress [the rebellion] and to cause the laws to be duly executed.

Governor Jackson's Response

Missouri Governeor Claiborne Fox Jackson

Each State in the Union was given a quota of volunteers to raise. US Secretary of War, Simon Cameron sent telegrams to each State's Governor detailing their quota. Missouri's quota was 3,123 volunteers. Missouri Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson would react quickly. He traveled from Jefferson City to St. Louis in order to meet with Brigadier-General Daniel Frost and other secessionist leaders. Two days later Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson sent the following response to U. S. Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, regarding Lincoln's proclamation: [29]

Sir: 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, inhuman and diabolical, and cannot be complied with. Not one man will the State of Missouri furnish to carry on any such unholy crusade.

Frank Blair's Response

Missouri Congressman Francis P. Blair, Jr.

Frank Blair knew that there were more than enough volunteers in St. Louis alone to fill Missouri's quota. But he also knew that Missouri Governor Jackson would never accept any volunteers into service for the Union. On April 17th, Frank Blair sent a message to U. S. Secretary of War Simon Cameron requesting authorization to muster independent companies and regiments as volunteers into Federal service. He also warned that the secessionists were planning to occupy the high ground above the arsenal, which would make defending the arsenal very difficult. Part of Frank Blair's message to Cameron: [30]

Our Governor will not meet your requisition for volunteers. Will you accept independent companies and regiments from Missouri? If so, please order Captain Lyon to muster them into service.

US War Department Authorizes Missouri Volunteers

William S. Harney, Brigadier General, US Army

On April 21, 1861, the Federal commander in St. Louis, Brigadier-General William S. Harney, received the following two telegrams from the War Department in Washington: [31]

Capt. Nathaniel Lyon, Second Infantry, is detailed to muster in the troops at Saint Louis, and to use them for the protection of public property. You will see that they are properly armed and equipped. By order of Lieutenant-General Scott.

I am directed by the Secretary of War to say that you are hereby relieved from the command of the Department of the West, which will devolve upon the senior officer in the department, and you will repair to this city and report to the General-in-Chief.

Nathaniel Lyon, Brigadier General, Federal Volunteers

On the same day, Captain Nathaniel Lyon received the following telegram from the Adjutant-General of the United States Army: [32]

General Harney has this day been relieved from his command. The Secretary of War directs that you immediately execute the order previously given to arm the loyal citizens, to protect the public property, and execute the laws. Muster four regiments into the service.

Then on April 30th, Captain Nathaniel Lyon would receive another telegram from Washington authorizing him to raise an additional 10,000 Federal volunteers “for the purpose of maintaining the authority of the United States [and] for the protection of the peaceable inhabitants of Missouri.” The telegram also authorized Captain Lyon to declare martial law in St. Louis if he and the Safety Committee thought it was necessary. In a span of 10 days, Lyon was able to muster in 10 regiments of Federal Volunteers. Nathaniel Lyon now had the army he felt he needed to fight the secessionists in Missouri. Frank Blair had almost everything he had been working towards. There was just one more thing that he needed to happen. [33]

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