After the state elections in 1864, Missouri entered into a new political era. Missourians were ready for a new direction, one based on healing, rebuilding and progression. The Radical party swept the state election, and on January 2, 1865, Thomas C. Fletcher took his inaugural oath as Governor. With a host of serious economic and social issues facing the state, the Radicals won control of the house with promises of peace, progress, and tranquility. The Radical party had many progressive ideas, but underneath lay deeply rooted vindictive desires to punish anyone linked to the Confederacy.
On January 11, 1865, the Missouri state convention met in St. Louis. They passed an emancipation ordinance immediately freeing all slaves in Missouri, and discussed the central issue of disfranchisement of anyone with questionable loyalties to the Union. Delegates explored creation of additional constitutional amendments to enforce these disfranchisement policies and even developing an entirely new constitution.
The disfranchisement of the “rebel” presence from the state became a major undertaking at the state convention and a focus of civilians throughout the state. An “iron-clad oath” was added to the new state constitution that required individuals to attest to his/her innocence of eighty-six acts of disloyalty against the state of Missouri and the Union. These acts ranged from providing money, goods, or intelligence to the enemy; to taking up arms; participating in guerrilla warfare, aiding or abetting guerrillas. Even expressing general sympathy the South, or specific individuals that fought for the Southern cause, would be seen as acts of disloyalty. Failing to take this oath would prevent one from voting, holding a public office, and from holding professional licenses such as lawyers, teachers, clergy, and other influential positions.
In February 1865, A. Halley wrote his daughter in Calhoun, Missouri regarding the sale of confederate property in the region. Halley forewarned his daughter that Captain Henry Jennings was “assessing the property of the copperheads in this county to pay the loss.”1 The term copperhead was slang used during the Civil War for a northerner sympathetic to the southern cause.2 Proceeds from the property liquidation would be given to civilians to cover depredation restitution from guerrilla warfare. Civilians in Missouri faced ten years of depredation caused by bushwhackers and soldiers. Many of the post war years were spent by Missourians in court attempting to claim retribution for damages caused during the war.
Contributed by the Bushwhacker Museum and Jail
- A. Halley, Letter to Daughter. Feb. 15, 1865. Bushwhacker Museum, Nevada, Missouri.
- Civil War Era Slang and Terms: A Writer’s Guide for the American Civil War, “Copperhead”, Compiled by G. M. Atwater, March 2005, accessed 9 November 2010, http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~poindexterfamily/CivilWar.html