Marker overlooking the area where the Battle of Cole Camp Took Place

Cole Camp Missouri is in the rolling hills and plains of west-central Missouri south of the Missouri River. The events at Cole Camp are a prime example of how hot passions, prejudices, and the brutal nature of unconventional warfare defined the entire state during the American Civil War. As one of the early battles, it proved without a doubt that the brutality witnessed during the battle, would be the harbinger of that which would take place over the next four years.

However, many people, even those who study the conflict in Missouri know little if anything at all about the events in Cole Camp. There are many possible reasons. According to Robert L. Owens, “The most logical explanation is that the two forces involved were hastily thrown-together, rag-tag outfits with no regular officers or forces involved so there were no reports or details.”

This would also tie in with an

Missouri Lyon Hunt

“The Federal authorities have for months past in violation of the Constitution of the United States, waged a ruthless war upon the people of the State of Missouri, murdering our citizens, destroying our property, and… desolating our land. War now exists between the State of Missouri and the Federal Government…”- Claiborne Fox Jackson, October 21, 1861.

When the elected government of Missouri was forced out of the capital by Union forces under the command of Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon, all of the secessionist legislators who followed Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson were basically in a state of limbo. A provisional government was being instituted by the members of the State Convention in Jefferson City, while Jackson was in Richmond meeting with Confederate President Jefferson Davis in an effort to get Confederate support, even though Missouri had not formally seceded.

In a two-story brick courthouse in Cassville, Missouri, that was known as

Grant Statue in Ironton, MO.

By the spring of 1861 the people of Missouri were already familiar with the strife and sectionalism that plagued the country when the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Ft Sumter on April 12, 1861. Since the mid-1850’s1850s and the events now known as “Bleeding Kansas“, Missourians, far from the east, had fought and suffered over the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Missouri Compromise and the Dred Scott case and yes, slavery. Guerrilla warfare ravaged the state and it’s people all during the war and even afterwards.

There many things about Missouri during the Civil War that made it significant. Some were vital events, some, well, bragging rights. But it is beyond a doubt that this border state played a huge role in the conflict that would define our nation.

Missouri sent more men to war, in proportion to population, than any other state. Missouri

Camp Jackson MO.

After the beginning of the Civil War, the arsenal in Liberty, MO had been attacked by pro-Confederates and a large number of rifles and muskets were taken. The arsenal in St. Louis was by far much larger than the one in Liberty, with as much as 40,000 rifles and muskets. Fears that the pro-Confederates would attempt to seize the St Louis arsenal, a militia was raised under the command of Captain Nathaniel Lyon to protect the arsenal. Lyons militia was largely composed of German immigrants and members of the Wide Awakes organization.

Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson ordered the Missouri Militia for maneuvers just outside of the arsenal in what was known as Camp Jackson. The governor at this point was considered neutral, but had strong leanings towards the South.

On May 10, 1861, Lyons would force the surrender of the militia, but the men refused to take the oath