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Weston Wagons West - Ep. L10 - Levi Weston feared war would come to Missouri

Updated on December 13, 2014
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

Clouds appeared over Oak Springs

Clouds over the tree in the Ozarks
Clouds over the tree in the Ozarks | Source

Election results across the state provided mixed results that concerned Levi Weston

The early years for Levi Weston in Oak Springs quickly turned on the political winds. Although he wished otherwise, Levi realized that political influences, local, regional, state-wide and national were going to have a major impact on his life. His best friends, in both Jefferson City and in Oak Springs were tuned into and monitoring the political winds closely, so he listed closely to those conversations as 1859 became 1860. Jake Patton had won his election to the County Commission in a close ballot in spite of his popularity going in. Secessionist sympathies to the immediate south of Oak Creek Township had been growing. Jake was a strong Union man, as had been Robert Baldridge. Jake, however, had a more conciliatory approach, and always listened carefully to all arguments, no matter how unreasonable they appeared on the surface. He tended to gain the benefit of any doubt from most people. Hugh Truesdale also won a close election to take the State Legislature seat formerly held by Jake Patton. All of that district laid to the north and west of Oak Creek Township, it being the only township in the county included in that legislative district.

Although Abraham Lincoln had lost his bid for the U.S. Senate from Illinois to Stephen Douglas following their famous series of debates, with his February 27, 1860 speech at Cooper Union, Lincoln became a serious contender for the upcoming Presidential Election. There were people, however, that suggested if Lincoln were elected, the south would secede.

In Oak Springs, life went on. Levi Weston was pleased to be among those who welcomed to town Jerry Potts, and his wife, Polly. They had come to establish a set of businesses in the building they erected on Central Avenue incorporating a barber shop, apothecary, and print shop. The print shop was kept busy printing bulletins by those who were active in the political arena. Levi liked that Potts, and his wife, served them all, with equanimity, just as he did. Their personal and professional friendship grew.

Levi was aware that the railroad had been completed through Jefferson City, and as far west as Tipton, about another 60 miles. It was from that point that the Butterfield Stage Line had been contracted to carry the U.S. Mail on west and south. Levi had recently learned that both the Weston Freight Line and the McDonald Freight Line had done well in getting desirable subcontracts for mail deliveries to towns in the surrounding territories that they now routinely covered.

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Abraham Lincoln

The first photographic image of the new president
The first photographic image of the new president | Source

General Lyon fell in service to Missouri

Nathaniel Lyon
Nathaniel Lyon | Source

State and National elections set unrest in motion and military action began

In the fall of 1860 Missouri election, Claiborne Fox Jackson was elected governor as a Douglas Democrat on an anti-secession platform. However, even before he assumed the governorship on January 2, 1861, it began to be clear he had duped the public and was aligning with the secessionists, though his words still said "neutral." He called for a state convention to decide the issues. The convention, however, voted 98-1 against secession, and, declared the Governor's office vacated. The convention also appointed Hamilton R. Gamble as head of a new pro-Union provisional government.

Lincoln was elected, of course, and the rest, as they, is history. As Lincoln was inaugurated in March, he called for togetherness among the states of Union. Instead, on April 12, 1861, Confederate forces, representing several seceded states, fired on Union troops at Fort Sumter. In Missouri, Jackson appointed Sterling Price to be Major General of the Missouri State Guard, as if he were still governor, to "resist invasion by federal forces." A few days earlier, Captain Nathaniel Lyon, a pro-Union regular Army officer, in charge of the St. Louis Arsenal had taken prisoner a group of Jackson's militia that threatened to take over the Arsenal. Shortly thereafter, on May 17, 1861, Lyon was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and was given command of Union troops in Missouri.

At Carthage, in the southwest corner of the state, on July 5, Jackson himself took command of 6,000 State Guardsmen, and drove back a smaller Union detachment led by Colonel Franz Sigel. The following news account recaps what happened next, in Springfield:
“On June 11, 1861, U. S. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon declared war on the state of Missouri. He immediately launched a campaign to drive the pro-secessionist Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson and his Missouri State Guard from the vital Missouri River Valley. At the same time he dispatched troops under Gen. Thomas William Sweeney toward Springfield to cut off the escape of the Missouri State Guard into Arkansas,” the release explained. “On June 24, 1861, Col. Franz Sigel’s German-speaking, St. Louis-enlisted Union troops arrived in Springfield after a hot, wearying march from the railhead at Rolla. Many of his troops had marched through their shoes and wore uniforms that had been reduced to rags by the exertions of the march. This federal force was the first army to occupy Springfield during the Civil War. It would not be the last. Springfield would change hands many times during the war. Sigel’s troops went into camp around Springfield and began rounding up Southern sympathizers. The arrival of these troops encouraged Unionists, discouraged secessionists, and brought home to everyone the reality that war had come to Springfield.”

Southwest of Springfield, on August 10, in the Battle of Wilson's Creek, General Lyon became the first Union general to be killed in the American Civil War. Although the Union Army was defeated at Wilson's Creek, Lyon's quick action neutralized the effectiveness of pro-Southern forces in Missouri, allowing Union forces to secure the state. [Source: Wikipedia]

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More clouds on the horizon

Clouds over the Ozarks
Clouds over the Ozarks | Source

Oak Springs residents reacted to the violence perpetrated in the state by the conflict

Although no formal military action directly impacted the valley, life was forever changed in Oak Creek Township and Oak Springs. By late spring, the Baldridge and Campbell families had made the decision to move their growing cattle herds over the Houston Road to sell them to the Union troops building up there. Many others in the valley sold some of their cattle to the cattle drives, as well, so that the bulk of the cattle population had left the valley by summer. Levi made two trips to Jefferson City, taking his best horses there, to be kept at the Weston ranch. He also was anxious for his family there, and wanted to keep abreast of what was going on with them, as troops had been moving past and through the area.

Similarly, Hugh and Lewis Truesdale had moved early to move most of their horses and mules to Houston, in Texas County, as well, to make them available to the Union cause. As with the cattle, many in the valley made any extra animals they had available in the same way. Meanwhile, Jake Patton had obtained a Union army commission as Colonel authorized to raise a regiment of cavalry to be based in Jefferson City. He recruited his grandson, Lewis Truesdale, to assist in recruiting and to head one of the companies in the regiment.

During 1861, from time to time, raiding parties appeared, crossing through the valley. In one of the most early, tragic incidents, Edmond Gifford, on his farm in the far southeast corner of the township, had been one of the three persons killed by raiders in the valley in 1861 before the mass exodus began. Gifford was murdered in his front yard, in front of his house, and his mules and horses stolen. His wife and children had left the valley immediately to live with other members of her family.

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Historical note by the author

As noted in Episode L1 of this series of historical fiction family saga stories, all of the characters in this episode are fictional. Activities and events are consistent with known historical facts, but are entirely fictitious. The Jacob and Levi Weston characters were first created as a part of The Homeplace Saga stories collectively identified as The Founding - during their later lives in Missouri. This current Lx series fills in the early years of their lives.

In this episode, I tried to include enough detail on troop movements in Missouri to provide context for the stories of Levi Weston in Oak Springs and his family in Jefferson City without being overwhelming. Any errors of fact are mine, and for that I offer my apology. This is a case where the story must take precedent over the facts, if in conflict, as much as I may regret it.

Some of the stories of the forthcoming "American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1875)" collection of historical fiction family saga short stories are being published on "The Homeplace Saga" blog, found at the link, below, including those introducing Levi and Jacob Weston. In the links below, I've included one to the more detailed story of Oak Springs during the Civil War.

“The Homeplace Saga” historical fiction family saga stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”


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