When we think of war in this day and age, we often think of it as being somewhere else overseas and as a general rule, only affecting the lives of the military soldiers and the people of other nations – but that was not the case in this country during the American Civil War.

The Civil War affected everyone, young and old, male and female, soldier and civilian alike. The military casualty list was the highest of any war America has ever been in. In today’s world, that number would likely not have been nearly so high, because the troops died mostly from the lack of medical care after being wounded. Across Missouri, our civilian population was just as involved in the war as were the soldiers, but their deaths were never recorded as war casualties.

Only the young who were born here, just prior to the war, were actually Missouri natives. Much of the adult population of Missouri was born and raised elsewhere, primarily in the South. So, it was only natural that the hard-working farmers held Southern sympathies and furnished many Confederate soldiers for the war effort.

Missouri ranks third among all states in the number of wartime military actions. More than 1,100 battles, engagements and skirmishes were fought in Missouri. More than half of all Civil War actions took place in four states: Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri and Mississippi.

The astounding frequency with which battles occurred in Missouri is all the more remarkable considering the state’s relatively sparse population and its distance from the main areas of the war. Missouri never was safe for the Union or the Confederacy. Missourians fought each other, brother against brother, father against son, not only at home, but also in nearly every major campaign in the Western and Trans-Mississippi theaters.

Of the more than 1,100 engagements in the state, there were three major battles – Wilson’s Creek, south of Springfield, the Battle of the Hemp Bales at Lexington in Lafayette County around the Anderson House, and the Battle of Westport across the present day Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. Gen. Sterling Price – Missouri’s governor just before the war – led the charge in all three of those campaigns

A couple of other smaller confrontations locally were pretty fierce and considered major to those involved – the Battle of Independence and the Battle of Lone Jack. As the war progressed, federal soldiers occupied all of the cities and ports along the Missouri River, including Independence, Liberty, Lexington and Kansas City. The Union command confiscated the Missouri state treasury, effectively snatching the state government out from under the elected governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson.

With the exception of a handful of heroes and generals, few of the thousands of men and women who fought in this terrible war have become household names. Nearly all Americans know something of Ulysses S. Grant or Robert E. Lee, but few outside western Missouri know anything at all about the hundreds of men who fought as vigilantes, guerrillas and partisan rangers. Catchy names such as Frank and Jesse James, William Quantrill, Cole Younger and Bloody Bill Anderson are the rare exceptions for most Americans. These five men matured early in the violent years that flared up here along the Missouri-Kansas border years before war was declared, and some like the James Gang continued fighting for many years following the war.

For the complete involvement of Missouri in the Civil War, refer to “The Civil War’s First Blood, Missouri, 1854-1861,” by James Denny and John Bradbury, published by Missouri Life. This book is available at the Blue & Grey Book Shoppe, 106 E. Walnut St., two blocks south of the Independence Square.