Full course description

Starts October 19, 2015

This course explores the history of Missouri during the Civil War era. It begins with three controversies that resulted from slavery’s expansion into the trans-Mississippi West—the Missouri Compromise, “Bleeding Kansas,” and the Dred Scott ruling—and uses them to explain how Missouri often stood as a flashpoint of national politics. Time and again, Missouri stood near the middle of sectional disputes over the future of slavery and liberty.

A fiercely contested border state, Missouri was caught between not only the North and South but also the East and West. Like its neighbor, Kentucky, it was a slaveholding state that remained within the Union. Federal troops established a tenuous hold upon the state by the second year of the Civil War, yet they struggled to contain the irregular warfare that consumed much of Missouri. To maintain order within this divided society, Union leaders imposed martial law, loyalty oaths, and other increasingly stringent tactics. In addition, the eventual embrace of emancipation by federal troops and Radical Unionists showed how “hard war” came to the trans-Mississippi West years before it struck the Deep South.

Wracked by bitter internal divisions, Missouri also suffered the worst guerrilla violence of the entire Civil War. Much of the course will examine this singularly devastating experience. As Union forces proved unable to defeat or expel pro-Confederate guerrillas from the state, federal commanders shifted their focus toward the civilians - many of them female - who fed, clothed, and sheltered these irregular fighters. This shift culminated in the 1863 execution of Order Number 11, which forcibly ejected several thousand civilians from four Missouri counties.

The course concludes by assessing the Civil War’s legacies for freed people of color, defeated Confederates, and other Missourians. Looking to Reconstruction and the end of the nineteenth century, it reveals how Missouri illustrated both the promise and the limits of postwar reconciliation. Figures like Jesse James captured national attention but reflected the deep tensions that continued to grip Missouri. A string of films, from “True Grit” to “The Outlaw Josey Wales” and “Ride with the Devil,” suggests that the continued fascination with Missouri’s Civil War will persist into the twenty-first century.

Intended Audience: Course includes graphic images that may be not suitable for your children
Time to complete the course: Two to three hours per week
Certificate or digital badge for completing the course: A certificate of completion will be granted by the instructor, institution or organization
Format: Instructor Led
Asynchronous (independent) activities: Yes
Synchronous (class) activities: None
Instructor feedback: None
Peer feedback: None
Group work: None
Prerequisites: None
Recommended Materials: None

Jeremy Neely, Ph.D.

Instructor of History

Jeremy Neely is an Instructor of History at Missouri State University in Springfield. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where also he received that institution’s 2005 Distinguished Dissertation Award for his study, “Divided in the Middle: A History of the Kansas-Missouri Border, 1854-1896.” He later expanded that work into “The Border between Them: Violence and Reconciliation on the Kansas-Missouri Line” (University of Missouri Press, 2007), which won the Kansas State Historical Society’s Edward N. Tihen Award. His other publications include “‘A Pure Son of Missouri’: Freeman Barrows at the Crossroads of the Slaveholding Frontier,” which the Missouri Historical Review published in July 2015, and “The Quantrill Men Reunions: The Border War, Fifty Years On,” which appeared in “Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri” (University Press of Kansas, 2013). His current interests include the experiences of civilians during the American Civil War, contested memories of that conflict, and the Reconstruction era in the trans-Mississippi West.