he Civil War broke out approximately 155 years ago. Missouri was a divided state and Missourians fought on both sides of the war, sometimes brother against brother, and father against sons. Livingston Countians were represented on both sides.
The Civil War broke out approximately 155 years ago. Missouri was a divided state and Missourians fought on both sides of the war, sometimes brother against brother, and father against sons. Livingston Countians were represented on both sides. The Secessionists were in the majority, and were active and aggressive. The Unionists were passive. Early in the beginning of the war, federal authorities realized the importance of protecting the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad, which ran through Livingston County, and keeping it intact. If the thoroughfare could be preserved, federal troops could move quickly from one side of the state to the other as they were needed, supplies and munitions of war sent and all of the northern Missouri kept under federal domination. A sizeable number of northern settlers made the southwest corner of the county their home. There were northern settlers in all other areas, also, but Monroe and Blue Mound townships had the largest number. These two townships registered the only votes cast for Lincoln in the 1860 election for president. Twenty people stood up and vocally voted for Lincoln, 15 in Monroe township and five in Blue Mound. Early in 1861, Secessionists were openly flying flags and had raised enough funds to order a cannon from a foundry in Hannibal. However, Unionists heard that the cannon was on its way and a company of Home Guards out of Brookfield hijacked it near St. Catharine in Linn County at the same time 20 well-armed men were on their way here to escort the cannon into Chillicothe. Federal troops dispatched from Illinois soon moved in, bringing their own small cannon and setting it up on the courthouse square. Secessionists quietly left town and there were never pitched battles here during the war. Jackson Township in Livingston County was the scene of more adventures and exciting and dangerous episodes than any other township in north Missouri. It was here that Gen. William Y. Slack’s troops rendezvoused prior to their departure for the army of Gen. Price. Slack, a prominent political figure and Chillicothe lawyer, was appointed a brigadier general in charge of state troops in several northwest Missouri counties. Jackson Township was largely Southern in sentiment, but the Union men were stanch and brave. The village of Springhill, located in Jackson Township, had been platted and carved out of the dense forests of white oak, elm, sycamores, hickory and walnut. “The streets of the little village were alive with farmers and newcomers who were keeping the merchants and artisans busy supplying their wants,” according to an account recored in the Chillicothe Constitution of June 24, 1926. “Such a place was Spring Hill in the spring of 1861.” On May 16, 1861, the organization of the State Guard in Livingston County began and three companies were formed, all of them mounted. Two of three companies came from Jackson Township, “between the forks of the Grand” where southern sentiment was high. All in all, more than 200 men were organized and equipped to take the field. Most of these troops eventually found their way into what was known as the 3rd Missouri State Militia, Confederate troops serving under General Sterling Price. In the fall of 1861 a number of Confederate partisans from Jackson Township gathered near Graham’s mill for the purpose of attacking and capturing Chillicothe. A courier had brought the news of the defenseless condition of the place to Springhill and a spy was sent back to thoroughly examine the situation. At the mill he returned with the information that the place could be captured, but that in doing so somebody would be killed. He reported that the Federal fortification could not be taken without the loss of a dozen men. The plan was abandoned. In 1862 all Jackson Township was in a state of war. The Federals who entered the township had to be wary. The Union men of the township armed themselves. Hardly a day passed without a skirmish. There was a great deal of bushwhacking. Men were shot at in the fields, on the highways and even at home. Other townships suffered as well. In Grand River Township there was a great deal of robbing and plundering at the hands of the Federal jayhawkers and the rebel bushwhackers. Livingston Countians took part in nearly all of the principle battles fought in Missouri. They campaigned with Gen. Price at Carthage, Wilson's Creek, Drywood and Lexington, bearing themselves bravely, according to all accounts. At the battle of Wilson’s Creek near Springfield (one of the bloodiest actions of the entire Civil War), Slack’s division, which contained the majority of the Livingston countians, took the brunt of the federal attack. General Slack was seriously wounded. In the battle of Pea Ridge, Ark., in 1862, General Slack was mortally wounded. Slack's command was merged with that of General Price and moved on down to the south. (Slack’s widow lived the remainder of her life at the old Slack homeplace on North Washington Street, with the exception of the time that she was superintendent of the State Industrial Home for Girls. Slack Cottage at this institution, was named in her honor.) The first Union soldiers had appeared in the village of Springhill after Slack’s departure. One morning the citizens found soldiers on guard at both the front and back doors of their homes. The soldiers all seemed to be Germans, or of German descent. It was learned afterwards that they had been sent up from St. Charles, Mo. From that time on until the close of the war, the residents of Springhill became accustomed to seeing blue coats with yellow braid and brass buttons. Companies of militia were formed and quartered in barracks. Many citizens of Springhill were southern sympathizers and after Order No. 11 was issued, Captain Greenberry Lyon, who chanced to be in command of the militia there, supplemented that order by directing that all able bodied men should join the Union army or leave the country. At that time, all the crossings on the Missouri river were strongly guarded and as the men could not get south they had to remain in hiding, naturally taking to the woods or bush, hence the name “bushwhackers.” All during the remainder of the Civil War, bushwhackers would appear and disappear and Union soldiers called out to chase them. The first Union force of Livingston County, a group of 67 men, known as the Livingston County Home Guard Company and headed by Capt. Peter Sulliff, was organized in June 1861. Other Union Home Guard companies were organized at Utica, Shoal Creek and Springhill. Thos. A. Reid commanded the Utica contingent and Greenberry Lewis the Shoal Creek company. Later, several companies were formed for federal service, including Company E of the 2nd Missouri Cavalry (better known as Merrill's Horse) and the 23rd Missouri Infantry, which occupied Chillicothe for more than a year, guarding the railroad. More than 50 men joined the 23rd which was composed of units from Harrison, Grundy, Mercer, Linn and Livingston counties. By the time the war ended in 1865, there were some 263 Livingston County men enlisted in Federal service. The 2nd Missouri Cavalry had the largest single contingent, some 70 men. The 23rd was second with 60. Although most of the county men who served with the Confederate forces did their fighting only in Missouri, this was not true of many of the Missourians, who served in the Union army. One veteran, a Chillicothe man who enlisted with the 24th Illinois Infantry, served in some of the major battles in the east and was a member of Gen. W.T. Sherman's army as it made its historical “march to the sea" through Georgia. For a time, Chillicothe was a base for supplies and operations for militia commanders. Next to Macon, it was regarded as the most important post on the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad. From the fall of 1861 until the summer of 1865, there was not a day when federal soldiers could not be seen on the streets in Chillicothe, according to records. After June 14, 1861, when Gen. Slack and his troops left the town and the 16th Illinois came in, Chillicothe was under complete federal control. (Editor’s Note: Sources for this article included: The Constitution-Tribune, St. Louis National Historical Company History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, St. Louis National Historical Company, 1886. reprint, the Printery, Clinton, Mo., 1972; St. Louis Mo, Press of Nixon-Jones Printing Company; Roof, A.J. Past and Present of Livingston County Missouri, The S.J. Clark Publishing Company, Chicago, Ill., 1913; The Retired Senior Volunteer Program Livingston County History Celebrating 150 Years; Jones, Mildred Sue Livingston County in the Civil War, May 16, 1978; and Ripley, Catherine Dateline Livingston County).