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Missouri: A Southern State

July 6, 2011

I was recently asked to give a brief description of Missouri, its culture and its heritage. This is no easy task. Often described as a “Border State,” the majority of Missouri finds itself in the Midwest, yet it is anchored to the South by the Southeast portion of the state known as “the Boot-heel,” a place where Missouri is tied to the South both physically and culturally.

Southeast Missourian blogger James Baughn,  describes Missouri’s “anchor to the South” (in an August 16, 2010 entry) in the following words:

“The town of Belmont, in Mississippi County southeast of Charleston, is served by its own paved state highway. Too bad nobody lives there.

Belmont, once an important river landing and the home to a Civil War [sic] battle, isn’t even shown on most modern maps. It’s easy to find, though. Take I-55 south to Highway 80, turn east, and keep going until the pavement ends. You’ll come to a dead-end sign, a rare sight for a major state highway.

…Throughout most of its history, Belmont has had a ferry boat connecting to Columbus, Kentucky. The ferry is long gone, but the highways on either side — both numbered Highway 80 — still remain.

…If the ferry was still operating, it would be possible to enter Kentucky and follow the highway across the entire length of the state and into Virginia. Indeed, Highway 80 is the longest state highway in Kentucky, providing a continuous connection — minus the ferry — between Missouri and Virginia.”

Opposite of Belmont is Columbus Kentucky, where  the Confederates  built their “Gibraltar of the West”  a place in which  Kentucky was literally anchored to Missouri by a huge chain to help prevent Union gunboats from controlling the Mississippi River.  Belmont, Missouri was also the site of a battle where Missouri State Guard General M. Jeff Thompson defeated Ulysses S. Grant.

Missouri was first controlled by the Spanish, then the French. It was Jefferson who obtained Missouri through the Louisiana Purchase.  Once this transpired it opened the flood gate for the Scots-Irish settlers of Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee to pursue their restless spirits and forge out a better life in new lands.

These settlers defined Missouri culturally as a Southern state, a sister to the Deep South by proxy.

Prior to the German revolution, the German population was relatively small compared to the Scots-Irish settlers who had crossed the Appalachians to get here.

Wikipedia states that; “The Naturalist Gottfried Duden, a German attorney, settled on the north side of the Missouri River along Lake Creek in 1824. He was investigating the possibilities of settlement in the area by his countrymen. In 1827 he returned to Germany, which he felt was overpopulated. There in 1829 he published Bericht über eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerikas (Journal of a trip to the western states of North America), extolling the attractions of Missouri.”

The publication of this book would later have drastic consequences for the Scots-Irish Southerners of Missouri. The relatively small German population carved out their own “Rhineland” of Eastern Missouri, they chose the areas of the state that had the poorest land, bad for traditional agriculture production but good for planting vineyards, a Missouri Rhineland if you will, that roughly speaking  can be traced from St. Louis west, to just east of Jefferson City.

North of the Missouri River, the soil was suitable for plantation agriculture and the area is still known today as “Little Dixie.

The Western Border of Missouri as defined by the late author Patrick Brophy is as follows: “The Missouri – Kansas border is no ordinary state line. For longer than any other it was the Border with a Capital “B,” the would-be “permanent frontier” between Western Civilisation and the Stone Age. For a decade it was the battle-line between North and South.”

Brophy continues by stating that Missouri’s frontier “had a sectional character of its own… and had extremely close ties with the South. Up to the third decade of the century anywhere along the frontier, New Englanders remained small islands in a sea of Southern folk… an uneasy blend of the old, aristocratic Tidewater and the raw “rugged-individualist” Scotch-Irish world of the Appalachian backwoods.”

Thus was the case in Northeast Missouri and Northwest Missouri as well and like New Englanders, the Germans remained small islands “in a sea of Southern folk,” that is until the German revolution of 1848 – a Marxist revolution in which the losers fled to America, specifically, Missouri, to the “Missouri Rhineland” thanks to Mr. Gottfried Dudden’s book.

A Missouri battleflag used by many Confederates.

By the time of the War of 1861, most of these German revolutionaries were living in St. Louis and were known as “Wide-Awakes,” in a modern day sense, illegal immigrants, speaking a foreign language, who admired Mr. Lincoln’s ideals. Mr. Lincoln, in return utilised them for his own revolution, one masked by the popular moral cause of ending slavery, but in reality ending states’ rights.

Missouri’s legally elected government was overthrown at gunpoint by General Lyon who vowed to kill every man, women and child rather than let Missouri secede.

But Missouri’s truly elected legislature reconvened in Neosho, Missouri in October, 1861 and passed an ordinance of secession. There was a quorum in the Senate and the House, and it was recognised by the Confederate Congress in November, 1861.

The next time someone tells you that Missouri was a “Northern” state ask them why Abraham Lincoln was forced to keep one-fourth of the Union Army in Missouri in an attempt to control the population?

Sectional differences remain today in Missouri. Most of those who hold German ancestry remain in the “Missouri-Rhineland”, an island among Southerners. History however, is written in “blue ink” , the popular belief being that Missouri was a “Border State” with Southern sympathisers, the reality being that Missouri was a Southern State with pockets of Union sympathisers.

Missouri is still mainly an “agricultural” society with the two main exceptions being St. Louis and Kansas City and “Yankees” for the most part remain “islands” in a “sea of Southerners”.

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  • Confederate Papist

    Having lived there for a time, this is very true and most, if not all of the people I met there that were natives, were extremely proud of their Southern roots.

  • Chris

    At the moment I am reading General Basil W. Duke’s memior. He speaks at length on the time he lived in Missouri and the wide awakes and the group he was involved in. Really interesting. I would say everything said here is ture and falls in line with what Mr. Duke had to say.

  • Dutchy

    Greetings, Clint (you know me by my real name), and a helluva fine article! Our brothers and sisters in the Deep South need to understand the depth of our Southern sentiments and the extent of Missouri’s sacrifices in the War. I would add that the Yankee Gen. Lyon, ANOTHER New England invader, could never have driven the duly elected government of Missouri under Gov. Jackson into exile with just the efforts of the compliant Germans (shamefully, my ancestors and a people far too prone to obeying any and all government orders, AS WE ALL WELL KNOW!). No, Lyon had plenty of help from both Iowa and Illinois invaders. As I recently wrote in to Rebellion blog, with the exception of the German (pus) pocket along the eastern Missouri River, all of Missouri south from St. Joe in the NW corner running on a line about 50 miles north of the Missouri River about to St. Charles County (the county just to the west of St. Louis County) is SOUTHERN ground. NO Southerners suffered worse that those in western Missouri where, by 1863, all that was standing was chimneys for many miles from the Kansas border. Osceola, in 1861 the THIRD largest town in Missouri, was practically destroyed by Jim Lane’s Kansas raid and never recovered. Ask the SCV boys of the John T. Coffee Camp there if they are Southerners! All the Yankees ever talk about is Lawrence. Yes, the GD Yankees won it and just look where we are today under 150 years of their rule… I say let history be their judge.

    I am ‘Dutchy’ of ‘Little Dixie’. RIDE WITH THE DEVIL!

  • http://myscv.wordpress.com clint lacy

    Dutchy you make a good point. We were invaded by Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Kansas. Many of these men were given the designation of “Missouri” units.

  • http://clanchrisdean.blogspot.com Dana Adams

    Thank you for that great article. We live in MO and knew this but you dont see it written much. God bless~

  • Wes Franklin

    By God, surely my feelings are already known on this, but in case they aren’t, Mi-zur-ra! Mi-zur-ra! Mi-zur-ra! Our blood was spilled all too freely all over the South in defense of our new nation that we wished to defend. It is unfortunate that subsequent and present day “historians” in our state desire to whore themselves out to the victors of that horrible war.

  • Pingback: Missouri...Southern or Midwestern? - Page 114 - City-Data Forum()

  • Justin

    Strongly agree, missouri is a southern state with pockets of union sympathizers. Im from defiance in st charles county and everyone I know from there and myself all classify ourselves as southern. And the culture and activities there are southern as well

  • SouthernAtHeart

    My great-great-grandfather fought for the Confederacy from Christian County. Used to have his rifle; went to a boy cousin – now is that really fair? :-) Oh well…it’s still in the family. Great article once again! Thank you.

  • Caitlin Buelt

    Nice post.


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