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Claiborne Fox Jackson

Claiborne Fox Jackson (April 4, 1806 – December 6, 1862) was a lawyer, soldier, and politician. He was Governor of Missouri in 1861, then governor-in-exile for the Confederacy during the American Civil War.

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Early life

Jackson was born in Fleming County, Kentucky, a son of Dempsey Carroll and Mary Orea "Molly" (Pickett) Jackson. In 1822, he moved with his parents to Missouri, where he became a lawyer. Jackson and his father together owned a very profitable business. He served as an infantry captain in the Black Hawk War. He was elected to the state legislature and served twelve years, including a term as Speaker from 1844 to 1846. In 1848, Jackson was elected to the state senate. As leader of the pro-slavery Democrats, he headed efforts to defeat the powerful and pro-Union Senator Thomas H. Benton. In 1857 Jackson served as Banking Commissioner for the state.

Jackson as governor

Jackson assumed the governor's office on January 2, 1861, and vowed to continue the policy of his predecessor Robert M. Stewart, whereby Missouri would be "armed neutral," refusing to give arms or men to either side in the approaching Civil War, even though Jackson personally favored joining the South.

The flash point that threatened this neutrality was the St. Louis Arsenal, which contained 60,000 muskets, 90,000 pounds of powder and 1,500,000 ball cartridges. Jackson did not want the arsenal to be seized by the Union Army. However, on April 26, 1861, Captain Nathaniel Lyon, an aide to General William S. Harney, the Federal commander in Missouri, seized the arsenal and moved the supplies across the river to Springfield, Illinois.

Refusing to recognize Missouri's neutrality, President Abraham Lincoln ordered Jackson to provide state troops to help fight against the South. An irritated Jackson responded,

"Sir: Your dispatch of the 15th instant, making a call on Missouri for four regiments of men for immediate service, as been received. There can be, I apprehend, no doubt that the men are intended to form a part of the President's army to make war upon the people of the seceded states. Your requisition, in my judgment, is illegal, unconstitutional, and revolutionary in its object, inhuman, and diabolical and cannot be complied with. Not one man will the State of Missouri furnish to carry on any unholy crusade."

In May 1861, Jackson ordered the state militia to assemble outside St. Louis for six days of training at what is now called Camp Jackson. Governor Jackson's order was legal according to the Missouri state constitution. He appointed pro-secessionists to command various the State Guard units and allegedly received arms from Confederate President Jefferson Davis (supposedly discovered by Lyon when visiting the camp disguised as a woman wearing bombazine skirts).

On May 10, 1861, Captain Lyon surrounded the militia's camp with pro-Union volunteers from the German community in St. Louis. The State Guard was forced to surrender. The prisoners were then paraded through the streets of St. Louis, where several were shot along with other unarmed men, women, and children, sparking the St. Louis massacre riot.

On May 11, 1861, Jackson appointed Sterling Price to be Major General of the newly organized Missouri State Guard to resist a Union invasion of Missouri. The following day, Price and Harney agreed to Price-Harney Truce, which permitted Missouri to remain at least temporarily neutral. However, Lincoln promptly replaced Harney with the aggressive Lyon, who was promoted from captain to brigadier general.

On June 11, 1861, Jackson tried to get Lyon to agree to the earlier terms, but Lyon stubbornly refused. Lyon walked out of the meeting, saying there was going to be war, and ordered the governor escorted out of St. Louis. Lyon then began a series of battles with Price to capture Jefferson City and arrest the state government. The state government fled to Boonville, Missouri, prompting the Battle of Boonville on June 17, followed by the more serious Battle of Carthage in Jasper County on July 5.

On July 22, 1861, after occupying Jefferson City, Missouri, Lyon called a special Missouri State Convention to vote on secession. Not surprisingly, with only Unionists present, it voted to stay in the Union. On July 27, Lyon's convention declared the governor's office vacant and on July 28 appointed Hamilton Gamble as provisional governor in Jackson's place.

The final battle of the campaign was the Battle of Wilson's Creek on August 10, 1861, southwest of Springfield, Missouri. It is considered the first major engagement west of the Mississippi River and the second major battle of the Civil War. Lyon's army was defeated and Lyon himself was killed, along with over 500 Union and Confederate soldiers. Although a Union defeat, the Battle of Wilson's Creek failed to provide any lasting benefits for the Confederacy, since the state and Confederate troops failed to pursue the retreating Union army back to Springfield.

On October 28, 1861, in Neosho, Missouri, Jackson was present during a session of the Missouri General Assembly that passed an ordinance of secession, though debate remains to this day on the legality of the measure and if a sufficient quorum even existed for such a vote to be made. The session, made up of elected members of the state legislature, took place outside of Jefferson City because the state capital was still occupied by Union troops. The results of the vote were accepted by the Confederate Government and Missouri was admitted as the 12th state of the Confederacy. Jackson would continue serving as the governor in the Confederate held portions of the state. But by the end of the year, the Union forces would occupy almost all of Missouri and Jackson took refuge in Arkansas. A Union victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge in northwest Arkansas in early 1862 solidified Union control of Missouri for the remainder of the war.

In late 1862, Jackson died from stomach cancer at age 56 in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was survived by his wife, Eliza. Governor Jackson is buried in the Sappington Cemetery in Arrow Rock, Missouri. He was succeeded as Governor of Confederate Missouri by Thomas Caute Reynolds.

In memoriam

The Claiborne Fox Jackson Provisional Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (Caimito, Panama) is named in his honor.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Marcellus Stewart
Governor of Missouri
1861
Succeeded by
Hamilton Rowan Gamble
Preceded by
Sterling Price
Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives
1844– 1847
Succeeded by
Alexander M. Robinson
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