Macon County in the Civil War
In April of 1861, Macon City was visited by Col. Thomas L. Anderson of Palmyra, Mo., an ex-congressman and Southern sympathizer. An announcement had been made that the flag of the Confederacy would be raised in Macon that day. The flag went up in the afternoon in front of the Harris house, the crowd cheered, and Col. Anderson made his rousing speech.
Another provocative speech at Bloomington in May by James S. Green, Senator from Missouri and “a seceder,” was interrupted when a messenger brought a telegram announcing the taking of Camp Jackson at St. Louis by Union General Nathaniel Lyon. This was soon followed by a chaotic gathering of 300 men in Macon armed with old muskets, shot guns and rifles. Musters and drills began taking place. Few real organizations existed, but among them were the Silver Greys of Macon City under Capt. Lloyd P. Halleck, and the Macon Rangers under Capt. William D. Marmaduke.
These incidents attracted the Federal government’s attention, and early in June, two Union regiments under General Stephen A. Hurlbut reached Macon.
About the same time, Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson called for 50,000 volunteers, prompting quite a number in the Halleck and Marmaduke companies to join pro-Southern Gen. John B. Clark at Jefferson City. Their efforts for the Confederate cause took place mostly in southern and western Missouri and northern Arkansas. Reportedly, there were around 1,200 Macon County soldiers in General Sterling Price's Missouri State Guard.
The Federal army had as many as 2,000 Macon County men serving in its various commands and militia, and Union garrisons were continually maintained at Macon City. The single issue of a newspaper titled Our Whole Union, published by the Union troops in 1861 relays the intentions of those stationed in Macon.
Read the attached transcription. [ Our Whole Union]
In September 1862, ten Confederate soldiers were sentenced to death in Macon City. According to Official records, “… having once been pardoned for the crime of taking up arms against their Government, and having taken a solemn oath not again to take up arms against the United States, have been taken in arms, in violation of said oath and their solemn parole, and are therefore ordered to be shot to death on Friday, the 26th of September, between the hours of 10 o’clock a. m. and 3 o’clock p.m.” The Confederate soldiers were executed by a firing squad from the 23rd Missouri Infantry. All town folk who were suspected of being sympathetic to the Southern cause were rounded up and forced to watch the bloody display. The Massacre occurred in what is now Woodlawn Cemetery, in the southwest portion of Macon off of Coates Street. [ Macon Massacre ]
While Macon was a center for Union troops, but strong Southern sympathy was prevalent, only one recorded Civil War skirmish in the county occurred, near New Cambria. “There was one stirring little campaign in Macon county in '64 when Colonel Poindexter made his raid through the country and took Kirksville. In his retreat southward he came into Macon county and crossed to the west of the Chariton, where he met a detachment which was trying to cut off his retreat, and a running fight occurred along the west bluffs of the Chariton, on what is known as Painter's Creek, in which there was some maneuvering and a good deal of shooting and maybe one or two deaths.” [ Battle of Painter Creek]
Besides the garrisons in Macon, Union troops were also stationed along the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad at the Old Chariton River bridge, where a blockhouse was built in 1861 for the protection of the bridge. That building was burned in 1862, reportedly by bushwhackers. In 1863 it was replaced by a second blockhouse which fell into disrepair after the War and later caught fire from a spark created by the wheels of a passing train.
(Excerpts from A History of Northeast Missouri, v. 1, ed. by Walter Williams. 1913).