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38. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis to Lincoln on need for Union troops in Missouri


38. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis to Lincoln on need for Union troops in Missouri


Letter from General Samuel R. Curtis to Abraham Lincoln counseling against transferring military governance of Missouri from Union troops to the Enrolled Missouri Militia (E.M.M.), a 40,000 man force with questionable abilities and loyalties, in Curtis' view. December 20, 1862. Lincoln had requested the views of both Curtis and Missouri governor Hamilton Gamble concerning the possible transfer. Gamble, who sought sole authority over the E.M.M., had counseled Lincoln that the E.M.M., under his command, could readily maintain order in the state without Union troop support.




Becki Plunkett and Stephen Vincent


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State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines

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[Headquarters] Dept[.] of the Mo [Missouri,] St. Louis[,] Dec[.] 20th 1862 Lincoln, His Excellency[,] President In regard to your telegraphic inquiry as to the propriety of replying entirely on the enrolled militia in north Missouri, I proceed to enlarge on my telegraphic reply. We have just driven the rebels out of Mo [Missouri]and hold them south by a force almost continuous along the southern border of the state. Their anxiety exists to return to Mo [Missouri], where the wealthy secessionists in many neighborhoods are ready to receive and replenish them. In such neighborhoods, the proslavery influence seeks to exclude the Union troops, hoping to hold their negroes better under the enrolled militia, many of whom are commanded by proslavery officers. I try to study the surrounding elements, and move troops just as fast as I think the safety of community will permit; and will probably soon withdraw all or nearly all the volunteers from north Mo. [Missouri.] Another trouble however intervenes, the enrolled militia when in actual service are fed by the United States, and levy contributions from the secessionists to indemnify themselves for losses. It becomes necessary to watch these influences to prevent feeding unnecessary or false musters and restrain excesses which avarice or revenge may induce. To check these, I may find it necessary to preserve a small regular volunteer force. As the rebels starve out in Arkansas, they sneak back with recruiting papers into Mo, and in some instances they have enlisted Enrolled Militia, who have joined them with muskets furnished by the Governor. Gen [Benjamin] Loan com[man]d[in]g the Central Dist (recently elected to Congress)is especially troubled and distrustful in this regard. Our best friends are more afraid of our kindness than our severity. The least clemency shown to prisoners seems to create alarm and remonstrance and communities require the confinement of several hundred troublesome spirits that have been sent to prison from north Mo. Keep them confined, is the sentiment of the people, and the Enrolled Militia are the most desperate in this demand. Force, Mr[.] President, military power is still the main dependence, and whether it be the United States or state troops that represent that power, it does not matter much as the expense, in one way or another mainly falls on the US Govt. So far I have got along without much difficulty with mixed forces, but I have required of my officers and acted myself with great caution and courtesy towards State troops for fear of trouble. The Governor seems to the sole control of the Enrolled Militia and partial control of the 10,000 Mo State Militia, organized under Order 96 of last year. I and all good Union Men dread the least conflict of sovereignties which has been the cursed argument that has invoked and fostered this infernal rebellion. As commander of the Dept, I claim, but have not announced or exercised the right to control any and all military organizations within my domain whenever they take up arms. In time of war this paramount sovereignty of the United States should be maintained to prevent bickerings and possible conflicts. I suppose Gov[.] Gamble would traverse this, and I am inclined to think so, because, in carrying your arrangements to make the commander of the Dept[.] a Maj[or] Gen[era]l of militia, he inserted words in my commission, confining my functions to the volunteers mustered in under Order 96; thereby attempting to exclude my authority over the Enrolled Militia. The theory of this is pernicious as it places forces in my command controlling parts of it; but I have so far very little trouble, as the general resolve of the masses to stand by the old flag is the battle cry of all. But as we go on to subdue, and to enroll and arm the militia in the country, the danger of variance will increse [sic], and the question of national sovereignty must in some way, be so clearly settled as to avoid eternal discord and strife. The object of all this, is to present to your Excellency the delicacy of my position and the danger of hasty action favorable to rebels who seem inspired with ideas of a triumph over acts of generosity. The moment a rebel surrenders I am ready to desist and wherever a community can maintain the peace with civil laws, and the Enrolled Militia, I shall gladly relinquish military authority, and on all occasions, I shall cordially carry out the wishes of your Excellency to the best of my ability. I have the honor to remain Your Excellency? Most ob[edien]t serv[an]t[,] S[.] R[.] Curtis[,] Maj[.] Gen'l