The American Civil War, The Border States

Edited by: Robert Guisepi


        The Lincoln administration regarded Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri as border states, critical because of their geographical positions and questionable in loyalty because of their strong ties to both South and North. Slavery existed in all 4 states, though its importance had diminished in Delaware and Maryland as their prewar economies became increasingly interwoven with the North's.
        Delaware rejected an invitation to join the Confederacy early in 1861, and through the war remained loyal to the North, mobilizing its industries to provide supplies for the Union Army; despite some Southern sentiments, it never seriously threatened to leave the Union.
        Marylanders were much more divided in their sympathies, being distinctly Southern in character and attached to the South by strong blood ties. They resented radical secessionists and abolitionists alike as the cause of hostilities, urging recognition of the Confederacy. The first blood was spilled during the Baltimore Riots in March 1861, and though the state contributed substantially to the war effort with men and materiel, the Federal government garrisoned troops in the state as a precautionary measure.
        Believing Kentucky to be a buffer zone, Governor Beriah Magoffin refused the call for troops and formally declared the states neutrality. But the attempt proved futile: both Union and Confederate recruiters operated in the state, with Kentuckians serving on both sides. When Confederate troops moved into western Kentucky Sept. 1861, and Brig. Gen. U.S. Grant occupied Paducah, the legislature officially endorsed the Union. Pro-South Magoffin established a provisional government at Russellville, ratified the Confederate Constitution, and Kentucky was admitted to the Confederacy in December. The state, like Missouri, suffered the tragedy of a war that pitted father against son, brother against brother.
        Missouri attempted neutrality after delegates to a secession convention in February 1861 refused to secede, but Federal invasion in May pushed many Unionists into the Confederate camp. As in Kentucky, pro-Union and pro-Confederate governments were established, the latter run in exile by Governor Claiborne F. Jackson. Missouri became a Confederate state November, 1861. Its thriving prewar economy was devastated, its people terrorized by brutal guerrilla warfare.
        The border states represented a serious dilemma for President Lincoln. Convinced they were the key to victory, he could not afford to alienate them with his emancipation policies, thus incurred the scorn of Radicals by failing to abolish border-state slavery until the 13th Amendment, passed in 1865. And in the Western border states Federal troops had to be kept from the front to hold the occupied territory from Confederate invaders. Soldiers also policed the polls to protect loyal Unionists during wartime elections. Though the border states remained pro-Union, even severely divided Kentucky and Missouri, the effort to nurture their loyalty in the face of bitter internal struggles weighed heavily on Lincoln's overall plan to win the war.

Source: "Historical Times Encyclopedia Of The Civil War" edited by Patricia L. Faust

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