Claiborne Fox Jackson

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Claiborne Fox Jackson
Claiborne fox jackson.jpg
15th Governor of Missouri
In office
January 3, 1861 – July 31, 1861
In exile
July 31, 1861 – December 6, 1862
LieutenantThomas C. Reynolds
Preceded byRobert M. Stewart
Succeeded byHamilton R. Gamble
Member of the Missouri Senate
In office
1848 – 1852
Member of the
Missouri House of Representatives
from Saline County
In office
1836 – 1848
Personal details
Born(1806-04-04)April 4, 1806
Fleming County, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedDecember 6, 1862(1862-12-06) (aged 56)
Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.
Cause of deathPneumonia
Resting placeSappington Cemetery,
Saline County, Missouri, U.S.
39°01′58″N 93°00′27″W / 39.032778°N 93.0075°W / 39.032778; -93.0075
Political partyDemocratic
  • Jane Breathhitt Sappington
    (m. 1831; died 1831)
  • Louisa Catherine Sappington
    (m. 1833; died 1838)
  • Elza Sappington
    (m. 1838⁠–⁠1862)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceUnited States Volunteers
Years of service1832
RankUnion army cpt rank insignia.jpg Captain
Battles/warsAmerican Indian Wars

Claiborne Fox Jackson (April 4, 1806 – December 6, 1862) was an American politician who was the 15th Governor of Missouri from January 3, 1861, until his deposition on July 31, 1861.

A successful manufacturing chemist, Jackson became heavily involved in the Democratic party and served twelve years in the Missouri House of Representatives, before being elected to the State Senate in 1848. In the run-up to the Civil War, he claimed to be anti-secession, in order to get elected Governor, but was secretly planning a secessionist coup in league with Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

When Union troops in St. Louis jailed the local militia, fighting broke out and Jackson declared Missouri to be a free republic. In July however, the Unionist members of the Missouri State Legislature voted to remove him from office. However, Jackson refused to accept the action as valid. In November 1861, the Confederacy recognised Missouri as its twelfth state, but the Union was increasingly dominant, and Jackson and his colleagues fled south to the Confederate state of Arkansas, pending a new invasion. Before this could happen, Jackson died of stomach cancer at Little Rock.

Early life[edit]

Claiborne Fox Jackson, son of Dempsey Carroll and Mary Orea "Molly" (née Pickett) Jackson, was born in Fleming County, Kentucky, where his father was a wealthy tobacco farmer and slaveholder.[1] In 1826 Jackson moved with several of his older brothers to Missouri, settling in the Howard County town of Franklin. The Jackson brothers established a successful general mercantile store, where young Claiborne worked until 1832 and the outbreak of hostilities in the Black Hawk War.[2] Claiborne Jackson organized, and was elected captain of, a unit of Howard County volunteers for the conflict. Claiborne Jackson married Jane Breathhitt Sappington, daughter of prominent frontier physician John Sappington, in early 1831 but she died within a few months of the nuptials.

Returning from the war, Jackson chose not to resume his business partnership with his brothers, instead deciding to try his fortune in nearby Saline County.[3] In 1833 he married Louisa Catherine Sappington, sister of his late first wife. He also worked with his father-in-law in the manufacture and sale of "Dr. Sappington's Anti-Fever Pills",[4] a patent medicine cure for malaria. The pills were widely distributed and a best-seller, especially in the American south and the then-Mexican southwest due to Saline Counties proximity to the Santa Fe Trailhead. Subsequently, both men and their extended family became quite wealthy and influential.[1][4] In May 1838, Louisa Jackson also died. Claiborne and Louisa's infant son Andrew Jackson died the next month. Claiborne Jackson's next, and final, marriage was to a third Sappington sister, Eliza.

Political career[edit]

Through his family connections with Dr. Sappington, Claiborne Jackson, along with brother-in-law Meredith M. Marmaduke became heavily involved with Missouri Democratic Party politics. Jackson was first elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1836, representing Saline County. He moved to the Howard County seat of Fayette, Missouri—then a center of political power in the state—in 1838 and worked for the local branch of the state bank. This would pay great political dividends later in his career.[1] Claiborne Jackson would serve a total of twelve years in the Missouri House, including terms as Speaker in 1844 and 1846.[3] In 1840 Claiborne Jackson very nearly found himself involved in a duel over politics. Writing anonymously to a Fayette, Missouri newspaper, Jackson made accusations that the Whig candidate for Missouri Governor that year, John B. Clark, was guilty of election fraud. More harsh words were exchanged and eventually Clark challenged Jackson to a duel before cooler heads prevailed and the matter was settled without gunplay. Later, once Clark had switched party allegiance to the Democrats, he and Jackson became political allies.[1]

Claiborne Jackson was elected to the state senate in 1848. As leader of the pro-slavery Democrats, he headed efforts to defeat powerful pro-Union Senator Thomas H. Benton. This was an event with both personal and political implications for Jackson. Until that time, like his father-in-law Dr. Sappington and brother-in-law Meredith Marmaduke, Jackson had been an ardent backer of Benton. Marmaduke chose to side with Benton, which not only cost him the chance to be elected Governor in his own right (he had served ten months in the role following the suicide of Thomas Reynolds), but the estrangement that developed within the family would not pass.[4] While heading the Senate Ways and Means Committee, he introduced the "Jackson Resolutions". These mandated that Missouri's U.S. Senators and Congressmen make proposals extending the Missouri Compromise to all new territories, asserting that Congress had no power to limit slavery.[1][3] Jackson and the anti-Benton faction would have their way, with the long-time Senator being voted out of office in 1850. However Benton supporters would exact revenge by derailing Jackson's attempts to secure the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress in 1853 and again in 1855.[1]

In 1857, Jackson became Banking Commissioner of Missouri. In that position he established a system of six State Banks, with branch locations. This proved an advantage to business and the general public alike by stabilizing temporary currency shortages that happened from time to time, especially in the more rural areas of the state.[5] As Commissioner Jackson traveled to various locations around the state inspecting banking facilities, while at the same time building a power base for his next attempt at elected office, Governor of Missouri.[2]

Governor of Missouri[edit]

In the fall of 1860 Jackson resigned as Banking Commissioner to run for governor. Jackson campaigned, and was elected as, a Douglas Democrat, on an anti-secession platform, beating nearest challenger Sample Orr by nearly ten thousand votes.[5] Immediately after his election, however, Jackson began working behind the scenes for Missouri's secession.[6] Jackson assumed the governor's office on January 3, 1861. During his inaugural address he declared that Missouri shared a common bond and interest with other states that allowed slavery and could not separate herself from them if the Union should be dissolved. He further called for a state convention to decide the issue.[5]

On February 18, Missourians elected a special state convention to decide on secession and other matters. The convention voted 98–1 against secession, despite lobbying by Jackson. Jackson announced that he would continue the policy of his predecessor Robert M. Stewart, whereby Missouri would be an "armed neutral," refusing to give arms or men to either side in the approaching Civil War.[1]

After the bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12–13, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation for the states to call up their militia and provide 75,000 troops to the Federal government to suppress the rebellion. He sent specific requests to all states, including Missouri.

Jackson responded,

Sir: Your dispatch of the 15th instant, making a call on Missouri for four regiments of men for immediate service, has 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.[2]

Jackson carried on secret correspondence with Confederate President Jefferson Davis, making plans to carry Missouri out of the Union by a military coup. The key point was the U.S. Arsenal in St. Louis, which contained large stocks of arms and ammunition. Jackson plotted to seize the Arsenal, and asked Davis to send artillery to breach the Arsenal's walls.[6]

The commander of the Arsenal was Captain Nathaniel Lyon, a pro-Union regular Army officer. On April 26, 1861, under orders from Secretary of War Simon Cameron, Lyon worked with Missouri Volunteers and Illinois troops to secretly move 21,000 weapons (of 39,000 small arms present in the Arsenal) across the Mississippi River to Alton, Illinois.

Capture of Camp Jackson[edit]

On May 3, 1861, Jackson ordered the Missouri Volunteer Militia to assemble at various encampments throughout Missouri, including St. Louis for six days of training.[2] They assembled in Lindell's Grove on the city's western outskirts, in an encampment now called Camp Jackson. Governor Jackson's order to assemble the militia was legal according to the Missouri state constitution, as long as the encampment was intended only for training, and not for offensive action against Federal forces. However, the St. Louis Militia was commanded largely by secessionists, and had recently enlisted a new regiment (2nd Regiment MVM) composed almost completely of secessionists. Also, artillery seized by Confederates from the U.S. Arsenal in Baton Rouge was secretly shipped to St. Louis by steamboat and delivered to Camp Jackson.

Lyon responded to the perceived threat with force. On May 10, 1861, Lyon surrounded Camp Jackson with pro-Union volunteer "Home Guards" (mostly drawn from the German immigrants of St. Louis), and took the Militia prisoner. The prisoners were marched to the Arsenal, and during the march a riot broke out. During two days of rioting and gunfire several soldiers, prisoners, and bystanders were killed.[2] Alarmed by the incident, the Missouri Legislature immediately acted on Governor Jackson's call for a bill dividing the state into military districts and authorizing a State Guard.

American Civil War[edit]

On May 11, 1861, Jackson appointed Sterling Price to be Major General of the Missouri State Guard to resist invasion (by federal forces) and suppress insurrection by Missouri Unionist Volunteers in Federal service. On May 12, Price met with General William S. Harney, the Federal commander in Missouri. They agreed to the Price-Harney Truce, which permitted Missouri to remain neutral for the moment. Theoretically, Price promised that the state forces, and the state government, would hold the state for the Union and prevent the entry of Confederate forces.[6] However, at the same time Governor Jackson had secretly dispatched envoys to CSA President Jefferson Davis and Confederate commanders in Arkansas asking for an immediate invasion of the state, and promising the State Guard would cooperate with the Confederate Army in a campaign against Federal forces to effect the "liberation" of St. Louis. In addition, Lieutenant Governor Thomas C. Reynolds traveled to Richmond, with the agreement of Major General Price, to ask Jefferson Davis to order an invasion of the state. Missouri Unionists were dismayed at what they perceived as Harney's one-sided adherence to the truce, and petitioned for Harney's removal from command. Harney was eventually removed on May 30, and temporarily replaced with Lyon, who was promoted from captain to brigadier general of volunteers.

On June 11, 1861, Jackson met with Lyon, hoping to extend the truce, but Lyon refused. Lyon marched on Jefferson City with his forces, entering on June 13. Jackson and other pro-Confederate officials fled to Boonville, Missouri. Union forces routed the State Guard, commanded by Jackson's nephew John Sappington Marmaduke, at Boonville on June 17. At Carthage on July 5, Jackson himself took command of 6,000 State Guardsmen (becoming the second sitting U.S. Governor to lead troops in battle after Isaac Shelby of Kentucky did so during the War of 1812), and drove back a much smaller Union detachment led by Colonel Franz Sigel. However, the Union forces were in a dominating position, and Lyon chased Jackson and Price to the far southwest of the state.[2]


Jackson's Tomb in the Sappington Cemetery, Saline County, Missouri.

On July 22, 1861, the Missouri State Convention reconvened in Jefferson City. The convention again voted against secession, and on July 31, it declared the governor's office vacant. The same day the convention appointed Hamilton R. Gamble as provisional governor. Missouri would have an unelected governor for the remainder of the war. However, Jackson did not recognize their actions and on August 5 issued a proclamation declaring Missouri a free republic and dissolving all ties with the Union. He then traveled to Richmond, Virginia to meet with Confederate President Davis to seek support for Sterling Price's forces [1] and official recognition by the Confederate government.

On October 28, 1861, in Neosho, Missouri, some secessionist members of the Missouri General Assembly met (with Jackson present) and passed an ordinance of secession. On November 28, 1861 the Confederacy recognized Missouri as its twelfth state, with Jackson as governor, and Senators and Representatives to the Confederate Congress were elected. However, Union forces occupied almost all of Missouri at the time, making the recognition and elections moot.[3] Jackson took refuge in Arkansas with General Price and the Missouri army, where they were soundly defeated at the Battle of Pea Ridge. Claiborne Jackson traveled to southern Arkansas in the spring of 1862 to regroup and meet with wealthy Missouri secessionists who had fled south. There was talk and hope of a new campaign to retake Missouri but Jackson's death would come first.[3]


His health increasingly poor throughout 1862, Claiborne Jackson nonetheless traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, in November of that year for military planning meetings for the aforementioned new campaign. However, on December 6, 1862 Jackson died from pneumonia at age 56 in a Little Rock rooming house.[7] At first denied a burial in Missouri by the circumstance of the ongoing war, he was buried in Little Rock's Mount Holly Cemetery. Following the end of the American Civil War he was exhumed, and reinterred in the Sappington Cemetery in Saline County, Missouri.[5]


A provisional camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Caimito, Panama, was named after him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Historic Missourians-Claiborne Fox Jackson". State Historical Society of Missouri. 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Christensen, Lawrence O., Dictionary of Missouri Biography, University of Missouri Press, 1999, pp. 423–425
  3. ^ a b c d e "Historical & Biographical notes" (PDF). Missouri Secretary of State website. September 2, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c Glassman, Steve. It Happened on the Santa Fe Trail. Globe Pequot Press. 2008. pp. 67–68
  5. ^ a b c d Conard, Howard Lewis Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri: A Conpendeum of History. Vol. 3, Southern Histort Co., 1901, pp. 397-399
  6. ^ a b c Phillips, Missouri's Confederate. p. 201, 230, 235.
  7. ^ "Death of Governor Jackson". Natchez Daily Courier. XI (56). Natchez, Miss. December 16, 1862. p. 1. LCCN sn84020290. OCLC 10561000.

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