White Southerners To Dedicate Monument to Confederate Massacre

There are a number of narratives that have emerged over the course of the sesquicentennial. While the story of black Union soldiers has taken center stage, focus on the War in the West and guerrilla warfare isn’t far behind. Scholarship on the Western theater is on the rise, but popular interest can also be seen in the form of reenactments, museum exhibits and even in the dedication of new monuments.

Today I came across a story about a monument dedication to the Emma Massacre, which took place on October 10, 1864 in Lafayette County, Missouri. I certainly didn’t know anything about it before coming across this story.

Known as the Emma Massacre the event took place Oct. 10, 1864, on a plot of land that would one day hold the original Holy Cross Lutheran Church in what would become Emma. All of the able bodied men had left the German community to fight in the war. As the community became threatened the remaining older men and four teenagers took up arms to defend their families. They were cut down by bushwhackers, most were shot, skulls were crushed, and some were burned alive.

I am sure some of you can provide additional references to this incident. The story relies heavily on the people involved in the dedication, which leaves me suspicious about some of the details. What I find interesting is the way in which this monument dedication challenges our tendencies to continue to view the war as North v. South and Union v. Confederate.

This could be a welcome addition to the commemorative landscape of the Civil War 150th.

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“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

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21 comments… add one
  • Dr. William B. Showers Jun 28, 2015 @ 14:23

    I was born and raised in the area around St. Joseph, Missouri. I have always considered Missouri a southern state. Most of my family and friends are southern. They do, however, consider St. Louis a Yankee city in a southern state. My Mother’s family moved into Clinton and Buchanan Counties from Virginia and North Carolina in the early 1840s. They raised tobacco and hemp near Gower and Easton from that time until the 1930s. In 1861, many uncles and cousins joined the Easton Cavalry, Fifth Division, Missouri State Guard. They fought the Yankees at Oak Hill (Wilson’s Creek) and Lexington. After Missouri seceded on October 30,1861, many of those relatives transferred out of the State Guard and mustered into the first or third Missouri Cavalry Regiments, Confederate States Army. My Father’s family moved into Buchanan County from Virginia in the late 1880s. The family had a long history in that area of Northwest Missouri, but all are gone now because of passing or immigration.

  • Bob Pollock Oct 2, 2014 @ 7:10

    The question of Missouri’s identity is interesting. I’ve had many discussions on the topic both on my blog and with park visitors. You are certainly correct, Kevin, that Missouri is a complex state, but whether it is “Southern” or not is highly debatable. One of my favorite passages in Julia Grant’s Memoirs is directly related to this. She was in Mississippi during the war and was chatting with several young southern ladies when they suddenly challenged her.

    “You are Southern, are you not?” “No,” I [Julia] replied, ” I am from the West. Missouri is my native state.” “Yes, we know, but Missouri is a Southern state. Surely, you are Southern in feeling and principle.” “No, indeed,” I declared, “I am the most loyal of the loyal.”

    There are historians who recently have suggested that the North/South dichotomy in Civil War studies needs to be reconsidered; that there was a distinctive “Western” side of the story. (See Adam Arenson for one).There is a reason the Gateway Arch was constructed at St. Louis; Missouri was the gateway to the west.

  • Julian Sep 30, 2014 @ 6:46

    Regarding the recent Centralia Massacre re-enactment mentioned above – there was some debate about it on other ACW sites that I spend time on- one question that came up was about the questionable taste of “re-enacting” the slaughtering of soldiers in Federal Uniforms pulled off a train and executed at point blank, the second one was a question about the scenario presented at the “re-enactment” which did not really engage with the historical record of the event but presented a generic pair of grey and blue firing lines in vaguely Napoleonic style line up – people standing in ranks and wearing uniforms – photographs showed myriads of brightly coloured folding beach chairs, picnic lunches and a rotunda or garden pavilion and there were comments around how farby the whole event appeared and how the event appeared to be somewhat trivial in its art and action direction – this is reporting others’ comments as I did not see it – although there are youtube videos. However these events may not indicate a sense of questioning the received narrative or trying to rethink public commemoration or even trying to contemplate controversial and contested local memories – someone described it as tasteless as a Fort Pillow or Treblinka event – but just a chance to be out in public in historic dress

  • Patrick Young Sep 28, 2014 @ 15:57

    The Germans were targeted by the Confederate sympathizers even before Sumter. Many German immigrant non-combatants in the southern part of the state were driven out in the first months of the war. The widespread attacks on immigrants are not known

    • Patrick Young Sep 28, 2014 @ 16:02

      Sorry, the post went up before I finished.
      The situation of immigrants in Missouri, who definitely did not consider themselves Southerners, is not widely known outside of the state. Forgetting the German role in keeping the state in the Union is an important part of Civil War memory.

      • Kevin Levin Sep 28, 2014 @ 16:04

        The situation of immigrants in Missouri, who definitely did not consider themselves Southerners, is not widely known outside of the state.

        Yes, but that does go into the mix of a very interesting and complex Southern state.

  • James Harrigan Sep 28, 2014 @ 14:14

    interesting story Kevin, but I wouldn’t call Missouri the South.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 28, 2014 @ 14:16

      I would.

      • Jimmy Dick Sep 28, 2014 @ 14:47

        That depends on one’s geographical view. Around 150,000 Missourians served in the Union armies while around 30,000 were serving the confederacy in one way or another. The state was a major battleground, but not on the scale of the main armies. Instead it became a series of skirmishes as the Missouri State Militia battled guerrillas. As the war continued the southern guerrillas became nothing more than murderers and thieves. Their actions were terrible for this state and its people.

        • Kevin Levin Sep 28, 2014 @ 14:50

          I don’t see what any of this has to do with whether we consider Missouri to be a Southern state. Like other states in the Upper/Border South, Missouri was a complex place. It is a diverse region of the country.

        • chancery Sep 28, 2014 @ 18:20

          Jimmy, or anyone else reading this thread, can you point me to a source that shows for every state the number of soldiers fighting for the confederates and the number fighting for the United States?

        • Natural-Lyon Sep 30, 2014 @ 8:03

          During the first two years of the War the loyalty Missouri was undecided. More Missourians fought for the South than for the North in the three major battles of 1861-1862: Wilson’s Creek, Elkhorn Tavern, and Prairie Grove.

          By the time it was evident the the Confederate armies could not stay in Missouri for the long term the loyalties shifted to the winning (Union) side.

          • Gary Daniel Aug 2, 2019 @ 8:25

            Isn’t Prairie Grove and Elkhorn Tavern the same battle? I know that one as 3 names.

      • Kristen T. Oct 2, 2014 @ 6:16

        Kevin, why do you believe Missouri is “the South?” I am from Missouri and I was just curious to hear your thoughts on why.

    • Jeffry Burden Sep 28, 2014 @ 14:31

      South of St. Louis and east of Rolla? It’s the South.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 28, 2014 @ 14:39


      I think we need to be clear that the South is not one thing or another. It’s never been such a place, not during the war or now. In some parts of the Upper South Confederate heritage has overshadowed the complexity of loyalties during the Civil War era. On the face of it, it’s nice to see that one community is able to peel back the layers of memory to acknowledge such a story.

      • Jimmy Dick Sep 28, 2014 @ 15:09

        The central area of Missouri south of the Missouri River had a lot of German immigrants there. The town of Emma sits just south of I-70 today. It is about equidistant from Columbia, MO to Kansas City. This is also part of what was known as Little Dixie. Most of the people who came here in the 1830s and 40s were from the Upper South. The stream of German immigrants arrived in the early 1850s and established the town of Emma among others. So right there we see two distinct groups of people and they divided among ethnic lines for both sides of the conflict.

        This shows us the division of the Civil War as it was seen in Missouri. I’m not surprised by the erecting of the monument. There is still some sharp division in the state over the war with a vocally strong SCV presence. It is pretty much like the rest of the nation in that regard as historians reject the Lost Cause while the SCV embraces it and promotes the usual myths. The sesquicentennial has been interesting here in Missouri as those who favor the myths enjoyed the first three years of it, but as the fourth year came about they weren’t so thrilled.

        Probably something to do with answering questions that they don’t have good answers for. The Centralia Massacre had their reenactment earlier this month. I’m still trying to figure out why they wanted six confederate cannon at it when there were no confederates or cannon at the massacre. Probably to make it a better event than what it really was. Unfortunately, that’s what 1864 was like in Missouri. The so called noble guerrillas were not very noble. They were murderers and thieves preying on Missourians using the war as a pretext for their actions.

        • Kevin Levin Sep 28, 2014 @ 15:12

          Thanks for the additional information.

        • Andy Hall Sep 28, 2014 @ 16:09

          Jimmy, my Confederate ancestors left their homes near Jeff City to come to Texas exactly because of that environment, saying that postwar Missouri was “no place to raise sons.” The place was overrun with men like the Jameses and Youngers, who learned their trade from partisan guerrillas. Soldiering for an ignoble cause is one thing, but it would have been no great loss if the partisan guerrillas had ended up like Champ Ferguson.

          • Jimmy Dick Sep 28, 2014 @ 16:52

            Too many followed Archie Clement’s idea of postwar reconciliation. I have to deal with the romanticism of the Palmyra Massacre and the aftermath of the Battle of Kirksville here. Too many have swallowed the nectar of the Lost Cause version of the guerrilla war here, especially about Palmyra.

            I explained the Palmyra Massacre to my class and how the event came about, how Jefferson Davis swore to kill Union prisoners, and how it came to be remembered.

            Then I ask them a question. “How many guerrilla attacks were in Knox, Lewis, Clark, Marion, and Scotland County after the event in late 1862?”

            Naturally they do not know and answer accordingly.

            I reply, “None.”

            Onward we go to into 1863 and how Grant took Vicksburg.

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