Christmas 1862

The war had begun last year. For Archer Alexander in Dardenne Prairie, news from St. Louis of Union soldiers marching into the rebels’ camp excited everyone! A General named Lyons had taken over a Camp named “Jackson” so-called for the Governor and people had been shot and killed. The war had begun. People would choose sides, change sides, and lie about whose side they were on. Things had gotten even worse this past year. Word was that things were changing…

Close to home here many things had changed. In March, the Dardenne Presbyterian Church had burned. Some said Union Soldiers had done it. Some said the Rebels did it. No one knew for sure, but everyone blamed everyone. The families were meeting in the member’s homes now. Last fall the Union soldiers had built two guardhouses, big strange-looking lookout points where the railroad crossed the Peruque. If one did manage to “get away” you could always count on the soldiers there to help you and your family. They would feed you and hide you. Word was that things were changing…

Missouri Home Guards (Union) at the Peruque Creek Bridge on the North Missouri Railroad.

Christmas was a time when some Masters were generous in spirit. Some had made their “agreements” for the new year which might put you with a new Master too. Sometimes it was close, sometimes it was far away, away from your family. If you had a pass to visit family… many took advantage and used it to get a two-day head start for freedom. Word was that things were changing…

Word had passed in September that President Lincoln made a great speech at a far-away place called Gettysburg and that he would make all slaves free at the beginning of the year. It was called the Emancipation Proclamation. Word was that things were changing…Freedom was coming!

But not for Archer or Louisa. Another year had passed. Pitman gave him a pass to go and visit her and the girls over at Naylor’s. The Proclamation didn’t apply here. While word was that things were changing… not here in Missouri.

At Christmas of 1862, America was at war with itself. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would go into effect on January 1st, 1863 making hundreds of thousands of enslaved people free at last. Yet in four states, Missouri being one, which had stayed with the Union, the proclamation would not apply. There the tenuous balance between owners and abolitionists, neighbor versus neighbor, and even brother against brother, was delicate. And Lincoln knew that the delicate balance could easily tip and everything would be lost. For hundreds of thousands still enslaved in Missouri… nothing would change. In less than two years though, hundreds of thousands of men, both black and white, would have paid the price with their lives to preserve these changes and put an end to slavery and ensure freedom for all.

President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was the new pathway to freedom beginning January 1st, 1863. But not for Archer Alexander and his wife Louisa.

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