Incident at the Otterville Station: A Civil War Story of Slavery and Rescue

U of Nebraska Press
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While elated Northerners were celebrating victory at Gettysburg and toasting Abraham Lincoln as the Great Emancipator, Missourian Charles W. Walker was rousing his thirteen slaves in the dark of night. In defiance of a standing Union order prohibiting the transfer of slaves among states, he intended to ship his slaves by train to Kentucky, where they would be sold at auction. What ensued was one of the most grippingãand until now, mostly forgottenãevents of the Civil War.

In Incident at the Otterville Station, John Christgau relates the true story of the rescue of Walkerês thirteen slaves by soldiers of the Ninth Minnesota Regiment and the soldiersê subsequent arrest for mutiny. The controversial incident became national news, with President Lincoln ultimately sending Secretary of War Edward Stanton to investigate. Christgauês compelling narrative of the Otterville Station rescue and its aftermath illustrates the complex process of emancipation during the American Civil War, particularly in border states such as Missouri. The end of slavery was the product of many actors, from Union soldiers to the president and Congress to abolitionists and the enslaved themselves. This detailed account examines the critical role that individuals played in determining the outcome of emancipation and the war.

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About the author

John Christgau is the author of numerous books, including Enemies: World War II Alien Internment and Birch Coulie: The Epic Battle of the Dakota War, both available in Bison Books editions.
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Additional Information

Publisher
U of Nebraska Press
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Published on
Dec 1, 2013
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Pages
168
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ISBN
9780803248724
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)
History / United States / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Civil War Missouri stood at the crossroads of America. As the most Southern-leaning state in the Middle West, Missouri faced a unique dilemma. The state formed the gateway between east and west, as well as one of the borders between the two contending armies. Moreover, because Missouri was the only slave state in the Great Interior, the conflicts that were tearing the nation apart were also starkly evident within the state. Deep divisions between Southern and Union supporters, as well as guerrilla violence on the western border, created a terrible situation for civilians who lived through the attacks of bushwhackers and Jayhawkers.

The documents collected in Missouri's War reveal what factors motivated Missourians to remain loyal to the Union or to fight for the Confederacy, how they coped with their internal divisions and conflicts, and how they experienced the end of slavery in the state. Private letters, diary entries, song lyrics, official Union and Confederate army reports, newspaper editorials, and sermons illuminate the war within and across Missouri's borders.

Missouri's War also highlights the experience of free and enslaved African Americans before the war, as enlisted Union soldiers, and in their effort to gain rights after the end of the war. Although the collection focuses primarily on the war years, several documents highlight both the national sectional conflict that led to the outbreak of violence and the effort to reunite the conflicting forces in Missouri after the war.
The defeat of George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn was big news in 1876. Newspaper coverage of the battle initiated hot debates about whether the U.S. government should change its policy toward American Indians and who was to blame for the army’s loss—the latter, an argument that ignites passion to this day. In Shooting Arrows and Slinging Mud, James E. Mueller draws on exhaustive research of period newspapers to explore press coverage of the famous battle. As he analyzes a wide range of accounts—some grim, some circumspect, some even laced with humor—Mueller offers a unique take on the dramatic events that so shook the American public.

Among the many myths surrounding the Little Bighorn is that journalists of that time were incompetent hacks who, in response to the stunning news of Custer’s defeat, called for bloodthirsty revenge against the Indians and portrayed the “boy general” as a glamorous hero who had suffered a martyr’s death. Mueller argues otherwise, explaining that the journalists of 1876 were not uniformly biased against the Indians, and they did a credible job of describing the battle. They reported facts as they knew them, wrote thoughtful editorials, and asked important questions.

Although not without their biases, journalists reporting on the Battle of the Little Bighorn cannot be credited—or faulted—for creating the legend of Custer’s Last Stand. Indeed, as Mueller reveals, after the initial burst of attention, these journalists quickly moved on to other stories of their day. It would be art and popular culture—biographies, paintings, Wild West shows, novels, and movies—that would forever embed the Last Stand in the American psyche.
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