Cathy Bartonvocal; Dave Paravocal
This traditional ballad presents a Unionist perspective on Gov. Claiborne Jackson's failed attempt to force the secession of Missouri from the Union. After Nathaniel Lyon frustrated Jackson's attempt to seize the U.S. arsenal at St. Louisthe so-called "Camp Jackson Affair" during which several civilians were killed and wounded, Gen. William S. Harney, then commander of the U.S. Army of the West, tried to work out a "compromise" with State militia commander, Gen. Sterling Price. St. Louis Unionist Frank Blair, however, believed Harney was collaborating with Price and Jackson, and had Harney replaced with his own man, ardently pro-Union General Lyon.
A final futile attempt at compromise took place at the Planter's House Hotel in St. Louis on June 11, 1861, when Lyon and Blair met Jackson and Price. Lyon, however, angrily refused to even consider Jackson's proposal to keep Missouri neutral and have Federal troops leave the state. The conference ended abruptly with Lyon declaring war. Jackson and Price then headed for the State Capitol in Jefferson City where Jackson issued a proclamation calling on 50,000 men to join him to repel the "invaders" (the "lie" referred to in the third verse in the song).
Jackson decided to make a stand against the Federal troops at Boonville, but Lyon's close pursuit frustrated his attempt to prepare for full-scale battle, and the disorganized militia troops retreated post-haste before the well-armed and disciplined St. Louis Germans, resulting in the skirmish being referred to as the "Boonville Races." Although casualties were light, the effects of the encounter were far reaching. Federal troops forced the State Militia to abandon the all-important Missouri River, and struck yet another blow to Jackson's secession attempt.
There are several versions of this song, the longest in H.M. Belden's Ballads and Songs, collected in 1916 from T.C. Wright of Tuscumbia, Mo. This version contains a final verse that attributes authorship of the song to Miller County resident B.F. Lock. Our shorter version comes from the Springfield Daily News, Aug. 6, 1951, and is listed as having been contributed by W.W. Coy. A muddled version of the song, called Joe Douglas, was collected from Spencer Brooks, a black man in Fayette, Mo., in 1935, by Charles van Ravenswaay and is in his collection at Western Historical Manuscripts in Columbia, Mo. No versions have any notations about a tune, but they all have a pattern similar to that found in the popular traditional song, The State of Arkansas, so that is the tune we used in our rendition.
Come all you jolly Union boys, the truth to you Iīll tell,
The next step of government, I donīt think it wise.
Old Claiborne for to show his hand, he swore heīd cut a dash.
The Lyon close pursued him, he traveled night and day,
All through old Jacksonīs camp they heard the Lyon roar;