A traveling exhibit on the Civil War in Missouri is on display in Versailles with only three weeks left for its display at the Morgan County Museum.
Stop by the museum - the old Martin Hotel just off the square in downtown Versailles - to see "Divided Loyalties: Civil War Documents from the Missouri State Archives" as well as go on a guided tour of the museum provided by members of the Morgan County Historical Society.
The special exhibit from the state features panels of digitized documents and pictures from the Civil War era that are arranged topically to show the upheaval and uncertainty that overwhelmed Missouri during this time period.
Going beyond battles and military strategy, the exhibit examines the social conflict surrounding the war.
It begins in pre-Civil War Missouri with a look at the Kansas Border Wars of the mid-1850s and slavery's role in the state culture and economy. This part of the exhibit includes the famous case brought by Dred and Harriet Scott, slaves seeking their freedom in St. Louis through the court system.
Divided Loyalties is an apt name for the exhibit.
The Civil War divided the state and for a time Missouri had two governments, a pre-southern elected state government in exile and the federally-backed provisional government that took its place in 1861. The exhibit includes documents from these conflicting governing bodies.
Other documents such as muster roles and military correspondence shed light on the lives of Missouri soldiers on each side fighting here and outside of the state.
The documents show how individual Missourians were often subjected to suspicion, discrimination and violence from both Union troops and Confederate bushwhackers.
More than a third of the Divided Loyalties is dedicated to the post-war period including the 1865 state constitution which disenfranchised a large portion of Missourians. Anyone suspected of sympathizing with the Confederacy was prevented from voting, holding elected office, becoming a minister or teaching school. Documented court cases also saw Missourians fighting to regain their lost rights and trying to settle grievances over crimes committed during the war when chaos reigned. These cases include people seeking restitution from everything from murder and theft to slander and vandalism.
Unsatisfied in the courts, many Missourians turned to vigilante violence to settle disputes with Frank and Jesse James being among the most famous Missourians to seek to even the score outside of the law.
Overall, the exhibit chronicles the impact of a war fought not just on the battlefield but in people's every day lives.