Loyalty Oath of James H. Barnes


Although Missouri technically remained in the Union during the Civil War, Missouri was politically divided with men fighting for both the Union and Confederate armies as well as serving in both Missouri-based Union militia and pro-Confederate guerrilla units. The Union army maintained fragile control of the state through military occupation and efforts to control disloyal civilians through the administration of loyalty oaths, control of physical movement and commerce, and arrests of those who actively supported the enemy. Disloyal men also were disenfranchised, leading to Republican political victories in the last years of the war. In the winter of 1865, the Republican-controlled state constitutional convention issued an ordinance of emancipation and wrote the so-called Drake Constitution, which was named after Missouri Radical Republican Charles D. Drake. Among other measures, the Drake Constitution mandated Missouri men sign what became known as the “Ironclad Oath,” swearing that they had not supported or aided the Confederacy and they would “support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Union of the States thereunder.” They could not vote or practice a list of licensed professions unless they signed the oath. Some Missourians refused to sign on principle, while others lied about their disloyal activities.  

The oath signer is likely Virginia-born James H. Barnes, a 51-year-old Franklin County farmer, who in 1860 lived with seven household members, including his 19-year-old son of the same name, as well as two enslaved adults and four children under the age of 10. The younger Barnes appears to have served in 2nd Missouri Regiment Cavalry in the Confederate army. He survived the war and is listed as signing a federal loyalty oath in Columbus, Mississippi on May 15, 1865, possibly when he was dismissed from Confederate service and sent home. Given that he was southern-born, owned enslaved people, and his son served in the Confederate army, it is not clear if James H. Barnes, Sr. was entirely truthful when he signed the ironclad oath in St. Louis on June 3, 1865. There were a sizable number of Missouri slaveholders who remained loyal to the Union, however.

Object Details

Categories: People, Politics & Government, War & Conflict

Creator: James H. Barnes

Date: 1865

Subject: Loyalty oaths; Civil War, 1861-1865

Contributing Institution: Missouri Historical Society

Accession Number: D05318

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Region: St. Louis Metro

Type: Document

Language: English

Latitude: 38.614904

Longitude: -90.25763