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How Mississippi County changed the course of the Civil War

CHARLESTON, Mo. — Without the involvement of the most eastern county of Missouri, we might not have known President Ulysses S. Grant as we do today and, in addition, have had a completely different United States, historians said on the most recent episode of the Show Me Missourah podcast

Mississippi County’s Commissioner James Conn and Historical Society President Tom Graham went in-depth on the history of the southeastern county, touching upon everything from Lewis and Clark to modern day basketball rivalries. However, the fact that the county is home to one of Grant’s more defining moments had both the historian and commissioner excited.

The historic Battle of Belmont — which took place in what is now Mississippi County — was Grant’s first true test of battle. It is still known today as one of the first times a Union force attacked a Confederate force in the entire Civil War, which is what initially put Grant on then-President Abraham Lincoln’s radar. 

“He followed that up with the attack on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers shortly thereafter and was successful at both of them,” said Conn. “That, in Grant’s mind, set him up. He was up to Vicksburg after that.”

Grant initially retreated from the Battle of Belmont, but, after scolding his troops, came back and finished off the Confederates, according to Graham. Without the confidence gained at the Battle of Belmont, Grant’s “first time out of the box,” the history of the Civil War would look a lot different, the men said. 

“Because of the little thing at Belmont, he didn’t get reprimanded, he got some accolades,” said Conn. “It was all cascading.”  

Adding to the already historic Civil War involvement, Mississippi County also incurred its first debt because of the war. Attempting to keep both the Union and Confederacy out of Mississippi County, the county hired volunteer soldiers and racked up a debt of $12,500 (about $104,633 today, adjusted for inflation). 

The show went into much more history of the county, which can be heard in the full episode at