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At the outbreak of the civil war Springfield contained about 2,000 inhabitants, and though not larger in population than many of the shire towns of the surrounding counties at present, it was then, as now, the most prosperous and important town, in a commercial point of view, in what is generally known as Southwest Missouri. The merchants and traders of those days, whose mantle of enterprise has fallen upon the shoulders of their successors, kept in the van, and by their shrewd and capable management of private and public affairs, not only placed Springfield in the advance among the first of inland towns of Missouri, but constantly urged its growth and influence to the utmost limit. Its power in a political, commercial and social point of view has been described on previous pages of this history, and at the beginning of the year 1861, it will suffice to say, its progress was steady in the march of general improvement.

The war summarily checked this happy progress. In no part of this distressed State was public opinion more at variance upon the momentous questions which gave rise to the civil war. Neighbors found themselves arrayed suddenly one against the other; the energy that had characterized the people was none the less abated, now that it had been turned from the channels of industry into those of war and the great highways leading from the city to the north, south, east and west, which were wont to resound with the cheery greetings of the hundreds of wagoners who were the patient and plodding means of social and business communication, were filled with the advancing or retreating forces of Federals or Confederates.

Wilson CreekEarly in the struggle the leaders of both armies recognized the fact that Springfield was from a military, as it had been from a commercial view, a strategic point and its possession throughout the war was bitterly contended for. It was this fact that led to the battle of Wilson Creek, so disastrous to the Federal arms in the death of Lyon and the rout of his army; to Zagonyi's fight to the battle on the memorable 8th of January, 1863, when the Confederate leaders, Marmaduke, Shelby and McDonald, knocked for admission at the south gates of the city and were refused admission; to many other military movements in Southwest Missouri and Northern Arkansas. During the entire struggle it was held as a base of supplies and operations by one or the other of the contending armies, and not until peace had been finally declared and effectually accomplished was any attempt made toward repairing the enormous waste of property and vitality incident to that terrible five years' storm.

The history of Springfield during the civil war is a part of that of the county, and has already been given on other pages. From February 12, 1862, until the close of the war, it was held by Federal garrisons, and was the great Federal military depot for the army of the frontier and of the Southwest. The name of the Federal or Union commanders here during the war is legion, and cannot be given with accuracy in their proper order. Gen. John McNeil was here from the spring of 1863 until about the 24th of October following, when John B. Sanborn assumed command, and remained here until long after Lee had surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.

During the military occupation of the city it was greatly injured; many houses were burned, Troops on squarefences and out-buildings were also burned -- the latter for fuel, the former for fun! Churches became hospitals and arsenals, private houses barracks and quarters, gardens and parks were converted into camping grounds, and everywhere were soldiers and cannon, "amid guns and drums and wounds." There was much disorder, too, in the social world. Many respectable families were destroyed, some of the members going out of the country, others going to the bad. Hundreds of adventurers and adventuresses were attracted hither by the wild, reckless life led by the military, and the vivandieres and other camp followers corrupted where they could not destroy.

Sometimes grim-visaged War smoothed his wrinkled front and gazed placidly upon the spectacle of some of his bravest partisans whirling in waltzes, or tripping in quadrilles, with ladies of the opposite party in politics for partners. The Kansas officers, with all of their rough reputation for savage fighting and free foraging, were noted gallants, and many of them became social favorites while here -- their balls and routs and free-and-easy gatherings being the "events" of the season. Other officers from other States came to be well known. Some were honorable, some were not. Owing to the unnatural character of the times and the tendency to demoralization, it was easy to work harm, and harm was worked. Many a matron, now demure and proper, was then a Miss, young and wild and gay, and had her name bandied about among many a mess with a freedom that would shock her ears fastidious, were it to he spoken of in these days.

The close of hostilities found Springfield much the worse for them, but such was the spirit of the then stricken and shattered little city, that no sooner did the sun of peace once more send forth its genial rays and assert the brotherhood of man, than she threw off the weeds of woe and at once set about to rebuild the waste places. Soldiers whom the chances of war had assigned to this locality returned to their homes with marvelous tales of its wondrous charms, and about the year 1866 a tide of emigration set in from the four points of the compass, and which continued uninterrupted until 1870. Every stage from the north and east was loaded with those who had left their homes with the intention of making an abode with us. As a consequence money was plentiful, business houses multiplied, property was advanced to fictitious values, all of which tended to a suicidal extravagance in the matter of building which was not warranted by the class of emigrants being received.

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