While elated Northerners were celebrating victory at Gettysburg and toasting Abraham Lincoln as the Great Emancipator, Missourian Charles W. Walker was rousing his thirteen slaves in the dark of night. In defiance of a standing Union order prohibiting the transfer of slaves among states, he intended to ship his slaves by train to Kentucky, where they would be sold at auction. What ensued was one of the most gripping—and until now, mostly forgotten—events of the Civil War.
In Incident at the Otterville Station, John Christgau relates the true story of the rescue of Walker’s thirteen slaves by soldiers of the Ninth Minnesota Regiment and the soldiers’ subsequent arrest for mutiny. The controversial incident became national news, with President Lincoln ultimately sending Secretary of War Edward Stanton to investigate. Christgau’s compelling narrative of the Otterville Station rescue and its aftermath illustrates the complex process of emancipation during the American Civil War, particularly in border states such as Missouri. The end of slavery was the product of many actors, from Union soldiers to the president and Congress to abolitionists and the enslaved themselves. This detailed account examines the critical role that individuals played in determining the outcome of emancipation and the war.
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About the Author
John Christgau (1934–2018) is the author of numerous books, including Enemies: World War II Alien Internment and Birch Coulie: The Epic Battle of the Dakota War, both available in Bison Books editions.
Table of Contents
1 The Great Emancipator 1
2 Charles W. Walker 12
3 John 22
4 Sergeant Francis Merchant 31
5 Private Henry Ehmke 43
6 Private James Woodbury 52
7 Captain Oscar B. Queen 63
8 General Egbert Brown 71
9 Colonel Alexander Wilkin 80
10 Assemblyman H.J. Fisher 88
11 Senator Morton Wilkinson 95
12 General John McAlister Schofield 102
13 Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton 106
14 Taps 117
What People are Saying About This
“A very informative tribute to ‘the Minnesota boys in blue’ who carried ‘the state flag’ and protected our nation during the great War between the States. This narrative further enhances the legend of the troops from Minnesota—especially those from the southern part of the state—primarily Mower County. It makes you proud to be a Minnesotan and live in the United States.”—Polly Jelinek, historian and lifelong resident of Mower County, Minnesota
“While President Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg address, thirty-six Minnesota enlisted soldiers languished in a Missouri jail. Their crime of conscience to implement Lincoln’s ‘new birth of freedom’ for a group of runaway slaves would soon be the mission of the entire Union Army.”—Stephen Osman, retired senior historian, Minnesota State Historical Society
“Incident at the Otterville Station is an amazing story of a state divided over the issue of slavery and a group of Minnesota soldiers who performed their duties not only as soldiers but as men with high morals. Christgau enlightens the world to a little-known story that was one of many during the Civil War. The people of southeast Minnesota should find pride in the history of their soldiers in this book.”—Dustin B. Heckman, executive director of the Mower County (MN) Historical Society