The first years of the Civil War in the west focused on the question of the allegiance of Missouri. Southern sympathizers in the state wished to secede and join the pro-slavery cause, but were prevented from doing so by a large Unionist population focused in St. Louis and in other areas of the state. The August, 1861 battle of Wilson's Creek did little to settle the question, as neither side gained complete control of the state. A strong Union military presence, centered in St. Louis, governed that city and the Missouri River Valley (Shea and Hess 1992:1). The southwest corner of Missouri, on the other hand, remained under the sway of the Missouri State Guard (MSG), the state's militia, under the command of Major General Sterling Price, a Mexican War general and former governor. The MSG was, on the surface, endeavoring to maintain Missouri neutrality by keeping Missouri free of a strong presence of either combatant. In actuality, the Guard and its command structure were pro-Confederate, and, from the outset of hostilities actively sought and received assistance from the Confederate government (Piston and Hatcher 2000:33). The Federals began a campaign in early 1862 bent on dispersing the Guard or driving it from the state. That campaign would carry over into Arkansas, where it would culminate at the battle of Pea Ridge.