It divided a nation and was one of only two wars fought on American soil, and in 1862, the Civil War came to MU. On Jan. 2, 1862, a division of Union cavalry, Merrill’s Horse, came to MU and garrisoned the school. For the following years until the end of the war in 1865, Union troops would be a standard sight on the campus in downtown Columbia.
Tim Hausman, a development officer in the MU School of Health Professions, said the decision to garrison the school was motivated by the war.
“There was a lot of North/South tension in the state,” said Hausman, who researched the occupation for a class he took as part of his doctoral program.
“Boone County had a lot of persons of Southern heritage,” said Hausman. “There were a lot of pro-Confederate students.”
The soldiers, upon their arrival, took control of Academic Hall, MU’sformer administration building that burned in 1892, leaving the Columns that became an MU landmark.
The soldiers used the building as headquarters, living in the hall and housing prisoners in the main MU Library on the third floor.
Throughout their occupation of the school, the soldiers used most of the buildings on campus, Hausman said. After troops took residence in January of 1862, classes were suspended for 10 months.Hausman said it was due to two main factors: the use of Academic Hall by the troops and the university’s lack of funds.
The university had also become short-staffed because of the war. Edward T. Fristoe, head librarian and chairman of the math department, left his position months earlier to join the ranks of the Confederate Army, according to online MU Archives. He was the only member of the MU faculty to join the Confederate ranks, and the University of Missouri Board of Curators suspended his salary and did not pay him until about 20 years after the war, according to the archives.
When the troops left the campus at the end of the war, the curators filed a claim against the federal government for damages the troops did to the campus.
This included library books destroyed by the troops to make fires. There was also a loss of minerals collected by the geology department, said Hausman.
When the claim was finally settled in 1915, the award was used to build Memorial Gateway. The landmark stands at Eighth and Elm streets, at the edge of the MU campus in downtown Columbia.