The City of Fulton Saturday started its four-year commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial with the dedication of a Civil War historic panel on the campus of Westminster College.
The panel is one of a series of markers to be dedicated along the Gray Ghost Trail that meanders through Callaway County and part of Central Missouri.
During Saturday's dedication, Fulton Mayor LeRoy Benton issued a proclamation noting that the Civil War started 150 years ago in April of 1861.
The interpretative panel - which marks Westminster's role in the 1861-1865 war - was made possible by contributions from the college's Callaway County alumni, The Callaway Bank and Ovid Bell Press.
During the Civil War, six Westminster students served in the first company of Missouri State Guard from Callaway County to protect the state from a threatened Union invasion. They fought in Missouri at Carthage and Wilson's Creek near Springfield. One student, Captain Daniel H. McIntyre, was wounded in combat. After the war, McIntyre served as a state legislator and as attorney general of the State of Missouri.
Benton further noted that Fulton's history also includes the settlement of a historically African American neighborhood. The neighborhood included families of Callaway County slaves who served with distinction during the Civil War as U.S. Colored Troops and thereby earned their own freedom.
"This day," Benton said, "offers a special opportunity for us to reflect on how brave, principled people fought on both sides in America's most tragic conflict, and for us to appreciate the high cost associated with welding ourselves again into one nation."
The marker, labeled "War Comes to Westminster College," is located on a corner of the campus accessible to the public at the northwest corner of the intersection of Route F and Westminster Avenue.
The interpretative panel is the fourth in a series of seven historic markers that will be placed throughout Callaway County as part of a Mid-Missouri cultural attraction known as "The Gray Ghosts Trail." Each marker traces the story of an historic Civil War event that took place at the site in the county.
The theme of the dedication Saturday was "Two Kinds of Heroes."
Dr. Bill Parrish, a former Westminster history professor and historian, spoke from the perspective of the Callaway Guards, the first county company to go to war on the side of the pro-Southern Missouri State Guard.
Parrish said Westminster was the only college in the state that granted degrees during the war years.
Two students, Daniel McIntyre and Joseph Laurie, were awarded Westminster degrees even though they were away fighting in the Civil War in behalf of the Confederacy. In part because of this, Westminster President Samuel Laws was arrested by Union forces and spent several months in the Gratiot prison in St. Louis before he was exiled in Europe for the duration of the war.
When Confederates and their associates had their rights restored after the war, Laws returned to Missouri and became president of the University of Missouri.
Representing the Union perspective at Saturday's event was U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Byron S. Bagby, a Fulton native and Westminster graduate who said he is a possible descendant of slaves. Bagby discussed the perspective of the U.S. Colored Troops infantry regiments of Missouri. Suffering a 35-percent casualty rate, the U.S. Colored Troops infantry regiments in Missouri were fighting on the side of the Union for their freedom.
Bagby said no blacks fighting with the Union were allowed to become officers and the units were segregated. He noted the U.S. military was not integrated until an order was issued in 1948 by President Harry Truman, a Missouri native. Since then black officers have been allowed to achieve high ranks in U.S. armed forces.
Westminster President Barney Forsythe said, "heroes emerged on both sides of the Civil War conflict. Today, their stories can be told side by side, which is testament to the reconciliation that is still being worked out day-by-day in the lives of their descendants."
Other speakers at the event included Gregory Wolk, Missouri Civil War Heritage Foundation president; Martin Northway, chairman of the Kingdom of Callaway Civil War Heritage; Joe D. Holt, Kingdom of Callaway Civil War Heritage; Bruce Harris, president of Callaway Bank; and retired U.S. Army Colonel Noel A. Crowson, pastor of the High Point Community Chapel.
A Blue-Gray Honor Guard posted colors. It includes compatriots and friends of Elijah Gates Camp No. 570, Sons of the Confederate Veterans.