The Civil War split many families and Gov. Jay Nixon’s family was one of them.
His great-great grandfather was Lt. Col. James Oscar Nixon, second in command of the Confederate 1st Louisiana Cavalry. Lt. Col. Nixon’s brother was U.S. Rep. John T. Nixon, a Republican who represented New Jersey from 1859 to 1863.
During a news conference yesterday, I reminded Nixon about those ancestors as I asked him about Ashley Jost’s story from Sunday about the Sons of Confederate Veterans and their hopes to see the Confederate battle flag flying above the state historic site at Higginsville. While Nixon clearly enjoyed the family history lesson – he chuckled and said he hadn’t seen either at the family Easter celebration – he also expressed no desire to raise the rebel battle flag. "I think we should continue the policy we have at Higginsville,” Nixon said.
Lt. Col. James O. Nixon moved from his hometown of Cedarville, N.J., as a teenager to open a branch of the family clothing business in New Orleans. In 1854, at age 32, he purchased the New Orleans Crescent, a pro-slavery newspaper once edited by poet Walt Whitman.
When the war began, James Nixon became a Confederate officer, fighting with his regiment at the 1862 Battle of Richmond, Ky., one of the most complete Confederate victories of the war, and the Battle of Chickamauga, also a major Southern victory. Accounts are incomplete, but at some point Lt. Col. Nixon was captured and paroled to live with his brother in Cedarville, N.J., their hometown.
The battle flag first became an issue in 2003, when Gov. Bob Holden ordered it taken down at the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site and the Fort Davidson State Historic Site. The Confederate veterans home and cemetery are at Higginsville.
At Fort Davidson, an outnumbered Union force held off 12,000 men under Maj. Gen. Sterling Price for a day during his 1864 invasion of Missouri, costing Price 1,500 casualties and making him think twice about attempting to seize St. Louis.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans recently purchased a billboard near the Higginsville exit on Interstate 70 calling for the flag to be raised for the first time since 2003. Leaders of the Southern heritage group met Saturday with state lawmakers, who were also cool to the idea of flying the flag.
Confederate Memorial Day will be celebrated June 7 at the historic site in Higginsville.