The Rebel Twain:

What you’re not likely to learn in school about the author of Huckleberry Finn

     Young Sam Clemens was 24 years old, working as a Mississippi riverboat pilot, when the war broke out. At first, he writes, he was “strong for the Union.” But like so many other Missourians,  his feelings soon changed. Hear him tell about it:
      “In that summer – of 1861 – the first wash of the wave of war broke upon the shores of Missouri . Our state was invaded by the Union forces. They took possession of St. Louis, Jefferson Barracks, and some other points. The Governor, Claib Jackson, issued his proclamation calling out fifty thousand militia to repel the invader.”
     Wait ... the man who would become Mark Twain, writing that Missouri was “invaded by Union forces?” President LINCOLN’S Union forces? Well now, there’s something you won’t see in a Ken Burns documentary! But it gets better ...
    “I became a Rebel,” Twain later wrote. A capital-R Rebel? As in Confederate soldier? Yes indeed, and the passage above makes it very clear why: Missourians like Sam felt that “our state was invaded,” and they were determined “to repel the invader.” Sam joined some friends in a unit they called the “Marion Rangers.” Of his initiation into the Confederate ranks, Twain wrote:
     “As for myself, I was full of unreasoning joy to be done with turning out of bed at midnight and four in the morning for a while; grateful to have a change, new scenes, new occupations, a new interest. In my thoughts that was as far as I went; I did not go into the details; as a rule, one doesn’t at twenty-four.”
     Well, if you don’t at twenty-four, you sure don’t when you’re still in your teens – the age of a great many Quantrill boys. Twain continues:
     “The first hour was all fun, all idle nonsense and laughter. But that could not be kept up. The steady trudging came to be like work; the play had somehow oozed out of it; the stillness of the woods and the somberness of the night began to throw a depressing influence over the spirits of the boys, and presently the talking died out and each person shut himself up in his own thoughts. During the last half of the second hour nobody said a word.”
     After two hours? C’mon, Sam! Toughen up! Reader, I ask you to multiply Sam’s two hours by 12, and then by 7, and then by 52, and then by two or three years. To the drudgery, stillness and somberness that 24-year-old Sam found “a depressing influence,” add bloody, dehumanizing warfare. ... There you have  the life of a teenage Missouri guerrilla.
     As for Sam, he didn’t much care for the soldier’s life. After finding himself in a couple of hot spots, he decided to “light out for the territories,” as his character Huck Finn would later put it. Sam’s brother Orion was appointed Secretary of Nevada Territory, and in July of 1861 – just three months into the war – Sam left Missouri with Orion.
     “Thousands entered the war, got just a taste of it, and then stepped out again permanently,” Twain wrote, explaining his choice.
     Unfortunately, most Missouri boys did not have an attractive escape route. With strong ties binding them to Missouri, they stayed and fought it out.
     For the rest of Mark Twain’s riveting Civil War story – including the little-known fact that he was from a slaveholding family – read his recollections in “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed”  from Merry Tales.