James Sidney Rollins: Warmest Personal Friend – Part III

George Caleb Bingham, Major James Sidney Rollins, 1855-1856 (326a)

George Caleb Bingham, Major James Sidney Rollins, 1855-6, oil on canvas, 53 x 45 inches, Kenneth B. McClain Collection, Independence, Missouri and  given to the people of Missouri by one of his great-great- granddaughters, Mary Cooper (Mrs. John C. Cooper)

During his time in the United States Congress, James Sidney Rollins introduced a bill to build a railroad and a telegraph line from Missouri to California. The bill eventually passed as the Pacific Railway Acts of 1862. He voted for the Morrill Act of 1862 that provided funding for state agricultural colleges. He served on the commerce committee and on the committee on expenditures in the war department. He voted against allowing African-Americans and Indians to enlist in the war. He reasoned that moderate Southerners would be offended and more likely to join the rebel cause. He objected to the Emancipation Proclamation on the grounds that it was legally void and defensible only as a military necessity.

During a congressional break in the fall of 1864, Congressman Rollins returned to his home state. On September 27 as he, the Boone County sheriff, and several others from Columbia were traveling north by stagecoach to a Democratic convention in Macon, Missouri, “Bloody Bill” Anderson’s men attacked and robbed the stage in Centralia. As the outlaws questioned their captives’ loyalty to the Confederacy, a better prize pulled into the station – a train filled with Union soldiers. Anderson’s men abandoned the four-horse stage for the iron horse. The stage passengers fled. A local hotel owner whom Rollins had helped years before recognized him, called him to the hotel and hid him. The guerillas shot 23 Union soldiers.[1]

After escaping the Centralia, Missouri massacre, James Sidney Rollins returned to Washington, DC. The most pressing issue in Congress in 1864 was the 13th Amendment to end slavery in the United States. On April 8, the Senate passed the constitutional change on the first vote. But the House of Representatives defeated the bill twice. Rollins was among the dissenters. Shortly before the third vote, Abraham Lincoln called Rollins to his office. Both were long-time Whigs who had attended conventions together and both had worked as railroad attorneys. Lincoln asked Rollins to support the 13th amendment to help preserve the Union. For the sake of Union, Rollins gave a rousing speech on the floor of Congress on January 13, 1865. With his support, the amendment passed with the needed two-thirds majority.[2]

Concluded in Part IV

For more information on this newly discovered George Caleb Bingham portrait of Major James Sidney Rollins, click here.

(c) Fine Art Investigations. 2012 
All Rights Reserved

[1] In the afternoon, in the field of a nearby farmer, 120 soldiers of the 39th Missouri Infantry confronted Anderson’s men. The guerrillas killed 107 in what came to be known as the Battle of Centralia.

[2] In 2007 a great-great-grandson established a $25,000 endowment fund to the Black Studies Program at the University of Missouri entitled the “The James S. Rollins Slavery Atonement Endowment.”


Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress, “Rollins, James Sidney (1812-1888),” http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=R000412

Gentzler, Lynn Wolf, ed., Roger E. Robinson, compiler, “But I Forget That I am a Painter and Not a Politician”: The Letters of George Caleb Bingham, Columbia, Missouri: State Historical Society of Missouri and Friends of Arrow Rock, Inc., 2011

Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005, 687

Mering, Clay, “James S. Rollins,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_S._Rollins

Mering, John Vollmer, The Whig Party in Missouri, Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1967

Shoemaker, F. C., Missouri’s Hall of Fame: Lives of Eminent Missourians, Missouri Book Company, 1918

Smith, William Benjamin. James Sidney Rollins. New York, 1891

Snyder, Felix Eugene, History of Boone County, Missouri…,(Ramfire Press, 1882

State Historical Society of Missouri, Rollins, James S. (1812-1888), Papers, 1546-1968http://shs.umsystem.edu/manuscripts/invent/1026.pdf

Stewart, A. J. D., The History of the bench and bar of Missouri: with reminiscences of the the prominent lawyers of the past, and a record of the law’s leaders of the present, Legal Publishing Company, 1898

Winn, Kenneth, “James Sidney Rollins,” Missouri Civil War Sesquicentennialhttp://mocivilwar150.com/history/figure/194


About Patricia Moss

Patricia Moss is an art historian, or art detective if you will, who solves mysteries of 19th century American portraits. She located nearly 70 of Bingham’s lost portraits, a feat acknowledged by the Smithsonian’s Research and Scholar’s Center. From expertise with portraits of George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), she developed skills that evolved into a comprehensive system based on the scientific method that conforms to the legal and ethical standards of art authentication. Moss served as a guest curator for the Bingham Bicentennial Exhibit, “Steamboats to Steam Engines: George Caleb Bingham’s Missouri: 1819-1879,” (March 10-September 8, 2011) at the Truman Presidential Museum and curated the opening exhibition, “George Caleb Bingham: Witness to History,” (September 2013 –), Jackson County Art Museum, Independence, Missouri. She is also the principal researcher for Fine Art Investigations.
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