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A bio of General John McNeil
"The Butcher of Palmyra"
John, brigadier-general, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Feb. 14, 1813. He
learned the hatter's trade in Boston, Mass., engaged in the business first in
New York city and subsequently for many years in St. Louis, Mo., and was a
member of the Missouri legislature, 1844-45. He was president of the Pacific
insurance legislature, 1855-61. He was captain of a volunteer company early in
1861, was promoted colonel of the 3d regiment, U. S. reserve corps, and on July
17, 1861, he defeated, with about 600 men, the Confederate forces under Gen.
David B. Harris at Fulton, Mo. He was then placed in command of the city of St.
Louis by Gen. Fremont, and on Aug. 3, 1861, he was appointed colonel of the 19th
Mo. volunteers. In 1862 he took command of a cavalry regiment, and of the
district of northeast Missouri, which he cleared of guerrillas. He was
commissioned brigadier-general of volunteers, Nov. 29, 1862; was ordered into
southeastern Missouri in December of that year, and in the spring of 1863 he
held Cape Girardeau with 1,700 men against Gen. Marmaduke's force of 10,000. In
1864 he was appointed to command the district of Rolla, Mo., and with the
assistance of Gen. John B. Sanborn, Clinton B. Fisk and E. B. Brown he saved the
capital from Price's army. Afterwards he joined his cavalry force with that of
Gen. Brown and participated in the campaign which led to the defeat of Price's
army at Newtonia, Oct. 28, 1864. He then commanded central Missouri until April
12, 1865, when he resigned. He was given the brevet rank of major-general of
volunteers in recognition of faithful and meritorious services during the war,
to date from the day of his resignation. Gen. McNeil was clerk of the criminal
court in St. Louis county, 1865-67; sheriff of the county, 1866-70, and clerk of
the criminal court again, 1875- 76. He was in 1876 commissioner to the
Centennial exhibition in Philadelphia was an inspector in the U. S. Indian
service in 1878 and 1882, and at the time of his death was superintendent of the
United States post-office, St. Louis branch. He died in St. Louis, Mo., June 8,
The Union Army A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal States 1861-65
©2001 D. H. Rule
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