Gratiot Street Prison

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Posted July 24, 2002

Gratiot Street Prison

"Camp and Prison Journal"

by Griffin Frost

 

The journal of Captain Griffin Frost was written throughout the war, much of it while Frost was a prisoner at Gratiot Street Prison and Alton Prison and is one of the very few published primary sources available on Gratiot. He published it in 1867 in response to the outcry against southern treatment of prisoners in places like Andersonville. Frost hoped to make it clear that northern treatment of prisoners was just as bad as southern. In this perspective the book was a failure for though deathrates were comparable in northern and southern prisons, the conditions in Gratiot were entirely unlike those in Andersonville, something that becomes immediately and abundantly clear when reading his narrative.

Frost was a newspaper editor and may have rewritten or enhanced some portions of his journal before publication. The portions that leap out in this regard are the occasional pro-southern/anti-northern mini-rants he indulges in which stand out jarringly at times from the flow of the rest of the narrative. On the other hand, Frost was a writer and he was bored with the tedium of prison life so may have unleashed his writing exuberance at times in his journal. He clearly is a skilled writer and writes a lively, interesting tale even in short entries. His information about events taking place around him is not always correct--something that may surprise a reader taking a journal written at the time as being a wholly reliable source. But Frost was limited by his perspective and the information he got and so sometimes reports as fact things that were only rumor. Annotations throughout will try to clarify these moments.

Points in Frost's writing that grate most on the present-day reader (or so one hopes) are his occasional racial comments. They are harsh and wholly insulting yet will be included here without editing as they do reveal an important aspect of the times and the thought processes that needs to be faced squarely and not glossed over. Try to view these passages in their historical context yet also be aware they do not represent the views of all people at that time, yet by the some token were shared by a number of people from both sides of the conflict.

Though Frost's narrative covers his entire wartime experience, only those portions that take place in Gratiot or Alton will be presented on this website.

Buy a reprint of Frost's full book from:

 

Available from Camp Pope Bookshop

reprint no longer available, but check Camp Pope's inventory of other fine books

 

and check their other Missouri-related publications


October - November 1863

OCT. 23, 1863.—We were notified this morning that we would leave for St. Louis in a few hours, and ordered to hold ourselves in readiness. The news was highly agreeable, and the order gladly obeyed. We were satisfied that no change could be for the worse.

This is one example of those cases where Gratiot was referred to as McDowell's College--see the Gratiot FAQ for more information.

At two o’clock we were more than ready, jumped aboard the cars and were off for St. Louis, where we arrived about two hours ago; found the march from the depot very tiresome, on account of the mud. Vacation having expired, we find ourselves once more matriculated at McDowell’s College, and it may be our lot to become useful members of the society. Our case is not so clear this time; if we had only held out a little longer we would have been in a better fix, or else gone back through the lines; now we must make the best of it and watch the chances.

OCT. 24, 1863.—Occupied a portion of my time to-day in writing to my wife, from whom I have not heard for six months; amused myself awhile with watching the Southern ladies who, I am told, are as true and patriotic as ever. Found two or three old acquaintances who were here when I left. Prison life seems more of a tread mill than ever.

OCT. 25, 1863.—Nothing of interest to-day—lonesome, very lonesome. Saw my capture, arrival, &c., noticed in the Republican. Wrote to my brother, at Alton, who was captured at Helena during the exercises of our Fourth of July celebration at that place. I don’t "take much stock in the Fourth" any more, it "went back on us." Went to lower quarters this evening, to hear a sermon from a Boston man, did not expect any good from that source, but thought we’d try him, any way, for variety. He opened his exercises by reading the parable of the prodigal son. We saw his application, he would make us prodigals, and ask us to return to the bosom of Father Abraham, and not wishing to be recruited for that service, especially on the Sabbath, we sought the retirement of our own quarters. If he had spoken as an ambassador from Heaven leaving it to us, and our own judgments, to regulate our political affairs, respect for the court which he represented would have commanded a hearing, but he must not roll up the cross in the stars and stripes, and expect us to see "the flag" printed on the face of God, before we can worship him. Man can draw no veil between us and our Creator.

OCT. 27, 1863.—We had a most affecting scene in prison yesterday. A young man named Nichols, is sentenced to be hung next Friday. His sister came to see him, the interview was heart rending. The poor fellow had ministers with him all the evening, it is to be hoped they were faithful, and fed him with the pure bread of life. There are none so ready but they need the aid of spiritual comfort at such a time, and woe unto the hand that should offer them husks. Nichols no doubt, is a sinner, like the rest of us, but he thought he was right in fighting the enemy in his own way. Bushwhacking is the mode of warfare practiced in Missouri by both parties, but any candid man must acknowledge that the Federals have been the worst and most destructive. Look at the long list of men butchered in cold blood: Jim Lasly and two others, as they were coming home one Sunday, from church—Lasly dying in his wife’s arms; Col. Owens, Frisby McCullough, and hundreds of others, shot down like dogs, when they were helpless prisoners, many of them, as Lasly and his fellow victims, having taken no part in the war. These things will come up when we see the hand so red with innocent blood, daring to pretend to lift itself in vengeance.

Some twenty-two officers left here to-day, on parole, for Camp Chase, Ohio. Several ladies were on the street to see them off and wish them well. Saw Mrs. Meredith from the window—she looked as kind as ever, and was still assisting the needy. Angels yet do walk the earth.

OCT. 29, 1863.—My room mate came in yesterday evening, and said he had just received cheering news. We asked what it was, when he remarked that he was sentenced to be shot, and the order gone to Washington for the President’s approval. He has been removed to the strong room. Jasper Hill, from Chillicothe, is also locked up, and Mr. Gentry, from Shelby county, is ornamented with a ball and chain, for knocking a man down who insulted him.

OCT. 30, 1863.—Dull as ever—same thing over and over, Snowing hard all day—no ladies on the street. Ninety-two prisoners left for Camp Morton, Ind., and, bad as the weather was, they went off cheerfully as all Southern soldiers do. Young Nichols, I suppose, is quietly slumbering in his grave, as this was the day for his execution. If all, guilty of the same, or even worse offences, among the ranks of those who tried and punished him, were to share a like fate, there would be weeping and wailing in many a household; but mad party fanaticism was never known to mete out equal justice.

Mr. Waukley, the prison clerk, was arrested to-day on the charge of having carried out a letter to Mrs. Clifford—a prisoner’s wife. We have quite a number wearing balls and chains—they are very fashionable this season.

Jasper Hill and William Sebring, after escaping the following summer, went to Canada and took part in the Confederate secret service attempt to free the prisoners at Camp Douglas in Chicago along with such notables as Thomas H. Hines and John B. Castleman.

Capt. Hill and Lieut. Sebring, of the strong rooms, are making the best of it—are in good spirits. They are not allowed to communicate with any one, but we believe they manage to get all the news. Four Federal deserters arrived to-day.

NOV. 3, 1863.—It is bright to-day, but it rained all day yesterday—the Heavens weeping I suppose, over the way the election was going; the Radical destructives had it nearly all their own way. Missouri is completely subjugated—has no more power than a chained and muzzled dog, while the swine are rooting up everything. It is reported that secret arrangements were being made for the release of Gen. Morgan, from the Ohio penitentiary, when a traitor gave information and defeated the plan. We enjoy two blessings to-day—God’s clear sunshine, and a glimpse of the ladies as they pass.

NOV. 4, 1863.—Had a letter from my brother at Alton; they are writing and urging him to take the oath, but the boy has not come to that yet. Bravo for John! I like his grit.

Received a note from my friend Capt. Hill, in the lock up, who says he is sentenced to be shot for violating the rules and regulations of war; he remarked that "the jig is nearly up," as the priests visited him this morning, and concludes with,

"Let all things wag as they will,

I’ll be gay and happy still."

From Lieut. Sebring, locked up for the same offense, I have not heard; but a young Federal, they say is to be shot next Friday for desertion, and other grave crimes. Twelve o’clock, night—Went to bed four hours ago, but find it impossible to sleep on account of chintz, or what is commonly called bed bugs. The night being warm they came out from their holes and opened upon us with their pikes. We fell into line as soon as possible, at the same time throwing out skirmishers on the right and left wings, with instructions to return the fire at every opportunity, which was done with a hearty good will. After fighting them some ten or fifteen minutes their line gave way in the centre, and all we did not kill, beat a hasty retreat. Some of them showed themselves several times afterwards, but our sharp shooters were on the look out, and at the sight of every blood-sucker they would commence hurrahing for Jeff Davis, when all who escaped the fire would be off for their holes instanter. And now, as everything seems to be quiet once more, we will again seek our couch and try and go to sleep. So good night to all.

NOV. 7, 1863.—The young Federal under sentence of death, has been pardoned, as we expected; half his offenses would have shot a whole company of us Rebs, though I judge he is as good as any of his gang. Found an old letter to-day which I received while in the South, from Miss Sallie Freeman. A portion of it reads thus:

"You leave us to return to the tented field. We dislike very much to part with you, but our country’s call demands it. It is to preserve unsullied the liberties and institutions of our beloved South that you have left your home. May God bless you—and all the brave sons engaged in this noble and patriotic enterprise. And may peace with wide spreading wings, soon perch upon our banner, when you can return to the home and friends that await you, crowned with victory. Your cause is one of justice and humanity, and in the maintainance of consistent virtue, you will not fail to have, at all times, the sunlight of divine favor upon your deeds of valor. Go then, and remember you have with you our prayers, our sympathies, our confidence—and

"Strike, for your altars and your fires,

Strike, till the last armed foe expires,

Strike, for the green graves of your sires,

God—Missouri—and the sunny South."

Samuel Clifford, who went by several aliases, was killed in 1870 by a former Gratiot prisoner--Mosely--who had became a county sheriff. Clifford had come to kill him but the sheriff was a bit quicker. Both Federal authorities and his fellow Confederate prisoners in numerous accounts concurred when they said that Clifford was the meanest man they had ever met. One of the Federal soldiers Clifford attacked this day in Nov. 1863 died of his injuries.

NOV. 8, 1863.—Another long, tedious day has gone; passed the time as usual, looking at the ladies, and promenading the hall. Six more prisoners brought in—two Feds and two Rebs—the Feds were put in one of the lock-up rooms where Clifford is confined. This Clifford is an awful chap, he escaped from here last summer in open daylight, but was retaken in Illinois and brought back. This evening he got to quarreling with some Feds, and pitched into them and gave them a complete threshing, after which the belligerent individual was invited into the dungeon. I don’t know how the poor fellows will fare that are in with him, but perhaps if they give him no offence, he will give them no trouble.

NOV. 9.—Some thirty five more prisoners from the Southwest, among them three officers from Frost’s and Shelby’s brigade, arrived at Gratiot last night, and after undergoing the pleasing little ceremony of being searched, were sent to quarters. It was amusing to see sergeant Roe, an old Irishman, performing the search, the business was new to him. He would go to the prisoners, and instead of running his hands in their pockets, would stand off and ask them if they had any money or knives, saying that "he never put his hands into a gentleman’s pocket, and did not like to do it sure," but Capt. Masterson happened to see him, and went to him and gave him some instructions, after which the old fellow could search a prisoner as well as any of them. When he came to the blankets he was very anxious to know if they had any "Whistling Dick" wrapped in them? I suppose he was thinking of the "Whistling Dick" that gave them so much trouble at Vicksburg.

The men who are guarding us now are more like soldiers than those of last winter; these have seen some active service and know how to treat a prisoner, but the "Silver Greys" had never been in the field and some of them imagined that prisoners ought to be made to feel the lash on all occasions; and right well they knew how to use it, never letting an opportunity pass without exhibiting their valor in that way. Ladies, on errands of mercy, frequently visit our gloomy abode. Mrs. Choteau and Miss Rayburn came in to-day, with clothing, to be distributed among the needy. Miss Laura Elder sent me in some stationery of a superior quality. The weather having turned very cold, we shall have a dull time around the stove, as the bright faces of the fair ones, like dancing sunbeams, will not be seen flitting about the streets, the tender flowers will all be sheltered in the warm conservatories of home. We shall watch for their reappearance, as eagerly as children search for the early spring blossoms. Meantime we are all possessed of a literary streak, every one in the room is either reading or writing. Yesterday morning’s paper stated that Fort Sumter had fallen, and the old flag was waving where it was first brought down; but this morning they tell us the old Fort is true to her State. The Yankees find it hard to bamboozle her with their thundering arguments. They think their gab and guns ought to turn the world upside down, but Fort Sumter seems to be as impregnable as a nigger’s skull, or a Yankee’s charity bag. Clifford was released from his dungeon last night. They were afraid he would escape if left there much longer.

NOV. 10, 1863.—Three more prisoners from the Southwest were brought in last night. One of them told the prison clerk that he had tried at Rolla to get a parole, but was not successful, and would like to get one here. The clerk replied that paroling such men as him had "played out," and asked him if he did not want to be exchanged, and go back and fight some more? He said no, he was tired of that, and thought the South was about played—at least things looked that way to him. He is just the kind of a man the South don’t want exchanged, he would do more harm than good; if all such were weeded out of the Confederacy, and stacked away in Northern barns, it would be the best thing that could happen. Seventy six more prisoners left here to-day for Camp Morton; each man drew two rations of bread and meat for the trip. Mr. M. B. Bransford, a gentleman whom we left a prisoner here last April, was released this morning unconditionally. It is the "best Government under the sun" surely, when it takes a man, and boards him that way for nothing. Misses Laura Elder and Dora Harrison, are registered on the prisoners’ book of thanks, for a basket of nice fruit, nuts, &c.

"Bright be their dreams, and blest their awaking."

NOV. 11, 1863.—Several more unconditional releases to-day. Is Uncle Sam tired of extending his charitable hospitality, or are his household expenses too great to admit of such unnecessary expenditures? Retrenchment, Uncle, that’s the remedy, it would save you many millions if you would confine yourself to your own business entirely—many a man has been ruined by undertaking a job too big for his brains. More ladies have visited us bringing clothing for their friends, Our "Mail Boy, Bottle Neck," left this evening with a heavy mail.

NOV. 12, 1863.—Received a box from home. Every prisoner knows how to interpret that. What a sensation it produces in our mess. With what eagerness we watch the opening; how we peep—here they come—pants, drawers, shirts, socks, handkerchiefs, &c.; they are the substantials. Now for the "chicken fixens"—fresh butter, baked chickens, nice biscuits, apples, apple butter, dried peaches, and so on. A letter came with the box, of course, but the Provost ain’t done hunting for contraband in that yet. All right—will be good when it comes. The weather is fine once more, and our dear friends are out again, tripping along the side-walks, or riding by in their carriages; occasionally they stop at the door, and sometimes come in with bundles for the prisoners.

Had another letter from John, at Alton; they are still writing him to take the oath. He tells them he’ll wait awhile; he is not ready just yet to face a dozen Confederate muskets as a deserter.

NOV. 13, 1863.—Good old Mrs. Meredith was in to-day, scattering benefits and receiving blessings. She brought me some stationery, from Miss A. E. Dean, another gentle friend, who pities the sighing of the prisoners. Surely St. Louis must be the treasure house of the Lord’s jewels, or at least the headquarters of one of the departments—though the enemy is in pretty heavy force here too. Got my letter from home; wife says the blacks are all with them yet, but the Rads are doing all they can to get them away; thinks by Christmas there will be none left in the county. She speaks highly of Gen. Schofield; also of the Provost Marshal, at Palmyra, but fears they will be removed, as they have too much soul for the Radical programme. We exchange greetings now and then by the "Bottle Neck Mail Boy."

John Carlin had an odd and interesting war-time career, seeming to spend much of it being captured and escaping, which he did numerous times. He also escaped with Hill and Sebring in 1864 but died of a gunshot wound received when he was recaptured in Illinois near his home and that of his recent bride.

NOV. 14, 1863.—John C. Carlin, captured somewhere in Illinois, was brought in to-day, with a ball and chain attached to his leg. He was sent to Clifford’s lock-up; if they should fall out it will be Greek meeting Greek. Carlin is a son of an ex-Governor of Illinois, and as brave a fellow as ever contended for principle against his own interest; if the mass of the Democracy at the North had been possessed of his back bone, the country need not now have been groaning under a despotism; but dear as liberty is said to be, and much as it has been sung about, the almighty dollar can buy up its pretensions in more cases than national honor would like to acknowledge.

NOV. 15, 1863.—Another long, lonesome and gloomy day has passed, but not so gloomily to those outside, as to us who are incarcerated within the strong walls of Gratiot. We had preaching in the lower quarters, and all the officers were permitted to attend; most of us went down. A Catholic Priest officiated; he wore a long black robe—a short white one over that, and a scarf around his neck; all gave him a respectful hearing, but being a foreigner, his speech was broken, and we not being edified as we probably would have been if we could have understood all he said, found it impossible to follow the thread of his remarks, and so silently pursued the path of our own cogitations. I wondered if any of the passers by had any idea what was going on in the guarded prison. Of course not—they did not even turn their heads this way, but walked carelessly along as though all were as free as themselves. Then I thought, it is too true that "one half of the world knows not how the other half lives."

No news of interest, only that the negroes of Missouri have been called on to enlist, and freedom promised to all who do so. Loyal men are to be paid three hundred dollars apiece for theirs; but it is no harm to "covet thy neighbor’s man servant" if he differs from thee in politics. O the beautiful consistency of the great moral idea "freedom to worship God" as we may dictate. If my conscience is to be in leading strings, and the divine right of private interpretation of scripture, usurped by a political party, give me the black robed priest from the cloister. I either hold my bible myself, or else commit it to worthier hands than those of the blood stained demagogue.

NOV. 16, 1863.—We are having a new style of regulations inaugurated on the pretence of retaliation. They say our authorities at Richmond, won’t let the Yankee women visit their prisoners, and so our ladies are denied admittance to Gratiot. Not allowed either to come in, or to send anything to their friends.

NOV. 17, 1863.—A prisoner escaped from the hospital last night, but before doing so, he played a very shabby trick on our old market woman. It seems his plans were all laid, and money alone was needed to put them into execution, and his only hope for success was to victimize poor old Mrs. Smith. So he asked her if she would not like to change green backs for gold. She was eager for the trade—brought him twenty-five dollars, which he was to take around among the prisoners and exchange for gold; he took the old creature’s money and left for parts unknown. It is to be hoped he will repay her with interest, when an opportunity arrives.

Another singular circumstance occurred at the hospital last night. Two men—one a Confederate, the other a Federal, died, and were laid out side by side. This morning when the dead room was entered, the body of the Fed was found to be terribly mutilated by the rats, while his neighbor was sleeping quietly and undisturbed. What cause could have produced the difference? Most probably the nature of the disease, or medicine employed, but the curious fact has been the occasion of a good many queer remarks by the way of comment.

2nd Lt. Thomas G. Clinton, Burbridges, Co. B. captured in Little Rock Sept. 10, 1863. Died Nov. 18, 1863.

NOV. 18, 1863.—A great many deaths have occurred lately among the prisoners; some were taken off very suddenly. Lieut. Clinton left our quarters yesterday morning for the hospital, and this morning was a corpse. I went with Capt. Burns to see him—the work of death was done. We walked around the hospital, and I was surprised to find as much order and neatness, and as good provision for the comfort of the sick. They have a small library furnished by the ladies of St. Louis—those daughters of mercy—turn where we will, we see the seeds of their good works springing up, and bearing fruit for heaven, and gliding in and out like the pure air of the gentle zephyr, is the professed Sister of Charity, a nameless creature, and yet "a thing of beauty, and a joy forever." How little we appreciate in the daily routine and drudgery of life, the elements of good at work about us. If our senses were not too blunted to perceive it, there is a grand sublimity hedging us in on every side.

NOV. 20, 1863.—Eighty-five more prisoners left for Camp Morton. That point is becoming quite a fashionable place of resort for our Southern gentry. I am not posted with regard to the accommodations; but my experience is not favorable in crowded hotels, nor particularly happy in the Northern states any way; the Philadelphia ladies left a serious impression on my mind. We have an addition of four Confederate officers newly arrived; Gratiot is not so popular as formerly. John writes me again from Alton, he is doing finely; a Federal Lieutenant has presented him with an overcoat, which he thinks will ensure his comfort for the winter. John is somewhat of a philosopher; he thinks a man usually has his luck in his own hands, and harsh treatment either North or South, is the result of unruly conduct on the part of the prisoner. A man must not expect the fare of a parlor boarder in a military prison; but if he will observe his duty as a prisoner, submitting to regulations made by others, not trying to dictate, nor caviling or snarling, but cheerfully making the best of everything, his manhood will have but little to complain of. John hates a simpering, whining, would-be sensational male prisoner, he leaves pitiful yarns for women to tell. Maj. Brasher, in one of his letters used the word "Hessian" which proving offensive in certain circles, his Majorship was taken down among the privates. Mr. Gentry from Shelby county, Mo., has been released. Several of the boys in the lower quarters tried to release themselves, but their guardians thought it not advisable, and for a change are allowing them the use of a lock-up, with half rations of bread and water; their adventurous spirits will no doubt be weakened considerably before they get out.

Some of these changes to the building were the result of an inspection that suggested ventilation would be improved by replacing solid doors with barred doors.

NOV. 21, 1863.—Carpenters and blacksmiths have been busy all day, putting iron bars to our windows, and iron gratings to the doors leading into the hall. Guess after this, we will all be in a lock-up. Robert Shultz, from Palmyra, Mo., came to see us to day. He is a prisoner, but has the position of Steward in the Branch Hospital, and gets along first rate. Troops are leaving here for Springfield, Ill.; the "Old Harry" is to pay out there somewhere, and I suppose these fellows are due. We can’t get the straight of it, but a Fed tells us, the Copperheads are resisting the arrest of some deserters. Some poor dupes I suppose, who went to fight for the Union, but didn’t bargain for the nigger too. My brother Dan. and son are fighting for the Union also, I wonder how the Ethiopian digests on their stomachs. Some of our fellow citizen prisoners, leave for the sunny South to-morrow, on banishment; several ladies I am told, leave home under similar circumstances. How could any one criticise this kind paternal government which condescends even to persecute women? There are not many countries where the governing classes would stoop so low. It must be "higher law," intellect, and great moral ideas, which sway them.

NOV. 23, 1863.—Been busy cooking all day, and find it very fatigueing. Our mess consists of twelve, and we cook by turns, we try to imitate what we have seen at home as nearly as our means will allow, and sometimes we get up a really inviting meal. Col. Priest received his charges and specifications to day; he has been called out before the Provost, a number of times, but they are very tedious in conducting the business of trials. I presume my case will be commenced soon; it cannot differ much from Col. P’s, as we were taken together. No particulars from the Illinois troubles. Ladies been passing all day; always give us a pleasant smile which seems to say "God bless you, how we sympathize with you in your unfortunate situation." Our iron gratings were completed to day, and I suppose we will be locked up to night.

Both Gratiot prison ledgers and other military records show Brasher as a Captain at this time--Capt. Ezra M. Brasher, 2nd Mo. Cav. He was a major in the Missouri State Guard, 2nd Regt. Inf.

NOV. 24, 1863.—Nothing of interest has transpired in Gratiot to day. Our quarters are unusually dull. The chaps down stairs, however, seem to be pretty gay. Maj. Brasher is stirring things around since he has been down there. He writes as follows:

LOWER QUARTERS, U. S. Prison, Nov. 24, 1863.

Dear FROST:—I am getting along nicely; having a lively time. We have organized a Battallion of five Companies, which I have the honor of representing. We have officers’ drill; company drill, and dress parade, every day. Exercising vigorously for the health of the command. You ought to come down and see us, and hear the very important General Orders read before the dress parade. We style ourselves the "Enraged Missouri Mules." If you get any news for me let me know immediately and oblige

Your Obedient Servt.,

E. M. BRASHER.

P. S. The following is one of the General Orders read before the Brigade this afternoon, while on dress parade.

HEAD QUARTERS, Enraged Mo., Mules,}

Nov. 24, 1863.}

The Colonel commanding, seizes this opportunity to thank his veteran soldiers for the glorious services they have rendered their country in defence of their rights, their liberties and their honors, and takes pleasure in thanking them for the gallantry displayed on the 22d inst., in the charge on the Under Mining Set; though the battle raged for some time, and our noble battalion was in the hottest of the contest, not a man wavered, but all stood at their posts like heroes. The casualties of the enemy were two killed and several wounded. Our loss none. By order of

E. M. BRASHER, Col. Commanding.

R. G. ROBERTSON, Adjt. E. M. M.

The above seems to be a complimentary address, instead of a General Order as stated. I am at a loss to understand the nature of the gallant charge alluded to, unless they were after rats.

Capt. Hill has received a letter from his father, who has prominent men at work in his behalf, and he hopes they will succeed in getting his sentence changed from death to some milder form of punishment. The Captain is in good spirits.

We have an oddity in our room, a prisoner from Cape Girardeau, one of those long drawling fellows, that talk through the nose. He says: "T-h-i-s i-s t-h-e fi-r-s-t t-i-m-e I e-v-e-r w-a-s i-n p-r-i-s-o-n, a-n-d I d-o-n’-t l-i-k-e i-t n-e-i-t-h-e-r, I d-o-n’-t, I h-a-d r-a-t-h-e-r b-e a-t h-o-m-e w-i-t-h t-h-e o-l-d w-o-m-a-n. We don’t blame him.

NOV. 25, 1863.—The Military Commission is turning off its work pretty rapidly the last few days; quite a number of prisoners were notified this evening to be ready to-morrow to leave for Alton to serve out their sentences. Col. Priest has had his trial, but has not received his sentence. Several releases on oath and bond have taken place. We are thinning out, as business is being dispatched, only to make room for others, as they are constantly arriving. The great ball at the Lindell Hotel comes off to-night. Shoulder straps and brass buttons I suppose will shine in all their splendor.

NOV. 26, 1863.—Thanksgiving day. Well let those thank who are prospering; as for me, I have no political occasion at this time, and shall not "bow myself in the house of Rimmon." The papers are out in full blast with a big victory achieved by Grant over Bragg in Tennessee. Whether true or false, the story is valuable, for it will fire up the dead coals of patriotic enthusiasm, and furnish the Yankees with a new theme for self glorification. The Lord will receive a grand report. Alexander, Cæser, Bonaparte; &c., will stand around and scratch their heads when they hear the news. All Heaven will be astonished, unless somebody telegraphs South for the truth. The sentenced men were not removed to Alton; left over out of respect to the day. Inside of Gratiot, where the day does not dawn, we are dull, lonesome, and sleepy; moping gloomily away the bitter hours of the Yankee holiday.

NOV. 29, 1863.—Was out to day for examination. In the prisoner's room at the Provost’s office, I found the following lines penciled upon the wall:

"Oh, for liberty, that my gallant steed

May carry me to the battle field—

There I can fight; I’ll never yield!

Then away, away, to the battle field.

Dark and crimson is the tide,

Forms are scattered far and wide,

Death and victory will be won—

I’m a prisoner, I’m undone!"

Maj. Brasher has gotten back to his old quarters, and I presume after this, will be more guarded in wording his letters, having felt the force of their extreme sensibility, he will be particularly careful not to make any allusion to the "Hessians."

NOV. 28, 1863.—The weather has turned freezing cold, and many of the prisoners are suffering for want of sufficient clothing. Mrs. Choteau and Miss Rayburn were allowed to bring in some overcoats, pants, &c., for distribution among the most needy. Capt. Burns, the prison keeper, is a perfect gentleman. An act of his to-day manifested the true spirit of chivalry. Mrs. Soward, wife of Judge Soward, of Canton, Mo., not succeeding in procuring a pass at the Provost’s came on to the prison, when Capt. Burns invited her to his house, and sent for the Judge, who was delighted; had quite a pleasant interview, and is full of gratitude toward the gallant Captain. Twelve new arrivals; four officers added to our quarters. The men who have received their sentences have left for Alton to serve out their doom, some at hard labor during the war, others in solitary confinement. Grant’s victory is confirmed. Bragg in full retreat. Gen. Morgan, with six officers, has escaped from prison in Ohio. Morgan is a brave, dashing officer, one of the high souled sons of old Kentucky—may success attend him.

NOV. 29, 1863.—It has been a cold disagreeable day, and we have kept rather close to the fire. Nothing called for comment, except a lady in passing the prison, threw us a kiss, and was seen by the sergeant, who ordered her to keep her hands to herself; she told him she would use them as she pleased, and throw kisses whenever she passed, if it suited her. He made some reply which we did not hear. Shortly afterward an old Irishman came along and touched his hat to us, the sergeant saw him also and asked, "who he was bowing to?" Paddy said, "he was going down street." Sergeant "didn’t ask where he was going, but who he was bowing to?" "O, my hat was falling off, and I was pulling it on." The petulant official seeing he could make nothing off the son of the Emerald Isle, allowed him to pass on.

NOV. 30, 1863.—Had a letter to day from my sister in Ohio, she tells me that our old mother has had a paralytic stroke and was helpless and unconscious for over two days. She thinks I will never see her again. I fear it will be so, as there is but little hope of her living until the close of the war, and no prospect of my seeing her before. Old Mrs. Meredith has been permitted to visit the prison again. She brought in clothing for the needy. More prisoners constantly arriving. Another letter from John, he is still urged to take the oath, but maintains a stoical indifference; will act on his own judgment. My wife writes insisting on the same course for me. Think I will see my trial out first, any way. Have received my charges and specifications from the Provost Marshal. The following are the charges:

"Entering, on or about the 30th day of September, A. D. 1863, the lines of the regularly authorized military forces of the United States, and within the State of Missouri, and without ever having surrendered himself to the nearest military post, or to any of the military forces of the United States, and did travel and lurk about within the State of Missouri, until arrested, on or about the 18th day of October, A. D. 1863, at the county of Ray, and State of Missouri, in violation of the laws of war and General Order, No. 86, of the Department of Missouri."


Gratiot Street Prison Main page/Introduction

Prisoners:

Prisoners List Transcription from Gratiot ledgers

List 1-200 men List 2 - 200 men List 3 - 34 men, more to come Women & Children - 212 names  Prisoner Notes

A. C. Grimes -- Confederate Mail Carrier & escape artist

Elijah Alexander Mays - story of a Missouri man held at both Gratiot St Prison and Alton prison

Robert Payne Byrd - story of a Missouri man who vanished to a small pox hospital never to return

Gratiot Street Prison FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about the Union prison in St. Louis

Information Sources -- Print and microfilm sources on Gratiot 

Gratiot Street Prison-Then & Now - The site as it appeared in 1848, the 1860s, and now

Gratiot Journal:journal account of Gratiot Street Prison with notes on the people and events described

January - February 1863

March - April 1863

October - November 1863  

December 1863 - January 1864

March - April 1864

True Tales of the Tenth Kansas Infantry Articles by Howard Mann

Raid On a Nest of Nymphs

Excitement at Alton Prison Story of an escape from Alton, Ill., prison

Paradox of Capt. George D. Brooke

Sorrowful Revenge by Firing Squad the execution of six Confederate soldiers in St. Louis

 True Tales of the Tenth Kansas Infantry: The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time, The Execution of Barney Gibbons  execution of a Union deserter in St. Louis

Return to Civil War St Louis


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