The Home Guard
Excerpted and Introduced by G.E. Rule from “The Story of a Border City During the Civil War”, Galusha Anderson, 1908
Galusha Anderson was a Baptist minister in St. Louis from 1858-1866. His decidedly pro-Union “The Story of a Border City During the Civil War” has many faults. Anderson’s opinion of his own importance in events is exaggerated, and at times the reader would be forgiven for thinking that Blair, Lyon, Fremont, Schofield, Rosecrans, et al could have just stayed in bed –it was really Galusha who held the fate of the Union cause in Missouri in his strong hands. At one point he has an agitated southerner blame his preaching for the Union seizure of Camp Jackson. One suspects Anderson would not want to discourage his readers from reaching the same conclusion. Describing his first blast from a St. Louis pulpit against the heresy of secession, Galusha reports the event with a freighted solemnity and attention to minute detail most historians would reserve for the third day at Gettysburg or the final scene at Appomattox.
On the plus side, Anderson does have a fine eye for detail and his book is filled with many interesting anecdotes of life in St. Louis during the Civil War. Galusha’s Union sources (men like James O. Broadhead were his parishioners) seem to be excellent and allow the reader a valuable insight into the thinking of the pro-Union population of St. Louis. For those interested in the topic, Rev. Anderson’s book has many revealing stories of the stresses –and sometimes fractures– that can occur in “Christian fellowship” during a time of political upheaval.
The Home Guard was Frank Blair’s pro-Union militia, eventually taken into Federal service in April and May of 1861 when Governor Claiborne Jackson refused President Lincoln’s call for four regiments from Missouri. Going around the governor for troops from his state was unprecedented at the time, and at the best extra-constitutional. General Winfield Scott’s endorsement read, “This is irregular, but, being times of revolution, is approved.” Anderson’s account describes how a pro-Republican political club, the Wide-Awakes, was transformed into the Home Guard militia and armed for the conflict that most saw coming. He also touches on the pro-secessionist Minute Men. See Thomas L. Snead’s account of the Minute Men to get their view of events. Both sides blame the other for starting the arming of the private militias.
The Home Guard was made up largely, but not exclusively, of recent German immigrants, many of whom had been on the short-end of the attempted 1848 revolution there. These had no respect whatever for “the peculiar institution” and were referred to as “The Dutch”, a corruption of “Deutsch”, which is the German word for “German”. Anderson, as only he can, prissily tells elsewhere in his book how even the upper-class secessionist ladies of the city often referred to “’The Amsterdam Dutch’, without the ‘Amster’!” This is a lovely double pun for “The Damn Dutch” who had no Amsterdam in their background.
In excerpting from Anderson’s book the section concerning the Home Guards, there is always the danger the resulting piece may give an impression unintended by the author of the original work had he the opportunity to write on the Home Guards solely instead of as part of a larger work. Any perceived problems of that sort should be laid at the door of the editor, not the author.
Missouri Civil War Reader, Volume I – now available
The Fight for Missouri by Thomas L. Snead, 1886
The Struggle for Missouri by John McElroy, 1909
The Story of a Border City During the Civil War by Galusha Anderson, 1908
The Crisis by Winston Churchill, 1901
Basil Duke in Missouri by Gen. Basil Wilson Duke, 1911
The Brown-Reynolds Duel, 1911
Cost per CD ROM is $24.95 + $4.00 priority mail shipping
There were two formidable political clubs in the city. The one was the Wide-Awakes. This was Republican in politics. It was made up of the most progressive young men of St. Louis. Many of them had just come into the Republican ranks; their political faith was new; they had the zeal and enthusiasm of recent converts. They were also stimulated by the fact that they were called upon to maintain their political doctrine in the face of the stoutest opposition. With their torchlights they had just been marching and hurrahing for Lincoln. They had cheered the vigorous speeches of their brilliant orators. Their candidate, though defeated in their city and State, had been triumphantly elected to the Presidency. Such a body of men, flushed with victory, was a political force which every thoughtful man saw must be reckoned with.
The other political club was the Minute Men. They were mostly young, but conservative, Democrats. They had supported Douglas for the Presidency. They too had had their torchlight processions. They had listened to impassioned harangues from the stump and loudly cheered them. Even their distinguished political leader came during the canvas and spoke to them with rare persuasiveness in defense of squatter sovereignty, and they were proud of “The Little Giant”, as Senator Douglas was popularly called. Then in their city and State they had been victorious at the polls. While defeated in the nation at large, they felt strong, braced, as they believed themselves to be, by the old and oft-tested doctrines of Democracy [at this time “Democracy” or “the Democracy” was used to refer to the Democratic party –ed]. Here was another mighty political force. If armed conflict were to come, on which side would it array itself? While Mr. Douglas, their admired leader, was a staunch Union man, most of these Minute Men, who had so strenuously striven to elect him to the Presidency, after they learned that verdict at the polls, began to drift into the ranks of the secessionists. Nor did they disband; but they began to reorganize for hostilities. When this was observed, influential Republicans advised the Wide-Awakes not to break up their organizations, but to continue to meet statedly, just as they had during the presidential campaign, to procure arms so far as they were able, and to subject themselves to military drill. And during the winter of 1860-1861 these antagonistic political organizations, the Minute Men and the Wide-Awakes, now to all intents and purposes transformed into military bodies, met regularly at their various rendezvous and went through the manual of arms. Late in the evening, I often passed a hall occupied by a company of Minute Men, or secessionists, where I heard them march, countermarch and ground arms. Things like this were unmistakable premonitions of bloody battle. Some of our immediate neighbors and friends evidently already contemplated appealing “from ballots to bullets”, and a shiver of apprehension ran down our spines.
But a serious problem now presented itself for solution. How could arms be obtained for the Wide-Awakes or Union men? In some mysterious way the Minute Men or secessionists had been at least partially armed. We could only guess what was the source of their supply. But where could the Wide-Awakes secure guns? There were arms in abundance at the Arsenal in the southern part of the city, but they belonged to the United States; and as there were as yet no open hostilities, private military organizations could not lawfully be furnished with them. Notwithstanding this, we did not propose, if the hour of need should strike, to be found napping. So after due deliberations it was announced that, in a certain hall, there would be an art exhibition, which would continue for three weeks or more. To the general public it seemed to be an unpropitious time for such a venture, but as it had no warlike look it aroused no suspicion, and was generously patronized by those of all shades of political opinion. The exhibition in its display of statuary and painting was not only creditable but attractive. It was also a financial success; but outside the few determined Union men who made up the inner circle, the secret reason of that burning zeal for cultivating the artistic tastes of the city was quite unknown. Considerable material for the exhibition was sent to us from the East; among other things was a plentiful supply of plaster casts from New York. These were packed in large boxes; but some patriots of Gotham, who sent them, knew our secret and our necessities, and also forwarded to us boxes of muskets labeled as plaster casts, with plain directions to handle the fragile contents with care. Those who arranged the material of the art exhibit, unable, on account of the rush of work, to unpack these boxes in the daytime, were compelled to leave them till midnight before they were cared for. Then, unopened, they were carted to the places where patriotic Wide-Awakes were gathered. Shining muskets never gave more joy than these imparted to the Union men of St. Louis. And during that anxious, dismal winter, they often met in their secret places, and while hoping that all threatened disaster might be averted, statedly went through the manual of arms. Hoping for the best, they determined to be ready for the worst.
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These uncompromising loyalists [the Union Safety Committee, headed by Frank Blair] at once saw in [Captain Nathaniel] Lyon the man for the hour and the place, and he saw in them men who would do all in their power to help him realize his aims. He frequently visited the rendezvous of the Wide-Awakes, now, under the lead of Blair, transformed into Home Guards. He encouraged them in their work, suggested plans for their more perfect organization, and often personally drilled them in the manual of arms. They needed muskets. Blair thought that they should be armed from the Arsenal; and while this was contrary to the letter of the law, Lyon was in full accord with Blair.
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Lyon had now [April 23rd, 1861] what he and Blair had so intensely desired, supreme command at the Arsenal. He at once re-enforced it. He fortified it. All approaches to it were vigilantly guarded. Lyon was now [April 30th, 1861] empowered by the Federal government to arm the Home Guards; to raise and arm additional regiments and muster them into the United States’ service.