Sultana A Case For Sabotage

Sultana: A Case For Sabotage

Sultana: A Case for SabotageFrom the groundbreaking North & South magazine article, featured on The History Channel in Civil War Terror, and in PBS History Detectives.

In print and on Kindle at Amazon.com
The story of Confederate boatburner and spy, Robert Louden, called the “murderer of the age.”

Among the steamboats destroyed on the Mississippi River, the one with the largest single loss of life was the steamer Sultana. The boat had been loaded with over 2000 people, most of them Union POWs returning from Southern prison camps. When the Sultana exploded and burned, as many as 1800 people were killed as many Union soldiers died on the river that night as died on the battlefield of Shiloh. With them died a number of women, children, and civilian men.

Was it an accident? Or sabotage?

Excerpt from Sultana: A Case For Sabotage

Seven miles out of Memphis, at 2:00 a.m. on April 27, 1865, the steamer Sultana chugged northward loaded with over twenty-three hundred people, most of them Union soldiers returning home from southern prison camps. Without warning, an explosion ripped through the boilers, scalding steam burst out, and a shower of flaming coal shot upward into the night, raining down on the crowded boat, which in moments was engulfed in flames. Over seventeen hundred people died, making the destruction of Sultana a maritime disaster worse than the sinking of the Titanic.

This publication also includes the full-length version of the originally published North & South article, with all footnotes and sources.

Gratiot Street Prison Then and Now

Then & Now

Gratiot Street Prison

Picture of Gratiot Street Prison in the 1860s from “Story of a Border City During the Civil War” by Galusha Anderson, published 1908

8th & Gratiot

Site of Gratiot Street Prison today–a parking lot of the headquarters of Ralston Purina Company

The building that became Gratiot Street Prison originally housed McDowell Medical College, owned and operated by Joseph Nash McDowell. The wing north of the tower housed the college, the wing to the south was McDowell’s home.

McDowell's College 1848

This 1848 illustration of McDowells College shows the unfinished building and tower lacking the distinctive dome

Ralston Purina

Ralston Purina’s history on the site of the former Gratiot Street Prison begins well after the building had been demolished.

An article in “Square Talk,” an in-house publication for Ralston Purina employees, from May 1995, discusses the history of the site. Gene McCoskey, Manager of Contract Services and Security, is quoted in the article as saying, “Whenever the grounds crew does any type of digging on the property near the Administration Building, they always come back and mention all the rubble they find after going into the ground just a short distance…I think they are finding rubble of the old prison.”

Ralston Purina has some history of their time at the site on their website.

Ralston Purina Company Historic Information

Gratiot Street Prison Info Sources

Information sources on Gratiot Street Prison

Primary Source books:Grimes, Absalom, Confederate Mail Runner, edited by M. M. Quaife of the Burton Historical Collection, Yale University Press, 1926

Grimes was an agent with the Confederate secret service under General Price, passing back and forth through the Federal lines with letters from families and their relatives in the CSA army. He was in Gratiot St. Prison twice, the first time escaping in a rather dramatic way. Several people have commented that they think Grimes’ amazing story has more than a bit of “old soldiering” to it, but, other than some errors in dating, the book is the truth as can be verified by numerous contemporary sources.

Available from Advanced Book Exchange

Grimes–photo circa 1863 from book

Bio of Absalom Grimes

Excerpts from book:

Campaigning With Mark Twain

Escapes from Gratiot

(these hyperlinks takes you to other sites–use your back button to return here)


Frost, Griffin, Camp and Prison Journal, Press of the Camp Pope Bookshop, reprint edition 1994 (originally printed 1867)

Captain Griffin Frost, of the Missouri State Guard, kept a journal throughout the war and his two stays at Gratiot. Frost writes an interesting story, describing many of the people at Gratiot very well. Some of his racial comments are a bit hard to take but must be viewed in historical context (and that historical context provides a view of the often unseen–and nasty–side of things). Frost’s stated objective in writing was to show that conditions in Union prisons like Gratiot and Alton were as bad as those in Andersonville. In this he fails completely.


Gratiot Street Prison–1876 illustration
Anderson, Galusha, Story of a Border City During the Civil War, Little Brown, 1908Anderson was a pastor in St. Louis just before and during the war. His church was only half a block away from Lynch’s Slave Market. He offered his services as a minister to the Confederate prisoners at Gratiot, but–not surprisingly–none of their accounts mention him. Good, first-hand history by a very priggish sort of writer. A decidedly Union point-of-view. Probably one of the most purely devoted abolitionists in St. Louis, a city of very tangled loyalties.

Available soon on CD-ROM

Galusha Anderson–1861 photo from book

Bio of Galusha Anderson

Galusha Anderson on the 1865 Oath of Loyalty –excerpt from book


Reminiscences of the Women of Missouri During the Sixties, Morningside House, Inc., reprinted 1988

Several excellent accounts of Gratiot and the other St. Louis prisons. (scarce and difficult to find)


Stevens, Harriet, The Graybeards, Letters of Major Lyman Allen, of the 37th Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry, The “Graybeards” Including The Diaries of Viola Baldwin His Step-Daughter, Camp Pope Bookshop, 1998Letters by one of the officers in a unit assigned to guard duty at Gratiot. Some references to Gratiot.



Original prison records:National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 109

M598, rolls 72, 98, 145 — Ledgers from the prison.

M345, rolls 90, 91, 92 — Provost Marshal’s files involving people held at Gratiot Street Prison, files on more that one person. These rolls include daily reports from Gratiot plus some additional ledgers.

M345–All rolls on individual civilians, Provost  Marshal reports. These cover all parts of the USA but a solid 60%, maybe even 80%, of the cases and individuals covered are from the Department of Missouri.

A transcription of Missouri residents (only) listed in the Gratiot Street Prison, Myrtle Street Prison, and Alton Prison ledgers is available in “Missouri Prisoners of War” by Joanne Chiles Eakin. Available from the Civil War Lady’s Book Shoppe.


Northfield, Minnesota Robbery

The Northfield, Minnesota Robbery

December 30, 2004: Coming soon: an update/addition with photos of the bank/museum in Northfield, courtesy of the Northfield Historical Society

From a contemporary woodcut from John Jay Lemon’s “Northfield Tragedy, ” 1876

Northfield, Minnesota – First National Bank of Northfield

September 7, 1876

failed robbery attempt – bank clerk murdered, one townsperson killed

from the Northfield

newspaper,

Sept. 14. 1876

The town motto of Northfield, Minnesota is “Cows, colleges, and contentment.” Despite this placid motto, the Scandinavian settlers of this town brought down the most dangerous and successful outlaw bands operating at that time.

On September 7, 1876 three men entered the town of Northfield about 2pm. They were noticed because of the long linen dusters they wore (which concealed their weapons), the exceptionally fine horses they rode (attention paid to their horses had apparently caused them to cancel a robbery attempt shortly before in Mankato, Minnesota), and, some witnesses said, the rather arrogant confidence with which they moved. Several townspeople, some of them former Civil War soldiers, immediately recognized the look of a “guerrilla raid.” One of them is even said to have shouted, “It’s a St. Alban’s raid” (a bank near the Canadian border robbed by Confederate agents during the war).

Much to the outlaws’ surprise, the people of Northfield not only refused to cooperate with the robbery, they shot back. A lot of them shot back. With deadly accuracy. And they organized huge posses that didn’t give up but kept after them for days and weeks. As many as 2000 men chased them for weeks. This just didn’t happen to them in Missouri. The guns the Northfield townspeople grabbed quickly to use may have been old or in poor working order, but they had an advantage of range over the handguns the robbers used. It’s worth noting, though, that despite accounts written at the time mocking the apparent poor marksmenship of the Missouri robbers, the outlaws were very pointedly trying not to kill anyone. Cole Younger later said, “Chadwell, Woods and Jim rode up and joined us, shouting to people in the street to get inside, and firing their pistols to emphasize their commands. I do not believe they killed any one however… Every time I saw any one with a bead on me I would drop off my horse and try to drive the shooter inside…” The townspeople, on the other hand, were shooting to kill.

Fleeing the town under heavy gunfire, with no money, the James brothers, Frank and Jesse (presumably), and the Younger brothers (Cole, Jim, and Bob), along with Charlie Pitts, left behind two dead gang members, and two dead townspeople. Elias Stacy shot Clell Miller with a shotgun loaded with birdshot. A shot from Dr. Henry M. Wheeler killed him. Anselm R. Manning, armed with a finicky breach-loading rifle killed Chadwell/Stiles. Cole Younger was shot in the thigh; Bob Younger had his right elbow shattered.

Northfield, Minnesota 1869

Dead in Northfield was Nicholas Gustafson, a Swedish immigrant who apparently didn’t understand the shouts in English for him to get off the street. He was killed in the crossfire. Though Cole Younger pleaded guilty as the primary killer in his death, he claimed he wasn’t the one who actually fired the lethal shot. “I have always believed that the man Nicholas Gustafson… was hit by a glancing shot from Manning’s or Wheeler’s rifle. If any of our party shot him it must have been Woods,” said Cole Younger later.

Also dead, in the bank, was Joseph Lee Heywood, the bank clerk who refused to open the safe. He is, to this day, honored as a local hero in Northfield. For a long time it was believed it was Jesse James who killed him. But Cole Younger, on his deathbed, is said  to have told Jesse James’ son and Harry Hoffman (a relative) that it was Frank James who fired the shot that killed Heywood.

Among the dead outlaws was, unfortunately for the gang, the one man who knew his way around the swamps and forests of Minnesota. Most suffering gunshot wounds, lost, hungry, and relentlessly pursued, the gang split up, with the James brothers (with, it is believed, Frank seriously injured) going west where, after 400 miles of pursuit, they got away.

The Youngers were surrounded by a posse in a swamp near Madelia (pron. ma-dee-lee-uh). They did not consider surrendering as they thoroughly believed that they’d be lynched on the spot, so they came out shooting and were all shot again, with Charlie Pitts killed.

To their surprise, they weren’t lynched but, as Cole Younger commented upon with surprise and gratitude many times, were treated as kindly as circumstances allowed.

The Youngers pleaded guilty to the murder charges against them which, under Minnesota law, saved them from hanging. They were sentenced to life in prison and sent to the penitentiary at Stillwater, Minnesota. “The excitement that followed our sentence to state prison, which was popularly called ‘cheating the gallows,’ resulted in the change of the law in that respect,” Cole Younger said. Bob Younger died in prison in 1889 of consumption, but Cole and Jim Younger were paroled and released after twenty-five years. Despite their wild outlaw reputations, they behaved in prison at all times as obedient, model prisoners, never causing trouble or attempting to escape.

The Youngers in 1889, shortly before Bob’s death. Shown with sister Henrietta.

“Come with me to the prison, where for a quarter of a century I have occupied a lonely cell. When the door swings in on you there, the world does not hear your muffled wail. There is little to inspire mirth in prison. For a man who has lived close to the heart of nature, in the forest, in the saddle, to imprison him is like caging a wild bird.”

(Cole Younger in “What My Life Has Taught Me”)

“…imprisonment has brought out the excellencies of many men. I have learned many things in the lonely hours there. I have learned that hope is a divinity; I have learned that a surplus of determination conquers every weakness…” (Cole Younger in “What My Life Has Taught Me”) “A man has plenty of time to think in prison, and I might add that it is an ideal place for a man to study law, religion, Shakespeare, not forgetting the president’s messages. However, I would advise you not try to get into prison just to find an ideal place for these particular studies.”  (Cole Younger in “What My Life Has Taught Me”) “When the iron doors shut behind us at the Stillwater prison I submitted to the prison discipline with the same unquestioning obedience that I had exacted during my military service.” (Cole Younger, regarding the 25 years he spent in prison for the Northfield robbery and murders)

The surviving Younger brothers, Cole and Jim, were paroled to within the borders of Minnesota in 1901, having served 25 years of their life sentences in prison. October 19, 1902 Jim Younger killed himself in St. Paul, Minnesota, apparently despondent over the limitations of his parole that not only prevented him from returning home to Missouri, but prevented him from marrying. Early in 1903 Cole Younger was pardoned on the condition, among others, that he leave Minnesota and never return. That condition he doesn’t seem to have found a hardship.


The dead outlaws in Northfield, picture from the Northfield newspaper, 1876,

Clell Miller & Bill Chadwell

“The Northfield Tragedy,” written in 1876 by John Jay Lemon, a journalist who investigated the robbery and interviewed the Youngers immediately after their capture, gives the following descriptions of the two outlaws killed in Northfield:

Chadwell/Stiles – 6′ 4½” tall, face elongated oval with sharply cut features, high cheekbones, well arched brow, deep-set blue eyes, hair dark reddish auburn inclined to curl, 23-25 years old

Miller – 5′ 8″ tall, hair same as Chadwell’s, stouter, face rounder, blue eyes

He gives the descriptions of those in the bank thus:

The man shut in the vault door – slim, dark complexioned, black moustasche, slight but tall

Second man – sandy side-whiskers, shaved chin, blue eyes

Third man – heavy-set, curly brown hair, week’s growth of beard

Bank employee, A. E. Bunker, identified those in the bank as one of the James, Charlie Pitts, and Bob Younger.


Further Reading:Younger, Thomas Coleman, The Story of Cole Younger by Himself: An Autobiography of the Missouri Guerrilla, Confederate Cavalry Officer, and Western Outlaw, original publication 1903 – The ultimate primary source on the Northfield robbery written by one of the robbers, Cole Younger. He does give a reasonably full account of the robbery from his perspective, and of their capture and imprisonment. Cole is less than totally forthcoming in his information and is trying very hard to provide a sympathetic front–he was trying to get a full pardon at the time he wrote–yet still provides some fascinating personal insights into the Northfield raid. He also gives his war-time history, much of which is lifted pretty much verbatim from Edward’s “Noted Guerrillas,” a book of which he thought highly. Cole Younger’s book is especially interesting to read for what he doesn’t say as what he does, and for the careful dance of semantics he goes through to avoid outright lies.

Koblas, John, The Jesse James Northfield Raid: Confessions of the Ninth Man, North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc., 1999 – just a dandy book in every regard. This is a purely Minnesota-centric history of the James and Youngers unfortunate visit to Minnesota in 1876. The author begins with the story of a man who claimed that Chadwell and Stiles were two separate people and that he was “the ninth man” at the Northfield robbery. Koblas tracks the James and Youngers progress and movements across Minnesota in minute, exacting detail (yet still very good reading!) and gives credence, or not, to Stiles claim. Lots of photos and good writing.

See alsoCivil War St. Louis Reviews: “When the Heavens Fell: The Youngers in Stillwater Prison” by John Koblas and “The Great Cole Younger & Frank James Historical Wild West Show” by John Koblas

Huntington, George, Robber and Hero: The Story of the Northfield Bank Raid, Northfield Historical Society, originally published 1895 – Probably the best and most accurate account of the robbery attempt in Northfield, Minnesota. This book was written less than twenty years after the event and so had considerable first-hand imput by still-living witnesses and participants.

More book sources

Possibilities and unanswered questions…

Were Frank and Jesse James at Northfield?

Cole Younger says: Every blood-and-thunder history of the Younger brothers declares that Frank and Jesse James were the two members of the band that entered Northfield who escaped arrest or death.

They were not, however. One of those two men was killed afterward in Arizona and the other died from fever some years afterward.

There were reasons why the James and the Younger brothers could not take part in any such project as that at Northfield. (he goes on to describe an incident that illustrated his intense dislike of Jesse James, though he remained friends with Frank James until his death) He says two other men “whose names on the expedition” were Woods and Howard were the two who got away. Jesse and Frank James around this time, and for several years after, used the names Woodson and Howard. Cole Younger was, however, careful never to implicate the James in the Northfield robbery in any substantive way, though such testimony may well have gotten them shorter sentences (they were denied parole several times because they refused to name the two who got away).

The day after their capture, in a hotel where they were treated for their numerous bullet wounds, a reporter interviewed Cole Younger. John Jay Lemon in “The Northfield Tragedy” says:

The writer mentioned to them that the other two, the James Brothers, were captured, one dead and the other dying. This seemed to affect them. Cole asking who was dead, the smaller one or larger of the two, adding the caution, “mind I don’t say they are the James brothers.” When the writer said that they had acknowledged who they were Cole then asked, “Did they say anything of us?” When answered in the negative he replied, “Good boys to the last.”

When Sheriff Glispin asked Cole to name the two who escaped capture, Cole responded by handing him a note saying, “Be true to your friends if the Heavens fall.” He never named the James in the robbery except in the apparent deathbed admission. Jim Younger, in letters written from prison, did apparently name both the James as the other two participants, however.

Another possibility that has occasionally been suggested is that Frank James was at Northfield, but not Jesse.

Cole Younger’s statement, “One of those two men was killed afterward in Arizona and the other died from fever some years afterward,” I believe is trying to suggest that the other two were John Jarrette–who is later placed in Arizona by Edwards in Noted Guerrillas–and Arthur McCoy–who is said to have died of fever or pneumonia in Texas. This is a purely speculative observation but may be the direction Younger was trying to shift credit away from the James. Jarrette and McCoy would fit the descriptions of the other two at Northfield reasonably well.

Was there a ninth man at Northfield?

This is an occasional theory. In 1913 a man named Bill Stiles claimed that Bill Chadwell was not an alias for Stiles; that they were two separate people and that he-Stiles-was the ninth man at Northfield, covering their exit from town. Other suggested as the “ninth man” include Jim Cummins (who really, really wanted to be as notorious as his dime novel legend but never was) and various others of the gang.

At the time of the robbery there was a statement from witnesses that nine strangers had been seen riding toward the town. Other stray bits of information support the idea, but even more information does not. It’s certainly possible that there was a ninth, or even tenth or eleventh, man involved in the Northfield robbery, but solid evidence to support the idea does not seem to exist.

Was the bank targeted because of Ben Butler?

Cole Younger claimed they chose the bank at Northfield because it was owned by the hated Union General Benjamin Butler. If so, it was a last-minute choice. After roaming around half of southern Minnesota, they had apparently planned to rob a bank in Mankato. That plan was aborted when they attracted too much attention from a crowd near the first bank. They thought they’d been discovered, but it was apparently just admiration of their fine horses that caused the attention. The gang was reported to have scouted numerous banks in various towns in Minnesota and, in their roamings, had been as far north as St. Paul. Had Northfield been their original target such roaming would not have been necessary.

Cole Younger said: “Butler…had a lot of money invested, we were told, in the First National Bank at Northfield, as also had J. T. Ames, Butler’s son-in-law, who had been the ‘carpet-bag’ governor of Mississippi after the war.” Cole Younger wrote this in 1903, after having had time to consider it. I haven’t found this claim being made at the time of the robbery. Indeed, an article in the St. Peter Tribune in an interview with Bob Younger given soon after their capture says: We also asked why they had selected Northfield in preference to any of the other banks, and he said they thought there was much more money to be had there. He said that in Mankato there were three banks and the money was too much divided. In St. Peter they thought they wouldn’t have gotten much.

Did Butler actually own, or invest in, the bank at Northfield, Minnesota? It does not appear to be so. Benjamin Butler’s daughter Blanche married Adelbert Ames, son of Jesse Ames. Maj.-Gen. Adelbert Ames had served during the war under General Butler and was later a ‘carpetbagger’ governor of Mississippi (not J. T. Ames as Cole Younger said). His father Jesse Ames, after retiring as a sea captain, was an owner of the flour mill in Northfield. They bought the mill in Northfield in 1864, building a new mill in 1870. He was retired by 1876 with his son John T. Ames then owning the mill. Gen. Benjamin Butler had visited Minnesota a number of times (he lived in Massachusetts), including visits to Northfield, home of his daughter’s in-laws. The officers of the First National Bank of Northfield do include Jesse Ames as Vice-President, and Jesse Ames and J. T. Ames as two of the directors. There does not appear, however, to be any direct link to Benjamin Butler or direct participation by his son-in-law Adelbert Ames. The “J. T. Ames” Cole Younger names above was John Thomas Ames, a brother to Adelbert, not related to Butler.

Adelbert Ames is said by some sources to have been in Northfield at the time of the robbery and was recognized by the robbers. J. T. Ames was one of the organizers of the pursuit of the robbers. It is, however, not impossible that Adelbert Ames was there visiting family at the time (he did not live in Minnesota). John Koblas in “The Jesse James Northfield Raid” cites Adelbert Ames’ presence to the “Northfield News,” a 1929 article, with a second source from a Faribault newspaper in 1876. Koblas say Adelbert Ames was near Wheeler during the shooting.

About three years after the Northfield robbery Ames appears to have leased some interest in his mill to Benjamin Butler. Cole Younger’s attributing the robbery to Benjamin Butler is, at best, stretching the inaccurate thread of connections and is more likely what it is usually taken to be—a convenient excuse rather than a primary motivation. Invoking Butler’s name, as Younger did, would cause an immediate, visceral reaction on the part of most Southerners in sympathy to the robbers, whether justified or not. It was, if nothing else, a shrewd publicity move. Whether to take the Butler story seriously as a motivation for the robbery depends, too, on what the outlaws believed at the time–at present the only claim I’ve found that Butler was their motivation comes from Cole Younger nearly 25 years after the fact.

Officers of the bank at the time of the robbery were:

J. C. Nutting, President

Jesse Ames, Vice-President

G. M. Phillips, Cashier

Directors:

J. C. Nutting

Jesse Ames

J. T. Ames

M. Wilson

E. T. Archibald

H. Thoreson

C. S. Hulbert

W. M. Norton

G. M. Phillips

(sources: Rice County Journal, Sept. 14, 1876, Northfield Newspaper headline index, various genealogical source records, Minnesota cemetery records and newspaper indexes, 1880 US Census, The Union Army A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal States 1861-65, “Frank and Jesse James” by Ted P. Yeatman, autobiography of Cole Younger, “Robber and Hero” by George Huntington)

Was Northfield Cole Younger’s first and only robbery?

So he claimed. Interestingly, George Sheperd backed Cole in that claim in a quite forthright statement (as opposed to a vague denial). Sheperd, in an interview with J. W. Buel, said, “Speaking of Cole Younger, I have no hesitancy in saying that, outside of the affair at Northfield, I don’t believe he was ever connected with the James Boys, or that he ever participated in any of the robberies.” All things considered it seems extremely improbable, but decide for yourself. The Robberies chart does suggest Cole Younger was probably guilty of far fewer things than is generally thought. George Sheperd and Cole Younger were not on good terms and Sheperd had no reason to defend Younger or his reputation, yet, as a reliable witness, Sheperd has some serious credibility problems.

Bob Younger also said it was his first robbery. If not his first, it may have been very near to it.

In the case of Jim Younger, a number of people then and now think it may have been, in fact, his first and last robbery. When he was greeted by his sister, Retta, in jail, she is reported to have said, “Oh! Jim, this is too bad. If it had not been for Cole and Bob you would never have been here. They enticed you to do this.” – from “The Northfield Tragedy” 1876


The Citizens & Heroes of Northfield…

Joseph Lee Heywood – killed in the bank, refused to open the vault:A man modest, true, gentle; diligent in business; conscientious in duty; a citizen benevolent and honorable; towards God reverent and loyal; who, while defending his trust as a bank officer, fearlessly met death at the hands of armed robbers, in Northfield, Sept. 7, 1876

This tablet is inscribed by his friends as a tribute to heroic fidelity.

ESTO FIDELIS USQUE AD MORTEM.

(Carlton College memorial plaque–Heywood has served as college treasurer)

Joseph Lee Heywood, was born August 12, 1837 in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire of a farming family. He joined the Union army August 21, 1862 as a member of the 127th Illinois Regiment, Co. B. Participated in the siege of Vicksburg and the capture of Arkansas Post. He enlisted as a private and was discharged as a corporal. Heywood moved to Northfield, Minnesota in the fall of 1867. He worked for five years as a bookkeeper in a lumberyard. In 1872 he became bookkeeper of the First National Bank of Northfield, in service of which he was murdered.

Heywood was married first to Martha R. (Mattie) Buffum (she died May 3, 1873) and, after her death, to Lizzie Adams. One daughter, Lizzie May (born April 25, 1871), by his first marriage, age five at his death, survived him. Lizzie May later graduated from Carlton College and became a music teacher (she died Dec. 1947, wife of Rev. Edwin Carlton Dean). Banks in the United States and Canada donated $12,000 to the support of Heywood’s family after his death.

At the time of his death, Heywood was both City Treasurer and treasurer of Carlton College.

“Mr. Heywood was, beyond most men, modest and timid. He shrank from the public gaze; and, considering his high gifts and his standing in the community, he was retiring almost to a fault. He set a low estimate upon himself. He would not own to himself, did not even seem to know, that he was lovable and well-beloved. He courted no praise and sought no reward. Honors must come to him unsought if they came at all. He would be easily content to toil on, out of sight and with services unrecognized, but in every transaction he must be conscientious through and through, and do each hour to the full the duties of the hour.” –Funeral Discourse on Joseph Lee Heywood

The President has been inspecting the new time lock which had just been placed upon the door of the vault. The circumstance recalled to his mind the famous St. Albans bank-raid, which had especially interested him through his personal acquaintance with the victimized cashier. Having spoken of the course pursued by the raiders in that case, he said, in mere playfulness, to Mr. Heywood, “Now if robbers should come in here and order you to open this vault, would you do it?” With a quiet smile, and in his own modest way, Mr. Heywood answered, “I think not.”

–Robber and Hero by George Huntington, 1895

quoting James Woodward Strong, Carlton College President


Alonzo E. Bunker – bank teller, ran from bank and was shot by Pitts:“The part taken by Mr. Bunker in the encounter with the robbers in the bank… shows him to be a man of nerve, cool and self-collected in danger, and capable of bold action. Though not subjected to the brutal treatment inflicted upon Mr. Heywood, he was subjected to a similar temptation to secure his own safety by yielding to the demands of the robbers; and he kept such possession of his faculties; mental and physical, as to seize the first opportunity–an opportunity not afforded to Heywood–to break from his captors and escape under fire. The wound he received at that time was a dangerous one, and narrowly missed being fatal…”

–Robber and Hero by George Huntington, 1895

Bunker also tried to get a hold of a derringer kept on a shelf below the teller’s window but was spotted. The small gun was later found on Pitt’s body.

A. E. Bunker was the second son of Enos A. and Martha M. Bunker of Littleton, New Hampshire, where he was born March 29, 1849. He came to Minnesota in 1855. In 1869 he graduated from St. Paul Business College. In 1871 he studied for two years at Carlton College in Northfield. In 1873 he began working for the First National Bank of Northfield. Bunker married Nettie L. Smith in 1875. After the robbery, Bunker remained with the bank for two more years. In 1880 he left Northfield, moved several times, in connection with the Western Newspaper Union. In 1890 he was a manager in Des Moines, Iowa.


Frank J. Wilcox – assistant bookkeeper of the bankFrank J. Wilcox was the son of Baptist minister James F. Wilcox. Frank was born September 8, 1848 in Taunton, Massachusetts. The family moved to Northfield when he was ten years old. He attended Carleton College in Northfield, followed by Chicago University. After returning to Northfield he worked numerous temporary jobs, one of which landed him as assistant bookkeeper in the First National Bank on the day of the robbery. Though his role in the robbery was largely passive, he was praised for his support of his co-workers refusal to cooperate with the robbers even at risk of their lives. After the robbery his job was made permanent and he remained at the bank for at least twenty more years. In 1879 he married Jennie M. Blake and with her was an active member of the Northfield community.


A number of Northfield citizens immediately moved to defend their town but were either unarmed or poorly armed. Elias Hobbs and Justice Streater resorted to throwing rocks at the bank robbers. Elias Stacy shot Clell Miller in the face with bird shot. J. B. Hyde, Ross Phillips, and James Gregg also used shotguns that weren’t powerful enough to do much damage. The two men with rifles, Wheeler and Manning, were credited with routing the bank robbers from their town.

Henry M. Wheeler, killed Clell Miller and wounded Bob Younger. At the time of the raid he was a 22 year old medical student. He was home on summer vacation from college when the bank robbery occurred. From his father’s pharmacy he saw the suspicious strangers. He gave an alarm then was driven from the street by the armed robbers. With an old army carbine and three cartridges, he fired from a window of the Dampier Hotel. Wheeler moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1881 where he worked as a doctor. Anselm R. Manning, killed Bill Chadwell and wounded Cole Younger. Manning was 43 years old at the time of the robbery. He was carpenter and blacksmith from Canada who had lived in Northfield since 1856. His first shot was standing in the open on the street and killed one of the robber’s horses. Then his breech-loading rifle jammed and he had to go back to his store to fix it. Coming back to the fight he fired more carefully, from better cover, wounding Cole Younger. He reloaded and killed Chadwell. Manning died in 1909.

Link: Jesse James and the Northfield Bank Raid


Excepts from the dime novel “The James Boys in Minnesota,” published in 1882…

The cold steel-like glitter which had been indelibly stamped in their eyes, on that summer day in 1861, when Jesse’s back smarted under blows, and he swore to wipe out the indignity with blood, seemed to become colder and harder, as they reflected on what the night might bring forth.

“Jesse, we are in a nest of robbers,” said Frank.

“Yes, and murderers,” replied Jesse. “We must teach them a lesson.”

“I think so.”

“We must wipe the entire bloodthirsty set from the face of existence!”

“It’s a duty we owe society,” said Jesse, with a light laugh. “We are working now wholly for the benefit of society.”

“Yes,” replied Frank, without the least bit of humor in his voice.

“It may be that by ridding the world of such wretches, Frank, that we may kind a balance accounts for some of our own missteps.” [subplot, fictitious, I believe, about their trip to Minnesota]


“The James Boys and the Youngers. The noted Missouri train robbers and highwaymen will make an attack upon the town today.!”


One of the bandits now placed a revolver at Mr. Heywood’s head and fired. The man who had been so faithful to his duty fell to the floor and expired without a groan.


Jesse mounted his horse with the reins in his teeth and a revolver in each hand, old guerrilla fashion, charged again and again up the street, clearing it each time.


Three more men came out of the bank and joined the other bandits in the fight. Through the shifting clouds of battle smoke which hovered above the field of carnage, the eager eyes of Eva Leigh pierced. Now her heart leaped wild with fear as she thought or feared she recognized a familiar form.

The bandits are mounted, their tall commanding chieftain, the Bandit King orders the retreat.  [subplot of the dime novel was a romance between this girl and Cole Younger]


Bob Younger was almost disabled from the start, and when the besiegers closed in upon the little camp, they found Cole Younger down with seven wounds, Jim Younger with his jaw shattered, Bob with his right arm hanging useless and with two fresh wounds, and Clell Miller with his hands still clutched, and a hard look upon his dead face. [Charlie Pitts, actually]

They were now prisoners, but captives among a Christian people. Their wounds were dressed, they were moved as gently as the situation allowed, and at Madelia, where they rested for a time, were treated with kindness.


Frank and Jesse James were the only outlaws of the eight who had gone on the disastrous expedition to Northfield, Minnesota, who escaped.

They were pursued vigilantly to the very border lines and far beyond; but no man can yet boast that he has ever captured one of the wonderful James Boys. A price was set upon their heads, and they seemed never to forget it, as their atrocious acts since bear witness.

Another Dime Novel “Jesse James, The Outlaw” on-line from Stanford University


More information on the Northfield robbery will be forthcoming.

Ste Genevieve Robbery

The Ste. Genevieve, Missouri Robbery

Ste. Genevieve, Missouri – Ste. Genevieve Savings Association

May 27, 1873

about $4000 taken


“Ste. Genevieve is an old French town situated upon one of the gently sloping bluffs of the Mississippi River. Built under the French regime it still retains the distinguishing characteristics of that race. Its people and institutions are generally Catholic, and there is a strange rest and dreamy quiet pervading even the atmosphere, and widely at variance with the rush and bustle of the unadulterated American. Quaint, gabled houses, surrounded with spacious gardens, where roses and honey-suckles perfume the mild May air, one can almost fancy one’s self in some outlying province of sunny France.

Genial, hospitable people meet with a lingering cordiality, at least of words, unknown to the more dashing American citizen. Neighbor languidly chats with neighbor from adjoining gardens, and chatter in their Creole French as volubly as the saucy sparrows which are adjusting their quarrels and love affairs just without the window, upon its narrow ledge.

On this this particular May morning [May 27, 1873], however, these dreamy people are doomed to be rudely awakened by a terrifying incident…

The Life, Times & Treacherous Death of Jesse James

by Frank Triplett, 1882


From a St. Louis newspaper account of the robbery:

St. Louis Weekly Globe May 30, 1873:

Sublime Audacity

One of the boldest Bank Robberies on Record

Thieves enter a bank in the day time

Flight of the robbers and their pursuit by citizens armed with shot-guns

If there is any operation in which the audaciousness of pure deviltry ever be displayed, it is in the exercise of robbing a bank in broad daylight. …

Situated upon the corner of Merchant street and Main stands a two-story brick house, formerly occupied as  dwelling but now used as a banking-house by the Ste. Genevieve Saving Association; General F. A. Rosier is President and O. D. Harris, Esq..,, Cashier

Rozier bank in Ste. Genevieve

This may not be the bank that was robbed May 27, 1873, but instead may have been one later purchased by F. A. Rozier, previous owner of the Ste. Genevieve Savings Association. The above building was built in 1820. From the location description it appears to be on the same street, but a block away, from the bank that was robbed.

…When halfway in the room the Cashier happened to turn his head and was startled at sight of two pistols pointed at his temples, and was most thoroughly aroused to the delicacy of the situation, as he felt the cold muzzles  quickly pressed to them. The force used by the robbers was so great that for houses afterwards one of his temples showed the mark of the pistol barrel. Before he could remonstrate he was saluted with a stirring command, “open the safe or I’ll blow your d—d brains out.’’ Mr. Harris hesitated about opening the safe, which being observed, cause the robbers to level their pistols at Rozier, threatening to shoot him if he should run.

But Rozier broke away and was confronted by the two other men on horseback, who were concealed from observation.

…The robbers speedily released Mr. Harris, mounted their horses, and the four commenced firing in all directions in intimidate pursuers. Above the report of shots was heard a wild “Hurrah! For Sam Hildebrand, catch the horse-thieves if you can,” and the rapid hoofbeats of the retreating horses showed that the “job” was finished..

…Two of the robbers slept the night before at a farm house two miles out. They knew that General Rozier, the President, whose room was on the same floor with the bank room, was absent…

The robbery, one of the boldest on record,, did not pan out very handsomely, as the booty amounted to only $3600.


From the Ste. Genevieve Fair Play, May 29, 1873:

Daring Robbery!

A Four Thousand Dollar Haul!

Four Men Walk into the Merchants Bank of Ste. Genevieve in Open Daylight and Rob the Safe of it Contents and Escape!!

Tuesday morning at 10 o’clock… Four men rode into town on horseback and hitched their horses in the vicinity of Mr. Anderson’s store, they walked leisurely up to the bank; two of them stopped outside and two of them started into the bark…

…each one drew a pistol and presented it to Mr. Harris’ head and said, “Open the safe, damn you, or I will blow your brains out.”


From a St. Louis newspaper following the Adair County, Iowa train robbery:

Information was received yesterday at the police headquarters which taken with facts before known, leave not the shadow of doubt but that several members of the party who robbed the train on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad near Adair, Iowa, on Monday night, were the gang who robbed the Ste. Genevieve Bank last May and have been connected with other villainies of a similar character, perpetrated during the past three or four years.

[Arthur McCoy] was the one who held the pistol to the head of the Cashier of the bank… More on Arthur McCoy


“Branded as Rebels” by Joanne Chiles Eakins says Arthur McCoy led this robbery with a couple of the Youngers with him.

From my research into McCoy’s background and movements it became clear McCoy knew Ste. Genevieve intimately, having numerous relatives there, many of whom owned the bank or were major contributors until, at least, shortly before this robbery. McCoy had also lived in Ste. Genevieve for several years after the war.

Russellville, Kentucky Robbery

The Russellville, Kentucky Robbery

Illustration from “The Border Outlaws,” 1882, by J. W. Buel

Russellville, Kentucky – Nimrod & Co. Bank

March 20, 1868

about $12,000 taken


Named as participants by various sources:

  1. George Sheperd
  2. Oll Sheperd
  3. John Jarrette
  4. Arthur C. McCoy
  5. Cole Younger
  6. Jim White
  7. Dick Little
  8. ___ Saunders
  9. Frank James
  10. Jesse James

Of these, between five and eight were actually there.

George Sheperd initiated this robbery, bringing in his cousin Oll. George invited his wife’s first-cousin, and his war-time comrade, John Jarrette. Alternately, it may have been a joint venture between the three from the start with the original idea coming from any of the three. Jarrette, in an account published after the Northfield robbery, is blamed for having led Cole Younger into crime by bringing him into this robbery. A family member confirms it (see Settle, pg 97). Jarrette is also the connection that brought in Arthur McCoy–both had been captains under Shelby and knew each other well.

Were Jesse and Frank James involved? It is possible but, as with many of the robberies attributed to them, their involvement seems to have come up as an afterthought–after the “legend” is established their names are attached in retrospect to robberies that they weren’t connected with initially. This is the case in Russellville. Detective Bligh, from whom most of the identifications of the robbers comes, later decided Frank and Jesse James were involved. If Frank and Jesse James did take part it was through the Sheperds that they would have been brought in. During the war, when Frank James followed Quantrill into Kentucky, Jesse James stayed in Missouri with the Sheperds.

Looking at the realities of the people involved, certain factors regarding the famous Jesse James are impossible to ignore. Even if involved, he was not the leader, not in this nor several following robberies. In 1868 Jesse James was 20 years old and had seen war-time service only toward the end of the war. The Sheperds were 27 and 26 years old. John Jarrette was 32 and had extensive war experience; had been a leader of men. Arthur McCoy was 38. He’d been a leader during the war and even before. He’d led raids and commanded men. There is no way these men would be taking orders from a relatively inexperienced boy like Jesse James.

If Jesse and Frank James were involved, it does, however, provide the connecting link between them and McCoy that gives credence to their later associations.

Description of the robbers who were in the bank from a contemporary newspaper account:

26 years old, black hair and whiskers, florid complexion, 5’8″ tall, weighs about 140 pounds… [This is probably John Jarrette]

5’7″ in height, short curly, sand hair, round bull-dog head, prominent eyes, red face, weights about 160 pounds. [Oll Sheperd? A bit short to be taken for Younger, or either of the James. Maybe Jesse James?]

5’6″ high, thin visage, 32 or 33 years old, shabbily dressed in light clothes, defect in one eye, light hair and whiskers, weighs about 150 pounds… [This is George Sheperd. He had one eye. Also, witnesses later identified him, leading to his conviction for the robbery.]

6′ high, weighs 140 pounds, 33 or 34 years old, light hair, inclined to curl, thin whiskers… [This is may be Arthur McCoy. McCoy’s description would match that of Frank James reasonably well, except at this time Frank James was no more than 25 years old and McCoy was 37 or 38.] More on Arthur McCoy.

This leaves Oll Sheperd and, possibly, Cole Younger covering the outside. If the James brothers are worked into the scenario, they may have been covering their escape from town further out from the bank–unseen by any witnesses.


“At the time of the Russellville bank robbery I was gathering cattle in Ellis county, Texas: cattle that I bought from Pleas Taylor and Rector. This can be proved by both of them; also by Sheriff Barkley and fifty other respectable men of that county. I brought the cattle to Kansas that fall and remained in St. Clair county until February.”–Cole Younger, November 15, 1874


From the Nashville Banner, March 22, 1868

About ten days ago, a man calling himself Colburn, and claiming to be a cattle dealer, offered to sell to Mr. Long a 7-30 note of the denomination of $500. As none of the coupons had been cut off, and the stranger, who pretended to be from Louisville, where the notes were worth a premium, offered it at par and allowed interest, Mr. Long became suspicious and refused to take it. On the 18th he returned again and asked Mr. Long to change him a $100 bill. He was accompanied by a man of forbidding aspect, and suspecting the note to be counterfeit, Mr. Long declined changing it. On the 20th, about 2 P. M., as Mr. Long, Mr. Barclay, clerk in the bank, and Mr. T. H. Simmons, a farmer living near Russellville, were sitting behind the counter, Colburn and another man rode up to the door, hitched their horses and entered the bank, three companions remaining outside. They asked for change for a $50 note. Mr. Long pronounced it counterfeit, but was about making a more careful examination, when Colburn drew a revolver, placed its muzzle against his head, and cried out, ‘Surrender!’ Mr. Long wheeled around and sprang toward the door leading into a room in the rear of the banking office. He hoped thus to make his exit from the building and give the alarm. He was, however, anticipated by one of the robbers, who intercepted him at the door already mentioned, placed a pistol within six or eight inches of his head and fired, without having uttered a word. The ball did no greater injury than grazing Mr. Long’s scalp for about two inches, tearing away the hair and flesh, but not fracturing the skull. Mr. L. seized hold of the weapon, and made an effort to wrench it from his assailant, but the robber succeeded in regaining possession of his pistol. He immediately commenced to beat Mr. Long over the head with the butt, and, after a few furiously dealt blows, felled him to the floor. The latter, however, sprang to his feet and again got hold of the pistol, just as the robber was about to cock it for the purpose of giving him the finishing touch. During the scuffle which now took place, Mr. Long managed to reach the back door of the rear room. Here he concentrated his almost exhausted strength into a final effort, freed himself from the clutches of the robber, sprang through the door and closed it after him. He then ran around toward the front part of the building, shouting for assistance. When he reached the street, he found two men sitting on their horses before the entrance to the bank. They were all armed with Spencer’s rifles and pistols, and were shooting up and down the street at all citizens who came within range. As Mr. Long ran by, they also fired twelve or fifteen shots at him, but, fortunately, without effect.

Inside the bank, while Mr. Long was struggling with the fellow above mentioned, and before Messrs. Barclay and Simmons could rise from their seats, the latter were confronted by Colburn and his companion with cocked revolvers and threats of instant death in case the least show of resistance was made. Neither of the gentlemen was armed and they had to accept the situation with the best grace they could command. As soon as Mr. Long made his retreat by the lack door, his antagonist returned to the banking office and assisted in the work of plunder. One of the robbers stood guard over Messrs. Barclay and Simmons, while Colburn and the other proceeded to clean out the establishment. They appeared to have an exact knowledge of its resources. As was afterward ascertained, Colburn had made some cautious inquiries as to its capital, deposits, etc., and we have already shown that his previous visits had enabled him to make a thorough inspection of the interior. In the cash drawer they found over nine thousand dollars in currency. From the vault, the door of which was standing open, they took several bags of gold and silver. This specie consisted principally of dollars, half-dollars and quarters, and had been placed in the bank on special deposit by several of the neighboring farmers. The amount has never been ascertained, but it will’ not, we understand, exceed five thousand dollars. Several private boxes which were on a shelf in the vault and contained bonds were broken open, but none of the bonds were carried off-doubtless because of a fear that they had been registered and would lead to the detection of the robbers. Two robbers kept guard outside while the work of pillaging was going on, and, though the alarm had spread, kept the citizens at bay until a Mr. Owens had the courage to begin firing upon them with a pistol. He was seriously but not dangerously wounded. Finally the sentinels became alarmed and called for their accomplices inside to come out. They quickly complied, bringing with them saddle-bags crammed with gold and greenbacks.

” They were greeted with a heavy volley by a squad of citizens who were advancing up the street. All were soon in their saddles, and, at a signal from Colburn, the party dashed at full speed out of town by the Gallatin pike. Many a leaden missile was sent after them, but beyond the report that one had his arm broken, there is no ground for supposing that any of the shots took effect. Ten minutes later, some forty citizens, mounted on such animals as they could collect from buggies, wagons and hitchingposts, started in hot pursuit. All the advantage, except in point of numbers, was with the robbers. They rode splendid horses, and were as completely armed and equipped as the most daring and accomplished highwayman could desire. Five miles from Russellville the trail was lost in the woods, nor was anything heard of Colburn and his men until the 21st, when a dispatch was received here stating that they had crossed the Louisville and Nashville Railroad early in the morning, near Mitchellsville.


“The bank at Russellville, Ky., was raided March 20, 1868, and among the raiders was a man who gave his name as Colburn, who the detectives have endeavored to make it appear was Cole Younger…”

-Cole Younger “The Story of Cole Younger,” 1903

Memorial Day

memorialday1Memorial Day began as a remembrance
of the Civil War dead often called
“Decoration Day”. It may have come
from women in the Mississippi River
area decorating the graves of
Confederate dead.

May 5, 1868: Gen. John Logan of the
Grand Army of the Republic proclaimed
May 30 as Memorial Day.

May 30, 1868: Flowers were placed
on the graves of both Union and
Confederate soldiers at Arlington Cemetery.

John S Marmaduke

JOHN S.  MARMADUKE

by

E. W. Stephens

Missouri State Tribune, Jefferson City, MO, 24 November 1901.

The distinguishing characteristics of Governor Marmaduke were courage, conscience, and common sense.  There may have been greater statesmen or soldiers, but he was a leader of men in war and peace, and he combined those qualities which constitute a strong character in private and public life.  His courage was both physical and moral.  More truly than anyone I ever knew was he [a] stranger to fear.  On the field of battle it could be said of him, as it was of another, that he was superb.  Of splendid physical organization, over six feet in height, with a symmetrical and well knit frame of noble bearing, graceful and athletic, nature formed him for a soldier.  A thorough training at West Point had molded him into an ideal military leader.  No wonder was it that when in the war between the states leaders were needed to take command of the raw recruits which flocked to the standard of General Sterling Price to form the Missouri State Guard, he was selected for the command of a regiment from which he rose by rapid promotion to a major generalcy.  Those who saw him at the capitol in 1861, when his uncle, Gov. Claiborne F. Jackson, was organizing an army to carry away the State government, and cast their fortunes with the lost cause, described him as a tall young soldier, straight as an arrow, of imposing presence, with long auburn hair, as handsome as Adonis, and as knightly as a Cocur[sic] de Lion.  He deserved in the best sense the title of chivalrous. There was never any man to whom the word could have been more appropriately applied.

As a cavalry officer, he was brave, gallant, and dashing, who infused his enthusiasm into his troops.  He was a splendid horseman, and his presence at the head of his command was an inspiration.  In the army he was celebrated for his brilliant leadership and dauntless courage.  He fought through the entire war, and at its close no more stainless sword was surrendered.

There have been men who could brave the storm of battle, who could face undaunted the deadly fire of cannon and musketry; but when the flags were furled, the shouting had ceased and the excitement of battle had subsided, would quail before the calmer conflicts of private life.  This was not true of Marmaduke.  His courage was as strenuous and as true in private life as it was upon the battlefield, and while he never sought a quarrel, was self-contained, and slow to anger, when his courage and honor was impugned, and this was rare, his resentment was swift and terrible.  Several illustrations of his superb personal courage could be given.  One will suffice:

When he was a member of the Board of Railroad Commissioners he was called upon to testify in a case in which the commission was involved.  Just as he was beginning one of the parties to the suit spoke up and said to him:  “Remember, sir, you are on your oath.”  Marmaduke stopped suddenly, looked at the man, who was a person of considerable distinction in State affairs, and proceeded quietly with his testimony.  After court had adjourned he walked over to the Madison House, and, being near-sighted, requested a friend to point out the party who had offered what he considered an insult, walked up to the offender and with deliberation slapped him upon both cheeks and slowly walked away.

Further Reading:

Confederate Wizards of the Saddle: Being Remininscences and Observations of One Who Rode With Morganby Bennett H. Young
Bennett H. Young was one of Morgan’s men from Kentucky. Later in the war he was a secret service operative with Hines and Castleman. The stories he tells in this book are not of his own adventures but of the cavalrymen, like Morgan, with whom he rode. Included are Morgan, Forrest, J.E.B. Stuart, Mosby, Marmaduke’s Cape Girardeau, Missouri raid, and Shelby’s September 1863 Missouri raid.

He rarely had personal difficulties, for the reason that he was absolutely just, never gave needless offense, and it was well understood that an insult to him was a perilous matter to him that gave it.  He was charitable in thought and word.  He saw the good but not the evil in men.  He rarely criticized.  If he thought a man was in error, and was untruthful or dishonest, he said so to the man, or said nothing about it.  He talked to people, not about them.  He stabbed no man in the dark.  He despised censoriousness and slander.  His life was an open book.  He lived in daylight, not in darkness.  He detested chicanery, intrigue, [and] double-dealing as sincerely in public life as in private.  Hence he had few if any secrets.  He never whispered and never asked that what he said be not repeated.  He talked it out, and the larger the number of people who heard it, the more it pleased him.  He was not a little man in any sense.

During the civil war he fought a duel with General [Lucius M.] Walker, another confederate officer, and slew his antagonist.  He always regretted it and never spoke of it.  But it was, he felt, forced upon him by the exigencies of honor, and he could not avoid it.  Although nearsighted and not a superior marksman, such was his steady nerve that when he pulled the trigger of his pistol the deadly bullet sped straight to the fated spot.

But if his physical courage was marked, his moral courage was no less so.  He never flinched from duty.  He had a conscience and he obeyed it.  In the exercise of his official functions he never stopped to consider the cost to himself.  The right was his only standard.  He was cautious and deliberate to the last degree.  But when the path of duty was clear he dashed into it with the same celerity and promptness with which he led a cavalry charge upon the tented field.  When a great strike threatened to overwhelm the railroad corporations of the State, he refused sternly to use the militia to usurp the functions of local authority in the enforcement of the law, notwithstanding the most strenuous appeals.  But when the time came for him to act, he took the mob by the throat and strangled it.

When he thought that legislation was needed to place proper restrictions upon the railroads of the State, although fully recognizing the value of those great interests to the public, he urged action with all his energy, and the General Assembly at one session having failed to enact the needed legislation, he promptly reconvened it and the laws were passed.

As governor he was in full sympathy with all classes of the people and stood as resolutely in defense of the rights of capital, as of labor, and was just alike to both.

His administration will stand as one of the wisest and cleanest in the history of the State.  No stain or suspicion ever rested upon it.  He trusted his subordinates as he did all of his friends, implicitly, and hence held their unflinching love and allegiance.  But woe to the one who abused his confidence.  His wrath was as terrible as his friendship was faithful.  He admired an open foe; he detested a vacillating and false friend.

He possessed the genius of common sense.  He had an instinctive sense of right and wrong, and his judgment and conscience led him into the wise conclusion that the duty of him into whose hands the people had placed the sacred trust of office was to defend the right and assail the wrong, whatever the consequences might be.

There have been abler men in public life in Missouri, as the word is popularly understood, but there has never been one who had a higher standard of official duty or who has left a more wholesome example to those who follow him.

The granite shaft which a grateful people has erected over his last earthly resting place, fittingly symbolizes the stalwart manliness of his character, and the impregnable public record he left to posterity.

Prison Journal – March – April 1864

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.


March – April 1864

MARCH 5, 1864.—Received orders to-day to get ready for St. Louis. Obeyed and started; within a square of the prison met Mr. Bradley who knew of the order, and came to accompany me. When we neared the depot we discovered that we were too late for the cars. Mr. B. requested of Col. W. permission for me to remain with him in the city until Monday, when I am to start again for St. Louis, but was denied. I was ordered into my old quarters. Mr. B. is quite hopeful in my case, and thinks there is no doubt of my being with my family soon. I trust he may be correct, for I am not like the “young man who has long lain in the grave for his own amusement.”

MONDAY, March 7, 1864.—I hail this morning from the old homestead, the venerable “Mother of learning,” (to suffer) the classic shades of Gratiot’s walls. How strikingly familiar are the strong locks, the iron bars, the boarded windows, the thumping of balls and clanking of chains, and even the posts in the yard, around which Carlin, Grimes, Sebring and others, froze while they sung, making music with their chains, the mockingly suggestive chorus, “Hard times come again no more.” Mr. Bradley has gone home, and I am not released. The whole matter is postponed indefinitely; some little quibble about the papers. So I resign myself once more to the humdrum existence of a prison monotony.

MARCH 9, 1864.—Discovered yesterday some changes in our official circles. Masterson and Burns are both removed—the latter, though ever kind to me, and gentlemanly in his conduct, has left I find with some, as bad a name as Masterson. I cannot believe it was in the man’s nature to be cruel, except as he was compelled to be in obedience to orders; Masterson was cruel, ungentlemanly, and insulting, in a purely personal manner. New prisoners are constantly coming in from the South. Some ten or twelve officers from near Little Rock were brought in last night, among whom I recognized an old acquaintance, Capt. Hobbs, C. S. A. It is a pity Capt. Masterson was removed quite so soon, as a brick wall is being built between the lamp house and street which will effectually prevent us from catching a glimpse of the dear ladies as they pass. I suppose they think they will spite somebody by building it, and in my case I will admit they succeed.

MARCH 13, 1864.—Last Saturday we scrubbed out our quarters and when through, I was so much fatigued as to be compelled to lie down. Suffered all night with neuralgia and next day felt very unwell. Monday I had a letter from my wife. She was so bitterly disappointed when Mr. Bradley arrived without me. She had Annie with her, and was waiting at the depot with a buggy to take me home. She knew I had been sick, and expected to find me feeble, and so was all prepared to take charge of an invalid husband. Tuesday and Wednesday were dull heavy days, and prison life seemed more gloomy than ever before. To-day a new order has been issued changing the aspect of affairs, and making a very material improvement in our condition. A sutler has been appointed for the prison, and we are permitted to buy whatever he chooses to keep, or we to order in the way of provisions; the only difficulty now is, the money to buy with. It can be furnished by our friends on the outside, and will be, in most cases, but such as have no friends to whom they can apply, must suffer on as before, and there are more of this class than one would imagine. We have availed ourselves of the new programme so far as to purchase some apples, which we have enjoyed as those outside can never know anything about.

Some of Joe Leddy’s song lyrics are online at “Civil War Music of the Western Border

MARCH 18, 1864.—Had last night some fine music on the guitar, by Joe Leddy, who sometime since at Batesville, Ark., was sentenced to be hung, but the sentence being commuted, he was sent from there here, and is now locked up night and day. It was sweet and sad to hear his mellow notes warbling out from his gloomy cage. We listened while song after song poured itself forth, now low and tender, now deep and grand, and anon wild, strong, and thrilling. Music at all times pleasant, is entrancing here.

MARCH 25, 1864.—It is useless to repeat that time drags heavily—the old complaint is worn threadbare—yet every day that comes and goes, but adds another link to this chain of incontestable truth, “time drags heavily.” A week has elapsed—fourteen of us occupy a room sixteen feet square. It is thick standing up, but when we wish to lie down, it is somewhat crowded. I spread my pallet on the table and thus escape the jam.

On Sunday a lot of Feds from Myrtle prison, were placed in with us having been fighting among themselves. One of them had his nose bitten off. They were as hard a looking set as I have seen; after remaining a short time in our quarters they were taken to a strong room and put under lock and key. Wife writes, they have not despaired of my release and are still working to obtain it. Yesterday morning we had a “dashing” time for a few minutes, hot coffee flew in abundance, it ended by one man getting his head cut with a cup. It was not exactly a “tempest in a tea-pot” but one very much mixed with coffee. Altogether it was a foolish affair; with the common enemy leagued against us, there should be peace among ourselves.

I was surprised to find among a lot of new arrivals my old friends Col. and Sam. Winston, who were captured in Platte county, Mo. They have been imprisoned at St. Joseph, and while there, the Col. got into trouble with some Federal horse thieves, about forty of whom were in the same prison, they handled him pretty roughly, giving him a “black eye” which he brings into Gratiot.

For more information on Robert Louden see The Boat-Burners; Sabotage of the Sultana, also Prisoner Notes. The little girl described here is his daughter Mollie Louden, the “little baby sister” is Annie, born in Feb. 1864. Louden’s wife Mary in April 1863 had been held in the same cell Robert was now in.

MARCH, 26, 1864.—Col. Winston was called before Gen. Rosecrans to-day, who lectured him severely for being inside the Federal lines, asking him if he did not know that he had laid himself liable to be tried and hung as a spy. Witnessed a sad and affecting sight, such as too often occurs in a military prison. Capt. Sullivan carried up the little daughter of Mr. Robert Loudon to see her father. She could not be admitted within his cell, but the kind hearted Captain held her up so she could kiss her father through the iron bars; he put his hands through and touched her soft silken hair, and asked her if she nursed little baby sister. Then he kissed her again, and told her to kiss her ma for him. Capt. S. is liked by all the prisoners, but it is feared he will not be permitted to remain long in charge as he has too much soul for the position.

TUESDAY, April 5, 1864.—On the night of my last writing, an attempt was made to dig through the wall into the building of the Christian Brothers, but unfortunately it was discovered before the design was completed and no escape was made. Those engaged in the enterprise were promptly locked up. Mr. Bradley wrote me a few days since, informing me that my brother Dan., a Colonel in the Federal army, had written to Gen. Rosecrans concerning my release. My friends are very kind indeed, and I am truly grateful, but it makes me sad every time I see a man go out on oath and bond; every one seems a stroke of the funeral bell for our beloved South: it will be a sorrowful day when I throw my shovel of dirt and march away. It appears however that it is going to be my fate to be reserved for one of the “watchers.” The following document was sent me this morning from Head Quarters:

HEAD QUARTERS, DEPT. OF THE MISSOURI,}

OFFICE OF THE PROVOST MARSHAL GENERAL,}

St. Louis, April 4, 1864.}

Special Order, No. 89.

The instructions of the Commanding General, directing the release of Capt. Griffin Frost, of the rebel army, having been revoked by Special Order No. 66, par. “G,” Head Quarters, Department of the Missouri, of date of March 7, 1864, he will be transferred under guard from Gratiot street prison to the Military prison at Alton, Ill., to serve out his sentence.

J. P. SANDERSON, Provost Marshal Gen.

Capt. GRIFFIN FROST, Gratiot St. Prison.

APRIL, 12, 1864.—Heard last week that a number of prisoners had escaped from Alton. My brother John has been sent from there to Fort Delaware, it seems he finds the latter place a little too tough even for his philosophy. Says he very much prefers Alton. He tells as much as he dares, but what John says means a good deal. He is by no means disposed to be a grumbler, and things have to be bad indeed when he complains. Four thousand prisoners are there awaiting exchange. Having been there myself on a similar errand, but when the crowd was not so great, I can form some idea of the situation. May the good Lord put it into the heart of old Stanton to allow an exchange soon. Col. Winston was out before the Provost on Saturday in company with other officers. Sunday they were preparing to send off a number of prisoners, about 140 privates, who left Monday. Forty-one officers left to-day for Johnson’s Island, where they go to wait for exchange. Would it could be general, and take us all. If the South could gather up all her waste material, she might be strong enough to make a good rally yet.

A Federal prisoner named Cantrel, disputed the word of Lieut. Sebring this morning, when the latter pitched into him and gave him a genteel pummelling leaving a rather ugly cut near the left eye. Matters rested thus until breakfast, when Cantrel slipped up behind Sebring and with a lick unbottomed a bucket over the latter’s head. After which he made all possible speed to the office, on going down stairs he ran against McGinnis and upset a bucket of sugar he was carrying, but nothing stopped Cantrel until he had reported the affair, and was transferred to other quarters, for well he knew that he had best keep out of Sebring’s way.

APRIL, 13, 1864.—I give this day a special mark, for reasons hereafter explained. This morning I was placed back in my old quarters, with the windows on the gallery opened. It is most refreshingly pleasant I find myself for once, with no reasonable cause of complaint, a circumstance so rare, I think it demands notice. My room is comfortable; we are allowed to buy provisions and newspapers are not prohibited. I have said before that Capt. Sullivan is a gentleman. Well, I was ordered before the Provost. Nobody could inform me what was wanted. Getting ready—a guard with his musket took me in charge and we reported at the Provost’s. At the door I met an old gentleman, Mr. Daniel McLoud, of Marion county, Mo., whom I knew; after shaking hands, I went into the office, and there sat my wife and child. The former I saw but a short time fifteen months ago, but the little Annie, not since the war commenced—then she could not talk—now she is equal to an old woman. Our interview lasted nearly three hours. My wife still entertains a hope of my speedy release. When I could stay no longer I bade them an affectionate farewell and reluctantly came back to my prison. My sweet little daughter—she seemed like some bright fairy, or ministering spirit, as she clung round my neck and nestled her head of shining clustering curls so lovingly on my bosom. My noble wife has been a true mother to our darling child. I can write on no other subject—have room for no other thought, so I will close for to-night.

APRIL 17, 1864.—Thursday was a cold disagreeable day, no sensation whatever. Nobody had a laugh, none a fuss, and the musical fountains were all frozen. So we sat the day out like a Quaker meeting. Friday some ladies came in. I don’t know who they were, or on what errand of mercy they descended, but as we saw them enter and heard the low music of their gentle voices, we felt like that Peri, who,

“At the gate

Of Eden stood, disconsolate:

And as she listened to the springs

Of life within, like music flowing,

And caught the light upon her wings

Through the half open portal glowing,

She wept, &c.”

Saturday some of the occupants of Myrtle street prison, were turned over to the tender care and keeping of the Gratiot authorities. Among the number was a son of Judge Soward, of Canton, Mo., who was assigned to our mess. On that day we scrubbed and whitewashed our quarters. To-day we are very nice and comfortable, enjoying the fruit of yesterday’s industry, so we concluded we would celebrate the occasion by having a good dinner, and got one of the sergeants to take a bucket and go out and hail a milk man:

“What’s wanted?” asked the vender of food for babes.

“A bucket of milk for the prisoners,” was the reply.

Gathering up his lines, and giving his horses a crack, he started off, saying:

“I never have, and never will, sell anything to rebels.”

The good natured sergeant had no other alternative but to return with his empty bucket, and thus faded the bright anticipations which clustered around the good dinner “that might have been.” More prisoners arrived to-day.

APRIL 26, 1864.—On Monday we were fully compensated for the failure of our negotiation with the milk man by Miss Laura Elder’s sending us an abundant lot of delicious cake, which we relished as none but prisoners know how. Tuesday a scrap of gossip from Rock Island was handed round; it seems that one of their prisoners, a portly young fellow in Confederate grey, was lately delivered of a fine boy—a new recruit for Uncle Jeff, of course.

Wednesday had a letter from home saying that Gen. Rosecrans had power to release all sentenced prisoners, and as I am in that category hopes are entertained of a favorable action in my case. The monotony of Thursday was broken by Lieut. Sebring’s receiving from Miss Lucy Glasscock, of Ralls county, Mo., a choice variety of most tempting edibles. Ab. C. Grimes was also remembered from the same source. The regiment which has been guarding us was removed on Friday and sent South, some cavalry from Michigan taking their place. We were sorry to witness the change, for the officers of the old regiment were gentlemen, and we had some excellent friends among the men. While they were strict in enforcing orders, they harrassed the prisoners with no petty personal malice or contemptible exhibition of ephemeral power. The new authorities are yet to be tried, they appear to have seen service, which is an argument in their favor. We will forbear comment, and watch the course of events. Yesterday it rained hard all day, continuing through the night, and the clouds are not taken in today. Some ladies however, ventured through the damp to church; wonder if they will hear any prayers offered up for the “prisoners in our midst.” One thing, they’ll hear sure, is the President prayed for. An old Baptist preacher at Hannibal, named Cleavland, had a cannon drawn on him to make him pray for Old Abe, but that was early in the war and I guess they are all whipped into the traces by this time. Abraham ought to be a blessed and fortunate individual, when so many prayers are forced to “spurt out” at the point of the bayonet for him. Our room has become much crowded again, which interferes materially with any effort at comfort, we have hardly room to lie down on the floor, and when all are up stirring about it is impossible to read or write with any pleasure; every one following the bent of his peculiar humor converts the place at times into a perfect Bedlam. I manage to write a few letters, and jot a few lines now and then in my journal, but it is toiling against wind and tide.


The Execution of Barry Gibbons

True Tales of the Tenth Kansas Infantry

The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

The Execution of Barney Gibbons

by Howard Mann

Richard C. Day, former sergeant in the 7th U. S. Regular Infantry, was posted as a civilian in the Quartermasters Department in Saint Louis, Missouri. On an early morning in June 1864, Day went down to get breakfast at the Military Boarding House on Broadway, when he noticed a man standing outside. As he passed the man he noticed him turn pale and something about his stance brought back an old memory. Recognition passed across Day’s face as he realized that the man was Barney Gibbons, a former comrade-in-arms. Anger clouded Day’s painful memory and he clapped his hands on the stunned Barney Gibbon’s shoulder, stating that Gibbons was under arrest and his prisoner. Gibbons did not resist.[1]

The story unfolded at Barney Gibbon’s court-martial on July 13, 1864 in Colonel William Meyers office. Barney Gibbons was accused as follows:

Specifications: In this, that he, Barney Gibbons, a private of Company A, Seventh Regiment United States Infantry, duly enlisted in the service of the United States on or about the 27th day of July, A. D. 1861, at or near San Augustine Springs in the Territory of New Mexico, did absent himself from and desert said service and go over to and join with rebel forces in arms against the government of the United States.

C. Lowell

Asst. Adjt. Genl.

Witness: Richard C. Day in Col. Wm Meyers Office


Major General William C. Rosecrans ordered the convening court martial board to consist of Colonel William A. Barstow, 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry, Lieutenant Colonel C. W. Marsh, A.A.G., Missouri State Militia, Lieutenant Colonel T. H. Dodd, 2nd Colorado Cavalry, Lieutenant Colonel D. J. Hynes, 17th Illinois Cavalry, Major P. E. Fisher, 17th Illinois Cavalry, Captain Alexander McLean, 7th Enrolled Missouri Militia, Captain W. S. Johnson, 1st Arkansas Cavalry, and First Lieutenant Clifford Thomas, 1st New York Cavalry as the Judge Advocate of the Court.[2]

Sergeant Day was the principle and only witness. Day and Gibbons were both members of Company A, 7th Regiment U.S. Infantry. Barney Gibbons was born in Hamilton, Madison County, New York in 1836. His father died when he was nine years old and his mother, when he was thirteen. On December 1, 1858 he joined the United States Army at Toledo, Ohio for a period of five years. Gibbons listed his profession as a teamster. He had grey eyes, dark brown hair, and fair complexion and stood five feet, five and one-half inches tall. Barney swore an oath to “bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whomsoever…”[3]

According to Sergeant Day, Barney joined the 7th Regiment at Camp Floyd, Utah Territory with a batch of recruits from Newport, Kentucky. When the hostilities broke out Company A, 7th Regiment found itself isolated at San Augustine Springs, New Mexico Territory. The commanding officer, Major Lynde, decided to move the command to the safety of Fort Fillmore. Day testified:

We were on the march from San Augustine to Fort Fillmore, Major Lynde had command of a part of our regiment. We had evacuated Fort Fillmore. He marched us across, and we had no water. There were about 300 men laying back on the road for water. I was in the rear guard, and this man fell to the rear. I supposed for the same purpose as the others. I didn’t see anything of him from about 4 o’clock in the morning of the 27th of July. He fell to the rear as we thought for water together with quite a number of the regiment. I got into San Antonio with 12 men of my company with a Lieut. and there formed in line of battle, and were surrendered by Major Lynde. We were then marched from San Antonio to Los Cruces, and were then paroled. We laid in camp there about 3 days. During the 3 days, I had been sent up to Fillmore for a drum and different things of the command that we were told we could have, and while there I met this man, and the day before we marched he rode down into camp on one of the horses that had been turned over by the mounted riflemen. I didn’t see him again until the night before we marched when I saw him riding out on a black horse, with the rebels when it was expected that Capt. Chaplin could come up with 3 companies of our regiment. I haven’t seen him since until I met him up on Broadway.[4]

The hapless Barney Gibbons made a statement to the Court defending his pleas of innocent:

All I have got to say is the charges against me is false. I never belonged to the United States Infantry, but there was a man, my brother, who went by the name of Barney Gibbons, that did and he belonged to that company. I was in Texas at the time, and was in a light battery. My brother pretended to say that he was not treated well and left them and joined us. He resembled me very much and I suppose this man arrested me under that name for this reason. My name is Benjamin Gray. I never assumed the name of Barney Gibbons. My brother did. He joined under that name. He got into trouble and assumed that name to get out of it. I have a cut on my lip and so has he. I was born in Pennsylvania. I came up to Fillmore in Col. John Baylor’s command. I never was in the service of the United States. The company, rebel company, that I belonged to was broken up and I was assigned to a gun boat, the Sachem, but I was dissatisfied and the first opportunity I left them. I never saw this man before that. I know of I might have seen him at the time he stated, but I don’t recollect it. I was in the rebel service at the time this company of the 7th U.S. Infantry surrendered. I was in a battery when the regiment was taken.[5]

Richard Day was challenged about his identification of Gibbons. Day refuted the possibility of a mistaken identity.

He has a cut upon his lip, and a peculiar manner of walking. Capt. Jones of our company was always at him because he never could walk like a soldier, he would throw his head forward and his arms to the rear. He always walked with his hands open and fingers apart even when he had gloves on.[6]

Even when Day was recalled he denied ever hearing of a brother of Gibbons and further explained the mysterious cut.

Q. Did he ever explain how he got that cut on his lip?

A. I think I heard some of the men say he got it from a kick of a horse. We used to call it a hare lip.[7]

Day’s memory seemed to stay sharp for one reason. He put it succinctly.

Q. You have no enmity towards him?

A. None at all except that he deserted us. Was among the few that disgraced us.[8]

The court deliberated and found Barney Gibbons guilty of desertion. The sentence was equally as terse.

And the Court does therefore sentence him, the said Barney Gibbons, a private of Co. A, Seventh United States Infantry, to be shot to death with musketry, at such time and place as the commanding General may designate. Two-thirds of the members of the Court concurring in the above sentence.

July 14, 1864[9]

The date was set for August 13th. A unique aspect of Barney Gibbon’s execution was it was the first military execution of a Union soldier to take place in St. Louis. The military establishment wanted to make a spectacle of it and to impress the Union soldiers with the seriousness of deserting over to the enemy.

Major R. D. Nash, Superintendent of Military Prisons and Colonel Baker, Post Commandant, arranged the details.

The troops, to the number of seven or eight hundred, on arriving at the place of execution (Fort No. 4) formed a hollow square on the west side of the fort, with an open face on the east. A squad of sixty men of the 10th Kansas, commanded by Lieutenant Wood, conducted the prisoner from Myrtle street prison to the place of execution. The prisoner was conveyed in a black covered wagon, belonging to Mr. Smithers, the undertaker, sitting on his coffin by the side of the officiating priest, Rev. Father Santois, of the St. Louis University, who had visited him in the prison and baptized him in the Roman Catholic church on Wednesday last. Gibbins had never received the benefit of a religious education, having been left an orphan at an early age; and it was through the teachings of Father Santois in prison that he was induced to embrace the doctrines of Christianity.

The preparations being completed, the priest and the prisoner got out of the wagon and knelt on the ground, in front of the post which had been placed in the ground on the west side of the fort, and for a few moments engaged in prayer. Rising up, the doomed man stepped forward to the post to which he was to be tied, and to which a seat was attached. The coffin was placed on the ground close by, and the attendants brought forward the rope and white cap. Fifteen feet from the post were six soldiers of the 10th Kansas, and just behind them four more of the same regiment. These were the executioners. The guns of the first six were all loaded with ball and cartridge, except one, so that neither of them could say with certainty that he had caused the prisoner’s death, as it was not known which one carried the gun loaded with blank cartridge.

The prisoner now stood up, facing the executioners. He appeared calm and unmoved, as though determined to meet his doom with manly courage. He was a young man 28 years of age, about five feet nine inches in height, with sandy whiskers, brown hair, and dark blue eye; compactly built, with broad shoulders and full chest and regular features. He was in his shirt sleeves, with his pantaloons turned up at the bottom, and wore coarse heavy boots.

Seeing the attendants handling the rope, he said, “I prefer not to be tied.” He then sat on the seat against the post and waving his hands, said, “Farewell! farewell!”

Major Nash came forward and read the findings and sentence of the court-martial, after which he asked the prisoner if he had anything to say. Gibbins replied in a calm, firm voice: “I have; but I wish to ask if the President of the United States signed that?”

Major Nash replied, “Yes.” and Gibbins proceeded. He said he did not deny that he had deserted; but that he did not desert with the intention of joining the enemy. His company had marched from Arizona to New Mexico, and having traveled all night, he was exhausted and worn out, and fell out of the ranks, and laid down on the ground and went to sleep. While asleep, the rebels under Sibley came upon him and captured him. He was deceived by them and induced to join their ranks. He then gave an account of his escape from the rebel ship, Sachem, at Sabine Pass, and finding his way on board the Federal blockading steamer, Princess Royal. He said, “I think it the most unjust sentence ever passed upon man. I am sentenced to be shot, and I suppose by that escort,” (looking at the executioners.) Seeing some reporters present, he said, “My friends, I do not want that put in the papers; my name has gone far enough. I have no parents, they having died when I was very young, but I have brothers and sisters and I do not want them to know it.” He paused a moment and said, “If there is a man named Richard C. Day present, I would like to see him – Richard C. Day, who was a sergeant in my company.” He waited for Day to appear but Major Nash told him he was not present. Day is the witness upon whose testimony Gibbins was convicted. He said he died in the Catholic faith and thanked Father Santois for his kindness.

The prisoner having concluded, Father Santois shook him by the hand and said, “You are a soldier, and now you must die like a soldier and a Christian.”

Gibbins then took a seat on the chair of death and the white cap was drawn over his head. While this was being done he said, “I would rather not be bound; I think I can stand it without.”

After the cap was drawn down over his head, he said, “I have a word more to say;” but no notice being taken of his request, he waved his hand as if satisfied, and his arms were pinioned to the post. Lieutenant Wood then gave the order – “Ready – aim – fire!”

And simultaneously six rifles were discharged, four balls entering the body of the victim near the region of the stomach, and one striking the bank of earth behind him.

The stout frame of the prisoner quivered slightly, and he cried out in anguish – “Oh! – too low!”

Lieutenant Wood immediately ordered the reserves to fire, and their aim being more accurate, the deserter’s frame relaxed, his head dropped on his shoulder, his bosom heaved convulsively, and in a few moments life was extinct.

His arms were unbound; he was laid on the ground on his back, and Surgeons Dudley and Youngblood, of the army, examined the body and declared that life was extinct. Six or seven balls had entered his body, one entering the aorta, two or three the stomach and bowels, one the right lung, and one or two the breast.

The cap was then removed from his face, the body placed in the coffin with the hands crossed and while the band played a solemn dirge for the dead, the whole column passed slowly by, each soldier casting a sorrowful look upon the lifeless face of the man whose crime had been so fearfully expiated.

The conduct of the soldiers was highly commendable. Not a man offered an insult to the lifeless form in the coffin, but all looked sadly upon him, and each one felt that, whatever may have been the young man’s guilt, he had at least died like a brave man. Never, perhaps, has death been faced with so calm and fearless a mien as by that erring, guilty man, who had no friend but the good priest to speak a word of comfort to him in his last hour upon earth.

After the procession had passed, the body was taken possession of by Mr. Smithers, the lid of the coffin screwed down, and the remains of Barney Gibbins were interred in the cemetery at Jefferson Barracks.

Besides the troops but few spectators witnessed the execution, for the reason that very few persons knew where it was to take place. [10]

The day before his execution, Barney Gibbons provided a little more detail on his errant behavior. He admitted deserting with eighteen other soldiers of the 7th U.S. Infantry as Richard C. Day testified. He also admitted fighting in the battles of Valverde, Apache Canyon, Johnson’s Ranch and Albuquerque. While in Texas his artillery unit was transferred to the Confederate ship, Sachem. He did not like the duty and escaped on the captain’s gig to the blockading Union ship, Princess Royal. He disembarked at New Orleans and drove a Quartermaster’s wagon until May 1864 when he came to St. Louis. He joined the workers on the Pacific Railroad and cut ties near Knob Noster and Warrensburg, Missouri and again, returned to St. Louis in June 1864. He secured a position with the Quartermaster’s department until he was accosted by Richard C. Day.[11]

Barney Gibbons was in the wrong place, at the wrong time.


[1]File No. LL 2210, Barney Gibbons, Proceedings of a General Court Martial Held at St. Louis, Mo. July 13, 1864, National Archives and Records Administration Microfilm M1523, Proceedings of U. S. Army Courts-Martial and Military Commissions of Union Soldiers Executed by U.S. Military Authorities, 1861-1866.

[2]Ibid.

[3]Military Records, Barney Gibbons, National Archives and Records Administration.

[4]Barney Gibbons, Proceedings.

[5]Ibid.

[6]Ibid.

[7]Ibid.

[8]Ibid.

[9]Ibid.

[10]St. Louis Democrat, August 13, 1864, “Military Execution”.

[11]Ibid.