Happy Holidays in Civil War St Louis

“Happy” Holidays in Civil War St. Louis

by D. H. Rule

If it hasn’t been terribly clear from the other pages on this website so far, your webmasters–Deb & Geo Rule–are extremely fond of the strange, and sometimes bitter, historical ironies that are threaded throughout the history of the Civil War in St. Louis, such as the fervent abolitionists who joined the Confederacy, and the powerful Unionists who were adamant slaveowners, and so on.

Here, then, are accounts of Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays in a city at war reflecting that sense of irony… May your own holidays be happier!

Thanksgiving, 1861:On Thanksgiving Day of 1861, a secession family, living next door to me, determined to cheer some of their disloyal friends shut up in the Gratiot Street prison, by setting before them an abundant and delicious dinner. Their neighbors of like political views threw themselves with ardor into the scheme. Early in the day baskets full of appetizing food were brought from every direction, until these parcels, piled one upon another, quite covered the floor of their front hall. Then a covered wagon appeared at the door. Into it all these tempting viands were hastily packed and harried to the military prison. Those in charge of them asked the officer of the day, if they could give the prisoners a Thanksgiving dinner. He assured them that it would give him great pleasure to receive the food that had been so thoughtfully and kindly provided, but since it was contrary to orders to allow any outsiders to enter the prison, he would himself distribute the contents of the baskets and be careful that the most needy should not be overlooked. Two Iowa regiments that had just arrived had been sent down to Gratiot Street to do guard duty. They were weary, cold and hungry. The officer who had received the food, sent by devoted secession women, deeming these newly arrived soldiers to be the most needy, gave to them the roast turkey, fried chicken, mince pies, cranberry sauce, roast pig and apple sauce, and kept the disloyal within the prison walls on wholesome, but coarser, diet. While that commanding officer told no explicit lie, the ethics of his act will hardly bear very close inspection. He may have justified his deception by the fact that we were in a state of war, and have erroneously thought that war excuses “a multitude of sins.”

from “The Story of a Border City During the Civil War,” by Galusha Anderson1908

(available on Missouri Civil War Reader Vol. 1)

Christmas 1861:

DECEMBER, 25, 1861.—To-day is what we used to call Christmas at home, sweet home, where my wife and baby are. “Do they miss me at home, do they miss me?” God bless them and give them “Merry Christmas.” They little imagine how we pass our holiday Christmas!

Capt. Griffin Frost

Christmas 1863:

Another week of prison life, has dragged its long length slowly by, taking a joyous Christmas in its train. Tuesday was a day of perfect stagnation. The Feds thought of no new method of cmelty, and we submitted to all the plans in operation. Old Gratiot was like a ship becalmed in Southern seas. Wednesday a little breeze sprung up on the admission of a citizen prisoner, a Mr. O’Neal, from Herman, Gasconade county, arrested for speaking disloyally. He seems somewhat uneasy, and well he may if there is any prospect of his being shipped east. We see in an old copy of the Columbus Crisis, which an underground accident threw in our way, that political prisoners at Camp Chase fare even worse than prisoners of war do here. The following is the article in full, which we copy for future reference—it bears date December 24, 1862.

“We speak wholly of the political prison, of the State, as we know nothing whatever of what occurs in the prison where “rebels taken in arms” are kept—that is, “the prisoner of war.”…

Friday was Christmas day—I cannot speak for those jamming and crowding around in their rags in the lower quarters, nor for those in the lock-ups whose heavy balls and chains are eating into their ankles, while the still more deadly iron of despair is cankering in their souls, their Christmas enjoyments are best known to themselves, but as a specimen from our quarters, decidedly the best in Gratiot, I will chronicle the events of my holiday operations, commencing at six o’clock in the morning, when I arose and answered to roll call, then breakfast—pickled pork, bread and coffee; went out in the hall and peeped from the window awhile, then went back to our room and warmed, from thence to the window again—in and warmed, and out again; this time saw some Feds starting off; also saw several lady friends; went in again and watched the boys play cards, which is the only amusement they have; got tired of that and returned to the window; stood there and wished for the privilege of being out where I could enjoy myself with my friends, but wishing was all I could do, so I yawned and sighed and went into the pickled pork dinner. Frank Noel declared he would not insult his stomach with the cod livery stuff, and so confined himself to a limited supply of baker’s bread and coffee. Frank has not been here long—he will come to it yet—he ought to sojourn in the lower quarters, if he wants the kinks taken out of his stomach, there is not much turning up of noses down there I guess, no matter what is set before them. After dinner a fellow prisoner sent me a pear, I don’t know how he obtained it, but I regarded it as a most acceptable Christmas gift, appreciating it for its own intrinsic sweetness, as well as the generous refinement which actuated the donor. Fine fruits are not so plentiful in Gratiot as to be given away without self sacrifice. We did not tarry unusually long at the festal board, but sought the more inviting precincts of the hall window; saw some ladies pass—did not “throw kisses or wave my handkerchief,” but I thought “as long as I have the spirit of a man I will peep.” I won’t say the ladies didn’t peep some too. They looked at our gloomy walls as though they would like to have Aladdin’s Lamp, and make the Genii spirit us off, prison and all, into some far country where they could have opened our doors, and feasted us in the most royal manner, but their wishes were no more effectual than mine. I gazed for awhile longer at the paving stones, imagined they had a hard hearted appearance, lying there watching us; went back to my room, picked up the romance of “Zaidee,” read an hour or two, and—went back to the window for a last look, stood some ten or fifteen minutes, saw nothing of interest and left; went to the lamp room, brought up our lamp, pulled out the table, and played cards till time to go to bed, and thus ended Christmas day 1863, in the officer’s quarters, Gratiot street Military Prison, St. Louis, Mo. Not much after the style in vogue in the palmy days of old Dr. McDowell and his Medical College. Wonder how that gentleman would feel to walk around his premises and take a view of the students now gathered in the institution together with the faculty presiding over the establishment. His remarks on such an occasion would be rich beyond a doubt. More than one Yank would burn beneath the touch of his caustic wit.—Christmas day passed off dull enough, and we stole to our beds as quietly as chained dogs to their kennels. Slept till midnight, when a militia horse thief from the lower quarters, came running up and informed the prison officers that the lock-up prisoners were about to make their escape. Of course the whole gang were out in a minute, they went down and discovered that a hole had been cut through the floor of Clifford’s and Carlin’s room, through which they proposed to let themselves down by blankets, when they would be joined by a lot from the lower quarters, and all make a rush on the guards and as many escape as possible. It would have been a perfect success if it had not been for the coward who reported. The next day Clifford was thrown into a solitary dungeon, the darkest pit in the prison; and Carlin, Sebring and one other, were taken down into the yard, and hand-cuffed and chained to a post—after they had stood there for several hours, a second squad was brought down and chained to another post, where they could be seen from a Southern residence across the street. They were kept there until late at night, although the weather was extremely cold; they stamped, shouted, and sung to keep from freezing; we could hear them after we went to bed, thumping the pavement, and singing “Hard times.” The same thing was repeated yesterday and to-day, except Carlin had a post to himself, and the weather much colder; we find it difficult to keep comfortable by the fire, and yet we hear “Hard times come again no more” pealing out on the frozen air. They unchain them and take them in to eat their meals. While passing near the kitchen one of them struck an old fellow over the head and “made the blood flow” pretty freely, it was the father of the horse thief who reported on them, and said to be the cause of his son’s doing so. Desperate measures will cook desperation. I guess they would have killed the old sinner if they could. While they are chained at the post, old Masterson goes out and stands and scolds as long as he can endure the cold, then he comes in and takes an easy chair, smacks his lips, and admires his own bravery; chuckling over the big things he said to them. Had another letter from John, and one from home, the latter reads:

“I have a bid to a Christmas dinner, but do not expect to go, for I could not enjoy myself and you in prison. All the pleasure I expect to see is when Annie gets her doll, which I have been dressing to-day. Dear little creature, she is more company for me than all the rest. She talks a great deal about “Old Kris,” and what she expects him to bring her. I would like to send you a turkey, but know it would be useless.”

Capt. Griffin Frost, 1863

Gratiot
Christmas 1863:About two P.M.. on Christmas eve, 1863, as I was going down an outside stairway to get water from the hydrant, a prisoner (whom I knew) was standing at a window that opened on the stairway. He handed me a note which said: ‘Ten of its have procured an ax and some other useful tools and Dave planned to break out tonight; if your men in Room No. 3 can manage to get down in lower room by ten o’clock we will have our plans in operation and you can join us.’ I read the note to the boys in my room, No. 3, and we decided we would join them; it would be a little relief from the monotony and give us some exercise whether we succeeded in escaping or not.

Our large coal heating stove stood in one corner of our three-cornered room. The weather was quite warm but we built up a good fire in order to heat the two pokers we had red-hot. With these I burned a succession of holes in a circle, in this way removing a round block from the floor about fourteen inches in diameter. This hole was complete by ten o’clock. We then looked down into the lower room–where there were more than fifty prisoners–and right under the hole stood four guards waiting for us. They said: ‘Hello, boys, how are you?’ Come on down–we will help you !’ ‘Well, I guess not, we will put our trip off until later.’ After guying each other a while we stuck the block back in the hole and in a jolly manner discussed the episode. While I was burning the holes in the floor my six room-mates pulled our long pine table in a position that hid me from the guard who paced the hall past our grated window. The boys made all the noise they could with a game of cards. There was no investigation made of us or our room that night; not a word said by the officials. Next morning as soon as we had breakfast and cleaned up our room Sergt. Mike Welch said: ‘Gentlemen I have a little treat in store for you so get your hats and come with me.’ He took us down to the yard and to the porch of the old McDowell dwelling house and handcuffed three and three of us around the two posts. As Sam Clifford was the seventh man and there was no room at the posts for him he was placed in a dungeon at the south end of the house.

Next day the stunt was rehearsed; by the third morning a proposition was produced by old Mike that all who would promise not to try to escape would be permitted to remain in our room. Four of the boys gave the required promise. Sebring, Clifford and myself refused to accept any such terms and so we were reinstated. Clifford was put into the dungeon, Sebring and myself handcuffed around the post daily and we enjoyed the company and the hospitality of the Confederate officers.

Maj. Absalom Grimes, memoirs, 1911

Christmas 1861:The Medical College and the Collegians,–Active preparations are being made for the accommodation of the prisoners confined in McDowell’s College. The institution is in charge of Lient. Batterworth, and under his supervision cooking ranges and sleeping bunks are being constructed, and everything will soon be properly systemized. Until then, it will be impossible to obtain the names of the prisoners. The officers will be assigned separate apartments from the men. The building is capable of accommodating two thousand men. The room which was formerly used dissecting purposes is used as a dining room”

St. Louis Democrat, Dec. 27, 1861

Christmas 1861:Office of the Provost-Marshal General

of the Department of the Missouri

St. Louis, Mo., Dec. 20, 1861

You are herby notified that, pursuant to General Orders No. 23, from the headquarters of the Department of the Missouri, directing a levy upon the friends of the enemy for charitable purposes, you have been assessed the sum of ___ hundred dollars as your contribution in aid of the suffering families driven by the rebels from Southwestern Missouri.

You will, therefore, pay the amount so assessed, or its equivalent in clothing, provisions, or quarters, to me within five days after the service of this notice upon you, or, in default thereof, execution will be issued against your property for sufficient to satisfy the assessments, costs, and twenty-five percent penalty in addition. Should you elect to pay your assessment in clothing, provisions, or quarters, you will give notice of such intention to this office, accompanying the same with an inventory and description of the articles, or of the situation and value of the quarters tendered, which will be accepted the same with an inventory and description of the articles, or of the situation and value of the quarters tendered, which will be accepted, subject to an appraisement of the same by me.

Bernard G. Farrar, Provost-Marshal-General

(affidavits of loyalty were due to be filed on or before December 26, 1861)


Throughout December they poured in on the afflicted city, already overtaxed. All the way to Springfield the road was lined with remains of articles once dear —a child’s doll, a little rocking chair, a colored print that had hung in the best room, a Bible text.

Anne Brinsmade, driven by Nicodemus, went from house to house to solicit old clothes, and take them to the crowded place of detention. Christmas was drawing near —a sorry Christmas, in truth. And many of the wanderers were unclothed and unfed.

More battles had been fought; factions had arisen among Union men. Another general had come to St. Louis to take charge of the Department, and the other with his wondrous body guard was gone.

The most serious problem confronting the new general was —how to care for the refugees. A council of citizens was called at headquarters, and the verdict went forth in the never to be forgotten Orders No. 24. “Inasmuch,” said the General, “as the Secession army had driven these people from their homes, Secession sympathizers should be made to support them.” He added that the city was unquestionably full of these. Indignation was rife the day that order was published. Sixty prominent “disloyalists” were to be chosen and assessed to make up a sum of ten thousand dollars.

“They may sell my house over my head before I will pay a cent,” cried Mr. Russell. And he meant it. This was the way the others felt. Who were to be on this mysterious list of “Sixty”? That was the all absorbing question of the town. It was an easy matter to pick the conspicuous ones. Colonel Carvel was sure to be there, and Mr. Catherwood and Mr. Russell and Mr. James, and Mr. Worington the lawyer. Mrs. Addison Colfax lived for days in a fermented state of excitement which she declared would break her down; and which, despite her many cares and worries, gave her niece not a little amusement. For Virginia was human, and one morning she went to her aunt’s room to read this editorial from the newspaper:

“For the relief of many palpitating hearts it may be well to state that we understand only two ladies are on the ten thousand dollar list.”

“Jinny,” she cried, “how can you be so cruel as to read me that, when you know that I am in a state of frenzy now? How does that relieve me? It makes it an absolute certainty that Madame Jules and I will have to pay. We are the only women of importance in the city.” That afternoon she made good her much uttered threat, and drove to Bellegarde. Only the Colonel and Virginia and Mammy Easter and Ned were left in the big house. Rosetta and Uncle Ben and Jackson had been hired out, and the horses sold —all save old Dick, who was running, long haired, in the fields at Glencoe.

Christmas eve was a steel gray day, and the sleet froze as it fell. Since morning Colonel Carvel had sat poking the sitting room fire, or pacing the floor restlessly. His occupation was gone. He was observed night and day by Federal detectives. Virginia strove to arouse him, to conceal her anxiety as she watched him. Well she knew that but for her he would long since have fled southward, and often in the bitterness of the night time she blamed herself for not telling him to go. Ten years had seemed to pass over him since the war had begun.

All day long she had been striving to put away from her the memory of Christmas eves past and gone; of her father’s early home coming from the store, a mysterious smile on his face; of Captain Lige stamping noisily into the house, exchanging uproarious jests with Ned and Jackson. The Captain had always carried under his arm a shapeless bundle which he would confide to Ned with a knowing wink. And then the house would be lighted from top to bottom, and Mr. Russell and Mr. Catherwood and Mr. Brinsmade came in for a long evening with Mr. Carvel over great bowls of apple toddy and eggnog. And Virginia would have her own friends in the big parlor. That parlor was shut up now, and icy cold.

Then there was Judge Whipple, the joyous event of whose year was his Christmas dinner at Colonel Carvel’s house. Virginia pictured him this year at Mrs. Brice’s little table, and wondered whether he would miss them as much as they missed him. War may break friendships, but it cannot take away the sacredness of memories.

The somber daylight was drawing to an early close as the two stood looking out of the sitting room window. A man’s figure muffled in a greatcoat slanting carefully across the street caught their eyes. Virginia started. It was the same United States deputy marshal she had seen the day before at Mr. Russell’s house.

“Pa,” she cried, “do you think he is coming here?”

“I reckon so, honey.”

“The brute! Are you going to pay?”

“No, Jinny.”

“Then they will take away the furniture.”

“I reckon they will.”

“Pa, you must promise me to take down the mahogany bed in your room. It —it was mother’s. I could not bear to see them take that. Let me put it in the garret.”

The Colonel was distressed, but he spoke without a tremor.

“No, Jinny. We must leave this house just as it is.” Then he added, strangely enough for him, “God’s will be done.”

The bell rang sharply. And Ned, who was cook and housemaid, came in with his apron on.

“Does you want to see folks, Marse Comyn?”

The Colonel rose, and went to the door himself. He was an imposing figure as he stood in the windy vestibule, confronting the deputy. Virginia’s first impulse was to shrink under the stairs. Then she came out and stood beside her father.

“Are you Colonel Carvel?”

“I reckon I am. Will you come in?”

The officer took off his cap. He was a young man with a smooth face, and a frank brown eye which paid its tribute to Virginia. He did not appear to relish the duty thrust upon him. He fumbled in his coat and drew from his inner pocket a paper.

“Colonel Carvel,” said he, “by order of Major General Halleck, I serve you with this notice to pay the sum of three hundred and fifty dollars for the benefit of the destitute families which the Rebels have driven from their homes. In default of payment within a reasonable time such personal articles will be seized and sold at public auction as will satisfy the demand against you.”

The Colonel took the paper. “Very well, sir,” he said. “You may tell the General that the articles may be seized. That I will not, while in my right mind, be forced to support persons who have no claim upon me.”

It was said in the tone in which he might have refused an invitation to dinner. The deputy marveled. He had gone into many houses that week; had seen indignation, hysterics, frenzy. He had even heard men and women whose sons and brothers were in the army of secession proclaim their loyalty to the Union. But this dignity, and the quiet scorn of the girl who had stood silent beside them, were new. He bowed, and casting his eyes to the vestibule, was glad to escape from the house.

The Colonel shut the door. Then he turned toward Virginia, thoughtfully pulled his goatee, and laughed gently.

“Lordy, we haven’t got three hundred and fifty dollars to our names,” said he.

fictional account from “The Crisis,” by Winston Churchill, 1901

(available on Missouri Civil War Reader Vol. 1)

Prison Journal – Dec 1863 – Jan 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.

Buy a reprint of Frost’s full book from:

Available from Camp Pope Bookshop

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

and check their other Missouri-related publications


December 1863 – January 1864

Dec. 3, 1863.—Judge Sowards of Canton, has been released, but I have not heard on what terms, of course he had to accept such as were offered, whether they were dictated in the spirit of justice, humanity, or spite. He was an agreeable and gentlemanly fellow prisoner, and we would mourn his exit, but we know that our loss is his gain; so with resignation we pronounce, “may the bunk which has known him here, know him no more forever,” and so mote it be, with some of the rest of us. I trust we are fully prepared for such a change.

A Federal revenue officer has been put in with us, for stealing. Such arrangements are very distasteful to our circle, as almost the only privilege we try to exercise is that of being select in our associations; and it is exceedingly offensive to have to come in contact with plebeanism of this style. We consider it quite a sufficient condescension to have intercourse with the better class of that party without having their thieves thrust in among us.

It’s interesting that for all his admiration of those who escaped and attempted to do so, Frost, himself, apparently never considered escaping.

Prison life is dull and disagreeable at the best, with all our efforts to keep a stiff upper lip, and looking at the bright side, we will have heavy gloomy days. Maj. Brasher has received a lot of novels and magazines, with which we while away some of the tedious hours, and the revenue officer, after all, affords us quite a fund of amusement. He is almost frantic over his imprisonment; thinks he will go crazy if it lasts long. One of the boys remarked he wouldn’t have far to go. Letters drop in occasionally advising me to “take the oath.” My sister at Cairo speaks to day. I would like to say, once for all, and once to all, that first; I don’t know that I would be permitted to take the oath, as I was captured this time under peculiar circumstances, and, second, I have no wish to leave prison in that way, if I can escape by a more honorable route. I shall await the result of my trial; if I am booked a prisoner for the war, without hope of exchange, I will begin to consider what is best to be done. Meantime I am truly thankful for the interest manifested by my friends, and grateful for their efforts in my behalf. Brasher, the noisy fellow, is trying to fill our cage with the melody of his song he is rattling off.

“We met, ’twas in a crowd, I thought he would shun me,

He came, I could not breathe, for his eyes were upon me,

He spoke, his words were cold, and his smiles were unaltered,

But I knew how much he felt, for his deep toned voice faltered.

I wore my bridal robe; I rivaled its whiteness,

Bright gems were in my hair, how I hated their brightness;

He called me by my name, as the bride of another,

Oh thou hast been the cause of this anguish my mother.”

We receive a free lecture every now and then from Capt. Masterson, and it is amusing indeed to hear him; talks as though he was lord and master of all he surveyed. He has such a beautiful way of delivering his remarks; always comes up with one eye closed and a grin on his face, and commences: “Now boys, didn’t I tell yees so, and so, and why in the divil don’t yees mind me.” After lecturing us some five or ten minutes, he starts off grumbling, saying “its no use talking to rebels—they are a hard set.” We think so too.

MONDAY, Dec, 7, 1863.—I was notified on Saturday last, to be ready for trial to-day. The following is the General Order, which they say I have violated:

HEAD QUARTERS, DEPT. OF THE MISSOURI.}

ST. LOUIS, Aug. 25, 1863.}

General Order, No. 86.

Large numbers of men are leaving the broken rebel armies in the Mississippi valley, and returning to Missouri—many of them doubtless, with the purpose of following a career of plunder and murder, under the form of guerrilla warfare while others would gladly return to their homes as peaceful citizens, if permitted to do so, and protected from violence. It is the desire of the commanding General, that all those who voluntarily abandon the rebel cause, and desire to return to their allegiance to the United States, shall be permitted to do so under such restrictions as the public peace shall require. All such persons may surrender themselves and their arms at the nearest military post and will be released upon taking the oath and giving bond, &c.

The above order is one of Halleck’s, and as I failed to comply with the terms offered, it is presumed that I had other intentions. I made no remark, but this morning obeyed the summons which called me before the Military Commission. That learned and august body soon disposed of my case to suit themselves, but have not, as yet, vouchsafed a knowledge of their conclusion to the humble object of their sage deliberations. I would like to know, but prisoners learn patience. After the trial was over, I asked for a guard and permission to go shopping, which being granted, I started out, went first to a picture gallery and got a glass for my little daughter’s picture, then went to a furnishing store for some toweling. While making my purchase, the merchant asked me what regiment I belonged to? I told him I belonged to Gen. Parson’s command, of the Confederate army, which seemed to surprise him. Six or eight ladies being present, one of them asked me if I wanted to go back South? I answered in the affirmative. She enquired if I did not think I ought to reform? I replied that when convinced I had done wrong, I should probably think of reformation. “Are you not convinced now?” said she. I confessed that I had not received sufficient light to comprehend my error. She smiled good naturedly, and as I passed out I heard a couple of her companions who had remained silent, saying in a half whisper, “he’s all right,” “he’s O. K.” They were rebel ladies. On our way back to the Hotel de Gratiot I was pleasantly surprised by meeting in front of the Planter’s House, with Samuel Anderson, of Palmyra. I would have enjoyed a good talk with him, but was only allowed a few words, and had to pass on. Dinner was awaiting my arrival; after it was dispatched, we were informed that our friends, would in future, be deprived of the permission which has heretofore been occasionally granted them, of sending in clothing, provision, &c., to relieve our necessities. I made a few remarks in the way of remonstrance which excited the dander of a self important little official, who politely invited me up stairs and locked me in the room where the condemned criminals are kept. Two of them are sentenced to be shot. I managed to communicate with my old quarters through a hole in the partition, learned that quite a little gust of anger had sprung up in consequence of my remarks. How sore they are where the truth hits. The sergeant came up about nine and took me down for my bed clothes. I shouldered and brought them up. So here I am with my tent pitched in the wilderness of sin. One of my room mates is named Fornchell, a young married man, who was in prison with me at Springfield; he also has been exchanged and recaptured, and is now wearing a ball and chain, it is said he is sentenced to be shot, but he denies in toto the charges against him. While he was in Jefferson City he had some photographs taken with his ball and chain on; it is rather a sad looking picture for his young wife to contemplate.

MONDAY, Dec. 14, 1863.—They only kept me one night in the condemned cell, but it was a night of horrors. I could hear the rattling of chains, and the thumping of balls, every time the poor fellows would turn over on their pallets of straw. They seemed cheerful enough when awake, but the moaning and groaning in their sleep told a story which their manly spirits could not hide. I was forcibly brought to reflect on the contrast—McNeal murdered ten men in Palmyra, and was promoted; Combs murdered Lasley, Price and Ridgeway, a cold blooded butchery, and is a hero; Haith Jones of Frankfort, Pike county, Mo., was foully assassinated at night by the home guards, and is unavenged; twenty seven prisoners, a surgeon, Dr. Davis, among them, shot down like dogs at Kirksville was a valorous achievement, and so on, name after name, murder after murder, might be added, committed with every attendant circumstance of savage brutality, endorsed, applauded and rewarded by the same Pharisacal hands that are now stoning to death these poor chained starving wretches. Sinners they may be, probably are, and God help the hypocrite, who pretends to be otherwise. Still death to them and honor to guiltier hands, is a bitter perversion of God’s eternal law of justice. Thank Heaven there is a court of appeals where the Chief Justice can neither be blinded, bribed nor brow beaten. My friend Major Brasher, exerted all his ingenuity to divert my mind and scatter its gloomy reflections; saluting me through the “hole in the wall” with questions and comments; before retiring he gave me a parting volley—would have my opinion of my new “posish,” &c. I do not know that my answers were particularly amiable, however they were a happy reflection of my mood. In the morning I told the sergeant I wanted my clothes, if I had to stay there. He started off, but soon came back and ordered me to load up my bedding and march for the old quarters. I obeyed without a murmur. Don’t know that I shall attempt to reason with these fanatics again, they give me the worst of the argument. Capt. Burns interposed for my release or I might have been there yet. We are not a great deal better off here, as we are not allowed to see friends, receive packages, buy provisions, or anything else. Having no stamps, I waited on Capt. Masterson, made my politest bow, and humbly enquired if I could procure some, as I wished to send a letter to my wife. He answered me, “no, not a d—d thing?” I retired in disgust. Newspapers are also forbidden, and we have to do our own washing. If they come down on the lower quarters in the same proportion they have on us, I don’t see what’s left for them, as they have never had any surplus in the way of provisions or privileges. We are told that Masterson is the cause of all our troubles; if so, he certainly delights in human suffering. The other morning before I got up, he bolted into our room and turned to me in a sneering manner, saying:

“Well friend Frast, yeer plaasure will now end, you’ll not enjoy yeerself any more when the ladies pass, in thrawing kisses, and wavin’ yeer handkerchief. I shell put a stop to all sich sports.” And sure enough the comical old monster had the windows weather boarded. When he had it all fixed to his notion, he delivered himself of a lecture. Great guns! I wish some of the scolding old women could have heard him, I think it would have shamed them out of the business. I think he must have inherited the virago propensities from forty cracked voiced old grandmothers. How he did come down on “proper places,” “looking out of windows,” and “other things in general.” If he ever lets us buy anything again we must vote him a night cap with a big ruffled border, and a calico recticule, with smoking tobacco and cob pipe. If he was an opium eater, like many old grannies it would enhance our peace and quiet. He has had all the Federal prisoners removed from here to Myrtle, so he could let himself out on us. We jogged along under the thumb screws, giving him as wide a berth as possible and being very circumspect in our words and ways until Saturday night when the storm burst in its fury. About three o’clock in the morning, with great bustle and confusion we were waked and ordered out to answer roll call. Prisoners had escaped! Three or four officers—several from the lock-up, and a number from the lower quarters; fourteen in all.

Lt. Robert Lane LaValle of New Madrid, April 14, 1837-Feb. 2, 1902. He escaped from Alton June 28, 1864.

One man, Lieut. Lavalle was recaptured by the guards as he was in the act of climbing a fence. They were so enraged he thought they would shoot him after surrendering, but they brought him in and the officers plied him with many questions concerning the escape. He told a plain straight forward story. Said there were ten or twelve others, who were just ahead of him and who got off. That in the first place they went to the lamp house cellar, where they took underground passage through a hole which they had dug for that purpose, and which extended for forty or fifty yards, terminating in an another cellar, from which they emerged into a yard, climbed the fence and were off; at least those who were quick enough. He was covered with mud and dirt that he had gathered in the hole, which was barely large enough for a man to squeeze himself through. In working the tunnel they hauled the dirt back in a box and packed it down tight in the cellar. It must have taken three or four weeks to complete all their arrangements and they certainly deserve great credit for their skill and management; the only pity is, that more could not have availed themselves of so fine an opportunity, for we will not have such another offered again soon, as old Masterson will be more rigorous than ever. He closes the iron doors now, and locks us in at seven. He is in a regular stew about the digging of the passage, and is making great effort to ascertain who were engaged in it, but his success is not encouraging however. He sends all the officers whom he questions down to lower quarters, whether they know anything or not. The men in the lock-up, up stairs, descended by means of a rope made of blankets—I have the names of four of them—W. Owsley, who had just gotten through his trial, and was charged with murder, robbery, bushwhacking, &c. Thinking it would go hard with him, he took an appeal by way of the blanket ladder. Also — Watkins, who was one of a party that charged upon the guards last spring and escaped, but was recaptured, and has been in the lock-up ever since, concluded to enlarge his quarters; and two Lieutenants, Martin and Stewart, thought they would go down and take a walk. There were others, whose names I have not been able to pick up, but whoever they are, the best wishes of their late prison comrades attend them, notwithstanding we have to suffer for their good luck, our keepers being stricter than ever; I cannot even write to my wife. George Henly and George Phillips, our Confederate roll callers were sent below on suspicion of being implicated in the escape. The Feds are worse beat than they have ever been before, with all their splurge and splutter they cannot get any new light on the subject, for every prisoner is a Know Nothing.

DEC. 21, 1863.—The week past has been dull and disagreeable, and I have been quite sick, but have weathered it along without going to the hospital. The boys soon cut through the plank over our windows, making little holes to peep out; if Masterson knows of it he says nothing, and we make no comments; he is showing his spleen by searching prisoners who come in from the Provost’s. Two Lieutenants, Brown and Thaxton were overhauled Tuesday, and Brown lost a small knife which he brought with him when he first came to Gratiot.

Col. Priest and another officer have been put in the strong room to remain for the future; they have no idea what led to the movement. Lieut. Gowing visited them to-day, and old Masterson caught him there, when he ordered him to stay, and had him transfer, bag and baggage, saying he supposed the Lieutenant liked their quarters better than his own. On Sunday there was an order received from the Secretary of War, permitting us to buy tobacco and stationery, so we will be able to write to our families again. We are allowed to buy tobacco because they fear we will get sick if deprived of it, and they will have to furnish us medicine and medical attendance which will cost them more than the comfort derived from our punishment will come to. We had quite an addition to our number on Friday, about seventy Confederates arrived from Little Rock; men and officers, who were left there sick when our forces evacuated the place. They tell us that Old Pap has taken Washington, Arkansas. One of these men, Capt. Caldwell, had a surgical operation performed on his side yesterday, by Dr. Dudley, who took out a piece of bone from a wound which was received last September. Twelve other prisoners have also dropped in, one of Jo. Shelby’s Captains among them. New arrivals are gladly welcomed, from the fact of their bringing in something fresh to talk about. When a citizen is thrown to us, we consider we have drawn a great prize, as he brings in all he knows, and takes out all he learns; it is the best show we have to keep the U. G. R. R., in repair. The Feds don’t know how they play into our hands in such cases, or they would be a little more careful how they thrust citizens into military prisons. I am indebted to the U. G. Express Co., for postage stamps, which came shortly after Capt. M’s ungentlemanly refusal.

Daniel R. O’Neal was released on Oath and Bond January 2, 1864.

DEC. 28, 1863.—Another week of prison life, has dragged its long length slowly by, taking a joyous Christmas in its train. Tuesday was a day of perfect stagnation. The Feds thought of no new method of cruelty, and we submitted to all the plans in operation. Old Gratiot was like a ship becalmed in Southern seas. Wednesday a little breeze sprung up on the admission of a citizen prisoner, a Mr. O’Neal, from Herman, Gasconade county, arrested for speaking disloyally. He seems somewhat uneasy, and well he may if there is any prospect of his being shipped east. We see in an old copy of the Columbus Crisis, which an underground accident threw in our way, that political prisoners at Camp Chase fare even worse than prisoners of war do here. The following is the article in full, which we copy for future reference—it bears date December 24, 1862.

“We speak wholly of the political prison, of the State, as we know nothing whatever of what occurs in the prison where “rebels taken in arms” are kept—that is, “the prisoner of war.”

It must not be forgotten that there have been from six to seven hundred political prisoners at Camp Chase at a time; and although several hundred have been lately discharged without trial, there are yet there some four hundred—one or two hundred of these have arrived there within a few days past from Kentucky and Western Virginia. These men were taken from their homes, some from their beds at night, some from their homes in daytime, and a great many of them are picked up in their fields at work, and never suffered to see their families before being spirited off to Ohio and incarcerated in the celebrated Bastile, which will soon be as famous as Olmutz itself.

Our Ohioans are put into the same prison with these men from other States, and from them we have learned some facts which the people of Ohio ought to know. Many of these men have been kept in this prison for over one year, a great many for five, six, seven and eight months, without even seeing outside, or being allowed to communicate personally with any one, not even wife, child, father, mother, or stranger.

They are furnished with nothing but a single blanket, even these cold nights, unless they are able to purchase additional comforts with the money they may be able to command. Many are poor men, and unable to purchase; they were not permitted to bring along a change of clothing, and many had on when seized nothing but summer wear, and that has become filthy, worn out, and scarcely hangs upon their backs.

They have no bedding, and are therefore compelled to sleep on bare boards. They have not enough wood furnished to keep fires up all night, and hence the suffering is intensified by the cold weather. If they attempt, after night, to walk out in the yard to take off the chills of the dreary night, they are instantly threatened to be shot by the guards, as ordered by those in command.

Dr. Allen, of Columbia county, Ohio, said he laid on a bare board until his hips were black and blue. The wood furnished them is four feet long, and they are compelled, each mess, to chop it up for themselves. Recollect, always that these are political prisoners, against whom no one appears as accuser, and no trial is permitted.

The prison has become filthy—awfully so—and the rats are in droves. If the prisoners attempt to kill one of these rats, they are forbidden, and threatened with being shot instantly. Recollect, as we have said before, these are political prisoners, against whom some malicious negro-worshipper has created a suspicion of disloyalty, but whose name is kept secret, and hence there can be no trial.

The prison is perfectly alive with lice, and no chance is given to escape the living vermin. A dead man, one of the prisoners, was the other day carried out to the dead-yard, laid there over night, and when visited in the morning by other prisoners, who heard there was a dead man there, they found the hair on his head stiff with lice and nits—the lice creeping into his eyes in great numbers, and, as he lay, they were thick, crawling in and out of his open mouth.

Not long since two of the prisoners got into a scuffle in trying their strength, and finally into a fight, as was supposed, and several other persons rushed to part them, when the guards from the lookout above fired on them, killing an old man by the name of Jones, from Western Virginia, and a ball grazing the skull of another; he fell, and it was supposed at first, he was killed also; another of the balls passed through a board at the head of a sick man in the hospital, and only escaped him by a few inches. The two men in the scuffle were not hurt. We might go further, but God knows this is enough for once. It is enough to make one’s blood run cold to think of it.

Now, if any one doubts this—if the authorities at camp or at the State House doubt it—if the Legislature, when it meets, will raise a committee, we promise to name the witnesses who, if sent for, will, under oath, prove all this, and as much more, some of which is too indecent to print in a newspaper for the public eye.”

This was their programme a year ago, and as the Yankees are a progressive race, the inference is, that if O’Neal should chance to tarry a few months at Camp Chase he could pick up a world of rich experience which would startle the military outside—that is if he should live to get out with his story; but we have heard it said that “dead men tell no tales.” I know that live ones don’t dare to tell all they know—even in underground letters much less in those carefully worded concerns which we send through the hands of prison inspectors. For instance, if I should tell my wife, how on Christmas eve, we offered an humble petition for liberty to purchase a Christmas dinner, and how unfeelingly we were denied, my letter would not pass, and I would be sent to the lower quarters or dungeon to learn better manners than to write the truth. Nor would it do to inform her of how I “peeped” out at the window, and saw ladies come to the prison with bundles of clothes for their friends, and after standing at the door for some time, go away, carrying their packages with them, while the men for whom they were intended are actually shivering in rags. One aged mother came with clothing for her “sick boy, who always needed warm clothes in winter.” She begged, and cried, but it was no use, the “sick boy” must abide in his tatters. The kind old mother stood on the corner, looking toward the prison, and crying for a long time, then she turned her poor old blinded eyes away and walked off.

Friday was Christmas day—I cannot speak for those jamming and crowding around in their rags in the lower quarters, nor for those in the lock-ups whose heavy balls and chains are eating into their ankles, while the still more deadly iron of despair is cankering in their souls, their Christmas enjoyments are best known to themselves, but as a specimen from our quarters, decidedly the best in Gratiot, I will chronicle the events of my holiday operations, commencing at six o’clock in the morning, when I arose and answered to roll call, then breakfast—pickled pork, bread and coffee; went out in the hall and peeped from the window awhile, then went back to our room and warmed, from thence to the window again—in and warmed, and out again; this time saw some Feds starting off; also saw several lady friends; went in again and watched the boys play cards, which is the only amusement they have; got tired of that and returned to the window; stood there and wished for the privilege of being out where I could enjoy myself with my friends, but wishing was all I could do, so I yawned and sighed and went into the pickled pork dinner. Frank Noel declared he would not insult his stomach with the cod livery stuff, and so confined himself to a limited supply of baker’s bread and coffee. Frank has not been here long—he will come to it yet—he ought to sojourn in the lower quarters, if he wants the kinks taken out of his stomach, there is not much turning up of noses down there I guess, no matter what is set before them. After dinner a fellow prisoner sent me a pear, I don’t know how he obtained it, but I regarded it as a most acceptable Christmas gift, appreciating it for its own intrinsic sweetness, as well as the generous refinement which actuated the donor. Fine fruits are not so plentiful in Gratiot as to be given away without self sacrifice. We did not tarry unusually long at the festal board, but sought the more inviting precincts of the hall window; saw some ladies pass—did not “throw kisses or wave my handkerchief,” but I thought “as long as I have the spirit of a man I will peep.” I won’t say the ladies didn’t peep some too. They looked at our gloomy walls as though they would like to have Alladin’s Lamp, and make the Genii spirit us off, prison and all, into some far country where they could have opened our doors, and feasted us in the most royal manner, but their wishes were no more effectual than mine. I gazed for awhile longer at the paving stones, imagined they had a hard hearted appearance, lying there watching us; went back to my room, picked up the romance of “Zaidee,” read an hour or two, and—went back to the window for a last look, stood some ten or fifteen minutes, saw nothing of interest and left; went to the lamp room, brought up our lamp, pulled out the table, and played cards till time to go to bed, and thus ended Christmas day 1863, in the officer’s quarters, Gratiot Street Military Prison, St. Louis, Mo. Not much after the style in vogue in the palmy days of old Dr. McDowell and his Medical College. Wonder how that gentleman would feel to walk around his premises and take a view of the students now gathered in the institution together with the faculty presiding over the establishment. His remarks on such an occasion would be rich beyond a doubt. More than one Yank would burn beneath the touch of his caustic wit.—Christmas day passed off dull enough, and we stole to our beds as quietly as chained dogs to their kennels. Slept till midnight, when a militia horse thief from the lower quarters, came running up and informed the prison officers that the lock-up prisoners were about to make their escape.

Ab Grimes, recently transferred to Gratiot from Myrtle St. Prison, cut the hole in the floor. After several days chaining the attempted escapees to the post as punishment, the prison officials offered to let them go in if they’d promise not to attempt to escape. All except Grimes and Sebring agreed. They nearly froze to death in twenty below zero weather New Year’s Eve. Sebring finally gave his word but Grimes refused. Two ladies, the Harrison sisters who lived across the street, saw the prisoners’ treatment and went to Provost Marshal Broadhead to complain. He sent orders to bring them in out of the cold. William Sebring’s account of this event appears in the Official Records.

Of course the whole gang were out in a minute, they went down and discovered that a hole had been cut through the floor of Clifford’s and Carlin’s room, through which they proposed to let themselves down by blankets, when they would be joined by a lot from the lower quarters, and all make a rush on the guards and as many escape as possible. It would have been a perfect success if it had not been for the coward who reported. The next day Clifford was thrown into a solitary dungeon, the darkest pit in the prison; and Carlin, Sebring and one other, were taken down into the yard, and hand-cuffed and chained to a post—after they had stood there for several hours, a second squad was brought down and chained to another post, where they could be seen from a Southern residence across the street. They were kept there until late at night, although the weather was extremely cold; they stamped, shouted, and sung to keep from freezing; we could hear them after we went to bed, thumping the pavement, and singing “Hard times.” The same thing was repeated yesterday and to-day, except Carlin had a post to himself, and the weather much colder; we find it difficult to keep comfortable by the fire, and yet we hear “Hard times come again no more” pealing out on the frozen air. They unchain them and take them in to eat their meals. While passing near the kitchen one of them struck an old fellow over the head and “made the blood flow” pretty freely, it was the father of the horse thief who reported on them, and said to be the cause of his son’s doing so. Desperate measures will cook desperation. I guess they would have killed the old sinner if they could. While they are chained at the post, old Masterson goes out and stands and scolds as long as he can endure the cold, then he comes in and takes an easy chair, smacks his lips, and admires his own bravery; chuckling over the big things he said to them. Had another letter from John, and one from home, the latter reads:

“I have a bid to a Christmas dinner, but do not expect to go, for I could not enjoy myself and you in prison. All the pleasure I expect to see is when Annie gets her doll, which I have been dressing to-day. Dear little creature, she is more company for me than all the rest. She talks a great deal about “Old Kris,” and what she expects him to bring her. I would like to send you a turkey, but know it would be useless.”

We have had a letter also from Johnson’s Island, written by Lieut. Coale, who mentions Col. Dawson as being there, and sending his respects to all. Col. Dawson and I went on exchange together last spring, and the same kind of fortune still seems to cling to us both. It appears they are dying off pretty rapidly on the Island, resulting I suppose, from change of climate and want of clothing. I have learned from other sources than through the hands of inspecting officers, that there is great suffering in that prison. The ladies of Hannibal, Mo., have made an effort to relieve them, sending boxes of clothing, &c., but I have not heard as to whether their contributions reached the prison or were refused admittance.

MONDAY, JANUARY 11, 1864.—Two weeks have elapsed since my last writing, and but little has occurred deserving notice. The chain gang were faithful at their posts, never omitting their duty for any change of wind or weather. On the night of New Year’s eve, snow fell to the depth of ten or twelve inches; but the boys tramped round with their “Hard Times” song. I am told that some of them were badly frosted. I have not heard that any whined or begged, on the contrary, they bore themselves as true soldiers, showing their superiority over their persecutors, by the unflinching firmness which they manifested under the torture. All honor to their heroism, and success to their next adventure. A Secesh negro has been confined here for some time, but I learn is now released. I do not know the particulars, but as he is a rare circumstance, I should like to have seen Sambo. He must have a mental development considerably superior to the generality of his race. Most of them are like young jay birds, open their mouths and gulp down everything the Yankees see fit to stuff them with. Saw some of them a few days since in Federal uniform, they were stepping along quite briskly, as though they thought it something grand to be food for powder, and save Yankee hides. Several of our citizen prisoners have been released; among them, Messrs. Wilson and O’Neal, the latter on a three thousand dollar bond. A Mr. T. Roberts of Marion county, was released on oath and bond, not to leave the limits of his county. Such terms are very common; usually imposed for what are termed “disloyal speeches.” A man is not heard in his own defence, and his word, if anything, is taken against him. I suppose more “false witness” has been borne in such cases than any one person would be able to imagine. Every petty spite seeks that method of gratification; no one being safe. The weather continued intensely cold, up to Thursday the 7th, when a few ladies could be seen on the streets, but only such as were called by business seemed to venture out; it was awfully rigorous on the post gang in the yard and then locked up without fire. I suffered on New Year’s day, as near the fire as I could get, wrapped up in my shawl and blanket; had a terrible time, and would have complained of my condition if there had not been hundreds in the house in a worse fix. Prisoners are being brought in all the time; over a hundred on the 6th, about a dozen officers with them. Gratiot occasionally gets very much crowded, and when such is the case there are many and just causes of complaint. The prisoners are poorly fed, worse bedded, and nearly suffocated in the impure air. It is said there has been as many as seventeen hundred men at one time in these lower quarters. That number could scarcely find standing room, sleeping would be out of the question, of course they must suffer, sicken and die. If each individual case, could be recorded, even the hard heart of Northern humanity, blunted as it is to all but the imaginary hardships of the negro’s lot, would surely for a moment indulge in the luxury commiserating a fellow creatures woes, but they maintain a persistent deafness and blindness, and most hardened unbelief whenever an incident is mentioned as having occurred outside the pale of their political church, and yet how they gulp down every exaggerated story of so called rebel cruelty, without ever investigating for the truth, or considering any mitigating circumstance. On the night of the 9th, a fresh attempt was made by some of the prisoners to escape from the lower quarters. They were discovered and prevented, and are now wearing a ball and chain as a punishment. The roof of the hospital building caught fire on Saturday, creating quite an excitement among the sick prisoners, but the flames were fortunately extinguished in time to prevent any serious damage, except such as might have occurred to the invalids in consequence of the shock to their nervous system. That interesting and gentlemanly character, Capt. Masterson, is still piping his cracked voice in odious authority, within the classic halls. I presented myself at the office the other day, to obtain an axe for chopping wood, not knowing but it would be thrown at my head, but greatly to my surprise he said:—”Walk in Capt. Frast, and take a seat.” I stated my errand—he renewed his invitation, or rather order, at the same time shaking me cordially by the hand. I was completely mystified, and dropped into the proffered seat. “Captain,” said he as blandly as it was possible for him to speak, “I would thank ye for the note yees received this morning from Clint. Burbrige in the lock-up.” I replied that he was mistaken, as I had received no such note. He affirmed that I had. I protested I had not. He said, he would be sorry to be under the impression that I had the note notwithstanding my denial. I challenged him to say if he had ever known me to prevaricate—what I did not wish to tell, I refused to, and suffered the penalty, but I was not in the habit of lying. He waved me out of the room, saying, “that will do—this is a matter between you and me.” Capt. Beltzhoover was then called down; he acknowledged the receipt of the note, and stated that I knew nothing of it.

JAN. 18, 1864.—For the past week all things with us have flown on smoothly. Scarcely a ripple appearing on the calm surface of the bitter waters of prison life; this is true, at least, as regards our immediate quarters. We know nothing of what walls and floors may hide from our view, doubtless there have many painful scenes transpired at the hospital, as numbers are dying daily. Almost every hour witnesses the exit of some freed spirit, which drops its chains and its bondage and under the pale flag of death’s unquestioned truce, soars away to that blessed land where “the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest,” and in every instance the haggard corpse, handled roughly by rude strangers and stowed quickly away in its rough pine box, is the dear form of “somebody’s darling, God only knows who.” There is a man among us who is looked upon as a traitor, and who is naturally regarded with peculiar hostility by his fellow prisoners. Every man’s hand is against him, and little things which would pass unnoticed from others are hotly resented from him. He is buffeted on all sides, there being no sympathy or forbearance for a spy in our midst. He came in collision the other day with a young scion of the chivalry, who let him feel the weight of his aristocratic fist, for which act the chivalry pines in a dungeon, and the traitor skulks around dodging everybody’s boots for fear of the kick which he deserves.

Several prisoners left here to-day for Rock Island. They went off in fine spirits. Any change is desirable, after long continued confinement in one place. I hope they will write back and let us hear something of their new quarters. We can form some idea of it by their saying it is better or worse than Gratiot. Col. Dawson writes me from Johnson’s Island, he is looking anxiously forward to an exchange.

JAN. 29, 1864.—On Tuesday the 19th, a man was released on oath and bond, who had been confined in prison for over seventeen months; his dull, joyous apathy on the occasion was like Bonnivard’s, who said:

“At last men came to set me free.

I asked not why, and recked not where,

It was at length the same to me,

Fettered or fetterless to be—

I learned to love despair.”

On Wednesday the tramp of time was noiseless, leaving the clatter of no event to echo down the corridors of coming years. We slept, eat and yawned; yawned, eat and slept, and thus through the heavy hours, until Thursday noon we crept, then the Feds came in and raised a stir shearing off our buttons, it was comical; some made a pretense of resistence, but it was no use. The Government must have “the last button on Gabe’s coat.” It passed off in pretty jolly style, but I confess it looked like shearing sheep, or picking geese, neither of which comparison is a very sweet unction with which to salve our wounded vanity. One says we slip around in our buttonless coats like peacocks robbed of their gayest feathers,” another says “we are Bonapartes stripped of our kingdoms,” while another says, “nay, we are suns shorn of our beams.” Our keepers were not ungentlemanly in performing the act, which was required by an order from a higher sphere. It took several days to complete the work, and we had a good many laughs while it was going forward. Sources of amusement are so exceedingly scarce, we would fain make the best of whatever is presented even though the joke is enjoyed at a heavy expense. Friday was my day to cook. I flattered myself that I reflected great credit on the old darkies whom I had seen “bile the kittle.” I think I can make as big a dinner out of pickled pork, stale bread and a little coffee as any Dinah that ever presided over a kitchen fire. On Saturday I had a letter from Alton, telling me of the unmannerly departure from that prison of two of my old company, W. Parker, and Stephen Kerrick, who left without giving notice, returning thanks, or saying “good-bye.” The friends whose hospitality they had been enjoying, were much exasperated at their ungrateful conduct, and would, if they could find them, force them to come back and finish their visit; but the blundering clowns did not even leave word where they were going. So the interesting Alton family will have to pocket their chagrin, and submit as best they may. At our house things work differently. On the same day I heard the news,

Capt. Clinton Burbridge was sent to the penitentiary in Jefferson City Dec. 18, 1864 with a two year sentence by military commission.

Clinton Burbridge was taken from his lock-up and transferred to a dungeon. Mr. B. is a citizen of Louisiana, Mo., he is a high toned honorable gentleman, thoroughly imbued with Southern fire, which will flash out in spite of chains and dungeons. He cannot teach his proud spirit to bow and submit tamely to a prisoner’s doom, although he bruises his own wings as he beats against the cage. If he would cringe, and flatter, and lick the feet of his oppressors, it would be just to their taste; they would make a prison hero of him, but unfortunately he is made of sterner stuff, and will be true to his manhood though he rot in a dungeon.

I continue to receive letters from home and friends, they do not think I will be exchanged and are anxious that steps should be taken for my release. Any move in that direction will be taken without my approval, until I have satisfactory evidence of the hopelessness of an exchange. When such shall be the case, I am not so in love with prison life, as to prefer it to the society of home. It is no benefit to the South for me to lie in prison unless I am counted against a Yankee, on the other side, if I am not so counted I am “hors de combat” any way, and my family have claims which demand attention when I can no longer serve my country. Thirty eight officers left here this morning for Camp Chase, but transportation not being provided they were sent back from the Provost’s office, and will now, not be off before next week.

They were considerably disappointed, as they all seem anxious for a change of some kind, no matter if it is from one prison to another. However they will have to honor old Gratiot with their presence a few days longer, and listen to the interesting lectures of Capt. Masterson.

One of our Lieutenants fell into the sink to-day, and had to be drawn out with ropes, and several attempts were made before his friends succeeded in extricating him from his miserable situation—having remained in some ten or fifteen minutes, and the filth was between five and six feet deep. Some think he went down on an exploring expedition for the purpose of finding a way by which to escape, but it seems he was unsuccessful—no subterraneous passage being visible, and even if he had, it strikes me the remedy was worse than the disease.

Alton PrisonALTON, ILLS., Saturday January 30, 1864.—I had little idea when I laid aside my pen last night in Gratiot, that it would be resumed again in Alton, but thus the fates have ordered and prisoners are only footballs for destiny, kicked here, there and everywhere, just as those in authority may decide. Our transfer was unexpected, up to two hours before we moved. Col. Priest, myself and some twenty-six others, were notified in the afternoon to prepare for change, which we did by packing up, and then going round and bidding our friends “good bye.” We left old “Alma Mater,” who by the way has been something of a step mother, at three, but did not reach our present quarters before dark; immediately on our arrival we were carefully searched, person and baggage, but I was fortunate enough to smuggle my book through wrapped in a shirt, which I honestly exhibited, but which looked too beggarly to invite scrutiny. Thirty-two of us occupy a room eighteen feet square; some have bunks, others take the floor. I have seen my brother and several other acquaintances, all well and doing as well as circumstances will permit. John says they have some pretty tough times, some of the men are treated shockingly, but it is usually the result of a hasty or impudent act, or speech on the part of the prisoner; if a man will strictly obey orders and forbear comment, he is generally safe.

JAN. 31, 1864.—Discover that our change is very decidedly for the worse, this is a much harder place than Gratiot—it is almost impossible to sleep on account of the rats, which run over us all through the night; it is hard to tell which are the thickest—rats or men, there are over two thousand of the latter, and many of them entered for the war; in some of the buildings it is difficult to turn around. There is much sickness; the small-pox is prevailing, and many are dying daily. Some are allowed to cook their own rations, but the balance have to eat in the dining room, which is a fair representation of that hell hole, Fort Delaware.

Frost was returned to Gratiot Street Prison March 6, 1864

Prison Journal – Oct – Nov 1863

Gratiot Street Prison

“Camp and Prison Journal”

by Griffin Frost

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

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

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

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

Buy a reprint of Frost’s full book from:

Available from Camp Pope Bookshop

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

and check their other Missouri-related publications


October – November 1863

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let all things wag as they will,

I’ll be gay and happy still.”

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

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

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

“Strike, for your altars and your fires,

Strike, till the last armed foe expires,

Strike, for the green graves of your sires,

God—Missouri—and the sunny South.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Bright be their dreams, and blest their awaking.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Obedient Servt.,

E. M. BRASHER.

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

HEAD QUARTERS, Enraged Mo., Mules,}

Nov. 24, 1863.}

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

E. M. BRASHER, Col. Commanding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, for liberty, that my gallant steed

May carry me to the battle field—

There I can fight; I’ll never yield!

Then away, away, to the battle field.

Dark and crimson is the tide,

Forms are scattered far and wide,

Death and victory will be won—

I’m a prisoner, I’m undone!”

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

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

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

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

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

Prison Journal – March – April 1863

Gratiot Street Prison

“Camp and Prison Journal”

by Griffin Frost

March-April 1863

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

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

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

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

Buy a reprint of Frost’s full book from:

Available from Camp Pope Bookshop

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

and check their other Missouri-related publications


March-April 1863

MARCH 1, 1863.—Some four or five prisoners made an attempt to escape last night and all succeeded but one unlucky dog, who was recaptured. They brought him in and hung him up by the neck until he was nearly dead, when the Captain came in, and interfered, and had him taken down. The bloody villains would have murdered him outright. They tried to make him tell who were concerned in the plot; but he was true to the last, they could not torture him into turning traitor. That’s the stuff the martyrs are made of.

MARCH 2, 1863.—Yesterday evening the Feds arrested three “Secesh” ladies for waving their handkerchiefs at the prisoners as they passed up the street. They were taken to Col. Kinkaid’s quarters and kept an hour or so and then released. It was arranged in going to the Col’s quarters that they would either have to pass under the Federal flag or walk out into the street, the tantalizing creatures preferred the latter course; left the guard and took the street, returning to his protection as soon as the obstacle was passed. As they were going home they had to pass us again, and woman like, they gave us another wave, and went off laughing.

O woman, woman, light of life,

But cause of so much fuss and strife,

If I could half your foibles tell

You’d laugh at me—I know it well.

Andrew W. Lydick was captured August 20, 1862. He is listed as being a guerrilla and/or private in Porter’s unit.

MARCH 3, 1863.—The small-pox has broken out among the prisoners, two cases to-day, taken to the small-pox hospital. One hundred and forty prisoners were notified to leave to-morrow; destination unknown. Several prisoners have been released within the last few days. Andrew W. Lydick, of Marion county, has also been released on oath and bond. He was arrested several months ago and brought to this place, where he has remained ever since. Have never learned the cause which led to his arrest, but suppose it was because he is a rebel.

MARCH 6, 1863.—Rumors the last two days of Federal reverses at Vicksburg—large numbers reported drowned. We cannot know anything certainly, as we are not permitted to see the newspapers.

MARCH 8, 1863.—This has been another long and tedious Sunday. Over one hundred more prisoners notified to leave to-morrow. Those who went off Wednesday have gone to Washington on exchange.

MARCH 9, 1863.—Received a box from my wife to-day, containing a lot of butter, some peach, tomato, and blackberry preserves, two bottles of catsup, and a fine large ham. Had to have a fresh introduction; have not seen such delicacies for so long we had become strangers. As none of the mess were better acquainted, we introduced ourselves, and soon enjoyed a sweet familiarity.

MARCH 10, 1863.—The prisoners notified on the 8th left to-day for Alton. Old Mrs. Meredith was arrested to-day for distributing clothing to them. A cowardly act, disgraceful to the pantaloons inhabited by the creatures who commited it.

MARCH 11, 1863.—Over one hundred prisoners arrived to-day from Alton, and seventy-five or eighty from Tennessee, the latter, after remaining but a short time, were sent up to Alton. Capt. Masterson had the officer who arrested Mrs. Meredith, placed under arrest. Capt M. seems to know the good old lady. Says she has always been known as the friend of the needy and suffering, and since the prisons have been established in St. Louis, she has interested herself particularly in endeavors to alleviate in some degree the miseries within their walls. She is so well known and so thoroughly respected, that she obtained a permanent pass from the Provost to visit the prisoners whenever she saw proper. I hope her works of mercy will not again be disturbed in a similar manner. Capt. Masterson deserves honor for his prompt and manly course.

MARCH 12, 1863.—Capt. J. W. Johnson has been sent to the small-pox hospital. The last few days have developed several new cases. The only wonder is, that every disease under heaven does not break out in the lower quarters; half starved and crowded together as they are, in their dirt and rags.

Major John F. Rucker, 1st Mo. Inf., captured Jan. 6, 1863, escaped March 12, 1863–recaptured June 4, 1864Lt. James H. [Harvey] Rucker, Clarks Co. E, captured Jan. 6, 1863, escaped March 12, 1863–recaptured March 15, 1863

MARCH 13, 1863.—Five Confederate officers made their escape this morning, and because Capt. Barr, Finney, myself and five or six others, could not (?) tell how it occurred, we were thrown into the strong room and locked up. It is enough to make the old d—l mad to be confined in such a place. It is dark and gloomy, the weather cold and damp, we have no fire, nothing to sit on, not allowed to have our bed clothes to wrap in, the smoke comes down the chimney, so as to nearly stifle us, and beside, they starved us till after night, when they let us out a little while to graze. We have never heard the full particulars as to the manner in which our friends effected their escape, but as near as we have learned is as follows: It seems that the leader got an over coat resembling the kind the Federal officers wear, and yesterday evening went to the guard who stands at the front door, and represented himself as a Federal surgeon, asking the guard at the same time if he had seen anything of the ambulance which was to convey three or four patients to the small-pox island. The guard informed him he had not. The would-be surgeon then remarked that “that was a great way to do business, and if it did not come this evening they would have to walk there in the morning.” So this morning, bright and early, the Dr. learning from the same guard that the ambulance had not arrived, made preparations to foot it. He then went up stairs and informed his patients he was ready. They all followed him down stairs, out the front door into the street, which was the last we saw of Major Rucker, Captain Stemmons, Harvey Rucker, and two others unknown to us. As they passed out one of the patients had a bandage around his head, and another his arm in a sling, all of which was well calculated to deceive the most vigilant.

MARCH 14, 1863.—To-day I am twenty-nine years old. It’s my birth day, and so I must enjoy it. Why not? What’s to hinder? No noise and bustle and confusion. Under no obligations to kill myself eating the good things prepared by loving hands. No important business to occupy my time, and interfere with my pleasure. Oh no, on the contrary. I have a retired corner in a military dungeon, in place of shaking hands with congratulating friends, I shake quietly with the cold. I have time and opportunity to reflect, and food for reflection—if not for the stomach. I enjoy myself exquisitely, but—I am not selfish—I wouldn’t be on my birthday—if I could change places with my enemy I would resign in his favor.

MARCH 16, 1863.—Time hangs heavily and drags slowly. They invade the sacred precincts of our solemn dungeon, by placing two mutinous Feds among us to-day which was more than even our pleasure could suffer—if we must take lodgings in the strong room let it at least, be with a select crowd. It ain’t so much the way you live as the company you keep. We managed, to convey such an intimation to Kyser and he very kindly relieved us of their presence.

MARCH 17, 1863.—Was transferred back to old quarters to-day. Do not know how it happens that I alone am sent back, when we were all equally guilty of the same offence—not telling on our friends.

MARCH 18, 1863.—Several citizens were brought in while I was in the lock-up. One of them—Dr. Merwin, received the gratifying intelligence that his property had been confiscated, and would be used for the benefit of the United States Government. I thought he would go crazy when he heard it, he was so filled with rage and indignation. They won’t allow his wife to come near the prison. I feel sorry for him; his offence, is corresponding with his friends in Dixie. Our institution has graduated a few! Suppose they are now practicing their profession in the State militia. I had a letter from a brother-in-law in Ohio, advising me to the same course. I don’t see it in that light. I replied thanking him for his kind feelings, and good advice; but was not prepared to act upon his suggestions. He seems honestly to love the Union. I wonder if he thinks the North are fighting to restore it? It’s my opinion he’ll see the negro rise above the Union, if his patriotic party have their way.

Capt. Samuel Barr, 3rd Mo. Regt., was transferred to Alton from which he escaped May 7, 1863

MARCH 19, 1863.—Under a confiscation order issued by Gen. Curtiss, my friend, Capt. Sam. Barr, lost over $500 in gold, his whole wealth inside the prison walls; under other circumstances, the sum would be trifling; but here, five hundred dollars means a good deal. Is the Federal Government bankrupt, that she has to rob her prisoners to raise money for carrying on the war?

MARCH 20, 1863.—Last night our College received an addition of 20 new students; among the rest some four or five Yankee deserters.

MARCH 21, 1863.—Had the pleasure to-day of looking on two or three familiar faces, Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, and a young lady whose name I do not know, from Palmyra, Mo. They came to see a brother of Mrs. T’s—Moses Bates, who was captured at Iuka.

MARCH 25, 1863.—Last night about 12 o’clock, two more inmates were added to our room. They are from Columbus, Ky., charged with smuggling goods through to the Confederates, which they deny, and say they are “good Union,” and were in the employ of the United States Government. Hope after this when they bring their “Unionites” here, they will quarter them somewhere else, we do not want them with us.

We have heard from some of our friends at Camp Chase, Ohio; they like that prison better than this; they are allowed more privileges, and have plenty of room for exercise.

MARCH 26, 1863.—Several prisoners from Alton, arrived here for trial. All the prisoners of war at that point, leave next week for exchange. Wish we could have the pleasure of bearing them company, but I suppose that is impossible, as they say exchanging officers has played out.

MARCH 27, 1863.—Learned to-day that Gen. Bragg’s wife died on the 23rd inst., at Tullahoma, Miss.; also that Bragg had whipped Rosecrans, and that Gen. Frank Blair and his command had been captured; all of which, however, needs confirmation.

MARCH 28, 1863.—Received another letter from my wife, enclosing one from my mother in Ohio, who is very sorry I am not in the Union army. I also am sorry to vex her righteous heart, but I take Davy Crockett’s motto, “Be sure you are right, then go ahead.”

MARCH 30, 1863.—Several prisoners arrived yesterday from the South West. I suppose at last we are going to have an exchange, as rations are now being cooked up for a large number who leave tomorrow. They are in the best of spirits, rejoicing over the prospect of getting back to Dixie once more.

MARCH 31, 1863.—Two more prisoners made their escape last night. One had a ball and chain attached to his leg, which he succeeded in getting off before he left; but how it was accomplished, is a fact of which I am not in possession. I only know that I rejoice with them, and send my sincerest congratulations after them; would be pleased to do myself the honor of conveying them in person, for

“My limbs are bowed, though not with toil,

But rusted with a vile repose,

For they have been a dungeon’s spoil

And mine has bean the fate of these.

To whom the goodly earth and air

Are bound, and barr’d—forbidden fare.

Our bread is such as captives’ tears

Have moistened many a thousand years,

Since man first pent his fellow men

Like brutes within an iron den.”

APRIL 2, 1863.—Four hundred and eighty-four prisoners left to-day, on exchange, for City Point, Va. We understand there is a prospect of an exchange of officers soon. The news is not depressing. Had a letter from a married sister in Ohio, advising me to take the oath and be a good Union man. Will study on it awhile first. Won’t join until I am converted.

APRIL 3, 1863.—Have not as yet been called on for exchange—hope our time will come soon, as we are all anxious to bid farewell to Gratiot. It is said, however, that we will leave some time next week.

See the Women and Children’s Prisoner list and the corresponding prisoner notes for more information on these women and their circumstances.

Mrs. Jeff. Thompson, Mrs. Calhoun and a Mr. Bently, were all arrested to-day. The ladies were sent to the female prison, so we are informed by Mr. Bently, who was sent here.

APRIL 5, 1863.—Mrs. McLure, a very kind friend of the prisoners, is now under arrest in her own house, which has been converted into a military prison for ladies. Shouldn’t wonder if the Yanks succeeded, they are an inventive race. Who but them would ever have thought of making war on women? Wonder if they will hang or burn any of them for witches? Don’t blame them for making fun of the word “chivalry;” no doubt it does sound queer to them, they don’t understand it.

APRIL 6, 1863.—News to-day is: The Feds have taken Charleston—Loss heavy on both sides. Wants confirmation.

APRIL 7, 1863.—Witnessed a fight to-day between an officer and a private of the regiment now guarding us. Happy to say the officer came out second best.

APRIL 8, 1863.—Twenty-eight prisoners left here to-day for Alton, to-remain during the war, but the boat having departed they returned—will go to-morrow. One of them, Lieut. Kennard, from Batesville, Ark., is sentenced to hard labor during the war. Twenty-four new ones have just arrived—captured at Yazoo Pass.

They are now preparing a room in the round building in which to imprison the ladies. I made the acquaintance of the place on my first arrival here, it is admirably adapted, of course, to accommodate the tender natures of the fair sex or it would not have been selected, but I acknowledge my faculties are too obtuse to appreciate the advantages. Our quarters are bad enough for us, but we consider them far preferable to the round building. However, the God-and-humanitarians have too much benevolent intellect to commit a wrong. This is Progress, if we leather-heads could only see it.

APRIL 10, 1863.—The capture of Charleston turns out to be a hoax, gotten up for election purposes. Our lady comrades have not, as yet, arrived; their quarters being about ready, we look for them to-morrow. The Yankee plan with regard to the woman part of the war is not fully developed. I don’t know how they rank them, or what will be done about an exchange. We have no women prisoners—we have not progressed that far. Do they propose to redeem their men with our ladies? O the wondrous, deep, mysterious depths of Yankee strategy.

APRIL 14, 1863.—Been jogging along, for several days, the same old dull rate—nothing of interest transpiring. It seems our side had decidedly the best of the engagement at Charleston; it is also re ported that Gen. Foster has surrendered to our forces at Washington, N. C., however, we believe nothing here, either good or bad; any news that falls to us is only waste crumbs any way; if we are ever exchanged we may have an opportunity of ascertaining some facts.

APRIL 15, 1863.—Thank God, we have been called for exchange; notified to be ready by to-morrow or next day. Will be sent to City Point, Va.

APRIL 16, 1863.—At the writing of this, a large fire can be seen west of the prison; several have occurred within the last week. It is said one party is trying to burn out the other. The spirit of enlightenment is abroad, it blazes forth in many a burning homestead.

APRIL 18, 1863.—Nothing of interest to-day; still making preparations for an exchange.

APRIL 19, 1863.—One of the female prisoners arrived to-day, and is now in the lock-up. She is a Mrs. Campbell, from Memphis, Tenn. The male prisoners were locked in their rooms, to prevent them from seeing her as she passed; but it did no good, for we cut a hole through a plank they nailed over our window, and all got a good look at her. She does not appear in the least subjugated.

APRIL 20, 1863.—We hear that Gen. Wheeler has been having quite a run of success down in Tennessee. Captured a large number of Federal officers and privates, and $30,000 in money, besides destroying several trains.

APRIL 21, 1863.—Will leave to-morrow—at least we have been notified to that effect. We are to be paroled to travel East, which will be much more pleasant than having a guard over us.

APRIL 22, 1863.—Paroled to limits of the city from half-past two until four, when I am to join the rest of the prisoners at the ferry, and all proceed on our way to City Point. Went to Barnum’s Hotel, where I met with a lady friend, from Marion Co., who is visiting the city to see her husband, now in Gratiot street prison. We went together to the Provost Marshal’s office, where I found my brother and sister-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Bradley, who were visiting St. Louis on a bridal trip, and were then at the office to procure a permit to visit me in prison. It was a pleasant and delightful surprise. They brought me a letter from my wife, and a bundle, containing among other things, my share of the wedding feast. We returned to the hotel, and remained until four. I insisted on their accompanying me to the river and seeing us off. They kindly consented, and when we reached the ferry the prisoners had gone over; we crossed next trip; how I enjoyed every precious moment. We found the cars just ready to start, bade a hasty “farewell” and I jumped aboard—soon under headway for Indianapolis. We have passed through some beautiful towns, everything is cheering, enjoy ourselves splendidly, plenty to eat of the best quality. The officers in charge, Major White and Capt. Burns, are very kind, showing us every gentlemanly courtesy.

APRIL 23, 1863.—Morning—Now traveling in Indiana, changed cars at Indianapolis. Afternoon—In Ohio, changed cars at Crestline for Pittsburgh, Pa. Eight o’clock, evening—Pittsburgh; have had a good supper; been allowed to walk around and see the towns whenever the cars stopped long enough. Could buy a dinner for fifty cents, sometimes for twenty-five. The Yankee officers are quite sociable, they call on us for a song, we give them “Old John Brown;” they reply with “We’ll hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree,” &c. The citizens manifest a good deal of curiosity; ask us many questions, some we answer.

APRIL 24, 1863.—Reached Philadelphia to-day. Seem to be regarded as rare and curious specimens; more or less interesting, according to circumstances. We hear such remarks as, “They look something like our men, only not dressed so well.” Others approach us and offer to purchase our gum rings, present us with copperhead breast-pins, and tell us that “Old Abe can never enforce the draft, the North will resist it to the last.” As we were marching from the depot to the river, we had an exhibition of the milk of human kindness, as given by, and sucked from the breast of some tender fair, of the Quaker City. Women and children called out to us, telling us we were “dirty mean devils,” and expressed the opinion, that the best thing to do with us, was to throw us into the Delaware. We listened, hoping to catch some enlightenment, as we passed through the God-favored section. Halting in the street to rest, we were assaulted by a mob, broomsticks were hurled at us, together with every epithet of abuse which adorns the rich language of the eloquent East. We bowed to the storm and acknowledged their superiority; we have seen nothing like it in the South. As we proceeded on our way the crowd followed. We went on board the steamer ‘Major Reybold,’ laid at the quay about an hour and left for Fort Delaware, situated on an island sixty miles below Philadelphia, which we reached a little after dark, when we were conducted to our quarters, where we met several old Gratiot acquaintances who left St. Louis before us.

APRIL 25, 1863.—Discover this morning that Fort Delaware is the hardest prison hotel we have seen. The lower quarters at Gratiot were bad enough, God knows, with disease, starvation and dirt, but this elegant and select little “Island Home” has refined upon the abstemiousness of their habits, the rigorous denial practiced upon our appetites is wonderful, we indulge freely in nothing except the water from the bay, which affects all who use it with diarrhea; many are sick, but our craving stomach must be filled, it cries out continually, “give, give,” and the table has almost literally nothing to offer. Five hundred and fifty-three of us starve around the same board.

APRIL 26, 1863.—St. Louis and Springfield are paradises compared with this, all are complaining of hunger. Do not know what we would have done if it had not been for a barrel of oysters we were allowed to purchase from an oyster boat. We relished them as only such poor hungry devils could.

APRIL 27, 1863.—The boat has at last arrived which is to carry us to City Point. We are anxious for any change from this miserable hell. I am feeling quite miserable in health.

Captain Frost was exchanged at City Point, Virginia. He then traveled to the parole camp at Demopolis, Alabama to await official exchange. He traveled north to Arkansas and was taken ill with small pox in the month of July. In August he learned his company has been reorganized and new officers in charge of it, leaving Frost without a unit. He traveled northward and on October 17, 1863 was captured in Ray County, Missouri, behind Federal lines, while on a recruiting mission. October 23, 1863 he arrived again at Gratiot Street Prison in St. Louis.

War Experiences of Bettie Shelby

WAR EXPERIENCES

By Mrs. Bettie Shelby, widow of General Shelby.

The accounts of the women of Civil War Missouri are more rare than those of the men but often give greater insights into the war on the homefront. This was not a war fought only on distant battlefields but right within the homes and communities of the people of Missouri. The women were vital participants on both sides of the conflict. They showed a stoutness of spirit and resolution equal to that of any battlefield warrior. In Missouri Rebel women were material participants as couriers, spies, in providing aid and succor to the men operating behind the lines.

Bettie Shelby, wife of Missouri Confederate General Joseph O. Shelby remained behind for a time, then followed her husband south in his camps. After the war she followed her husband into Mexican exile. The account she gives here of her wartime experience is scanty and barely touches upon the many adventures and experiences she had during the war.

A fictional account (though based on solid research) of Bettie Shelby’s wartime experiences are told in “Save Weeping For the Night” by Loula Grace Erdman, who grew up in Lafayette County, home of the Shelbys. The book is, unfortunately, out of print, but copies are available used from ABEBOOKS. Just click “go” on the search box to see available listings.



The early years of the war between the states found me, still a girl in years, with two children, as I had married at the early age of sixteen.

General JO ShelbyGeneral Shelby, who had refused many tempting offers to join the Federal army, organized a company from the flower of Howard county, and proceeded to join General Price at Springfield. Myself and children were left under the protection of an aunt, a high-spirited woman, who had sent several sons to the southern army, and when taxed by the Federals with furnishing altogether too many rebel soldiers, she boldly retorted that if she had a hundred sons they would all be there. Many threats were made to burn out this nest of rebels. Frequently as many as twenty-five soldiers would appear and order a meal of the best we could produce, which we dared not refuse, else our smokehouses would have been raided and nothing left to us.

My aunt provided a cot and nursed for several weeks, in the brush, one of our men who had been badly wounded. A surgeon came surreptitiously in the night and set a broken bone. My aunt went every day and dressed the wound and sent him food. We were in daily terror lest the negroes should betray him, but they never did, and he recovered and joined the army. On another occasion two of our men were secreted under a dormer window in the top of the house. They had been traced there, and the Federals threatened to burn down the house if they were not produced. Had they carried out their threats our friends would have been shot down in endeavoring to escape. Soon, however, we had to leave our homes, and finally when General Shelby’s raids became more frequent hail to leave the state. We first went to St. Louis, where we were somewhat protected because of the relationship, between General Shelby and Frank Blair, but the authorities feeling that Shelby’s raids would be less frequent if his family was out of the state, we were completely banished. I went to my husband’s relatives in Kentucky. Later, when General Steele was operating in Arkansas and Louisiana, I started in company with another lady, accompanied by our colored maids, for the south. It was suggested that our nurses might desert us on occasion, consequently we had their trunks placed in close touch with us as a precaution after boarding one of the river boats for Memphis. As our maids did not appear as usual in the morning our first move was to see if the trunks were still there. They were gone. And we were left to battle with the babies as best we could. On arriving at Memphis we were held for three weeks at a hotel. We suffered untold trials getting through the lines at all as there was fierce fighting raging around Little Rock and vicinity. We were finally, in company with other refugee families from Missouri, placed at Clarksville. Tex., where we remained until the close of the war.

General Shelby and his men decided to go to Mexico instead of surrendering at the close of the war. I accompanied him as far as Austin, Tex., but as Federal troops were already approaching Texas, and they might be captured before reaching the border of Mexico, it was decided to push on rapidly, and I was left to follow them by another route. My husband met me at Veracruz, near where he was trying to start a colony. This enterprise was finally abandoned, as the Mexicans made it so disagreeable for us by shooting into our camps, etc. I will mention an incident which has been questioned:

As Shelby’s command could not carry the Confederate flag into Mexico, a consultation was held, and it was decided that they should bury it beneath the waters of the Rio Grande, which they did. I have heard General Shelby speak of this disposition of the flag frequently as a matter of fact.

The soldiers all gradually drifted back to the old homes, or rather where they had stood, but where now was nothing but ruin. We now settled in Bates county, where we reared a large family of children and lived happily until my husband passed away. He left me several sons and one daughter to mourn his loss. Yearly at the memorial services in the beautiful Forest Hill cemetery may be seen, in company with the family, an aged faithful body servant, now the coachman, paying a beautiful tribute in flowers to his former master.


Prison Journal Jan – Feb 1863

Gratiot Street Prison

“Camp and Prison Journal”

by Griffin Frost

January – February 1863

EMBRACING SCENES IN CAMP, ON THE MARCH, AND IN PRISONS: SPRINGFIELD, GRATIOT STREET, ST. LOUIS, AND MACON CITY, MO. FORT DELAWARE. ALTON AND CAMP DOUGLAS, ILL. CAMP MORTON, IND., AND CAMP CHASE, OHIO.

ALSO, SCENES AND INCIDENTS DURING A TRIP FOR EXCHANGE, FROM ST. LOUIS, MO., VIA. PHILADELPHIA, PA., TO CITY POINT, VA.

QUINCY, ILLINOIS: 1867.

Buy a reprint of Frost’s full book from:

Available from Camp Pope Bookshop

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

and check their other Missouri-related publications

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.


PREFACE.Whenever we permit our thoughts to dwell upon the “Land we Love” we feel that she has a peculiar claim upon us—we have loved her from manhood, firm and true—and feel anxious to contribute our mite to succor and comfort her in her sad and desolated condition. Rivers of tears have been shed by her dear ones, excited by the fierce and cruel treatment of her foes! War has spread over her fair bosom, its desolation and carnage, and the eyes of her widows and orphans have been bathed in tears. In placing this Journal before the public we claim for it no merit save strict regard for truth; it is embellished by no brilliant scintillations of wit—no towering flights of fancy and imagination, but it tells the plain unvarnished truth—represents facts as they actually existed. And if this poor tribute, will be instrumental in silencing those who are ever and anon invoking imprecations upon the officers having charge of Andersonville, Libby and Belle Isle prisons, neither of which, we are sure, can exceed in atrocities those of Gratiot, Alton, Camp Douglas and Morton, as a careful perusal of this work will convince any right thinking individual, then will we feel compensated for all our perplexity in concealing our notes while languishing in Northern prisons, and for our trouble in gathering together the remaining facts preparatory to publication.

THE AUTHOR.

January – February 1863

JANUARY 1, 1863.—Arrived, last night, in company with one hundred and four other prisoners, at St. Louis; confined same night in Gratiot street prison. The weather being extremely cold we had a very disagreeable trip indeed, nothing to eat for twenty-four hours, and when we reached St. Louis we were as hungry as wolves. We had to stand in the street for over an hour before we could be admitted to the prison, during which time one poor fellow took a congestive chill and died. Before our admission we were searched, and deprived of our money, knives, papers, and in fact everything we had about us, (except my journal, which they were unable to find.) We were then shown to our quarters, the upper room in the round building—a very dark, gloomy place, and very filthy besides. From Springfield to Rolla we were made to walk most of the way. We had no tents and were compelled to lie out every night without shelter; sometimes it would rain, and in the morning we would find ourselves wet, muddy and nearly frozen, the roads were also very rough, and by the time we reached St. Louis we were nearly worn out with fatigue, and were glad to get to a place where we could rest even though it were a prison. Can’t say much about our new hotel as yet, as we have not seen enough to justify us in doing so.

JAN. 2, 1863.—Discover this morning that Gratiot is a very hard place, much worse than Springfield; fare so rough, it seems an excellent place to starve. Am not particularly fond of any prison, but must say that I give Springfield the preference over this.

JAN. 3, 1863.—Have found several acquaintances since my arrival—a brother-in-law, and one John Miller, a member of company “A,” and several others who used to belong to Price’s army. They have been here for some time, and as yet see no prospect of getting out.

JAN. 4, 1863.—This morning our quarters were changed to the lower room of the square building; it is in many respects a better place, but very cold, almost impossible to keep warm. We have only two stoves to over a hundred men.

JAN. 5, 1863.—There are now about eight hundred prisoners in Gratiot, and more coming in every day from all parts of the country. We are allowed only two meals a day, and it keeps the cooks busy to get through with them by dark. Some two or three hundred eat at a time, and the tin plates and cups are never washed from the first to the last table. For breakfast we have one-fifth of a loaf of baker’s bread, a small portion of bacon, and a tin cup of stuff they call coffee. For dinner the same amount of bread, a hunk of beef, and a pint of the water the beef was boiled in, which is called soup, and sometimes a couple of boiled potatoes—all dished up and portioned out with the hands; knives, forks and spoons not being allowed. Many leave the table as hungry as they went to it.

JAN. 6, 1863.—The hospital, which is the highest room in the prison, contains a great many, sick at this time. The Sisters of Charity visit them daily, ministering to them, and supplying them with such delicacies as their poor appetites can receive, and their weak conditions require.

JAN. 7, 1863.—Received orders to-day to move ourselves and baggage to the officers’ quarters—find it a great improvement on the old position, much cleaner, and not so crowded. There are eight of us in a room sixteen feet square, Lieut. Edmonds, of Shelbina, and Rev. Mc. Bounds, of Shelbyville, among the number. We have bunks instead of that horrid floor, to sleep on, and our fare is better and more plentiful, and brought on the table in better style. We have the privilege of using knives, forks and spoons, which we prefer to the finger plan in vogue below.

JAN. 8, 1863.—We have the privilege of promenading in a large hall, which we avail ourselves of for exercise. We have a good view from the windows, where we stand and watch for the Southern ladies to pass. God bless them, they always give us a pleasant smile; it is like a glimpse of Heaven to look in their dear sympathizing faces.

JAN. 9, 1863.—For the first time since I left home, on the 2nd of September, 1861, I received a letter; all well and doing well. Hope I shall hear from them every week while I am here, and enjoy the pleasure of talking to them, a few words at a time, with my pen. We are allowed to write but one page only, and our letters are all inspected, and if not gotten up according to the taste of the ‘exquisite’ who examines them, they are thrown into the litter basket and the envelope returned.

RYAN, Patrick John, archbishop, was born in Thurles, county Tipperary, Ireland, Feb. 20, 1831; son of Jeremiah and Mary Ryan. He was professor of English literature in Carondolet Theological seminary, St. Louis, Mo., 1852–53; ordained deacon in 1853, and priest, Sept. 8, 1853. In 1856 he was made rector, remaining in that position until 1860, when he assumed charge of the Parish of the Annunciation in St. Louis, serving also during the civil war as chaplain to the Gratiot Street Military prison and hospital, and declining a commission as chaplain in the army.

Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans,1904.

JAN. 12, 1863.—Yesterday—Sunday, was a very lonesome day, nothing to do or read, and had it not been for Father Ryan coming in, and preaching us a good sermon, I scarcely know how we could have gotten through the day. We have two or three Methodist divines in prison, who are permitted to preach occasionally.

The ladies of St. Louis are very kind, they are constantly relieving our necessities, and seem thankful that it is in their power to do so. I hope the poor fellows below are not forgotten; their case amounts to actual suffering, while we are comparatively comfortable.

JAN. 14, 1863.—Heard some talk yesterday of an exchange of prisoners; hope it will soon come round, God knows we all long to breathe the pure air of Dixie once more, free from the tyrant rule we are now under. To-day we are cooped up in our den, not allowed even to put our heads out of the windows, if we do the guards are ordered to shoot us. One of their own men was put in here for some offence, and probably without knowing of the order, looked out at the window, when the guard fired, and the poor wretch fell dead. Our consolation was, that it was not one of us, but it looked hard to see even an enemy killed in that way.

JAN. 16, 1863.—Nothing of interest transpiring in the prison; we go over the same old round of dull monotony, hear nothing from the outside except when a new victim is brought in. If we could have some papers or books we could do very well, but it will do no good to grumble.

JAN. 19, 1863.—Yesterday was another long dull Sunday. Time in a prison passes slowly. The officer of the day comes in on a tour of inspection; if he is a gentleman his visit is an agreeable episode, if otherwise, which is most frequently the case, he adds insult to injury, and his presence is a nuisance. That over, and our two meals swallowed, the leaden hours drop on to us again and drag heavily along until nine o’clock, P. M., when the lights are extinguished, then our misery becomes invisible. We and darkness keep the secret between us, and many is the hour we pass in silent sad communion. We hear numerous reports from the lower quarters: prisoners complaining of insufficient food. God help them if it is any worse than when I was there. I wonder if it can be true that the prisoners’ rations are sold, and the money pocketed, while the poor fellows are left to starve on less than half of prison allowance. The matter ought to be looked into by those in higher authority.

JAN. 20, 1863.—Still heavy complaints from below about not getting enough to eat, and if this thing continues they will all be in the hospital or grave yard in a very short time. All through the night may be heard coughing, swearing, singing and praying, sometimes drowned by almost unearthly noises, issuing from uproarious gangs, laughing, shouting, stamping and howling, making night hideous with their unnatural clang. It is surely a hell on earth.

JAN. 22, 1863.—A very notable day for me, the grand epoch in my prison life. I have enjoyed 30 minutes conversation with my dear wife—a whole half hour!!

If measured by its length of bliss

I surely lived an age in this,

For in a moment’s rapturous thrill

Was joy enough a life to fill.

Mary E. R. Johnson married Griffin Frost Sept. 10, 1857 in Marion Co., Missouri.

I could rhyme along ad infinitum, but the thirty minutes came to an end. The time was up, she had to go. If possible she will see me again, though I scarce dare hope it. It was with great difficulty she succeeded to-day; the Provost Marshal told her it was against the rules, but she plead so hard that he granted her a permit.

JAN. 23, 1863.—Did not get to see my wife to-day. She went to the Provost’s office and tried again to obtain a permit, but was denied; the best thing she could do was to write me a note, informing me of her unsuccessful efforts, and that she would leave St. Louis to-night on the one o’clock train. May God protect her in her midnight journey.

JAN. 25, 1863.—We hear nothing of an exchange, fear it will be some time before one takes place. Prison life grows duller, wish they would hurry up and get the thing over, it is not very entertaining to sit here and wait the result. Why don’t they clear out the prisons and let us fight it out?

JAN. 28, 1863.—Some of the Federal officers now guarding us are a disgrace to the military service. They do not understand the first principles of gentlemanly courtesy, and as for bravery, who ever heard of a brave man insulting a woman or a helpless prisoner. An ignorant ruffian might, and the source would be considered, but an officer in the army of a country, making the boasts and pretensions which the United States do, is expected to possess some refinement. Hence I assert that Col. Kinkaid is a disgrace to the stars and stripes. He told some five or six Confederate officers that he would not believe one of them on oath, and that their wives, and indeed all the Southern women, were prostitutes of the very lowest class. Such language coming from an object occupying a position which a gentleman ought to fill, needs no comment. Did it ever occur to the uniform that the tables might be turned? He would whine a different tune if he were in a Confederate prison, however he will never be so fortunate, for a person of his stripe never goes where there is any danger of being captured.

Much fault was found with Masterson later on. He was generally reviled by the prisoners, yet later ended up joining their ranks as he was found to have been pilfering from the prisoners’ funds.

The officers of the prison, Capt. Masterson, sergeants Kyser and Glenn, we find no fault with at present. They extend us all the kindness and courtesy which the nature of the case requires and permits, especially Kyser, who has the respect of every officer in prison; but the officers of the regiment now guarding us, are perfect devils—there is nothing too low, mean or insulting, for them to say or do.

JAN. 31, 1863.—Was introduced to McDowell’s College just one month ago to-night. Have learned but little in the way of dissecting the human body, not for the want of subjects however, as there are three or four deaths every day. Received a present yesterday from Mrs. Meredith, the prisoner’s friend, consisting of a pair of drawers, pair of socks, and a shirt; articles of which I stood in great need. God bless the aged Dorcas.

FEB. 2, 1863.—An old woman has for some time been allowed to visit our prison door, and peddle out such little articles as we have need of, and are able to buy, such as edibles, paper, pens and ink. She was a great institution; indeed, we regarded her as a necessity. They tell us she is to come no more—prohibited because she is a Southern sympathizer. Poor old woman, wish she had had Union notions, it was the contents of her basket that we appreciated.

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 by Harriet Stevens

buy this book at Amazon.com

FEB. 3, 1863.—We are now guarded by the 37th Iowa, called the “Silver Greys,” composed mostly of old gentlemen—nice old fellows, kind and fatherly—wish I could say as much for some of their officers, especially Kinkaid and one Malcolm.

FEB. 5, 1863.—Were informed to-day that no exchange of officers will take place until President Davis recalls that “blood-thirsty proclamation” relative to retaining Federal officers. Have seen some fine specimens of birds, which formerly belonged to McDowell’s museum, but all in a ruined condition, the prisoners crowding round in their dirt and despair have wrought a great deal of destruction on the Doctor’s premises. The walls are literally covered with names and scribble. Many a poor fellow has written here the only epitaph he will ever have. We often hear of prison walls having ears; old Gratiot will have a “tongue to tell a tale,” which, if it were told, would “curdle the blood in the veins of youth.”

FEB. 7, 1863.—Learned to-day that several of the “Grey Beards” or Silver Greys, have deserted, and gone, nobody knows where, probably to Dixie to see Uncle Jeff; as it is said that some of them liked him a great deal better than Old Abe. So much for the wisdom of age. Time may bring all the Yankees to their senses; though I must confess, the old Father will have a pretty heavy undertaking, for they are “joined to their idols.”

FEB. 10, 1863,—The Southern ladies of St. Louis by their untiring kindness, make us forget as far as possible, that we are strangers as well as prisoners. Our own families could do no more for us. We are continually receiving from their hands, contributions of clothing, to be distributed among the most needy. The only return the helpless captive can make is fervently to pray, “God bless them.”

We are divided into messes, six or seven together, and take it by turns cooking. It looks odd to see a man round with an apron on, cooking and washing dishes. Since they have let our “Old Woman” come back and sell to us, we get along pretty well—fix up a bread pudding occasionally, probably not in the style our lady wives would order, but we enjoy it hugely.

Col. Daniel Frost, 11th West Virginia Infantry, Co. F., USA, died of wounds received in battle, July 1864

FEB. 12, 1863.—I learned to-day that my brother Dan. Frost is a Colonel in the Federal army, and his son a Major. Strange position for them to occupy. With Dan’s opportunities he ought to have known better; he is a noble man, I love him like a father, but I fear he is fighting against his principles.

Graduates have been rather scarce this winter, but once in a while we send out a hopeful to take the oath, give bond and security, and join the militia. I won’t take my diploma just yet, don’t feel prepared to pay for it.

FEB. 16, 1863.—In the lower quarters are four very old men, who all have a ball and chain, weighing from 50 to 60 pounds, attached to their legs. These implements of torture they drag round when ever they wish to move. Grey hairs and chains did not use to match well in America, they were only found as rare specimens, in the dungeons of the old world, but we are progressive; we manufacture our own curiosities.

Our gentlemanly officers in command, have issued instructions to the guard to “run his bayonet through the d—d rebels” if they crowd round the door when the old peddling woman comes.

FEB. 24, 1863.—Have just returned from the hospital, was there just one week. The Doctor pronounced my case bronchitis; suffered very much with my throat and breast, and a distressing cough. For the first three days I grew no better, the medicine seemed to have no effect, but on the fourth my cough loosened, and I improved rapidly. I was placed in a comfortable room with three others, and we were visited daily by the Sisters of Charity, who administered our medicine, brought us our food, &c. I attribute my speedy recovery to their kind attentions, and womanly nursing.

FEB. 25, 1863.—Eighty-five prisoners were sent off to-day—some say for exchange, others for Alton, I lean to the latter opinion. Among them was one man, very feeble, who was kept up with the rest by being pushed along with the bayonet. A pretty sharp argument and strong stimulus.

FEB. 26, 1863.—Some 70 or 80 prisoners were brought down from Alton to-day, for trial. Col. Ben. Hawkins, of Marion county, Mo., made his escape from prison last night. May success attend him.

FEB. 27, 1863.—Sixty more prisoners left here to-day for Alton. It is said, whether truly or not, time must determine, that they are taken there for the purpose of being sent off on exchange. The weather is miserably gloomy, and the sickness in the hospital is proving very fatal in the last few days.

Arthur McCoy

Arthur C. McCoy

by D. H. Rule

© D. H. Rule

Arthur C. McCoy, who became known as the “Wild Irishman” under Jo. Shelby, was born in Ireland about 1825. After coming to America he went to California where, according to a family history, he was a Forty-Niner in the goldfields. In 1850 he was in Centerville (now called Pilot Hill) in El Dorado County, California. Not far away, in Placerville, was Drury James, uncle of Frank and Jesse James. Their father, Robert James, had died shortly before in California. Whether Arthur McCoy met any of Missouri James family members in 1850 is unknown. It may have been coincidence that he came so near to crossing paths in 1850 with the family with whom his fate would be tied in the 1870s.

Before the Civil War McCoy lived in St. Louis, Missouri where he worked for a time as a coppersmith in “Blackman & McCoy,” a stove and tinware business he shared with William L. Blackman. Shortly before the outbreak of the war he had changed occupations, going into business as a painter, painting steamboats as well as houses. This line of work gave him the working knowledge of steamboats that made him an able boat-burner later.

McCoy was a member of the Liberty Fire Company, one of the volunteer fire departments in the St. Louis until paid fire fighting companies were established in 1858. Liberty Fire HouseThe Liberty Fire Company was known for its rowdiness and combativeness, fighting with other volunteer fire companies. Being in the fire company gave McCoy connections to both the business and political side of St. Louis, with John M. Wimer, a mayor of St. Louis, being one of its prominent members. Many of the early secessionists were connected to the fire company. McCoy had made the connections for his painting business, called “Farmer and McCoy” with Thomas Farmer, by way of the fire department as his partner’s father-in-law, a hardware store owner, had been a member.

McCoy seems to have met his wife through the fire department as well. In December of 1855 he married Louisa Gibson (baptised Heloise), youngest daughter of a well-to-do St. Louis family. His brother-in-law, Robert Louden, who also became a notorious Civil War spy, mail runner, and saboteur, met his wife Mary Gibson, Louisa’s sister, through the fire department connection he shared with Arthur McCoy. Family history says that McCoy spent some time living and operating a business in Alton, Illinois before returning to St. Louis. By 1859 he was again in St. Louis.

By 1860, Arthur and Louisa had two sons, Joseph, born in October 1856, and Arthur Willam, born in May 1858. Their first daughter, Elizabeth, was born in July of 1861.

Berthold MansionAccording to Basil Duke, Arthur McCoy was one of the founding members of the Minute Men, the secessionist organization formed in response to the Unionist Wide Awakes. McCoy’s brother-in-law Robert Louden was also known as a strong Minute Man. It was Arthur McCoy’s wife, Louisa, who is said to have sewed the secessionist flag that flew tauntingly over the Berthold mansion. McCoy was one of those who helped raise the Missouri state flag over the courthouse.

The passages below by John N. Edwards describe McCoy’s military service under Shelby during the Civil War. McCoy’s capture by the Federals took place just days after his son, Arthur William died in St. Louis. It’s possible the two events were connected as McCoy was known to pass in and out of St. Louis several times during the war, often carrying mail with him.

Further Reading: Jesse James Was His Name by William A. Settle, Jr.

General Jo Shelby: Undefeated Rebel
by Daniel O’Flaherty

General Jo Shelby

More books on the James-Younger gang

After the war, McCoy’s life and career are necessarily hazy. He was said to have been a member of the James-Younger gang of bank and train robbers. McCoy is believed to have been one of those involved in the killing of a Pinkerton agent investigating the James. Arthur McCoy is identified as one of those who participated in the robbery of the Russellville, Kentucky bank in 1868, the Adair, Iowa train robbery, as well as the Gad’s Hill train robbery, and numerous others through the first half of the 1870s. The one with the highest likelihood of attribution to McCoy is the Ste. Genevieve, Missouri robbery.

McCoy, though a city-boy from the eastern border of Missouri, would have made his connection to the western border train and bank robbers (most of whom were former Quantrill guerrillas) by way of John Jarrette. Jarrette was also a captain under Shelby in the last part of the war and was married to Cole Younger’s sister, Mary Josephine. More on this part of McCoy’s life.

For a time after the war, Arthur and Louisa McCoy lived in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. In the 1870s they had a farm in Montgomery County, Missouri. Two more sons, Lee and Eugene, were born to them. Family history tells it that Arthur did not particularly enjoy farming and so went to Texas to see about getting into cattle and living there. Other (published but unconfirmed) history says he was arrested for a stage robbery near Austin, Texas in 1874 for which one of the robbers confessed and named McCoy. By late 1874 or 1875 McCoy effectively vanished.

There is no confirmed death date for Arthur C. McCoy. The family believed he had died in Texas in the early 1880s. Other sources place his death in early 1874, several weeks before the Gad’s Hill train robbery in which he is often named (source: “Jesse James: The Man and the Myth” by Marley Brant–footnote unsourced). A reliable St. Louis source places his death as having been by 1880. Louisa McCoy also lists herself as a widow at this point.

Louisa Gibson McCoy remarried, lived briefly in the Oklahoma Territory where her second husband died, before returning to the St. Louis area. Around the turn of the century she and most of her children moved to Oregon and Idaho, where she remained until her death at age 81.

Related pages:

The Boat-Burners (McCoy’s brother-in-law, Robert Louden)

Rock Champion(a fellow Minute Man)

Minute Men(describing the St. Louis secessionist organization)

The James-Younger gang pages



Arthur McCoy: Confederate “Wild Irishman” of St. Louis

By

John N. Edwards

Introduction to author John N. Edwards

with notes by G. E. Rule

[Noted Guerillas]

All legs, and eagerness, and animal spirit McCoy reported to [William H.] Gregg [for duty in hunting down a group of bandits behind Confederate lines] as a schoolboy might report to his master for a holiday. McCoy laughed a great deal, Gregg scarcely at all; McCoy sang a song now and then that was next of kin to a bird’s song, Gregg was a taciturn, unmusical man; McCoy’s face was always mirthful, Gregg’s always in repose and as strong as Cromwell’s. As steadfast, heroic, and unconquerable fighters, neither could be surpassed.


Shelby’s advance [during Sterling Price’s raid into Missouri in 1864] had been led valiantly by Captain Arthur McCoy, and he associated [famous Confederate guerilla George] Todd with him and bade them fight together. McCoy had never been a Guerrilla. He had nothing in common with the Guerrillas except their desperation. He was a tinner [Actually, McCoy was a painter before the war but had worked as a coppersmith at a tin/metal working business before that] working in St. Louis when the war commenced. At the first tap of the recruiting drum, impetuous as a boy and as eager, he espoused the cause of the South and joined the 1st Missouri Confederate Infantry, Bowen’s immortal yet decimated regiment –that regiment with Beauregard lifted his hat to as it was marching past—or, rather, to what was left of it—after Shiloh, and exclaimed: “I salute the 1st Missouri. I uncover to courage that has never yet been surpassed.”

In the infantry, however, McCoy would have dwindled into a consumptive—for his chest was weak, and had that hectic flush, and that dry, short, rasping cough that were ominous. He needed the air and the exercise of a Comanche. He had to breath where there were no canvas house, no shelter, no covering save a blanket, and no habitation save the leaves on the trees.

After Shiloh, the name and fame of Shelby were beginning to fill the West, and there came to him, attracted by the unexampled enterprise and heroism of the man, quite a large number of daring spirits who asked only esprit de corps and a leader that would fight every hour in every day for a year and a day. Among them was Arthur McCoy, six feet and over, a little stooped about the shoulders, very long in the arms, having a stride like a racehorse, and a nervous energy that was expending itself even while he slept. All the lower face was massive—the lower jaw especially square cut and huge. The eyes were of that cold, glittering, penetrating blue that might be cruel as a serpent’s, soft and tender as the eyes of confidence or trust. When the battle was dubious or desperate, or when the wreck was darkest and thickest, and the dead lay rank and plentiful, the eyes seemed to transform themselves and become absolutely scintillant. About the man’s whole nature, too, there was an element of grotesqueness impossible to analyze. He sang little snatches of song in battle; he rode out in advance of his own skirmish line and challenged Federal skirmishers to single combat; he would get down on his knees under fire the most pitiless, uncover himself, and pray fervently beside some comrade mortally wounded; he seemed never to have known what the meaning of fear was; he begged incessantly to be sent upon forlorn and desperate service; he was a spy without a peer in either army; he was a scout that seemed to have leagued with the devil and received from his majesty invaluable protection papers; he charged pickets for pastime, and rode yelling and shooting through Federal outposts, at the head of fifty or sixty followers, at all hours and in any weather. Shelby’s division gave him the soubriquet of the “Wild Irishman”, and yet for cold calm, penetrating soldier-sense—for acuteness, military logic and undoubted strategy, McCoy had the head of Vidocq and the nerve of d’Artagnan. Seven times during the war—through the Federal lines, and past scouts, patrols, cantonments, and militia and predatory bands—McCoy came into St. Louis with a thousand letters at a time, and departed hence with as many more.



[Shelby and His Men]

Shelby broke ground first with unceasing activity. The second day after the arrival at Cane Hill, Lieutenant Arthur McCoy, with fifty picked men, was sent to look up one hundred Pins [Indians], reported to be encamped near a little town twenty miles in the Cherokees Nation. This Arthur McCoy was a gay, dashing, devil-may-care St. Louisan who joined the old 1st Missouri Infantry, Bowen’s immortal regiment, Duffee’s company, in St. Louis, and had won red laurels at Shiloh, but being attracted by the rising star of Shelby’s genius, came over to join his galaxy of knights. Like some of the cuirassiers of Napoleon’s Old Guard, he always doffed his plumed hat to this adversary just as he murmured through his moustache, “En Garde.” McCoy, above all others, suited exactly for the enterprise, and ferreting out, by good luck, and excellent guide, he succeeded in completely surprising the Indian encampment. The sleepy pickets were cut off and sabered silently. The doomed warriors lay rolled up in their blankets alongside of a heavy rail fence, which had been fired in a hundred corners to give heat during the night, when the silent horsemen rode upon them without the ringing of a musket. The work, short and bloody, lasted on a few moments. McCoy sabered seven with his own hand, and but ten of the whole number escaped. The next morning he rode quietly into camp with not a rose on his fresh, blooming face withered or fled.


Captain Blackwell, in command of Marmaduke’s escort, entered Marshfield suddenly, picked up a dozen of or rusticating Federals, and took possession of five large stores filled with everything needed by soldiers. Finding their proprietors unwilling to take Confederate money at par—although the notes were worth something as containing correct photographic likenesses of President Davis—and possessing a very conservative disposition with his many other good qualities, Captain Blackwell detailed five accurate salesman, Peter Turley, James Walton, Arthur McCoy, James Herndon, and Joel Whitehurst, to wait upon those customers having the “six months after a treaty of peace” bills. Business, previously quite dull, expanded visibly under this new commercial arrangement, and soon every store became crowded with anxious buyers. At night a large auction followed, the Southern ladies attending in crowds and having heavy amounts of the proscribed money in their possession. The uses made afterward of these funds by the bona fide merchants were never ascertained, yet it is highly probably they were put carefully away until a day of redemption came, which every one among them believed was near at hand, if their vociferant assertions of loyalty to the Confederacy could be relied upon.


[Edwards reminiscing about sitting around a campfire in Arkansas listening to various men tell their stories . . .]

. . .McCoy telling some galloping story of border foray, and how he went snugly into St. Louis and brought out seven hundred thousand musket-caps.


The restless and insatiate Arthur McCoy—whose energy and battle-intellect were Titanic—hovered around Clayton for three days, cut off two picket posts, captured seven wagons, killed a notorious Union bushwhacker living near Pine Bluff, and returned loaded with arms and accoutrements.


After the capture of the Queen City, and after the battle with the Tyler and her consorts, a man presented himself to Shelby’s picket line, weak, emaciated—but wary and defiant—his clothes dripping with moisture and covered by the mire and the sand of the swamps. Not recognized by the officer on duty, he was sent into camp. When the dirt was washed from his face, and his long lank hair combed out, he proved to be Captain Arthur McCoy, before spoken of as one of the most daring, debonair, heroic scouters and fighters in the whole brigade. His escape had been romantic, and in every way characteristic of the indomitable Confederate. Captured several months before, on an expedition toward the Arkansas river, because his horse had been shot dead under him, after his five men had fought seventy-eight Federals for eleven miles, he had been carried first to Pine Bluff, where Clayton, although a Kansan, treated him soldierly; thence to Little Rock, where the penitentiary was too good for him, had finally arrived at Duvall’s Bluff, on his way to Alton, and maybe that dark, mysterious death suffered by so many.

The roar of Collin’s guns, which had shattered the life out of the Queen City and the fight out of the Tyler, told to McCoy’s quick ears the tale of Shelby’s attack, and the rumors about the town, and the hasty mustering of the garrison, told equally well that the attack had been successful. He determined at every hazard to escape, and was greatly favored by some friends on board the boat upon which he had been confined, and the mention of whose names here can do no good. [McCoy and his brother-in-law –Confederate spy, courier, and saboteur Robert Louden– had worked at painting steamboats on the St. Louis levee before the war, and both of them would have had many friends on the boats working the rivers.  In addition, Louden’s partner, Ab Grimes, was a steamboat pilot and had even more river friends–these would certainly be available to Louden, and probably by extension to McCoy. The Federals had noted many times that the majority of the river men were Southern-leaning.] The time for action came. He stood on the hurricane roof of the boat in earnest conversation with an engineer—his friend and accomplice. Suddenly the engineer exclaimed to McCoy, who had dressed himself in the working suit of one of the hands of the boat:

“I tell you we can not move from the wharf unless the thing is fixed,” mentioning the name of some part of the machinery.

“And I tell you,” answered McCoy, “that the d—-d thing can’t be fixed until you send to the Little Rock foundry.”

“I know better,” replied the engineer. “Come with me and I will prove it.”

The guard, calmly pacing his beat during the time of the conversation, had heard every word, and naturally enough supposing they were two engineers disputing about some machinery needing repair, scarcely noticed them as they went below. Quick as lightning McCoy descended through the wheelhouse and into the water with a noiseless motion. Floating quietly along, his head barely enough above the waves for respiration, he passed the lowest boat, the lookouts on the batteries, around a bend in the river, and at last beyond sight, without his escape being noticed. At length, wearied from incessant exertion, he drew upon the nearest shore for rest and observation, when, horror of horrors, a grim ironclad lay quietly at anchor about three hundred yards below. To go back was simply impossible, to take to the woods seemed madness, as White river spread out ten miles wide at this point, and the bottoms on either shore were a wilderness of water—so McCoy gathered a large bundle of dry canes, launched them very quietly, and boldly floated past the gunboat in safety, and for eight miles further, until he reached the shelter of his old ark, worn out, haggard, and exhausted.

Three days in camp furnished all the rest he required, and after this time had been spent lazily, it was ascertained that tin the Mississippi River about thirty miles above Helena, a large steamboat, the Mariner, loaded with coal for the fleet, stood hard and fast aground, and that by a little wading she might be captured. Taking seventy-five picked men, he made a forced march, surprised the guard of five men on the bank watching the steamer, waded waist deep two hundred yards to her, and finally gave the boat and cargo to the flames—sending the officers and crew on board to the commanding general at Helena.

Arthur McCoy returned with his spoils in the shape of two or more dozen fine carbines and revolvers. . .


Marmaduke was resting after Springfield and Hartville, preparing for Cape Girardeau. Musket caps were fearfully scarce in the department and none anywhere in reach nearer than St. Louis. The detail came originally to Shelby for a lieutenant and ten men, and he sent McCoy, who had been twice before into St. Louis. McCoy reported to Marmaduke and suggested that two men where sufficient, as the chances would be better for getting through and accomplishing the object of the mission. A young St. Louisan, brave, cool, wary and accomplished, Captain John W. Howard, was selected by McCoy to accompany him, and about the 13th of January [1864?] these two devoted officers started northward through the snow and the ice, with no passport save their wonderful assurance, and no diplomatic documents in addition to several hundred letters from Confederate soldiers to their friends in the loyal States.

Slowly and painfully they toiled through the drifted snow and the barren wastes along the dreary road until after three days’ hard traveling the State line was reached. Davidson’s cavalry division was scattered and roaming about in squads promiscuously over the country, and caution became not only necessary but so extreme as to be absolutely painful. At Current river a scout of fifty were encountered, but they were avoided by taking to the woods. Near Pilot Knob an old man was seen who mistook the two Confederates for Federal, as they were dressed in complete Federal clothing, except the pants of Howard, which were gray. The old man was very glad to see the “boys in blue”; had two precious cut-throats in the militia, and wanted McCoy to take some letters for him into Pilot Knob. “Money in them?”, asked Howard. “Oh! No, only on business.” “All right,” said McCoy, “the d—-d Secesh might rob us if it were supposed we had valuables.” They further imposed upon him by making inquiries about some sick Federals they had accidentally heard of as being in the neighborhood, and he gave them ample directions for a day’s journey. In Washington county they were hard put to it. The militia were swarming, and for information they called upon Mr. Pleas. Johnson. Mr. Johnson had gone to a funeral somewhere, and nothing could be found out there. All one night was spent in riding around Potosi—they were four miles south of it at dark and were four miles north of it at daylight. After daylight came broad and good they called upon another Mr. Johnson, and he sent them to a Mrs. Smith who had two sons in the militia, but was a true Southern lady. The tired, hungry men asked for food and sleep. In a short time her militia sons returned, but only to stand picket over the sleeping Confederates, and after three hours of sleep, they were awakened, fed, and sent on their toilsome way. The next house visited belonged to a Mr. Stovall.

Mr. Stovall gave them food and fire-water. Howard watched the horses and McCoy did the talking. “Are you a good Union man, Mr. Stovall?” “As good as the best, Captain.” “Well,” said McCoy, “have you seen pass here lately a red-headed man riding a little shave-tailed mule?” (He had heard of this fellow two houses back from Stovall’s). “Yes,” said the host. “Well, he is a deserter from General Davidson’s forces. I am after him hot, and must have a guide on the most direct road leading to St. Louis.” “I can’t go myself, captain, but my neighbor, Captain —–, has a good horse and is long in these parts.” “Go for him,” said McCoy sternly. The captain soon came, splendidly mounted, armed, and equipped. He was a vicious militia man, too, and McCoy’s eyes had a bad look when resting upon him. “You are a good guide, I hear”, said McCoy, “and I desire you to accompany me.” “I can not,” replied the Federal. McCoy straightened up, towered over the militiaman and drew out a huge paper in an official envelope and said ominously: “General Davidson has given me this document for my authority; it empowers me to impress and to kill; I shall do one or the other, or my name is not Captain McKeever.” This threat had its effect. A little before dark they started in a terrible rainstorm, which penetrated to the skin, although opposed by heavy and excellent overcoats. The Federal captain did his duty well, and took them to within eight miles of the Merrimac bivouacking was encountered. The rain which had been cursed and blasphemed, save the two spy heroes. God does not always destroy those who violate the seventh commandment, or from an army of fifty thousand there would scarcely survive ninety and nine. This rain had driven the cavalry from the road to the shelter of the timber, some thirty rods away, yet they halted loudly when the party came in sight. “Trot fast,” were the low, calm words of Howard, his right hand toying with the heavy dragoon under his coat. “No, no”, replied the Federal, “we must halt; they will fire else.” “Let them fire and be d—-d”, sneered McCoy, “do you suppose I would halt in such an infernal rain as this? Close up, Howard.”

Howard struck the Federal officer’s horse fiercely with the long reins of his bridle, and altogether, the three steeds bounded off at a sharp canter.

Carondolet was reached about three o’clock the next day, and the town was full of soldiers. The two daredevils dismounted leisurely, got shaved, and then went sauntering into a public barroom. Twenty Federals were drinking—they were infantry bear in mind. “Hallo, infantry”, shouted McCoy, “come and take a drink with some of the crack fellows of Davidson’s cavalry”. This bluff frankness told well with the soldiers, and the infantry came crowding around with five hundred questions about the Rebels in Arkansas—about Price, Marmaduke, Shelby, Kitchen, the bushwhackers, and what not. A brawny, burly fellow, with rough cheekbones and a bright, bad eye, peered long at Captain Howard, with some straggling instincts of recognition. “Who are you?”, he asked at length; “I have seen you in St. Louis”. Howard knew the fellow well, yet his composure was wonderful, and his voice clear and distinct as the ring of a silver anvil: “Likely, comrade; I have been there often. I am Captain Beard, of Hubbard’s 1st Missouri Cavalry Battalion”. The rank imposed upon the crowd—they had never been to the front and were privates—so they became reticent instantly. After another drink at Howard’s expense—the two improvised Federals rode boldly for St. Louis, which they entered without remark or comment, passing within two feet of the sentinel at the arsenal mechanically walking his beat. [Gee, I wonder what happened to their scout? They seem to have misplaced him somewhere.]

Once inside and these gay gallants threw away almost the simplest precautions. Both of them had fine Confederate cavalry uniforms mad, which, consistent with regulations, were gaudy and attractive. “I’ll get the caps,” said McCoy, “but I must have some fun.” One night the two were enjoying an hour’s tête-à-tête with five or six Rebel ladies, when in came two Federal majors. McCoy felt invigorated by some rare old Krug, and the devil danced about his cold gray eyes till they sparkled and glittered. Excusing himself a moment, he stepped into an adjoining room, unpinned the skirts of his uniform coat, threw off the great blue overcoat, and burst back upon the astonished Federals in all the glory and horror of buff and gold lace. “This farce of being Yankee is about played out”, said McCoy; “please give us Dixie, Miss —–“. The beautiful girl, catching inspiration from the sight of the “darling gray”, sprang like a with upon the piano, and tangled her white fingers in among the keys until the air gave out Rebel infection and the whole house joined in the chorus. The [Federal] officers started simultaneously for the door. “Not this night”, said McCoy; “we have no desire to hang for an useless frolic. Be quiet, gentlemen, and let’s make a night of it,” and his pistol and Howard’s were out in a twinkling. The Federals, who were really sensible fellows, remained quietly, drank deeply, and were finally carried to bed in a state of blissful ignorance.

Long before day the Confederates were moving. Two splendid horses had been procured, forty thousand musket caps were stowed away in saddlebags. Howard carried from the city an elegant saddle and bridle for General Shelby, and, after seeing McCoy well on his way Southward, returned quietly to organize and take out to Arkansas a company of recruits.


[Noted Guerillas –same trip into St. Louis as above. Note that in the above telling, Howard had accompanied McCoy “well on his way Southward”, but there is no mention of him as McCoy passes Benton Barracks and baits the sentinel. Noted Guerillas also has a shorter but more flamboyant telling of the encounter with the Federal officers given above, with McCoy forcing one of the Federals to wear a Confederate uniform and dance to Dixie.]

As McCoy rode out from St. Louis, in the cold gray of the following morning, the devil still seemed to have possession of him. As he passed Benton Barracks a sentinel stood by the roadside with his gun at a right, shoulder shift. McCoy rode up to him and halted: “I am a Confederate officer. I represent the Confederate President—if you should present arms to me I should consider that you had presented them to Mr. Jefferson Davis. Present arms!” The sentinel thought the man was evidently mad. It was still early morning. No soldiers were astir anywhere about the barracks. McCoy’s revolver was at the soldier’s breast before he could take his musket from his shoulder. “You will not present arms to me?” “Not to save your life.” “But you see I have the drop on you! Do you want me to kill you?” Still thinking McCoy was one of his own uniform, and being drunk or mischievous, was trying to play a prank on him, the sentinel replied, “shoot and be d—-d!”

McCoy’s face darkened instantly, and he cocked his pistol, “I will not shoot you so,” he said, “nor will I shoot you at all without giving you a chance for your life. Listen, I shall ride back fifty paces, turn my horse, and charge you. As I come by I shall fire at you once. You have but one shot and I who have eighteen will take but one also. Get ready.”

The sentinel, as he saw McCoy deliberately countermarch and wheel about to charge, began, at last, to have his suspicions aroused. He took his musket from his shoulder and cocked it and waited. McCoy dashed furiously down upon the sentinel, and the sentinel, when he was with about ten paces of him, fired at point blank range and missed. As McCoy passed him, he put out his pistol suddenly and shot him down where he stood, the garrison turning out in force, and hurriedly saddled, cavalry coming on in rapid pursuit. The sentinel, however, although badly wounded, finally recovered and McCoy, scarcely quickening his pace, rode on southward unmolested.



[Shelby and His Men –after McCoy left St. Louis on this trip]

At a bridge some twenty miles from St. Louis, McCoy met trouble—one company of Federals held it. He was on the bridge before he discovered the guard, an almost right on him. “Halt!”, was the challenge. “Well”, says the unabashed adventurer, “what do you want?” “I want you to get down and show your pass”, says the “boy in blue”. “What, Sir?”, says McCoy in a voice of thunder, “do you dare to insult an officer of the day, with his saber by his side, by such a piece of insolence as this? Can’t you see my rank, sir?” “Well”, says the abashed Federal in an exculpatory tone, “I was only trying to obey the order of my captain.” “Your captain, eh! Where is your captain, sir? Had he did his duty this thing would not have happened to you. He should have taught you to say, ‘Halt! Who comes there?’ and let me answer the challenge in that shape. Instead of that you halt me improperly, and show at once that you have not been well instructed. Where is your captain, sir?” “He has just passed the bridge with the rest of the company to put them on picket”. “Very well, sir”, said McCoy, somewhat mollified, “I can excuse you, but I can not overlook such negligence in your captain. I will go and see after him.” And thereupon he put spurs to his trusty steed, and rode off past the guard at a brisk canter. As soon as he came to a turn in the road he darted out into the woods and fields, every foot of which he knew too well to venture upon giving “that captain” the lecture he had promised, and made his way safely to Shelby’s headquarters in Batesville.

Of course there must have been staunch Southern sympathizers in St. Louis, or McCoy and Howard would have gone to the wall; and to two men these officers went for material aid—Mr. John King and Captain William D. Bartle. It would be difficult to make an accurate estimate of the assistance furnished by these two devoted “Rebels”. McCoy was in St. Louis three times during his connection with Shelby, and John King upon every occasion gave him money, pistols, horses, and better than all, information, for is a keen, observant man, and a shrewd tactician. So also did Captain Bartle. St. Louis is filled with generous people who aided the Confederate in every possible manner, and who, many of them, endured exile for their sympathies; but there are none who excelled these gentlemen in the secrecy of their operation, the munificence of their gifts, and in the indefatigable manner by which they equipped and hurried to the army young men unable to purchase the necessary accouterments.


[Noted Guerillas]

Later, in 1864, a deed was done by McCoy which attracted the attention and won the admiration of two opposing forces. General John B. Clark was attacking Glasgow from one side of the river, in 1864, and General Shelby from the other. Between the two lines drawn about the doomed town were the Federal forts and garrison commanded by General Chester Harding. A large steamboat lay at the wharf and Shelby desired to know if it were serviceable; if it were, he intended to man it and ferry over his command, and to attack from the north side. He did not want to sacrifice over one man in the perilous undertaking, and he did not desire to order any soldier to perform the desperate duty. Volunteers were called for, and while fifty came to the front, McCoy was chosen because he knew more than any of them about steamboats and their machinery, and because he pleaded so hard to be permitted to take the risk. He started in a skiff as slight as a pasteboard. Having to pull himself, his back was necessarily to the town, thus depriving him of whatever advantage he might have attained by watching the operations of the enemy. Glasgow is built upon a hill, and from the foot of the bluff to the river there is probably a stretch of bottom land a dozen paces across. Closely engaged from the south, the Federal skirmishers did not descend from the hill tops, where, half hidden and partially entrenched, they fired closely and vigorously upon McCoy. He kept right onward. As he left the shelter of his own lines, the bullets thickened in the water about him and fairly plowed up the surface of the river with lead. Collins, with two guns of his memorable battery, succored him all that was possible and threw canister rapidly into the skirmishers. Once when the fire was desperately hot, McCoy turned around upon his seat, ceased rowing, and lifted his hat to the Federal skirmishers. Both sides cheered spontaneously. How he escaped is a matter yet unexplained. Probably two hundred men fired at him, each man firing five shots, or one thousand shots in all. Blood was not drawn once from his body, miraculous to relate. One bullet cut off a lock of his hair, another knocked his cap into he river, which he deliberately stopped to pick up, seven balls struck the skiff in various parts, four more went through is clothes, and one cut almost in two at the oarlock the left hand oar. In despite of everything, however, McCoy gained the northern bank, landed the boat, obtained what information he desired, and actually returned as he had crossed under a tremendous volley of small arms.

Once he fought a duel—a duel to the death—but not one of his own seeking. In the Western army there were many Confederate Indians, and in a Choctaw regiment there was a young half-breed captain who had a pony sensible enough to have been a circus pony. It would dance, talked with its head, fire off a pistol, and do other and numerous tricks at the bidding of its master. McCoy owned a savage stallion, a favorite, however, because of its fleetness and strength. The pony and the stallion got together one night, and the next morning the Choctaw had no pony—McCoy’s horse having literally devoured him. The Indian was furious. He would have revenge. He would kill the horse that killed his horse. He would have revenge. He started to execute his threat. McCoy stood across his path with a drawn, saber in his hand, and said to the Choctaw: “Arm yourself. Shall it be sword or pistol? You want satisfaction and shall have it. My horse’s hide is more precious than my own, therefore not one hair upon it shall be ruffled.” The Indian chose a saber also, a ring was formed, seconds appointed, and probably half a brigade gathered to see the desperate work. McCoy fenced warily; the Indian, quick and savage. Both were wounded. McCoy had an ugly cut on his right temple and another on his left hip. The Indian had been slashed twice severely, and once across the saber arm. Each was getting weak. Finally McCoy made a feint as if he would deliver the right cut, shortened his sword arm, and ran the Indian squarely through the body. Thus ended the fight and the life of the Choctaw as well. He died before midnight.

Curtis heavy division, retreating before General Price [in the 1864 raid] all the way from Lexington to Independence, held the western bank of the Little Blue, and some heavy stonewalls and fences beyond. Marmaduke and Shelby broke his hold loose from these, and pressed him rapidly back to and through Independence, the two Colorado regiments covering his rear stubbornly and well. Side by side McCoy and [George] Todd had made several brilliant charges during the morning, and had driven before them with great spirit and dash every Colorado squadron halted to resist the continual marching forward of the Confederate cavalry. Ere the pursuit ended for the day, half of the 2nd Colorado regiment drew upon the crest of a bold hill and made a gallant fight. Their Major, Smith, a brave and dashing officer, was killed here, and here Todd fell. General Shelby, as was his wont, was well up with the advance, and leading recklessly the two companies of Todd and McCoy. Next to Shelby’s right rode Todd, and upon his left was McCoy. Close to these and near to the front files where Colonel Nichols, [John] Thrailkill, Ben Morrow, Ike Flannery and Jesse James. The trot had deepened into a gallop, and all the cloud of skirmishers covering the head of the rushing column were at it, fierce and hot, when the 2nd Colorado swept the road with a furious volley, broke away from the strong position held by them, and hurried on through the streets of Independence followed by the untiring McCoy, as lank as a foxhound and as eager.

That volley killed Todd.



[Shelby and His Men –on the retreat from Missouri, thru Kansas, after the 1864 raid]

Shelby moved this day with his division in advance, making desolate a broad track through the fertile fields of Kansa, and leaving behind him long trails of fire and smoldering ruins. Scattered militia were captured at nearly every house, and McCoy, with one hundred and fifty men, stormed Fort Lincoln, took its garrison of one hundred prisoners, burned it and all its surrounding houses, and returned to the column loaded with horses and supplies. [The accounts of McCoy do seem to have a consistent thread of booty. . .uh, acquired. . . to them.]


The advance, composed of two hundred volunteers from all the regiments in the brigade, and superb body of soldiers they were, lost one hundred and twenty in killed and wounded. It was led by McCoy. At Newtonia, Slayback from three hundred and twenty men lose in killed forty-nine, besides a large number wounded. These statements may show to a small extent the sacrifices Shelby was called upon to make.


General Magruder commenced about this time [early 1865] the organization of a secret corps for operations within the enemy’s lines, and, as usual, Shelby was called upon for some of his best and truest of men—those he had trained, hardened, and schooled in every species of desperate and reckless warfare. McCoy plead so earnestly for the mission that General Shelby—whose own ambitious heart was ever soft and yielding to the daring wishes of his men—gave it to him. McCoy took fourteen men—Jim Kirtley, Sam Redd, James Cather, Dan Franklin, Jim McGraw, At Persinger, Nick Coil, Bob Allen, Sam Downing, Asa Tracey, John Manion, Sid Martin, Ed Ward, and a little boy scarcely fifteen year old—Lem Stevenson—but acute and intelligent to a most wonderful degree. His fresh, guileless face and soft, amiable manners made him invaluable as a spy, and McCoy used him constantly to great advantage. A record of the adventures of these daring Confederates would be marvelous, indeed, and almost beyond belief. McGraw spent most of his time at the Federal naval station, near the mouth of White River, and managed always to keep McCoy posted regarding the movement of all detachments sent out for his capture. Sid Martin, another boy, about eighteen years of age, but cool and wary as a grenadier of Napoleon’s old guard, went twice into Memphis and once into St. Louis, and brought back to his captain, in addition to valuable information, twenty-three revolvers and a large sack filled with Ely’s pistol caps—more precious than greenbacks. He was captured twice, but on both occasions eluded his guards and returned to camp riding the best horse in the squad having charge of him. Lem Stevenson visited St. Louis twice, was lionized, petted, spoiled, and concealed by the Southern ladies there and returned each time with a great budge of news for Magruder. Ed Ward, James Cather, At Persinger, Jim Kirtley and Sam Redd did the scouting from Napoleon to Pine Bluff; Coil, Sam Downing, and Asa Tracey, were the river detail—especially commissioned to burn transports and trading-boats. Two fine steamers and tree little Yankee coasters—loaded with jews-harps, gew-gaws, and, maybe a few wooden nutmegs—were given to the flames, the crews were give to the sword, and the supplies that were valuable distributed to the suffering and heroic Southern women in the neighborhood of the captures. [There’s McCoy and his booty again]

Such was the terror and annoyance inspired by the reckless and unceasing efforts of McCoy’s partisans that General McGinnis, the Federal commander in that portion of the country, sent daily detachments in quest of them. Major Davis, of the 15th Illinois cavalry, leading a squadron one day in this kind of pursuit, was ambushed by War, Cather, Coil, Persinger, Redd, Downing and Tracey, at the mouth of a long lane and completely routed. It happened just at dark, and five men falling at the first close, deadly fire, the Illinoisans were seized with a panic, thinking they were outnumbered and enfiladed, and fled franticly back followed by the seven back followed by the seven Confederates shooting everything they could overtake. Superbly mounted, they overtook many, too. Captain Norris, of the same regiment—the 15th Illinois—came out the next day and fared even worse. He had twenty-two men killed, five wounded, and lost ten horse and fourteen prisoners. This time McCoy had his whole force concentrated and on the alert.

Mrs. Douglass, an estimable and hospitable Southern matron, living in the heart of the “dark and bloody ground,” had her house used as a hospital for both parties—and often wounded Confederated and Federals would be lying side by side in the same room, receiving alike from her hands nourishment and sympathy. Her young and beautiful daughters emulated the example of their mother, and tried to outdo her in acts of mercy and benevolence. They often deprived themselves of their scanty supplies of provisions for the soldiers, and were in every particular angels of good deeds.

Cotton speculators, Yankee agents, itinerant preachers, and psalm-singing schoolmasters fled from McCoy’s scene of operations in ludicrous hast, spreading the most frightful repots of guerrillas, demons, giants, and what not. McCoy once suggest to a Federal Colonel, under flag of truce, that, as the vocabulary of epithets had been exhausted upon him men and himself, he would ask thereafter, as an especial favor, that they might be called gorillas.

Until the downfall of the Confederacy, McCoy’s little band kept watch and ward upon the river, keeping General Smith advised of every military movement upon the Mississippi.

Gratiot Street Prison FAQ

Gratiot Street Prison FAQ:

Frequently Asked Questions about the Union Civil War Prison in St. Louis, Missouri

by D. H. Rule

How is Gratiot pronounced?

grass-shut

Where does the name come from?

The prison was at the corner of 8th and Gratiot Streets in St. Louis.

Does anything remain on the site?

No. The location is now the headquarters of Ralston-Purina and has been for over a century. The original Gratiot building was demolished in 1878. As near as I could determine, the actual prison site is now a parking lot. (see Then & Now for pictures)

Letters and memoirs sometimes refer to McDowell’s College. What is “McDowell’s” or “McDowell’s College”?

This is Gratiot Street Prison. The building had been McDowell’s College, a medical college owned and operated by Joseph Nash McDowell. It was confiscated by the Federal authorities in the spring of 1861. In December 1861 the building was converted into a prison and later renamed. Even early Federal records often call the place “McDowell’s College.”

Gratiot 1863

What sort of area was Gratiot Street Prison in?

It was right in the midst of some of the wealthiest homes in St. Louis. General Fremont’s headquarters in the Brant Mansion were only a block away. Right across the street was the home of the wealthy Harrison family. Attached to Gratiot on the north was the Christian Brothers Academy.

See Gratiot Street Prison for a description of the building and area.

What kind of prisoners were held there?

Unlike other Civil War prisons, Gratiot was used to hold just about anyone and everyone. Along with Confederate prisoners of war were also held civilians (“citizens”), women, children, confiscated slaves (“contrabands”), spies, saboteurs, political prisoners, guerrillas and bushwhackers, and even Federal soldiers who had committed crimes or had misbehaved. Of Confederate soldiers held at Gratiot, the most likely ones came from battles and states in the Mississippi River region as far south as New Orleans. They were sent north for processing at Gratiot then moved on to Alton and other eastern prisons. Also soldiers fighting in Missouri and Arkansas would be sent to St. Louis.

Was Gratiot the only prison in St. Louis?

No. There were a number of other prisons and buildings used besides Gratiot, but they all fell under Gratiot’s administration (which was run by the Provost Marshal) and were, effectively, part of Gratiot. Other prisons include Myrtle Street Prison which was a confiscated slave pen known as Lynch’s Slave Pen (confiscated from Bernard Lynch), Chesnut Street Prison which was the confiscated home of Margaret McLure and was used to hold women, and a variety of other buildings in the area surrounding Gratiot.

Were Confederate POWs held there a long time or moved to other prison?

Most were moved to other prisons fairly quickly. Most common destination was Alton Prison 25 miles away on the Mississippi River in Illinois. From there many were sent on to Camp Douglas in Chicago, Camp Chase, etc. Or were sent east for exchange and return south (until exchanges were halted). Gratiot was more of a clearing house for POWs in the Trans-Mississippi. POWs came from Mississippi River area battles and surrenders like Vicksburg. Prisoners who were held a long time at Gratiot were officers who had been caught recruiting behind the lines, or engaging in other such illegal activities, spies, smugglers, and political prisoners.

Gratiot in 1876Is there any single list or database of prisoners held at Gratiot? Where can I look up my ancestor?

No. And there is no such thing as a quick, simple “look-up”. Prisoner records are on a series of microfilms, are handwritten, not in true alphabetical or chronological order (see Gratiot Sources). Even the primary microfilms of Gratiot ledgers do not include all the prisoner names–others are scattered across hundreds of Provost Marshal microfilm records. The St. Louis newspapers also published daily Gratiot prisoner updates/arrivals/departures that may include even more names recorded nowhere else. The names of several hundred prisoners (out of thousands) have been transcribed on this website, and will continue to be added to. A published transcription list of Missouri-only Confederate prisoners was done by Joanne Chiles Eakin and is available from Civil War Lady’s Book Shoppe. The Women and Children’s Prisoner List on this website is the most thorough and complete listing to date of women and children held prisoner in the St. Louis prisons during the Civil War.

What were the main causes of death at Gratiot?

Disease–mainly small pox. The prison officials took efforts to contain the disease and vaccinated against it as far as possible but there were still several severe outbreaks. All the other typical illnesses common to the era also affected the prisoners. There is little evidence that lack of food or safe water (by 1860’s standards) was ever a major problem. When inspections revealed poor food or lack of food steps were taken to correct the situation. Sanitary conditions were also monitored carefully. While there were problems–particularly in the early months of operation–there’s no indication that any food shortages or deficient sanitary conditions were intentional and they were corrected as soon and as well as possible. Also, arriving prisoners may have had battle wounds that had often gone untreated for several days, as well as an arduous trip, that affected their survival chances. In the very first batch of prisoners to arrive at Gratiot one man died practically on the doorsteps in the December cold. This is not to say conditions were always pleasant. Treatment was sometimes harsh but not unusually so for the era.

What was the capacity?

1200 was the recommended maximum number but over 2000 people were kept at some times.

Were there many escapes?

Yes. At one time the St. Louis newspapers mockingly referred to the prison have bars made of cobwebs. The biggest single escape was in December 1863 when about 60 men escaped through a tunnel. Others cut through the wall into Christian Brothers Academy where they were–without hindrance–shown the exit. This is not to say escapes came easily or without cost–a sizeable number were killed in the attempts and others thwarted. Being in the location it was, in the midst of often sympathetic houses, made it easier to make good an escape. A safe hiding place could be found often as near as half a block from the prison.

What was security like? How were people kept in?

The main factor keeping people in was–as with most Civil War prisons–the concept of a “dead line”. Except in the case of Gratiot, with its very small outdoor yards, there was not a physical dead line, but rules stating that standing at a window, putting arms or head out, etc. would get you shot. One Federal soldier who’d been put in the prison for misbehavior didn’t last even a day as he was shot by one of the guards. Guards patrolled the streets and alleys adjacent to the building.

Did executions take place at Gratiot?

A few. Most were conducted off-site, mainly at the city jail or Benton Barracks.

Where were the dead buried?

Most were buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery (you can search burial listings here). Some were claimed by families and taken home for burial. Some–particularly smallpox victims–were buried in cemeteries at the small pox hospitals or on a Quarantine Island in the middle of the Mississippi River.

Sabotage of the Sultana – Boatburners in Official Records

Sabotage of the Sultana…

The Boat-burners in the Official Records:

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME XXIV/3

DALTON, January 31, 1864.

Hon. JAMES A. SEDDON, Secretary of War:

SIR: I have had the honor to receive the letter of the Secretary of the Treasury to the President, dated January 9, with your indorsement, dated 11th.

During the siege of Vicksburg, Governor Pettus proposed to me the adoption of a plan suggested by Judge Tucker, to be executed under that gentleman’s direction, to cut off supplies from the besieging army. He required $20,000 to inaugurate it. I drew a check for that sum on The assistant treasurer in Mobile, in favor of Governor Pettus, who indorsed it to Judge Tucker. After considerable delay, caused by reference of the matter to the Treasury Department, the money was paid. While I remained in Mississippi, Judge Tucker was, I believe, using this money against the enemy’s navigation of the river. About the end of October, I wrote an explanation of the case to the Secretary of the Navy, to be delivered by Judge Tucker, who had large claims against that Department for enemy’s property destroyed on the water.

This sum was not a part of that transferred to me by Commander [Samuel] Barron, all of which was returned by me to the Navy Department.

Most respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. E. JOHNSTON.

[this documents the solicitation of funds by Tucker for the boat-burners as early as the siege of Vicksburg]


O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME XXII/2

SPECIAL ORDERS, No. 135.

HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
Little Rock, August 18, 1863.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

VI. Thomas E. Courtenay, esq., is, by direction of the lieutenant-general commanding the Trans. Mississippi Department, authorized to enlist a secret-service corps, not exceeding 20 men, to be employed by him, subject to the orders of the district commander.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

By command of Major-General Price:

THOS. L. SNEAD,

Assistant Adjutant-General

[Thomas E. Courtenay was the inventor of the Courtenay Torpedo that Louden claimed to have used to destroy the Sultana. Courtenay had been sheriff of St. Louis County shortly before the war and business partner of St. Louis mayor John M. Wimer. Wimer was the last president of the Liberty Fire Company of which Robert Louden was a member.]


O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME XXII/2

OFFICE OF CHIEF QUARTERMASTER,
Saint Louis, October 5, 1863.

Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief, Washington, D.C.:

GENERAL: The continued destruction of steamboats, by fire, on these waters is assuming a very alarming feature. Unquestionably there is an organized band of incendiaries, members of which are stationed at every landing. It is a current report here that the Confederate Government has secretly offered a large reward for the destruction of our steamers. Already some fourteen first-class boats have been burned, and this is equivalent to 10 per cent. of the whole river transportation. Increase of watchmen and extra vigilance do not seem to arrest this insidious enemy. The incendiary, when it serves his purpose, becomes one of the crew, and thus secures himself from detection. I apprehend that there are disloyal men in disguise in the employ of every steamer, and it will be difficult to eliminate them. General Schofield is alive to the importance of some extra official action. What would you advise?

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

ROBT. ALLEN,

Chief Quartermaster

[The first reported act of boat-burning by sabotage was reported about two years before this letter. There may have been earlier acts but they were not recognized as sabotage as they initially had difficulty in determining which boats burned by sabotage and which burned as a normal course of operations. Steamboats were notoriously flammable, yet there had been non-war years in which no steamboats were lost to fire so the pattern of destruction during the war was recognized fairly soon.]


O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME XXXII/2

A Union spy report discussing Louden, Tucker, and the boat-burners:

HEADQUARTERS SIXTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Memphis, Tenn., January 2, 1864.

Col. J. C. KELTON,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. of the Army, Washington, D.C.:

SIR: I have the honor of forwarding to the General-in-Chief statements of one of my agents just from Mobile. I think them accurate, and so submit them.

Your obedient servant,

S. A. HURLBUT,

Major-general.

[Inclosure.]

DECEMBER 31, 1863.

Force at Mobile, two regiments home-guard exempts, Cantey’s brigade cavalry, one battalion light artillery, heavy artillerists to man the batteries, two battalions marines, wooden steam-vessels of war Gaines and Morgan (twelve guns each, 30-pounder smooth-bores); ram Baltic (unwieldy, one Blakely, two light columbiads, two brass pivot Parrotts); Huntsville and Tuscaloosa (four 30-pounders each on both sides, 11-inch Brooke on pivot in bow, and 11-inch Blakely on pivot astern, plated 4-inch slab-iron); two floating batteries (four square sides, plated railroad iron, armed like last two named vessels, but armament not all in): ram Tennessee (screw propeller, 11 knots, three thicknesses slab-iron, 9-inch oak, 14 of pine, armament to be two 10-inch columbiads on larboard and starboard; one large Brooke gun in bow on pivot, three ports and one in stern; very formidable craft afloat, and to take in armament outside the bar). No heavy guns mounted on north and few on west side of the city in the fortifications; eight batteries heavy artillery line the harbor entrance; a new fort being erected at Grant’s Pass, under cover of gun-boats; shells of the fleet pass over Fort Morgan. Steam tug Boston to go on piratical cruise (one 3-inch Parrott and one 12-pounder howitzer). In case of attack re-enforcements to come down Mobile and Ohio Railroad from Enterprise and Meridian; at former place 3,000 paroled prisoners. French’s division having gone to Georgia four weeks ago; at latter point decimated Missouri brigade, captured [at] Vicksburg. Polk’s command consists of Loring’s corps, in winter quarters at Canton, and Jackson’s division of cavalry, out toward Big Black.

On 24th one brigade of cavalry started to march toward Grenada. Same day cavalry at Panola marched northward. Railroad bridge over Pearl River being reconstructed; trains on Meridian road run to Brandon and the river; on Mississippi Central, Grenada to 12 miles of Jackson. Bridge over Yallabusha not being rebuilt, and one locomotive north running between Panola and Grenada. Force under Polk probably be sent to Georgia; infantry, estimated, 5,000; Hardee’s effective, 32,000; Johnston to assume command..Three or four light batteries, breech-loading 3-pounders, to fire incendiary shell, to operate along river about Austin. Steam-boat burners under J. W. Tucker, Mobile; agents all over the river; principal disbursing agent, Major Pleasants, at Senatobia. Drafts and checks to pay-agents paid in Memphis and Saint Louis. At latter point man named Hedenberg, in Homeyer’s commission house, concerned somehow. Informer, an old dealer named Prescott, went out Christmas week to Elam’s, 12 miles on Holly Ford road, probably on this business. Parties concerned frequently come near the lines of Memphis and return south. Cotton brought into Memphis to raise funds for secret agents. Gaines one of the burners, and probably Loudon. Forrest to be maintained north of Memphis and Charleston Railroad, if possible; if not, to operate on Mississippi River below. Headquarters Chalmers’ brigade always to be Oxford; Ferguson’s, Verona or Okolona. A regiment for picket kept at Coldwater depot and crossing. Detached commands and new organizations to form at Panola. Kentucky Faulkner has 1,200 men (three regiments), one-third only armed and equipped. Forrest’s force, fairly estimated, 3,000, inclusive of Faulkner. Logan’s cavalry, of Jackson’s division, to operate on the New Orleans and Jackson Railroad. A large side-wheeler, the Nashville, at Mobile; has engines in and is being plated; wheels protected by compressed cotton; will be the finest of the fleet when completed.

[Louden had been arrested in St. Louis not long before this report. The information on him being in Memphis may have dated to his last trip through that city.]


OFFICIAL RECORDS OF THE UNION AND CONFEDERATE NAVIES IN THE WAR OF THE REBELLION, series 1, volume 26:

Report of Rear-Admiral Porter, U. S. Navy, transmitting captured letters referring to the institution of torpedo service. Captured letter by Thomas E. Courtenay follows Porter’s report:MISSISSIPPI SQUADRON, FLAGSHIP BLACK HAWK,

Alexandria, La., March 20, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor to enclose you some rebel correspondence which was captured by the gunboat Signal a day or two since, while the rebel mail carrier was crossing the river. It gives a complete history of the rebel torpedoes, the machine that blew up the Housatonic, and the manner in which it was done. They have just appointed a torpedo corps (I send one of the commissions) for the

purpose of blowing up property of all kinds. Amongst other devilish inventions is a torpedo resembling a lump of coal, to be placed in coal piles and amongst the coal put on board vessels. The names of the parties are all mentioned in the correspondence, and I send a photograph of one of them, which, if multiplied and put in the hands of detectives, may be of service.

I have given orders to commanders of vessels not to be very particular about the treatment of any of these desperadoes if caught only summary punishment will be effective. I trust that we will be prepared to avoid any of their machines.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

DAVID D. PORTER,

Rear-Admiral.

Hon. GIDEON WELLES,

Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

[Enclosures.]

RICHMOND, VA., January 19, 1864.

MY DEAR COLONEL: I hope you have received all my letters. I wrote two to Mobile, one to Columbus, and two to Brandon, [Miss.]. I now send this by a party who is going to Shreveport and promised to learn your whereabouts, so as to forward it to you.

I have met with much delay and annoyance since you left. The castings have all been completed some time, and the coal is so perfect that the most critical eye could not detect it. The President thinks them perfect, but Mr. Seddon will do nothing without Congressional action, so I have been engaged for the last two weeks in getting up a bill that will cover my case; at last it has met his approval and will to-day go to the Senate, thence to the House in secret session. It provides that the Secretary of War shall have the power to organize a secret-service corps, commission, enlist, and detail parties, who shall retain former rank and pay; also give such compensation as he may deem fit, not exceeding 50 per cent, for property partially and totally destroyed; also to advance, when necessary, out of the secret-service fund, money to parties engaging to injure the enemy.

[portion deleted]

Your friend,

T. E. COURTENAY.

Sabotage of the Sultana – Baker’s Boatburner List

Sabotage of the Sultana…

Provost Marshal J. H. Baker’s report on the boat-burners:

Official Records, Series I, Volume XLVIII, pages 194-198

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI,
OFFICE OF PROVOST-MARSHAL-GENERAL,
Saint Louis, Mo., April 25, 1865.

Hon. C. A. DANA,
Assistant Secretary of War, Washington, D.C.:

SIR: I have the honor to state that in the month of January last I obtained information from various sources of the presence, in Saint Louis and other river cities, of a number of men employed by the rebel authorities to destroy Government property and steam-boats. I gave immediate attention to the matter, using all the means at my command to find and secure the parties, with so much success that early in February 1 was enabled to make the arrest of ten of them, among whom was one Edward Frazor, the leader. One of the parties implicated at once made a full confession, upon the understanding that he should not be prosecuted. I then preferred charges against Frazor, intending to make his the test case, and turned him over with the evidence to a military commission. Circumstances over which I had no control have delayed the trial, and Frazor, probably becoming weary of his imprisonment, and hoping that he might be reprieved by giving evidence against his accomplices, a few days since made a confession of his connection with the boat burners, which not only corroborates the information I had already procured, but throws additional light on the matter.

From this statement it appears that Frazor went, in company with others, to Richmond in the summer of 1864, and was introduced to Mr. Seddon, the Secretary of War. His account of what occurred at that interview is as follows:

At Richmond, Clark introduced me to the Secretary of War, Secretary Seddon. Clark told his business, when he sent us to the Secretary of State, J.P. Benjamin. I believe he looked our statement over and took time to consider. * * * The next day I went there, and Mr. Benjamin asked me if I knew all these claims for destroying U. S. property were right and correct. I told him they were, as far as I knew. He then offered $30,000 in greenbacks to settle. I told him I could not take that. Then he said he would take time to study again.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

Benjamin next offered $35,000 in gold. Then Clark went to see him, and before he went I told him to get all he could, but not take less than the $35,000 down and get all the more he could. When he came back he said he had taken the $35,000 down and $15,000 on deposit, payable in four months from date, provided those claims of the Louisville matter (burning of Government medical stores last year) were all right. I think that is the way the receipt read. I went over to Benjamin’s to sign the receipt, and while I was there the President, Jefferson Davis, sent for me. I went in to see him with Mr. Benjamin. Mr. Davis was talking about sending men up here to destroy the long bridge, near Nashville. He asked me if I knew anything about it–knew where it was. I told him I did. He asked me which would be the best route to send men up here to do it. I told him I thought it was rather dangerous to send men up here who had never been here. He wanted to know if I would not take charge of it. I told [him] yes, provided he would stop all men from coming up here, as they would only hinder the work. He said he would do it, and wanted to know if I wanted any men from there to help me. I said I didn’t. Benjamin said the pay would be $400,000 for burning the bridge. After we got all ready to leave Mr. Benjamin gave us a draft for $34,800 in gold on Columbia, S.C. * * * Clark got passes from the Secretary of War, twelve or thirteen in all.

The party, some six in all, left Richmond, drew the money, and started for Memphis. At Mobile they were arrested, but upon telegraphing the fact to Jeff. Davis, he ordered General Taylor, commanding the department, to release them, which was done, and they proceeded on their way, entering our lines near Memphis. At this place they separated, going in various directions. The names and residences of the principal men engaged in this infamous pursuit, which has resulted in the destruction of so much valuable property and life, are as follows:

No. Name Residence Remarks.
1 Tucker, Judge a Mobile, Ala Chief of this service under the Secretary of War.
2 Majors, Minor Next in rank to Tucker, and chief of this service in our lines.
3 Barrett, Hon. John R. b Saint Louis, Mo In charge of “land operations;” can get him any time.
4 Harwood, S. B do Can arrest him any time.
5 Frazor, Edward do In Gratiot Prison..
6 Clark, Thomas L Grenada, Miss Supposed to be in rebel lines.
7 Irwin, William Louisville, Ky.
8 Dillingham, Henry Inside our lines.
9 Fox, Harrison Saint Louis, Mo
10 Stinson, — Mobile, Ala
11 Roberts, Kirk do
12 Louden, Robert Saint Louis, Mo Under sentence of death. Escaped from Lieutenant Post while being transferred from Gratiot to Alton Military Prison. Last heard from in New Orleans; supposed to be in rebel lines east of Mississippi.
13 Elshire, Isaac c …. In Gratiot Prison last year, but released for want of evidence; supposed to be inside rebel lines east of Mississippi River.
14 Raison, John ….
15 Mitchell, Peter Saint Louis, Mo. Inside our lines.
16 Murphy, William New Orleans, La Came voluntarily and exposed the others; afterward left suddenly; am looking for him.
17 O’Keife,– Natchez, Miss
18 Triplett, —
19 Parks, John G Near Memphis,Tenn. In Gratiot Prison.

a Tucker formerly resided in Missouri, and was an editor; published the State Journal, and was subsequently connected with the Missouri Republican

b Formerly Member of Congress from Missouri. Went to Europe in 1863, it is supposed on business for the rebels, where he was in conference with Mason and Slidell. Arrested by this office in 1864 on charge of being a member of the Order of American Knights, but afterward released. Has a brother in rebel artillery service.

c Burned the Robert Campbell, during which the lives of a number of soldiers were lost.

The foregoing list contains the names of the principal men only, as far as I have been able to ascertain them, and does not embrace any merely supposititious cases. A number of those most needed, it will be observed, are in territory which until recently has been occupied by the rebel army, where it will require your authority to operate. I therefore respectfully suggest that you order the commanding generals of the several departments to ascertain whether any of the parties above named are within the limits of their jurisdiction; and if so, to arrest and forward them to Saint Louis without delay.

It would be impossible to obtain a correct account of the property destroyed by these parties during the war, but the following list has been traced to one or the other of the men whose names are given above:

Name Where Burned Date
City of Madison Vicksburg, Miss August 1863
Champion Memphis, Tenn do
Robert Campbell, jr Milliken’s Bend September 28, 1863
Imperial Saint Louis, Mo do
Hiawatha do do
Post Boy do do
Jesse K Bell do do
Chancellor
Forest Queen
Catahoula Saint Louis, Mo September, 1863
Wharf-boats Mound City, Ill do
Do Cairo, Ill do
Small tow-boat Memphis, Tenn do

Since the outbreak of the rebellion to the present time over seventy steam-boats owned in Saint Louis have been destroyed by fire alone. Of this number only nine have been fired by rebels in arms, and there can be little doubt but the greater portion of the balance were fired by the above or similar emissaries of the rebel government.

By direction of Major-General Dodge:

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. H. BAKER,

Colonel and Provost-Marshal-General, Dept. of the Missouri.

[First indorsement.]

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI,
Saint Louis, April 26, 1865.

Respectfully forwarded to the Assistant Secretary of War, Washington, D.C.

I consider it important that these parties be brought to justice, and would suggest that good detectives be sent to Richmond and Mobile to arrest the parties named as in the rebel service and obtain further evidence. There is no doubt of the guilt of the parties. They were in the habit of burning boats, store-houses, &c., taking to Richmond papers with full account of burning, there filing affidavits, and on that receiving their pay. They then came into our lines and squandered the money, which brought them to our notice, and on making arrests the entire modus operandi was divulged. We have a large amount of testimony in the case, but desire to obtain more proof before we go to trial, and, if possible, get all the parties.

G. M. DODGE,

Major-General.

[Second indorsement.]

WAR DEPARTMENT,
BUREAU OF MILITARY JUSTICE,
May 16, 1865.

Respectfully returned to the Secretary of War.

It appears from the within report of Col. J. H. Baker, provost-marshal-general, Department of the Missouri, that two members of the conspiracy engaged in destroying Government boats and property on the Mississippi River, principally in 1863, have confessed that they were employed by the rebel authorities and that they were paid at Richmond by the rebel Secretary of State, and that in one instance one of them was personally engaged and contracted with by Davis himself to destroy valuable property in the use of our Government. The confession of Frazor to this effect is fully detailed by Colonel Baker, and would appear to be most conclusive.

Colonel Baker presents a list of names of the parties connected with this conspiracy (by which, as he estimates, some sixty boats were consumed and in some cases lives of soldiers, &c., were destroyed), and urges that the commanding officers of the various departments be ordered to ascertain which, if any, of the individuals named are within their jurisdiction and to arrest such as are found and send them to Saint Louis for trial. Major-General Dodge further advises, in his indorsement, that detectives be sent to Richmond and Mobile to arrest parties supposed to be commorant there, and to obtain further evidence. These recommendations are concurred in.

The subject is regarded as one of great importance, especially as illustrating the fact that Davis and other leaders of the rebellion have been the principals in this and other similar detestable and treasonable enterprises executed by men who were merely their hirelings. It is esteemed to be of the greatest consequence that such men, especially as Judge Tucker, John R. Barrett, Isaac Elshire, Louden, and other conspicuous members of the conspiracy, should be apprehended as promptly as possible, and that all of the gang who can be found should be tried together by military commission for a treasonable conspiracy in the interest of the rebellion. It is further recommended that certified copies of all the affidavits and other written evidence in the case be required to be forwarded to the War Department for the use or reference of the executive officers of the Government.

A. A. HOSMER,

Major and Judge-Advocate. (In the absence of the Judge-Advocate. General.)

[Third indorsement.]

WAR DEPARTMENT,
May 26, 1865.

Respectfully referred to the Adjutant-General. The recommendations of the Judge-Advocate-General, Colonel Baker, and General Dodge are approved, and will be carried into effect without delay. By order:

JAS. A. HARDIE,

Inspector-General U.S. Army