McIntosh and Lovejoy from Civil War St Louis by Gerteis

Civil War St. Louis

McIntosh and Lovejoy

From Civil War St. Louis by Louis S. Gerteis, published by the
University Press of Kansas, copyright 2001. Used by permission of the
publisher.

Louis S. Gerteis

University Press of Kansas

Hardcover, 416 pages, 24 illustrations

published November 2001

Suggested Price: $34.95

now available for purchase

Excerpted and introduced by G.E. Rule

LOUIS S. GERTEIS is professor of history at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. His previous works include Morality and Utility in American Antislavery Reform and From Contraband to Freedman: Federal Policy toward Southern Blacks, 1861-1865.

As Professor Gerteis writes in McIntosh and Lovejoy, excerpted from his new book Civil War St. Louis, “the aftershocks from the lynching of McIntosh and the murder of Lovejoy continued to unsettle St. Louisans as well. The killings remained vivid memories for a lifetime, and the passions associated with them helped to infuse a greater degree of animosity into the widening debate over slavery.” Echoes would be heard during the crucial struggle over the St. Louis arsenal in the spring of 1861. In order to protect the arms in the arsenal from the city’s secessionists, Captain Nathaniel Lyon arranged to have the surplus transferred to Illinois.

Captain James H. Stokes performed the mission in the dead of night, transferring 20,000 muskets and much powder to Alton, Il  –home of the murdered Lovejoy. Stokes woke the sleeping Altonians and enlisted their aid in getting the guns off the steamer City of Alton and onto train cars bound for the interior of the state.  According to St. Louis Baptist minister Galusha Anderson, writing in The Story of a Border City During the Civil War, the Unionists amongst the sleepy and disheveled Altonians provided enthusiastic assistance: “Nor did they forget that morning their own martyred Lovejoy, who, fighting against slavery and for the freedom of the press, poured out his blood on the same spot where they then stood; and that his blood so ruthlessly spilled foretokened the awful conflict into which the whole nation was then rapidly drifting.”


IN THE MIDDLE DECADES of the nineteenth century, slavery and race became enmeshed in the developing culture of American capitalism. In the process, the spirit of accommodation that had once prevailed between slave states and free states began to fade. In part, the sectional equanimity of the early Republic had rested on the fact that the institutions of the free and slave states evolved largely in isolation from one another. As long as physical mobility remained limited and markets remained local, the cultural frictions that later led to civil war could be contained. But beginning in the 1820s, regional and ethnic cultures intermingled in the United States as never before. In the process, St. Louis emerged from its role as a remote outpost of European Empire to become a thriving city of the American West. A growing network of canals linked the Northeast with a western hinterland, stretching north to the Great Lakes and south to the Ohio Valley. Western waterways in the South, from western Georgia to eastern Texas, carried that region’s new staple, cotton, to the major Gulf ports at Mobile and New Orleans. Located at the center of this burgeoning western commerce, St. Louisans justifiably envisioned their city as the nation’s great inland emporium. By the 1820s, more than thirty steamboats provided regular packet service linking St. Louis with Keokuk, Galena, and Davenport to the north; Louisville, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh to the east; and Memphis, Vicksburg, New Orleans, and Mobile to the south.

A new fluidity characterized social relations and commerce, giving rise to new visions of social progress and perfection as well as to new fears of social disorder and decay. St. Louis prospered, but the city existed uneasily on the border of an increasingly distinct and antagonistic North and South. For the South, slaves became a rapidly appreciating commodity as eastern centers of colonial slavery exported surplus labor to the new cotton-growing regions of the Gulf Plains. For the North, territorial and economic expansion widened the horizons of free labor as farmers and artisans migrated west from New England, New York, and Pennsylvania. In St. Louis, the South and the North commingled as never before and did so at a time when events that once had held significance only within a local community could generate far wider interest and impact. Rumors and enthusiasms had always had the potential of engulfing entire communities. Now, however, with communities linked together along waterways of commerce, the passion of a locality could become the passion of a nation.

The disappearance of William Morgan in upstate New York in 1826 offered an early example of the new phenomenon. A disgruntled member of the Masonic Order, Morgan published a book in which he claimed to reveal the society’s secrets. News of his disappearance spread quickly and widely over the new Erie Canal. Formally opened in 1824, the canal connected Albany, on the Hudson River, with Buffalo, on Lake Erie. It created a direct water route from New York City, at the mouth of the Hudson River, to the Great Lakes. It also provided a passageway to the West for people in upstate New York and New England. Throughout the Northeast and into the mid-Atlantic region, the rumor spread that Morgan had been murdered in a Masonic conspiracy. Anti-Masonic sentiment led to organized efforts to prevent members of the order from being elected to public office. In 1832 an Anti-Masonic political party nominated former attorney general William Wirt as its presidential candidate. The speed with which the rumored murder of Morgan mushroomed into a quasi-national anti-Masonic crusade offers one measure of the way in which the new intermingling of peoples, in what historians of the period have come to call the Market Revolution, reshaped the social landscape.

St. Louis soon offered other, more lurid examples of the new social volatility: the 1836 lynching of Francis L. McIntosh, a free mulatto boatman, and the related killing of the antislavery newspaper editor Elijah P. Lovejoy, in nearby Alton, Illinois, in 1837, became events of national significance. Both incidents contributed measurably to the antislavery movement across the North. But they also revealed a great deal about St. Louis itself. In the McIntosh lynching, observers experienced and remembered events in significantly different ways. Those sympathetic with the lynchers described McIntosh as a defiant killer cursing his white tormentors as he died. They remembered the heroic actions of the men who apprehended him and the collective action of the community in killing him. On the other hand, those who deplored the actions of the lynchers described McIntosh’s excruciating pain and suffering. They remembered an act of mob violence that threatened the foundation of law and civilized society. As a result of these different perspectives, accounts varied concerning the length of time it took for McIntosh to die. Defenders of the lynchers remembered a quick death; critics remembered a lengthy ordeal. Critics also remembered the lynching as the event that led to Lovejoy’s death, though the defenders made no such connection. They remembered McIntosh’s burning as a moment of great clarity for men who considered their role in the community to be that of guardians of public safety and (with no sense of irony) order.

The day after McIntosh died, the Missouri Republican, the city’s leading newspaper and Whig in its political sympathies, published an account of the lynching. Most accounts agreed on the accuracy of the Republican’s report. On the evening of 28 April 1836, St. Louis’s deputy sheriff, George Hammond, joined the city’s deputy constable, William Mull, to arrest Francis McIntosh. Later reports identified McIntosh as a Pittsburgh resident who had arrived in St. Louis with the steamboat Flora, on which he was employed as a steward. Hammond and Mull took McIntosh into custody because he had interfered with them when they tried to arrest two unruly sailors. With McIntosh’s help, the sailors had run off. Hammond and Mull apprehended McIntosh, secured a warrant for his incarceration, and marched him off to the city jail, located directly west of the courthouse. When the group reached the northeast corner of the courthouse square, McIntosh drew a knife. He struck first at Mull, who dodged the blade. Turning, McIntosh struck Hammond on the lower chin and drove the knife into his neck, severing the right carotid artery. Struggling to aid Hammond, Mull received a serious wound in his abdomen. According to later reports, McIntosh then ran south on Fourth Street toward Market. Hammond fell dead in the street while Mull shouted out an alarm and gave chase as best he could before passing out. By later accounts, a crowd of about fifty men pursued McIntosh and cornered him in a private lot near Fourth and Walnut Streets. They disarmed him and took him to jail.

As word of Hammond’s murder spread, a crowd gathered at the jail. Soon, the assembled multitude,” as the Republican described the mob, pushed its way into the jail, forcibly removed the keys from the sheriffs pocket, took hold of McIntosh, and dragged him into the street. Unnamed persons chained him to a tree, stacked wood around him, and burned him to death.

Accounts varied concerning exactly what happened after the mob took McIntosh from the jail. John F. Darby, the mayor of St. Louis at the time of the lynching, described the event in his memoirs more than four decades later. A native of North Carolina, Darby had moved to St. Louis in the mid-1820s and practiced law. A Whig and an ardent supporter of public expenditures for internal improvements, Darby served as mayor from 1835 to 1837 and served a second one-year term in 1840. He did not claim to have been an eye­witness to McIntosh’s lynching, but he recalled the event with great assurance and in considerable detail. It was “a strong and brave Irishman” who disarmed McIntosh after the death of Hammond, recalled Darby. It was a Connecticut man who first made the suggestion that the captive be burned. In Darby’s account, McIntosh died quickly in a “brisk” fire that “ran up far above his head into the tops of the trees.” The whole business, from the murder of Hammond to the death of McIntosh, had occurred within an hour, according to Darby.

Darby’s account functioned in part as a rebuttal to an antislavery inter­pretation of the event, which had its origin in Theodore Dwight Weld’s American Slavery As It Is (1839) and which was reiterated in accounts of Lovejoy’s subsequent death. In the antislavery interpretation, McIntosh’s death had been a sadistic affair. Moreover, both the lynching and the subsequent killing of Lovejoy represented a lawlessness endemic to a slaveholding society. Weld wrote his account to disprove the proslavery claim that “Public Opinion Is a Protection to the Slave,” and he emphasized the public nature of the lynching. McIntosh, he wrote, had been burned “in the midst of the city… in open day.” The St. Louis German editor, Henry Boernstein, who arrived in St. Louis from Europe in 1849, learned about the lynching from his colleagues on the city’s first German language newspaper, the Anzeiger des Westens. In his 1881 memoirs, Boernstein recorded the antislavery version of the affair. A mob, “roused by the slaveholders” chained McIntosh to a tree on the outskirts of town. They lit a fire around him and watched as “the unfortunate man was slowly roasted to death.” In Alton, where Lovejoy continued his attacks on slavery and on St. Louis lynch law, “rowdies and scum” joined “a gang from Missouri” to kill the editor.

Some aspects of these antislavery accounts should be questioned. The Republican originally reported that Hammond had arrested McIntosh at about seven o’clock in the evening. If the events leading up to McIntosh’s death occurred as quickly as Darby recalled, it is possible that the lynching took place while some light remained in the sky. But Weld’s statement that the lynching took place “in open day” was an exaggeration if not an error. So, too, was Weld’s claim that McIntosh died “in the midst of the city.” By most accounts, the lynching took place on the edge of town. The Republican reported that the mob took McIntosh to “the border of town.” A visiting salesman from Vermont wrote to his wife that the mob took McIntosh to “the common, west of the city.” Darby, writing in 1880, recalled that McIntosh had been burned “about where the [O’Fallon] Polytechnic building is now.” That would locate the site of the lynching on the western outskirts of the city, on a block between Seventh and Eighth and Chestnut and Market. Boernstein shared Weld’s abolitionist perspective but located the lynching “at the corner of Seventh and Chestnut.” Yet by the 1880s, when J. Thomas Scharf wrote his History of St. Louis City and County, memories of the event diverged sufficiently to produce a confused account. Scharf wrote that “the negro was… dragged to the bank of the river, where he was tied to a tree.” In the next sentence, however, he added that “the place where the negro was burned is now Tenth and Market Streets, then a common.” In any case, the lynching did not take place, as Weld implied, in full daylight and in the middle of town.

The antislavery conclusion that the barbarism of slavery produced the lawlessness that cost McIntosh and Lovejoy their lives also requires scrutiny. Neither killing was the product of a slaveholders’ conspiracy. In the McIntosh lynching, the mob undoubtedly included a number of prominent citizens, although no one publicly admitted participating. In Alton, the leaders of the mob were the town’s most prominent physicians.

Concerning the McIntosh lynching, Mayor Darby wrote without remorse or apology, as if he had witnessed the event. There is reason to think that Luke Lawless, who, as judge of the St. Louis Circuit Court, later convened a grand jury to investigate the lynching, also witnessed it. On the other hand, one purported eyewitness account is open to doubt. The diary of an unidentified St. Louis physician claimed that a group of ten to twenty men actively participated in the lynching. He recorded that an alderman, whom he did not name, threatened to shoot anyone who tried to loosen the chains binding McIntosh to the tree. McIntosh died very slowly, the physician recorded; the diary provided gruesome detail. As the fire burned through McIntosh’s abdomen and his entrails spilled out, someone in the crowd asked the victim if he still felt pain. McIntosh answered that he felt a great deal of pain. But the diarist also reported that the mob had chained McIntosh to a tree “back of the jail.” The writer probably composed his diary entry from the accounts of others.

In the aftermath of the lynching, St. Louisans tried to sort through their emotions and make sense of the affair. It was in this tense environment that Lovejoy became the object of the mob’s fury. The Republican feared, correctly, that the lynching might “damage the fair name of our town.” It reported a “revolting spectacle” but offered no detailed description of the lynching. The editor focused instead on the crowd. It seemed important to note that the killing of McIntosh had taken place without any other violence or disorder. “There was no tumult,” reported the Republican, “no disturbance of any kind.” Instead, “the crowd retired quietly to their several homes.” The editor hoped, vainly as it turned out, that the episode would be quickly forgotten: “Let the veil of oblivion be drawn over the fatal affair.” The editor of the Whig newspaper, the St. Louis Bulletin, went a bit further to condemn “the atrocious violation of law, (and perhaps we may say humanity)” but said no more about the event. William Weber, editor of the Anzeiger des Westens, asked pointedly why the city’s elite militia, the St. Louis Grays, had not appeared to restore order. When a community ignored the rule of law, the German editor warned, it jeopardized the whole fabric of constitutional government.

The St. Louis Observer, a Presbyterian paper edited by Elijah P. Lovejoy, took a very different view. A New Englander of moderate antislavery views, Lovejoy saw in the lynching a level of lawlessness that threatened civilized society. His account drew from the description previously published in the Republican to report the arrest of McIntosh and the murder of Hammond. But Lovejoy offered a detailed description of the lynching, not, he wrote, to suggest that its brutality reflected “the moral condition of St. Louis,” but to denounce the spirit of “mobism” that it represented. Lovejoy had not witnessed the lynching. He constructed his account, he said, from a number of reports he regarded as reliable. When McIntosh, chained with his back to the tree, realized that the mob intended to burn him, not whip him, he pleaded to be shot. As he felt the flames on his body, he “commenced singing a hymn and trying to pray.” When he grew silent and his head dropped, someone in the crowd speculated that he had died. With most of his facial features destroyed by the fire, McIntosh managed to speak. He still felt the pain, he said. He could hear all that was said around him. Again he pleaded to be shot. Lovejoy did not condemn the St. Louis mob alone. He saw a similar spirit of mobism in the August 1834 burning of the Ursuline convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and in the July 1835 hanging of five white gamblers in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Lovejoy described McIntosh as “a hardened wretch certainly, and one that deserved to die —but not thus to die.”‘

On 16 May a grand jury, presided over by Luke Lawless, met to investi­gate the McIntosh lynching. It was Lawless who had served as Benton’s second in the 1817 duel that took the life of young Charles Lucas. Lawless understood the tradition of honor that compelled men to fight to the death, and he understood as well a tradition of collective violence that often defied laws and constitutions. He opened the proceedings with a lengthy address. Normally, he said, he would conclude his remarks after offering general com­ments regarding the jury’s duties; under these circumstances, however, he could not do so. His “fellow citizens might well expect from the judge of the Court, a special notice of the dreadful events that have so recently thrown a gloom over our prosperous and generally peaceful city.” The murder of Hammond, the wounding of Mull, and “the destruction of the murderer himself raised the question of what, if any, “action of the Grand Jury is called for by them.” In the killing of McIntosh, the grand jury confronted “a force unauthorized by law” and “a mode of death forbidden by the Constitution,” which forbade “cruel and unusual punishment.” Clearly, “chaining the prisoner to a tree, and burning him to ashes” was both cruel and unusual. If Lawless had left the grand jury “to their own unassisted deliberations upon this question,” he feared that his silence would be construed as timidity. That he considered “unworthy of a judge.” Instead, he offered his frank views about “what your oath and function, as Grand Jurors of the County, require of you to do or abstain from doing, under existing circumstances.”

Since McIntosh was dead, there was no need for the grand jury to consider issuing an indictment for the murder of Hammond or the attempted murder of Mull. The only question that remained was what action should be taken regarding “those persons who effected the destruction of the murderer.” The question was not a straightforward one, Lawless thought. He regarded it as “novel” and “depending for its solution, on considerations not generally influencing the decisions or proceedings of a Grand Jury.” He could find no “parallel case on record.” Having looked to the law and having found no answers, he concluded that “rational action” in the matter made it “necessary to take into view principles of even higher import to the community than those which govern the ordinary march and administration of criminal law.” There was nothing ambiguous about the killing of McIntosh, Lawless admitted. “The difficult work which presents itself,” he explained, “arises as to the possibility and expediency of visiting on the perpetrators of that act the penalties of the law.”

The grand jurors may have already suspected the conclusion toward which Lawless was leading them. Perhaps he sensed a degree of irreverence among the jurors. Abruptly, he launched into a denunciation of the lynching. He could not imagine the existence of an American citizen “of sound mind, and not under the influence of passion,” who would not admit that McIntosh’s death involved “an outrageous violation of the Law and Constitution.” Those who justified the act by pointing to McIntosh’s undisputed guilt overlooked the possibility that the man might have been “a lunatic­ not morally responsible, and therefore, in the view of God and man, innocent.” Any country “calling itself civilized” must recoil from the act, the more so in “this chosen land of liberty.” If law is not supreme, liberty cannot exist, Lawless lectured. If the people disregarded the law, anarchy would prevail and there would be no safety “for life or property.” He could only pray that the fire that consumed McIntosh would become “a beacon light to warn away the citizens of Missouri from the perpetration of similar horrors.”

Still, the question remained what the responsibility of the grand jury was. Lawless told the jurors that he had “reflected much on this matter” and that he felt it to be his duty “to state my opinion … that, whether the Grand Jury shall act at all depends upon … whether the destruction of McIntosh was the act of the ‘few’ or the act of the ‘many.’” If the jurors determined that “a small number of individuals separate from the mass” committed the killing, he expressed his opinion “that you ought to indict them all without a single exception.” If, on the other hand, McIntosh’s killing had been the work “of congregated thousands, seized upon and impelled by that mysterious, metaphysical, and almost electric phrenzy … then, I say, act not at all in the matter the case then transcends your jurisdiction it is beyond the reach of human law.”

Lawless then examined the lynching, as Lovejoy had in the Observer, in the context of recent outbreaks of mob violence elsewhere in the country. He noted the attack in Massachusetts on the Ursuline convent. Although there had been no loss of life in that event, he denounced the “horrid spirit of sectarian bigotry” and compared McIntosh’s killing favorably with it because it had been a “generous excitement,” the natural response of St. Louisans to the inconsolable weeping of Hammond’s wife and children, that led to the lynching. “Is not something to be allowed for human sympathies in these appalling circumstances?” he asked. “Is there not some slight palliation of that deplorable disregard of Law and Constitution, which is now the subject of our deliberations?”

Lawless admitted that efforts in Massachusetts to punish the anti-Catholic rioters had met with some success. But there had been “no ground of extenuation” in the Charlestown riot, and in any case, the prosecution of the rioters had done nothing to cure Massachusetts of its anti-Catholic bigotry. By contrast, in the McIntosh killing the persons “most actively engaged in this tragic scene, must ALREADY REGRET WHAT THEY HAVE DONE.” They must understand that faithful execution of the laws would have ended in justice and would have offered “no pretense for … outcry” by the “unprincipled men engaged in the anti-national scheme of abolitionism.” Had the laws been faithfully executed, the public mind would have been able to concentrate entirely on the atrocities committed by McIntosh. Here, Lawless believed he had arrived at the central issue in the whole affair. What had excited the mob was something more than the killing of Hammond. McIntosh’s crime took its place among “similar atrocities committed in this and other states BY INDIVIDUALS OF NEGRO BLOOD AGAINST THEIR WHITE BRETHREN.”

Lawless then spoke as if he had firsthand knowledge of the lynching. The “passions and intellect” of the “wretched McIntosh,” Lawless charged, had been influenced by abolitionists. This “seems to me to be indicated,” he continued, “by the peculiar character of his language and demeanor.” McIntosh had not died penitent. Lawless noted “his rapid denunciations of the white man his professions of deadly hostility to the whole race his hymns and his prayers, so profanely and frightfully mixed up with those horrid imprecations.” In his death throes, McIntosh revealed the influence on him of the “incendiary” doctrines of abolitionism.

Lawless, then, lay the moral responsibility for the murder of Hammond and the subsequent lynching of McIntosh at the feet of the abolitionists. And he defined abolitionism broadly enough to include Lovejoy’s cautious advocacy of gradual emancipation. Lawless handed the jurors a copy of Lovejoy’s Observer and noted that although the paper professed to be “exclusively devoted to religious object,” the edition published immediately after McIntosh’s death offered a graphic description of the burning and two sermons, one stating that “slavery is a sin and ought to be abandoned,” the other lamenting the “abandonment of virtue” and the “prostration of principle” among the “Pro-Slavery men of modern times.” When such “fanaticism” reached the “fiery, unreasoning instinct of the negro,” continued Lawless, the “ruthless, remorseless revenge” of the African race is inevitably unleashed. “The negro then kills and burns for the love of God and in the name of the Divine Redeemer, and rushes on to crime and carnage under the influence of what appears to him a holy impulse and aspiration.” Lawless did not mention the Nat Turner rebellion, nearly five years earlier in Southampton County, Virginia. But his description of the Negro as divine avenger must have triggered memories of that bloody uprising in the minds of the grand jury. Lawless had finally reached the conclusion of his instructions. He urged the jurors to focus their attention on methods of silencing the voice of abolitionism in Missouri and promised to send their recommendations on that matter to the state legislature.

To Lawless and the grand jurors, the decision not to issue indictments no doubt seemed a victory for the community. The jurors had selected John O’Fallon as their foreman. A native of Kentucky, he had been raised as the ward of his uncle, Missouri’s territorial governor William Clark. By 1830 O’Fallon had established himself as one of the wealthiest merchants in St. Louis, and through the 1840s he led the city’s Whig Party. Before his death in 1865, he devoted a portion of his vast wealth, estimated to be $8 million, to the establishment of O’Fallon Polytechnic Institute on a city lot that Mayor Darby remembered to have been the site of the McIntosh lynching.

O’Fallon undoubtedly agreed with a Whig newspaper, the Bulletin, when it praised the wisdom of Lawless’s remarks. The Catholic weekly, the Shepherd of the Valley, similarly endorsed the judge’s stance. Lawless’s comments contained “much sound wisdom and discretion,” wrote the Catholic editor, who then equated abolitionism with Protestantism and with revolt against all authority, spiritual and secular. To Lovejoy, who reacted to Lawless’s tirade against abolitionism with a tirade of his own against Catholicism and slavery, it seemed clear that Catholicism condoned slavery and that slavery promoted barbarism. Noting Lawless’s Irish birth and Catholic faith, Lovejoy saw “the cloven feet of jesuitism, peeping out from under the veil of almost every paragraph of the judge’s instructions to the jury.” He knew that his refusal to let the matter rest exposed him to mob violence, but he pressed on. He did not seek “martyrdom,” he wrote. But it would be better that he should be “chained to the same tree as McIntosh and share his fate, than that the doctrines promulgated by Judge Lawless from the bench should become prevalent in this community.” Lovejoy’s fellow New Englanders doubtless shared his outrage, but they were not prepared to stand with him in this instance. After two attacks on his press in St. Louis, he announced that he would move the Observer to Alton, Illinois. More mob attacks followed. Lovejoy would not again flee. “Should I attempt it,” he wrote, “I should feel that the angel of the Lord, with his flaming sword, was pursuing me wherever I went. It is because I fear God that I am not afraid of all who oppose me in this city.”

After Alton mobs destroyed three presses, Lovejoy resolved to defend the fourth. The newly elected mayor of Alton, John M. Krum (later elected mayor of St. Louis and involved in the Dred Scott case), seemed sympathetic to Lovejoy’s requests for protection. Ultimately, however, Krum’s efforts to restrain the mob failed. Perhaps he did the best he could. He sought authority from the Alton Common Council to appoint special constables, but the council took no action on the matter. At a public meeting that, in effect, ordered Lovejoy to leave town or face violent consequences, Krum offered a resolution that pleased but did not placate the crowd. The resolution expressed “regret that persons and editors from abroad have seen proper” to agitate against slavery in Alton. Krum managed to station a few constables at the warehouse where Lovejoy’s press was stored, but they were too few and too indecisive to deter the mob. Krum stalled for time by acting as the mob’s emissary to Lovejoy. It was Krum who delivered the ultimatum: surrender the press or the building would be burned. When Krum left the warehouse with nothing but Lovejoy’s defiance to offer the mob, he made his last effort to halt the violence, warning that his police would shoot anyone who attempted to commit arson. In the end, he was ignored by the mob and by the police. As Lovejoy tried to deter an arsonist setting fire to the building’s roof, he was shot and killed.

Lovejoy became a martyr to the antislavery cause. As John Quincy Adams observed, Lovejoy’s death sent “a shock as of an earthquake throughout the continent.” Across the North, the antislavery cause won fresh, dedicated recruits. Adams had already joined the movement. After serving one term as president, he won election to the House of Representatives and, by the time of Lovejoy’s death, he had taken the lead in Congress in the fight against the antiabolitionist “gag rule.” At Lovejoy’s graveside, one of the martyr’s younger brothers, Owen (who later won election to Congress from Illinois), dedicated himself to the antislavery cause. In Hudson, Ohio, Laurens P. Hickok, professor of theology at Western Reserve College, presided over a prayer service memorializing Lovejoy. A young John Brown (of Harper’s Ferry fame) attended. “The crisis has come,” said Hickok. “The question now before the American citizen is no longer alone, ‘Can the slaves be made free?’ but, are we free, or are we slaves under Southern mob law?” When Hickok finished speaking, Brown stood up, raised his right hand, and swore before God and the witnesses at the meeting that he would devote his life to the destruction of slavery.

In Vermont, two young men also felt the shock of Lovejoy’s death. One was Zebina Eastman, already an abolitionist in sentiment and soon to be active in the cause. In 1839, after a failed attempt as a newspaper editor in Vermont, he moved west to Illinois, where he joined the veteran abolitionist, Benjamin Lundy, and John W. E. Lovejoy (another of Elijah P. Lovejoy’s younger brothers) to edit the Genius of Universal Emancipation. Eastman later recalled discussing the Lovejoy murder in the Newfane, Vermont, law office of his friend Roswell Field. Field, as Eastman remembered, was a “firm believer in the Jacksonian democracy of the hour,” and he used “his caustic powers to speak against the abolitionists.” But Lovejoy’s killing deeply affected Field and turned him against the proslavery wing of the Democratic Party. He could not have forgotten the affair when he moved to St. Louis two years later.

The aftershocks of the McIntosh lynching and the Lovejoy murder continued to unsettle St. Louisans as well. The killings remained vivid memories for a lifetime, and the passions associated with them helped to infuse a greater degree of animosity into the widening debate over slavery.

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Aside from a shared interest in the subject of the Civil War in St. Louis, there is no connection between Professor Gerteis, author of the book “Civil War St. Louis”, and the authors/owners of this website, “Civil War St. Louis.com

Making of a Confederate Guerrilla

The Making of a Confederate Guerrilla

by

John N. Edwards

Excerpted and introduced by G. E. Rule, from “Noted Guerrillas or the Warfare of the Border”, by John N. Edwards, 1877

John N. Edwards


Major John Newman Edwards, CSA, was General Jo. Shelby’s adjutant and chronicler. At war’s end Edwards chose to share Mexican exile with Shelby as well. When they returned to the U.S. in 1867, Edwards rapidly published three large volumes of wartime experiences. Two dealt specifically with Shelby, “Shelby and his Men”, 1867 and “Shelby’s Expedition to Mexico”, 1872. In 1877 he published “Noted Guerrillas”, a broad handling of the Confederate irregulars in Missouri during the war. Edwards also founded the Kansas City Times and was its editor for many years.

Make no mistake, Major John N. Edwards was a Confederate and proud of it. You will not find more than passing reference to the other side of the coin in his pages. His flamboyantly purple prose is sometimes entertaining and sometimes tiresome, but is always used in defense of Confederate Missouri and its view of the world and “the recent unpleasantness”.

Edwards knew most of the Missouri Confederate guerrilla leaders personally, but did not actually participate in most of their raids in the same way he had as Shelby’s adjutant. So while his sources for “Noted Guerillas” are excellent, they are still mostly second-hand in that he is often reporting what he was told (sometimes months or years after the fact), and not what he saw. In addition to Major Edward’s clear partisanship, one must make allowance for the possibility that the guerillas themselves told him their stories the way they wanted them told, leaving out any inconvenient facts as they saw fit. For example, later historians have thoroughly demolished the tale given in the beginning of the book about Quantrill’s early years in Kansas before the war.  However, all agree that it was Quantrill, and not Edwards, who created the fabrication.

“The Making of a Confederate Guerrilla” does not –quite—constitute a defense of those who decided on this method of warfare instead of joining the regular Confederate army. Edwards clearly sympathizes with them, but in talking about why they made the choice he stays just this side of the “and they were right to do it this way” line that separates biased reporting from naked advocacy.


Further Reading: Civil War on the Western Border, 1854-1865
by Jay Monaghan

Ride With the Devil by Daniel Woodrell

The Story of Cole Younger by Himself : Being an Autobiography of the Missouri Guerrilla Captain and Outlaw, His Capture and Prison Life by Cole Younger

Three Years With Quantrill by John McCorkle

Recommended Movies:

Ride With the Devil

The Outlaw Josey Wales

It is the province of history to deal with results, not to condemn the phenomena which produce them. Nor has it the right to decry the instruments Providence always raises up in the midst of great catastrophes to restore the equilibrium of eternal justice. Civil war might well have made the Guerrilla, but only the excesses of civil war could have made him the untamable and unmerciful creature that history finds him. When he first went into the war he was somehow imbued with the old-fashioned belief that soldiering meant fighting and that fighting meant killing. He had his own ideas of soldiering, however, and desired nothing so much as to remain at home and meet its despoilers upon his own premises. Not naturally cruel, and adverse to invading the territory of any other people, he could not understand the patriotism of those who invaded his own territory. Patriotism, such as he was required to profess, could not spring up in the market place at the bidding of Red Leg or Jayhawker. He believed, indeed, that the patriotism of Jim Lane and Jennison was merely a highway robbery transferred from the darkness to the dawn, and he believed the truth. Neither did the Guerrilla become merciless all of a sudden. Pastoral in many cases by profession, and reared among the bashful and timid surroundings of agricultural life, he knew nothing of the tiger that was in him until death had been dashed against his eyes in numberless and brutal ways, and until the blood of his own kith and kin had been sprinkled plentifully upon things that his hands touched, and things that entered into his daily existence. And that fury of ideas also came to him slowly, which is more implacable than the fury of men, for men have heart, and opinion has none. It took him likewise some time to learn that the Jayhawker’s system of saving the Union was a system of brutal force, which bewailed not even that which it crushed; that it belied its doctrine by its tyranny; stained its arrogated right by its violence, and dishonored its vaunted struggles by its executions. But blood is as contagious as air. The fever of civil war has its delirium. When the Guerrilla awoke he was a giant! He took in, as it were, and at a single glance, all the immensity of the struggle. He saw that he was hunted and proscribed; that he had neither a flag nor a government; that the rights and the amenities of civilized warfare where not to be his; that a dog’s death was certain if he surrendered even in the extremist agony of battle; that the house which sheltered him had to be burnt; the father who succored him had to be butchered; the mother who prayed for him had to be insulted; the sister who carried food to him had to be imprisoned; the neighborhood which witnessed his combats had to be laid waste; the comrade shot down by his side had to be put to death as a wild beast—and he lifted up the black flag in self-defense and fought as became a free man and a hero.

Much obloquy has been cast upon the Guerrilla organization because in its name bad men plundered the helpless, pillaged friend and foe alike, assaulted non-combatants and murdered the unresisting and the innocent. Such devil’s work was not Guerrilla work. It fitted all too well the hands of those cowards crouching in the rear of either army and courageous only where women defended what remained to themselves and their children. Desperate and remorseless as he undoubtedly was, the Guerrilla saw shining down upon his pathway a luminous patriotism, and he followed it eagerly that the might kill in the name of God and his country. The nature of his warfare made him responsible of course for many monstrous things he had no personal share in bringing about. Denied a hearing a the bar of public opinion, the bete noir of all the loyal journalists, painted blacker than ten devils, and given a countenance that was made to retain some shadow of all the death agonies he had seen, is it strange in the least that his fiendishness became omnipresent as well as omnipotent? To justify one crime on the part of a Federal soldier, five crimes more cruel still were laid at the door of the Guerrilla. His long gallop not only tired but infuriated his hunters. That savage standing at bay and dying always as a wolf dies when barked at by hounds and bludgeoned by countrymen, made his enemies fear him and hate him. Hence from all their bomb-proofs his slanderers fired silly lies at long range, and put afloat unnatural stories that hurt him only as it deepened the savage intensity of an already savage strife. Save in rare and memorable instances, the Guerrilla murdered only when fortune in open and honorable battle gave into his hands some victims who were denied that death in combat which they afterward found by ditch or lonesome roadside. Man for man, he put his life fairly on the cast of the war dice, and died when the need came as the red Indian dies, stoical and grim as a stone.

As strange as it may seem, the perilous fascination of fighting under a black flag—where the wounded could have neither surgeon nor hospital, and where all that remained to the prisoners was the absolute certainty of speedy death –attracted a number of young men to the various Guerrilla bands, gently nurtured, born to higher destinies, capable of sustained exertion in any scheme or enterprise, and fit for callings high up in the scale of science or philosophy. Others came who had deadly wrongs to avenge, and these gave to all their combats that sanguinary hue which still remains a part of the Guerrilla’s legacy. Almost from the first a large majority of Quantrell’s [common misspelling of Quantrill used by Edwards throughout] original command had over them the shadow of some terrible crime. This one recalled a father murdered, this one a brother waylaid and shot, this one a house pillaged and burnt, this one a relative assassinated, this one a grievous insult while at peace at home, this one a robbery of all his earthly possessions, this one the force which compelled him to witness the brutal treatment of a mother or sister, this one was driven away from his own life a thief in the night, this one was threatened with death for opinion’s sake, this one was proscribed at the instance of some designing neighbor, this one was arrested wantonly and forced to do the degrading work of a menial; while all had more or less of wrath laid up against the day when they were to meet face to face and hand to hand those whom they had good cause to regard as the living embodiment of unnumbered wrongs. Honorable soldiers in the Confederate army –amenable to every generous impulse and exact in the performance of every manly duty –deserted even the ranks which they had adorned and became desperate Guerrillas because the home they had left had been given to the flames, or a gray-haired father shot upon his own hearth-stone. They wanted to avoid the uncertainty of regular battle and know by actual results how many died as a propitiation or a sacrifice. Every other passion became subsidiary to that of revenge. They sought personal encounters that their own handiwork might become unmistakably manifest. Those who died by other agencies than their own were not counted in the general summing up of a fight, nor were the solacements of any victory sweet to them unless they had the knowledge of being important factors in its achievement. As this class of Guerrillas increased, the warfare of the border became necessarily more cruel and unsparing. Where at first there was only killing in ordinary battle, there became to be no quarter shown. The wounded of the enemy next felt the might of this individual vengeance –acting through a community of bitter memories –and from every stricken field there began, by and by, to come up the substance of this awful bulletin: Dead such and such a number –wounded none. The war had then passed into its fever heat, and thereafter the gentle and the merciful, equally with the harsh and the revengeful, spared nothing clad in blue that could be captured.

Jayhawkers Versus Bushwhackers

Jayhawkers vs Bushwhackers

Jayhawkers were honorable abolitionists…or lowlife horsethieves. Bushwhackers were patriotic defenders… or murderous bandits. Here are vehemently opposing viewpoints by two of the Civil War’s participants. One area they coincide is in their poor opinion of the genetic traits of their opponents. It’s easier to fight people you see as less than human.

The Kansas

Jayhawker

by

John N. Edwards

The original Jayhawker was a growth indigenous to the soil of Kansas. There belonged to him as things of course a pre-emption, a chronic case of chills and fevers, one starved cow and seven dogs, a longing for his neighbor’s goods and chattels, a Sharpe’s rifle, when he could get it, and something of a Bible for hypocrisy’s sake—something that savored of the real presence of the book to give backbone to his canting and snuffling. In some respects a mountebank, in others a scoundrel, and in all a thief—he was a character eminently adapted for civil war which produces more adventurers than heroes. His hands were large, hairy, and red—proof of inherited laziness—and a slouching gait added to the ungainliness of his figure when he walked. The type was all of a kind. The mouth generally wore a calculating smile—the only distinguishable gift remaining of a Puritan ancestry—but when he felt that he was looked at the calculating smile became sanctimonious. Slavery concerned him only as the slaveholder was supposed to be rich; and just so long as Beecher presided over emigration aid societies, preached highway robbery, defended political murder, and sent something to the Jayhawkers in the way of real fruits and funds, there surely was a God in Israel and Beecher was his great high priest. Otherwise they all might go to the devil together. The Jayhawker was not brave. He would fight when he had to fight, but he would not stand in the last ditch and shoot away his last cartridge. Born to nothing, and eternally out at the elbows, what else could he do but laugh and be glad when chance kicked a country into war and gave purple and fine linen to a whole lot of bummers and beggars? In the saddle he rode like a sand bag or a sack of meal. The eternal “ager cake” made a trotting horse his abomination, and he had no use for a thoroughbred, save to steal him. When he abandoned John Brown and rallied to the standard of Jim Lane—when he gave up the fanatic and clove unto the thief—he simply changed his leader without changing his principles.

Excerpted and introduced by G. E. Rule, from “Noted Guerrillas or the Warfare of the Border”, by John N. Edwards, 1877

For Edwards’ view of the Bushwhackers read Making of a Confederate Guerrilla

Major John N. Edwards, CSA, was General Jo. Shelby’s adjutant and chronicler. At war’s end Edwards chose to share Mexican exile with Shelby as well. When they returned to the U.S. in 1867, Edwards rapidly published three large volumes of wartime experiences. Two dealt specifically with Shelby, “Shelby and his Men”, 1867 and “Shelby’s Expedition to Mexico”, 1872.  In 1874 he published “Noted Guerrillas”, a broad handling of the Confederate irregulars in Missouri during the war. Edwards also founded the Kansas City Times and was its editor for many years.

Make no mistake, Major John N. Edwards was a Confederate and proud of it. You will not find more than passing reference to the other side of the coin in his pages. His flamboyantly purple prose is sometimes entertaining and sometimes tiresome, but is always used in defense of Confederate Missouri and its view of the world and “the recent unpleasantness.”

The Missouri Bushwhacker

by

John McElroy

Next to Slavery, the South had been cursed by the importation of paupers and criminals who had been transported from England for England’s good, in the early history of the Colonies, to work the new lands. The negro proving the better worker in servitude than this class, they had been driven off the plantations to squat on unoccupied lands, where they bred like the beasts of the field, getting a precarious living from hunting the forest, and the bolder eking out this by depredations upon their thriftier neighbors. Their forebears had been paupers and criminals when sent from England, and the descendants continued to be paupers and criminals in the new country, forming a clearly marked social class, so distinct as to warrant the surmise that they belonged to a different race. As the eastern part of the South and the administration of the laws improved, this element was to some extent forced out, and spread in a noisome trail over Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri. While other immigrants went into the unbroken forest with a few rude tools and in the course of several years built up comfortable homes, theirs never rose above abject squalor. The crudest of cabins sufficed them for shelter, beds of beech leaves were all the couches they required; they had more guns in their huts than agricultural or mechanical implements; they scarcely pretended to raise anything more than a scanty patch of corn; and when they could not put on their tables the flesh of the almost wild razorback hog which roamed the woods, they made meat of woodchucks, raccoons, opossums or any other “varmint” their guns could bring down. They did not scorn hawks or owls if hunger demanded and no better meat could be found.

It was this “White Trash” which added so much to the horrors of the war, especially in Missouri, and so little to its real prosecution. Wolf-like in ferocity, when the advantages were on their side, they were wolf-like in cowardice when the terms were at all equal. They were the Croats, Cossacks, Tolpatches, Pandours of the Confederacy—of little value in battle, but terrible as guerrillas and bushwhackers. From this “White Trash” came the gangs of murderers and robbers, like those led by the Youngers, Jameses, Quantrills, and scores of other names of criminal memory.

As has been the case in all times and countries, these dregs of society became the willing tools of the Slaveholding aristocrats. With dog-like fidelity they followed and served the class which despised and overrode them. Somehow, by inherited habits likely, they seemed to avoid the more fertile parts of the State.

Excerpted and introduced by G.E. Rule, from “The Struggle for Missouri”, John McElroy, 1909

In 1863, at the age of sixteen, John McElroy joined an Illinois cavalry regiment. Six months later he was taken prisoner and remained so until the end of the war, spending much of the time at the infamous Andersonville prison. In 1879 he wrote a book about his experiences, “Andersonville: A Story of Rebel Military Prisons. Fifteen Months a Guest of the so-called Southern Confederacy”. In 1909 he was back with “Struggle for Missouri”, with little of his anti-Confederate heat dissipated. “The Struggle for Missouri” is dedicated “To the Union Men of Missouri”, and they get the better end of every argument or controversy in its pages.

Home Guard

The Home Guard

by

Galusha Anderson

Excerpted and Introduced by G.E. Rule from “The Story of a Border City During the Civil War”, Galusha Anderson, 1908

Galusha Anderson 1861


Galusha Anderson was a Baptist minister in St. Louis from 1858-1866. His decidedly pro-Union “The Story of a Border City During the Civil War” has many faults. Anderson’s opinion of his own importance in events is exaggerated, and at times the reader would be forgiven for thinking that Blair, Lyon, Fremont, Schofield, Rosecrans, et al could have just stayed in bed –it was really Galusha who held the fate of the Union cause in Missouri in his strong hands. At one point he has an agitated southerner blame his preaching for the Union seizure of Camp Jackson. One suspects Anderson would not want to discourage his readers from reaching the same conclusion. Describing his first blast from a St. Louis pulpit against the heresy of secession, Galusha reports the event with a freighted solemnity and attention to minute detail most historians would reserve for the third day at Gettysburg or the final scene at Appomattox.

On the plus side, Anderson does have a fine eye for detail and his book is filled with many interesting anecdotes of life in St. Louis during the Civil War. Galusha’s Union sources (men like James O. Broadhead were his parishioners) seem to be excellent and allow the reader a valuable insight into the thinking of the pro-Union population of St. Louis. For those interested in the topic, Rev. Anderson’s book has many revealing stories of the stresses –and sometimes fractures– that can occur in “Christian fellowship” during a time of political upheaval.

The Home Guard was Frank Blair’s pro-Union militia, eventually taken into Federal service in April and May of 1861 when Governor Claiborne Jackson refused President Lincoln’s call for four regiments from Missouri. Going around the governor for troops from his state was unprecedented at the time, and at the best extra-constitutional. General Winfield Scott’s endorsement read, “This is irregular, but, being times of revolution, is approved.” Anderson’s account describes how a pro-Republican political club, the Wide-Awakes, was transformed into the Home Guard militia and armed for the conflict that most saw coming. He also touches on the pro-secessionist Minute Men. See Thomas L. Snead’s account of the Minute Men to get their view of events. Both sides blame the other for starting the arming of the private militias.

The Home Guard was made up largely, but not exclusively, of recent German immigrants, many of whom had been on the short-end of the attempted 1848 revolution there. These had no respect whatever for “the peculiar institution” and were referred to as “The Dutch”, a corruption of “Deutsch”, which is the German word for “German”. Anderson, as only he can, prissily tells elsewhere in his book how even the upper-class secessionist ladies of the city often referred to “’The Amsterdam Dutch’, without the ‘Amster’!” This is a lovely double pun for “The Damn Dutch” who had no Amsterdam in their background.

In excerpting from Anderson’s book the section concerning the Home Guards, there is always the danger the resulting piece may give an impression unintended by the author of the original work had he the opportunity to write on the Home Guards solely instead of as part of a larger work. Any perceived problems of that sort should be laid at the door of the editor, not the author.


Missouri Civil War Reader CD-ROM

Missouri Civil War Reader, Volume I now available

The Fight for Missouri by Thomas L. Snead, 1886

The Struggle for Missouri by John McElroy, 1909

The Story of a Border City During the Civil War by Galusha Anderson, 1908

The Crisis by Winston Churchill, 1901

Basil Duke in Missouri by Gen. Basil Wilson Duke, 1911

The Brown-Reynolds Duel, 1911

Cost per CD ROM is $24.95 + $4.00 priority mail shipping

There were two formidable political clubs in the city. The one was the Wide-Awakes. This was Republican in politics. It was made up of the most progressive young men of St. Louis. Many of them had just come into the Republican ranks; their political faith was new; they had the zeal and enthusiasm of recent converts. They were also stimulated by the fact that they were called upon to maintain their political doctrine in the face of the stoutest opposition. With their torchlights they had just been marching and hurrahing for Lincoln. They had cheered the vigorous speeches of their brilliant orators. Their candidate, though defeated in their city and State, had been triumphantly elected to the Presidency. Such a body of men, flushed with victory, was a political force which every thoughtful man saw must be reckoned with.

The other political club was the Minute Men. They were mostly young, but conservative, Democrats. They had supported Douglas for the Presidency. They too had had their torchlight processions. They had listened to impassioned harangues from the stump and loudly cheered them. Even their distinguished political leader came during the canvas and spoke to them with rare persuasiveness in defense of squatter sovereignty, and they were proud of “The Little Giant”, as Senator Douglas was popularly called. Then in their city and State they had been victorious at the polls. While defeated in the nation at large, they felt strong, braced, as they believed themselves to be, by the old and oft-tested doctrines of Democracy [at this time “Democracy” or “the Democracy” was used to refer to the Democratic party –ed]. Here was another mighty political force. If armed conflict were to come, on which side would it array itself? While Mr. Douglas, their admired leader, was a staunch Union man, most of these Minute Men, who had so strenuously striven to elect him to the Presidency, after they learned that verdict at the polls, began to drift into the ranks of the secessionists. Nor did they disband; but they began to reorganize for hostilities. When this was observed, influential Republicans advised the Wide-Awakes not to break up their organizations, but to continue to meet statedly, just as they had during the presidential campaign, to procure arms so far as they were able, and to subject themselves to military drill. And during the winter of 1860-1861 these antagonistic political organizations, the Minute Men and the Wide-Awakes, now to all intents and purposes transformed into military bodies, met regularly at their various rendezvous and went through the manual of arms. Late in the evening, I often passed a hall occupied by a company of Minute Men, or secessionists, where I heard them march, countermarch and ground arms. Things like this were unmistakable premonitions of bloody battle. Some of our immediate neighbors and friends evidently already contemplated appealing “from ballots to bullets”, and a shiver of apprehension ran down our spines.

But a serious problem now presented itself for solution. How could arms be obtained for the Wide-Awakes or Union men? In some mysterious way the Minute Men or secessionists had been at least partially armed. We could only guess what was the source of their supply. But where could the Wide-Awakes secure guns? There were arms in abundance at the Arsenal in the southern part of the city, but they belonged to the United States; and as there were as yet no open hostilities, private military organizations could not lawfully be furnished with them. Notwithstanding this, we did not propose, if the hour of need should strike, to be found napping. So after due deliberations it was announced that, in a certain hall, there would be an art exhibition, which would continue for three weeks or more. To the general public it seemed to be an unpropitious time for such a venture, but as it had no warlike look it aroused no suspicion, and was generously patronized by those of all shades of political opinion. The exhibition in its display of statuary and painting was not only creditable but attractive. It was also a financial success; but outside the few determined Union men who made up the inner circle, the secret reason of that burning zeal for cultivating the artistic tastes of the city was quite unknown. Considerable material for the exhibition was sent to us from the East; among other things was a plentiful supply of plaster casts from New York. These were packed in large boxes; but some patriots of Gotham, who sent them, knew our secret and our necessities, and also forwarded to us boxes of muskets labeled as plaster casts, with plain directions to handle the fragile contents with care. Those who arranged the material of the art exhibit, unable, on account of the rush of work, to unpack these boxes in the daytime, were compelled to leave them till midnight before they were cared for. Then, unopened, they were carted to the places where patriotic Wide-Awakes were gathered. Shining muskets never gave more joy than these imparted to the Union men of St. Louis. And during that anxious, dismal winter, they often met in their secret places, and while hoping that all threatened disaster might be averted, statedly went through the manual of arms. Hoping for the best, they determined to be ready for the worst.

* * *

These uncompromising loyalists [the Union Safety Committee, headed by Frank Blair] at once saw in [Captain Nathaniel] Lyon the man for the hour and the place, and he saw in them men who would do all in their power to help him realize his aims. He frequently visited the rendezvous of the Wide-Awakes, now, under the lead of Blair, transformed into Home Guards. He encouraged them in their work, suggested plans for their more perfect organization, and often personally drilled them in the manual of arms. They needed muskets. Blair thought that they should be armed from the Arsenal; and while this was contrary to the letter of the law, Lyon was in full accord with Blair.

* * *

Lyon had now [April 23rd, 1861] what he and Blair had so intensely desired, supreme command at the Arsenal. He at once re-enforced it. He fortified it. All approaches to it were vigilantly guarded. Lyon was now [April 30th, 1861] empowered by the Federal government to arm the Home Guards; to raise and arm additional regiments and muster them into the United States’ service.

Fremont in Missouri

Posted March 2001

FremontFremont in Missouri

by

John McElroy

Galusha Anderson

W. T. Sherman

Excerpted and introduced by G. E. Rule, from “The Struggle for Missouri”, John McElroy, 1909; “The Story of a Border City During the Civil War”, Galusha Anderson, 1908; “Memoirs of General William T. Sherman,” by Gen. W. T. Sherman, 1875


Further Reading: Civil War St. Louis by Louis S. Gerteis

Civil War St. Louis by Gerteis

Memoirs by John Charles Fremont

Memoirs of My Life : Including Three Journeys of Western Exploration During the Years 1842, 1843-1844, 1845-1847 by John Charles Fremont

John Charles Fremont: Character As Destiny
by Andrew Rolle
John Charles Fremont

The Letters of Jessie Benton Fremontby Jessie Benton Fremont

Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman by William Techumseh Sheman

Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865

Fremont in Missouri covers the career of Union Major-General John Charles Fremont from the time he was appointed head of the Department of the West with headquarters in St. Louis in July of 1861, until he was relieved less than four months later. Fremont was known as “The Great Pathfinder” for his exploits in finding overland trails to California in the 1840’s. Fremont was also the first U.S. Senator from California and the first Republican candidate for President in the election of 1856. Unfortunately for the Union, he never did become known as “The Competent General” or even “The Adequate Administrator” during the Civil War.

Confederate sources tend to just snicker about Fremont without going into details, and it takes reading the Union sources to get a good idea of his shortcomings. The friendliest sources tend to dwell on his loyalty to the cause, because there is very little else good to be said. The less-friendly sources usually start off with snide comments and often work their way into a high dudgeon before they are through. After his ignominious failure in Missouri, Fremont was relegated to what was considered a much less demanding command in what today would be West Virginia, where he went up against. . . Stonewall Jackson. Ouch.

One of the most interesting sections of the piece is the description of how Union General Franz Sigel may have saved the Republic from a military dictator. It turns out that to the Union, Fremont was dedicated –to the Republic, not so much. Sigel was a German immigrant, and beloved of his brethren. Unfortunately, he came to be known during the Civil War for his “brilliant retreats”. Only the strong affection of a vital part of the Unionist coalition saved his job. However, besides helping to deliver the Germans for the Union, McElroy’s account claims another important service that Sigel performed for his adopted country. When Fremont was relieved by Lincoln in Nov. of 1861, the general considered making a try for the purple instead of accepting the order. Sigel talked him out of it.

This account relies mainly on McElroy, but mixes in the comments of Galusha Anderson and William Tecumseh Sherman where appropriate. Sherman was a young officer in California in 1847 when he had his first experiences with Fremont and his cronies, and already had a very low opinion of him before they met again in St. Louis during the war. Each change in author is marked.


[McElroy]

The country was hysterical [after Bull Run, or Manassas] over the safety of the National Capital, and it seemed that the Administration was equally emotional. Every regiment and gun was being rushed to the heights in front of Washington, and all eyes were fixed on the line of the Potomac.

The perennial adventurer in Gen. Fremont did not fail to suggest to him that the greatest of opportunities might develop in Washington, and he lingered in New York until peremptorily ordered by Gen. Scott to his command. He did not arrive in St. Louis until July 25th [1861].

Like Seward, Chase, McClellan, and many other aspiring men, Fremont had little confidence that the untrained Illinois Rail Splitter in the Presidential chair would be able to keep his head above the waves in the sea of troubles the country had entered. The disaster at Bull Run was but the beginning of a series of catastrophes which would soon call for a stronger brain and more experienced hand at the helm.

Then?

Mrs. Jessie Benton Fremont [the general’s wife, and daughter of Thomas Hart Benton, former Democratic senator from Missouri] was not the only to suggest that the man for the hour would be found to be the first Republican candidate for President –the Great Pathfinder of the Rocky Mountains!

Upon his arrival at St. Louis Gen. Fremont was immediately waited upon by the faithful Chester Harding and others who had been awaiting his coming with painful anxiety. They represented most energetically Gen. Lyon’s predicament [leading up to the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, where Lyon was killed], without money, clothing or ratings, and with a force even more rapidly diminishing [from expiring enlistments] than that of the enemy was augmenting. They revealed Gen. Lyon’s far-reaching plans of making Springfield a base from which to carry the war into Arkansas, and begged for men, money, food, shoes and clothing for him.

Fremont was too much engrossed in forming in the Brant Mansion that vice-regal court of his—the main requirement for which seemed to be inability to speak English—to feel the urgency of these importunities.

The country was swarming with military adventurers from Europe, men with more or less shadow on their connection with the foreign armies, and eager to sell their swords to the highest advantage. They swarmed around Fremont like bees around a sugar barrel, much to the detriment of the honest and earnest men of foreign birth who were rallying to the support of the Union.

Leonidas PolkNext to his satrapal court of exotic manners and speech, Fremont was most concerned about the safety of Cairo, Ill., a most important point, then noisily threatened by Maj.-Gen. Leonidas Polk, the militant Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana, and his subordinate, the blatant Gen. Gideon J. Pillow, of Mexican War notoriety.

Gen. Fremont made quite a show of reinforcing Cairo, sending a most imposing fleet of steamboats to carry the 4,000 troops sent thither.

Pretense still counted for much in the war. Later it burnt up like dry straw in the fierce blaze of actualities.

Not being Fremont’s own, nor contributing particularly to his aggrandizement, Gen. Lyon’s plans and aims had little importance to his Commanding General.


Lyon[On Aug. 10, 1861, Lyon was killed at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, and the Union forces under his command were compelled to retreat 125 miles from Springfield to Rolla.]

The death of Gen. Lyon at last aroused Gen. Fremont to a fever of energy to do the things that he should have done weeks before. He began a bombardment of Washington with telegrams asking for men, money and supplies, and sent dispatches of the most urgent nature to everybody from whom he could expect the least help. He called on the Governors of the loyal Western States to hurry to him all the troops that they could raise, and asked from Washington Regular troops, artillery, $3,000,000 for the Quartermaster’s Department, and other requirements in proportion. He made a requisition on St. Louis banks for money, and showed a great deal of fertility of resource.

Aug. 15, five days after the battle, President Lincoln, stirred up by his fusillade of telegrams, dispatched him the following:

Washington, Aug. 15, 1861

To Gen. Fremont:

Been answering your messages ever since day before yesterday. Do you receive the answers? The War Department has notified all Governors you designate to forward all available force. So telegraphed you. Have you received these messages? Answer immediately.

A. Lincoln

With relation to his conduct toward Gen. Lyon, Gen. Fremont afterward testified to this affect before the Committee on the Conduct of the War:

“A glance at the map will make it apparent that Cairo was the point which first demanded immediate attention. The force under Gen. Lyon could retreat, but the position at Cairo could not be abandoned; the question of holding Cairo was one which involved the safety of the whole Northwest. Had the taking of St. Louis followed the defeat of Manassas, the disaster might have been irretrievable; while the loss of Springfield, should our army be compelled to fall back upon Rolla, would only carry with it the loss of a part of Missouri –a loss greatly to be regretted, but not irretrievable.

“Having reinforced Cape Girardeau and Ironton, by the utmost exertions, I succeeded in getting together and embarking with a force of 3,800 men, five days after my arrival in St. Louis.

“From St. Louis to Cairo was an easy day’s journey by water, and transportation abundant. To Springfield was a week’s march; and before I could have reached it, Cairo would have been taken and with it, I believe, St. Louis.

“On my arrival at Cairo I found the force under Gen. Prentiss reduced to 1,200 men, consisting mainly of a regiment which had agreed to await my arrival. A few miles below, at New Madrid, Gen Pillow had landed a force estimated at 20,000, which subsequent events showed was not exaggerated. Our force, greatly increased to the enemy by rumor, drove him to a hasty retreat and permanently secured the position.

“I returned to St. Louis on the 4th, having in the meantime ordered Col. Stephenson’s regiment from Boonville, and Col. Montgomery’s from Kansas, to march to the relief of Gen. Lyon.

“Immediately upon my arrival from Cairo, I set myself at work, amid incessant demands upon my time from every quarter, principally to provide reinforcements for Gen. Lyon.

“I do not accept Springfield as a disaster belonging to my administration. Causes wholly out of my jurisdiction had already prepared the defeat of Gen. Lyon before my arrival at St. Louis.

FremontThe ebullition of the Secession sentiment in Missouri following the news of the battle of Wilson’s Creek made Gen. Fremont feel that the most extraordinary measures were necessary in order to hold the State. He had reasons for this alarm, for the greatest activity was manifested in every County in enrolling young men in Secession companies and regiments. Heavy columns were threatening invasion from various points. One of these was led by Gen. Hardee, a Regular officer of much ability, who had acquired considerable fame by this translation of the tactics in use in the Army. He had been appointed to the command on North Arkansas, and had collected considerable force at Pocahontas, at the head of navigation on the White River, where he was within easy striking distance of the State and Lyon’s line of retreat, and was threatening numberless direful things.

McCulloch and Price had sent special messengers to him to join his force with theirs to crush Lyon, or at least to move forward and cut off Lyon’s communications with Rolla. They found Hardee within 400 yards of the Missouri State line. He had every disposition to do as desired, but had too much of the Regular officer in him to be willing to move until his forces were thoroughly organized and equipped. There was little in him of the spirit of Lyon or Price, who improvised means for doing what they wanted to do, no matter whether regulations permitted it or not.

Hardee complained that though he had then 2,300 men and expected to shortly raise this force to 5,000, one of his batteries had no horses and no harness, and none of his regiments had transportation enough for field service, and that all regiments were badly equipped and needed discipline and instruction.

Later, Hardee repaired many of these deficiencies, and was in shape to do a great deal of damage to the Union cause, and of this Fremont and his subordinates were well aware. Gens. Polk and Pillow, with quite strong forces at Columbus, were threatening Cairo and southeast Missouri, and an advance was made into the State by their picturesque subordinate, Gen. M. Jeff Thompson, the poet laureate of the New Madrid marches and the “Swamp Fox” who was to emulate the exploits of Francis Marion. Thompson moved forward with a considerable force of irregular mounted men, the number of which was greatly exaggerated, and it was reported that behind him was a column command by Pillow, ranging all the way from 8,000 to 25,000.

Gen. Fremont set an immense force of laborers to work on an elaborate system of fortification for the city of St. Louis, and also began the construction of fortifications at Cape Girardeau, Ironton, Rolla, and Jefferson City. He employed laborers instead of using his troops, in order to give the latter the opportunity to be drilled and equipped. He issued the following startling General Order, which produced the greatest commotion in the State and outside it:

Headquarters of the Western Department

St. Louis, Aug. 31, 1861

Circumstances in my judgment of sufficient urgency render it necessary that the Commanding General of this Department should assume the administrative power of the State. Its disorganized condition, the devastation of property by bands of murderers and marauders who infest nearly every County in the State, and avail themselves of the public misfortunes and the vicinity of a hostile force to gratify private and neighborhood vengeance, and who find an enemy wherever they find plunder, finally demand the severest measures to repress the daily increasing crimes and outrages which are driving off the inhabitants and ruining the State. In this condition the public safety and the success of our arms require unity of purpose, without let or hindrance to the prompt administration of affairs.

In order, therefore, to suppress disorders, to maintain, as far as now practicable, the public peace, and to give security and protection to the persons and property of loyal citizens, I do hereby extend and declare established martial law throughout the State of Missouri. The lines of the army of occupation in this State are, for the present, declared to extend from Leavenworth, by way of the posts of Jefferson City, Rolla and Ironton to Cape Girardeau, on the Mississippi River. All persons who shall be taken with arms in their hands within these lines hall be tried by court-martial, and, if found guilty, will be shot. The property, real and person, of all persons in the State of Missouri who shall take up arms against the United States, or shall be directly proven to have taken active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use, and there slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared free men.

All persons who shall be proven to have destroyed, after the publication of this order, railroad tracks, bridges or telegraphs, shall suffer the extreme penalty of the law.

All person engaged in treasonable correspondence, in giving or procuring aid to the enemies of the United States, in disturbing the public tranquility by creating and circulating false reports of incendiary documents, are in their own interest warned that they are exposing themselves.

All persons who have been led away from their allegiance are required to return to their homes forthwith; any such absence, without sufficient cause, will be held to be presumptive evidence against them.

The object of this declaration is to place in the hands of the military authorities the power to give instantaneous effect to existing laws, and to supply such deficiencies as conditions of ward demand. But it is not intended to suspend the ordinary tribunals of the country, where the law will be administered by the civil officers in the usual manner and with their customary authority, while the same can be peaceably exercised.

The Commanding General will labor vigilantly for the public welfare, and, in his efforts for their safety, hopes to obtain not only the acquiescence, but the active support, of the people of the country.

J. C. Fremont

Major-General Commanding


[Galusha Anderson]

Galusha AndersonOn the same day that the provost marshal issued his order in reference to passes [to enter or leave St. Louis], General Fremont put the whole state under martial law [the order given above], and, as many contended, unwarrantably assuming the functions of the general government, proclaimed the freedom of all slaves belonging to those guilty of disloyalty to the United States. He made good his extraordinary proclamation by explicit act. On September 12th, notwithstanding the President had written him on the 2nd, taking exception to this manifesto, he manumitted two slaves, belonging to Thomas L. Snead of St. Louis, and issued their manumission papers over his signature as major-general. Lincoln kindly called his attention to the fact that he was transcending his authority, and gave him the opportunity to modify his own policy, without any open declaration of dissent on the part of the general government. But in reply, Fremont preferred that the President himself should modify the obnoxious proclamation; so, reluctantly but firmly, Mr. Lincoln publicly set aside so much of the general’s proclamation of August 30th as pertained to the manumission of slaves belonging to the rebels.

The question on which the President and his general clashed was confessedly delicate and manifestly perplexing to those in administrative circles. At bottom, the duty of the President was clear. Since slavery was a local institution he could not legally interfere with it in any loyal State; and, as a State, Missouri had declared against secession. Just what, however, might be rightly done, according to the laws of war, with the slaves of the disloyal in loyal States was as yet apparently not altogether clear to those in authority at Washington. Still, on grounds of expediency, conservative action was manifestly wisest, in order not unnecessarily to alienate the loyal pro-slavery element of the border states. The problem in all its bearings greatly agitated the Unionists of our city. Upon it they were divided in both judgment and sentiment. Some said: “The enslavement of the negro is the real cause of the war. By law he is declared to be property; and if, as has been done before our eyes, a general may confiscate buildings belonging to the disloyal, and appropriate them to the use of the United States, why can he not treat the slave property of rebels in the same way?” “But”, their opponents replied, “This is what Fremont did not do with the slaves of Mr. Snead; he did not turn them over to the United States to be used in promoting the interests of the Federal government; he simply set them free. He is putting himself forward as an emancipator.” So the ideas of staunch Unionists were in conflict. Evidently the most intelligent and thoughtful unhesitatingly sustained the President in his modification of the general’s manifesto. And without expressing here any opinion as to whether or not their judgment of Fremont was just, it is true that many of them began to fell that in attempting to do what in itself as a matter of merely abstract justice was right, he was quite too impulsive, effusive, and spectacular, and that he had clearly exceeded his authority. In fact the was attempting to do what the general government felt itself debarred from doing by constitutional law and by a late specific act of Congress.

But Fremont’s career, as commander of the Western Department, now drew rapidly to its close. He had gathered an army of twenty-five thousand men; but when the brave Mulligan at Lexington, on the Missouri River, in the western part of the State, was besieged by a rebel force [commanded by General Sterling Price] more than four times greater than his own, and yet fought on pluckily for days, Fremont failed to reinforce him. To be sure, he made what seemed to us a rather belated and languid effort so to do, but the troops ordered by him to Lexington failed to reach their destination before Mulligan was compelled to surrender. This was a blow so disastrous to the Union cause, that the loyal of our city were filled with disappointment and discontent. Some of them murmured their disapprobation of the commanding general; some openly and bitterly denounced him. The Evening News, a Union journal, in a strong, manly editorial entitled “The Fall of Lexington”, sharply criticized his failure to re-enforce Mulligan, and for this criticism, the proprietor, Charles G. Ramsey, was arrested by order of the provost marshal, taken to headquarters and there examined by the military authorities. He was sent to prison, and his paper was suppressed. All the manuscript in his office was seized and the building, where his paper was published, was put into the possession of a provost-guard. With very few dissenting voices, this invasion of the freedom of the press was sharply condemned by Union men. The occurrence added largely to the distrust of the capacity of the general for a command so large and difficult.

The surrender of Mulligan’s small heroic army at Lexington stimulated Fremont to more strenuous effort. He now contemplated marching against the enemy that was so rapidly gaining strength in west and southwest Missouri. earthwork fortifications from Harpers But in that event St. Louis would be left quite uncovered; so to provide for the defense of the city in the absence of his army, he proceeded to surround it on the north, west, and south with earthworks, in which he placed great guns. These works he intended to man with a few hundred soldiers, who, if any enemy should approach, could with those big guns sweep with grape and canister all the roads that led to the city. Many of us, little acquainted with military affairs, looked on with curiosity mingled with wonder, grateful for the benign care bestowed upon us by our patriotic commander; but I noticed that those who evidently knew more of war viewed these earthworks with ill-concealed contempt. And during many months they remained unmanned, mute reminders of the wisdom or folly of the celebrated Fremont, under whose immediate direction they had been constructed.

He seemed to have a mania for fortifications. He put Jefferson City, the capital of the State, under the command of Brigadier-General Ulysses S. Grant, then unknown to fame, and especially enjoined him to fortify it. To this order Grant replied that he had neither sufficient men nor tools to fortify the place, and added: “Drill and discipline are more important than fortifications”. That pithy, pregnant sentence foreshadowed the hero of Fort Donelson, Vicksburg and Appomattox.


[McElroy]

[After the surrender of Union forces at Lexington Fremont minimized the loss in telegrams to Washington, but the President was clearly becoming exasperated with him.]

1901 pictureFremont, in the palatial Brandt Mansion, for which the Government was paying the very unusual rent of $6,000 per year, was maintaining a vice regal court as difficultly accessible as that of any crowned head of Europe. His uncounted and glittering staff, which seemed to have received the Pentecostal gift of tongues –in which English was not included—was headed by a mysterious “Adlatus”—a title before unknown in America or to the dictionaries, and since retired to oblivion. Naturally, the Adlatus’s command of English was limited. His knowledge of Missouri was even more so. Though commanding Missouri and dealing intensely with Missouri affairs, the men surrounding Fremont were everything but Missourians or those acquainted with Missouri affairs. It would have been surprising to find one of them who could bound the State and name its principal rivers.

This, too, in the midst of a multitude of able, educated, influential Missourians who were ardent Unionists and were burning with zeal to serve the cause. Not one of them appears in the Fremont entourage.


[Sherman]

ShermanMcClellan and Fremont were the two men toward whom the country looked as the great Union leaders, and toward them were streaming the newly-raised regiments of infantry and cavalry, and batteries of artillery; nobody seeming to think of the intervening link covered by Kentucky. While I was to make this tour [of Indiana, Illinois, and St. Louis in late August of 1861], Generals Anderson and Thomas were to go to Louisville and initiate the department [of the Cumberland, responsible for Kentucky]. None of us had a staff, or any of the machinery for organizing an army, and, indeed, we had no army to organize. Anderson was empowered to raise regiments in Kentucky, and to commission a few brigadier-generals.

At Indianapolis I found Governor Morton and all the State officials busy in equipping and providing for the new regiments, and my object was to divert some of them toward Kentucky; but they were called for as fast as they were mustered in, either for the army of McClellan or Fremont. At Springfield also I found the same general activity and zeal, Governor Yates busy in providing for his men; but these men also had been promised to Fremont. I then went on to St. Louis, where all was seeming activity, bustle, and preparation.

Meeting R. M. Renick at the Planters’ House (where I stopped), I inquired where I could find General Fremont. Renick said, “What do you want with General Fremont?” I said I had come to see him on business; and he added, “You don’t suppose that he will see such as you?”, and went on to retail all the scandal of the day: that Fremont was a great potentate, surrounded by sentries and guards; that he had a more showy court than any real king; that he kept senators, governors, and the first citizens, dancing attendance for days and weeks before granting an audience, etc.; that if I expected to see him on business, I would have to make my application in writing, and submit to a close scrutiny by his chief of staff and by his civil surroundings. Of course I laughed at all this, and renewed my simple inquiry as to where was his office, and was informed that he resided and had his office at Major Brant’s new house on Chouteau Avenue. It was then late in the afternoon, and I concluded to wait till the next morning; but that night I received a dispatch from General Anderson in Louisville to hurry back, as events were pressing, and he needed me.

Accordingly, I rose early next morning before daybreak, got breakfast with the early railroad-passengers, and about sunrise was at the gate of General Fremont’s headquarters. A sentinel with drawn saber paraded up and down in front of the house. I had on my undress uniform indicating my rank, and inquired of the sentinel, “Is General Fremont up?” He answered, “I don’t know.” Seeing that he was a soldier by his bearing, I spoke in a sharp, emphatic voice, “Then find out.” He called for the corporal of the guard, and soon a fine-looking German sergeant came, to whom I addressed the same inquiry. He in turn did not know, and I bade him find out, as I had immediate and important business with the general.

The sergeant entered the house by the front-basement door, and after ten or fifteen minutes the main front-door above was slowly opened from the inside, and who should appear but my old San Francisco acquaintance Isaiah C. Woods, whom I had not seen or heard of since his flight to Australia, at the time of the failure of Adams & Co. in 1851! He ushered me in hastily, closed the door, and conducted me into the office on the right of the hall. We were glad to meet, after so long and eventful an interval, and mutually inquired after our respective families and special acquaintances. I found that he was a commissioned officer, a major on duty with Fremont, and Major Eaton, now of the paymaster’s Department, was in the same office with him. I explained to them that I had come from General Anderson, and wanted to confer with General Fremont in person. Woods left me, but soon returned, said the general would see me in a very few minutes, and within ten minutes I was shown across the hall into the large parlor, where General Fremont received me very politely. We had met before, as early as 1847, in California, and I had also seen him several times when he was senator. I then in a rapid manner ran over all the points of interest in General Anderson’s new sphere of action, hoped he would spare us from the new levies what troops he could, and generally act in concert with us. He told me that his first business would be to drive the rebel General Price and his army out of Missouri, when he would turn his attention down the Mississippi. He asked my opinion about the various kinds of field-artillery which manufacturers were thrusting on him, especially the then newly-invented James gun, and afterward our conversation took a wide turn about the character of the principal citizens of St. Louis, with whom I was well acquainted.

Telling General Fremont that I had been summoned to Louisville and that I should leave in the first train, viz., at 3 p.m., I took my leave of him. Returning to Wood’s office, I found there two more Californians, viz., Messrs. Palmer and Haskell, so I felt that, while Fremont might be suspicious of others, he allowed free ingress to his old California acquaintances.

Returning to the Planters’ House, I heard of Beard, another Californian, a Mormon, who had the contract for the line of redoubts which Fremont had ordered to be constructed around the city, before he would take his departure for the interior of the State; and while I stood near the office-counter, I saw old Baron Steinberger, a prince among our early California adventurers, come in and look over the register. I avoided him on purpose, but his presence in St. Louis recalled the maxim, “Where the vultures are, there is a carcass close by;” and I suspected that the profitable contracts of the quartermaster, McKinstry, had drawn to St. Louis some of the most enterprising men of California. I suspect they can account for the fact that, in a very short time, Fremont fell from his high estate in Missouri, by reason of frauds, or supposed frauds, in the administration of the affairs of his command.


[McElroy]

In spite of Gen. Fremont’s promise to the President to “take the field himself and attempt to destroy the enemy”, he moved with exceeding deliberation. It is true that he left St. Louis for Jefferson City, Sept. 27th, a week after Mulligan’s surrender [at the Battle of Lexington], but that week had been well employed by Price in gathering up all that he could carry away and making ready to avoid the blow which he knew must fall. After arriving at Jefferson City, Fremont, instead of taking the troops which were near at hand and making a swift rush upon his enemy, the only way in which he could hope to hurt him, began the organization of a “grande armee” upon the European model, and that which McClellan was deliberately organizing in front of Washington.

The impatient people, who were praying the $3,000,000 a day which the war was now beginning to cost, and who had begun to murmur for results, were amused by stories of plans of sweeping down the Mississippi clear to New Orleans, taking Memphis, Vicksburg and other strongholds on the way, severing the Southern Confederacy in twain, so that it would fall into hopeless ruin.

This was entirely possible at that time with the army that had been given Fremont, had it been handled with the ability and boldness of Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Two weeks after Mulligan’s surrender Fremont announced the formation of this grand “Army of the West”, containing approximately 50,000 men. This was grouped as follows:

The First Division, to which Gen. David Hunter was assigned, consisted of 9,750 men, and was ordered to take position at Versailles, about 40 miles southwest of Jefferson City, and became the Left Wing of the Army.

Gen. John Pope was given command of the Second Division of 9,220 men and ordered to take station at Boonville, 50 miles northwest of Jefferson City. His position was to be the Right Wing of the Army.

Gen. Franz SigelThe Third Division, 7,980 strong, was put under command of Gen. Franz Sigel, and made the advance of the army, with its station at Sedalia and Georgetown, 64 miles west of Jefferson City.

The Fourth Division, commanded by Gen. Asboth, had 6,451 men, and constituted the reserve at Tipton, on the railroad, 38 miles west of Jefferson City.

The Fifth Division, 5,388 men, under Gen. Justus McKinstry, formed the center and was posted at Syracuse, five miles west of Tipton.

Beside these, Gen. Sturgis held Kansas City with 3,000 men and Gen. James H. Lane, with 2,500 men, was to move in Kansas down the State line, between Fort Scott and Kansas City to protect Kansas from an incursion in that direction, and as opportunity offered attack Price’s flank.

Thus, there were 38,789 effectives in the five divisions, which with Sturgis and Lane’s forces made a total force of 44,289, not including garrisons which swell the total of the army to over 90,000.

Among these Division Commanders were two whom Fremont had discovered and created Brigadier-Generals out of his own volition, without consultation at Washington.

These were Gens. Asboth and McKinstry. Gen. Alexander Asboth Gen. Alexander (Sandor) Asboth, born in 1811, was a Hungarian and an educated engineer, with considerable experience in and against the Austrian army. He had entered ardently into the Revolution of 1848, and built a bridge in a single night by which the Revolutionary army crossed and won the brilliant victory of Nagy Salo. He became Adjutant-General of the Hungarian army, and when the Revolution was crushed by Russian troops, escaped with Kossuth into Turkey, came to this country, and became a naturalized citizen. He was by turns farmer, teacher, engineer, and manufacturer of galvanized articles. He sided with the Union Germans, went on Fremont’s staff, and was appointed a Brigadier-General The Senate refused to recognize the appointment, but in consideration of his good service he was brevetted a Major-General, and after the war sent as Minister to the Argentine Confederation, where he died in 1868.

The other, Justus McKinstry, was born in New York and appointed to the Military Academy from Michigan, where he graduated 40th in the class of 1838, of which Beauregard, Barry, Irvin McDowell, W. J. Hardee, R. S. Granger, Henry H. Sibley, Edward Johnson and A.J. Smith were members. Justus McKinstryHe had served creditably in the Mexican War, receiving a brevet for gallantry at Contreras and Churubusco, and at the outbreak of the war was a Major and Quartermaster at St. Louis, where he did very much to frustrate Lyon’s plans and was regarded by him as a Secessionist at heart. He continued to hold his position, however, as Chief Quartermaster of the Department of the West until Fremont appointed him Brigadier-General.

Shortly after Fremont’s removal he was placed under arrest at St. Louis and ordered before a court-martial, which did not convene, [this is in error; read an account of McKinstry’s court martial and his “Vindication”] and he was at last summarily dismissed for “neglect and violation of duty, to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.” He became a stockbroker in New York City, and afterwards a land agent at Rolla, Mo.

It will be seen by the map that the disposition of the troops was good, and that Fremont had the advantage of short lines from Sedalia and Rolla to cut Price’s line of retreat, recapture the spoils he was hastening to a place of safety, and destroy, or at least disperse, his army.

Fremont, however, made no use of this advantage, and Price seems to have had no apprehension that he would. Price remained in Lexington until Oct. 1, serenely contemplating the gigantic preparations made for his destruction, and then having gathered up all that the could readily get, and reading Fremont’s order for a forward movement of the Army of the West, thought, like the prudent meadow lark, that probably something would be now done, and the time had come for moving. He began a deliberate retreat, crossing the Osage River at Osceola, and reaching Greenfield, 150 miles away, at the very comfortable pace of 15 miles a day.

Gen. Fremont ordered the Army of the West forward, but the so-called pursuit was very much like hunting a fox on a dray. He was encumbered with immense trains, for which bridges had to be built over numerous streams and roads made thru the rough country. The trains seemed to contain a world of unnecessary things and astonishing lack of those necessary. Apparently almost anybody who had anything to sell could find purchasers among the numerous men about Fremont’s headquarters who had authority to buy, or assumed it.

One astonishing item in the purchases was a great number of half barrels for holding water, rather an extraordinary provision in a country like Missouri, where in the month of October water is disposed to be in excessive quantities.

Notwithstanding the astonishing purchase of mules by everybody and anybody, none of the Division Commanders seems to have had mules enough to pull their wagons.

The army started out like the horses of a balky team. Gen. Pope, of the Right Wing, left Jefferson City Oct. 11th, Sigel got away from Sedalia with the Third Division Oct. 13th, the same day Hunter left Tipton with the Left Wing, and Asboth followed on Oct. 14th. Even when they started their progress was very slow, for the columns were halted at streams to build bridges and in the rough countries to wait for the sappers and miners to make passable roads.

When one column was halted, all the rest had to do likewise, for though Price kept the safe distance of 100 miles away, Fremont was in constant apprehension of battle, and held his columns in close supporting distance. He did not get across the Osage River until Oct. 25th, or nine days after Price’s leisurely crossing that important stream, on the banks of which it was confidently expected that the would give battle.

Gen. PricePrice, with his diminishing forces, had no such intention, but fell back toward Neosho, to cover as along as possible the Granby Mines, seven miles from that place, which were the most important source of lead for the Southern Confederacy, to which they supplied 200,000 pounds per month.

Gov. Jackson took advantage of this breathing spell to call the Legislature together at Neosho, where it held a two weeks’ “rump” session of the small minority of that body which favored Secession. They passed an ordinance of Secession and elected Senators and Representatives to the Confederate Congress, adjourning when they heard that Fremont had at last passed the Osage.

Then Price took up his line of retreat toward the southern boundary of the State to get near Gen. Ben McCulloch, who had posted his forces at Cross Hollow, in Benton County, northwest Arkansas. Gen. Price took up his position at Pineville, in the extreme southwestern corner of Missouri, where the rough, hilly country offered great chances to the defense, and again began communication with Gen. McCulloch, to induce him to unite his force with his own and attack the Union army.

He had correctly estimated Fremont’s generalship, and thought there was a possibility of massing his and McCulloch’s forces, to attack a portion of Fremont’s army, drive it back and defeat him in detail. McCulloch, in spite of his ranger reputation, entirely lacked Price’s aggressive spirit, and thought that it would be much better to fall back to the Boston Mountain, about 50 miles farther south, and make a stand there. He so informed Gen. Price.

While McCulloch had no disposition to enter Missouri and defend it against the Union troops, he had no hesitation about treating it as part of Confederate territory. Desiring to embarrass and delay Fremont’s advance as much as possible, he sent forward his Texas cavalry to burn the mills, forage and grain as far in the direction of Springfield as they could safely go, and urged Price to do the same. McCulloch’s Texans soon lighted up the southwest country with burning mills, barns and stacks.

To this Gen. Price was bitterly opposed. The mills and grain were in many instances the property of the Secessionists, and to destroy them would be to inflict worse punishment on his own people than the Union commanders had ever done, and would embitter them against his cause. Price repeatedly represent to McCulloch that altogether they would have 25,000 men, and if McCulloch did not desire to go forward they could make a good defensive batter inside the State on the hills around Pineville. To leave it would cause the loss of very many Missourians who had enlisted in the State Guard to defend Missouri, and who would feel that they had no cause to fight outside of the State.

After crossing the Osage, Fremont halted near Connersville, about 25 miles south of Warsaw, where he crossed the river, and then advanced with Sigel to Bolivar, on the Springfield road, and sent forward Maj. Charles Zagonyi with 150 of his famous Body Guard and Maj. F.J. White with 180 men of the 1st Mo. Cav., to make a reconnaissance in the direction of Springfield.

Fremont’s Body Guard had played a large part in the pomp and circumstance of his administration. Maj. Charles Zagonyi was a picturesque and effervescent Hungarian, who recounted fascinating stories of his experience as a subordinate to Gen. Ben during the Hungarian Revolution. Fremont had authorized him to raise a body guard, in imitation of the famous troops of Europe, and the novelty of the organization attracted to it a great number of quite fine young men, most of whom were from the country around Cincinnati—one company being from Kentucky. They were formed into three companies, mounted on fine blooded bay horses, showily uniformed and each armed with two navy revolvers, a five-barreled rifle and a saber.

All the officers were Americans except three—one Hollander and two Hungarians. The members of the Guard, in addition to their expensive and showy outfit, did not conceal from the other soldiers that they were picked men and considered themselves superior to the ordinary run, which did not enhance their popularity with their comrades.

Majors Zagonyi and White marched all that night, and the next day, about noon, when about eight miles north of Springfield, learned that there was a force of at least 1,500 Confederates in the town.

One of the rebel pickets who had not been captured hastened back to Springfield and gave the alarm, so that the Confederates were in readiness for them. Feeling that this would be so, Majors Zagonyi and White determined to move around the town and approach it from the west on the Mt. Vernon road. In this movement White became separated from Zagonyi, who, about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, came most unexpectedly upon the Secessionists drawn up in line at the end of a long lane.

A heavy rail fence intervened between Zagonyi and the head of the lane, and an opening had to be made through this under a heavy fire from the enemy. The moment a gap was made, Zagonyi shouted to his men to follow him, and do as he did, raising the battle cry, “Fremont and the Union”. He dashed gallantly forward, straight for the center of the rebel line, followed at a gallop by his command. The Confederate fire did fearful execution upon the Guard as it was crowded in the lane, but in a few seconds the lane was passed and the cavalry saber began doing its wild work.

The center of the enemy’s lines was at once broken by the terrible impact of galloping horses and the Confederates began a panicky retreat, followed by the vengeful horsemen shooting and sabering them as they ran. The infantry ran through the town to the shelter of the woods, and the Confederate cavalry fell back down the road, pursued by the Guard until it was getting nightfall, when Zagonyi recalled them and returned to the Court House, raised the Union flag from it, released the Union prisoners confined in the jail, gathered up his dead and wounded, and after dark decided to fall back until he met the advance of the army.

He had lost 15 men killed and 26 wounded, and reported that he had found 23 Confederates dead after the charge was over. This brilliant action, which was then compared with the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, redeemed the soldiers of the Guard in the eyes of their comrades, and it became an honor to belong to that organization.

The next morning Major White reached Springfield with a few Home Guards, where he found the Confederates still dazed by the occurrences of the day before, and he was careful not to undeceive them as to his strength. He solemnly received the flag of truce, said that he would have to refer the matter to Gen. Sigel, threw out his men as pickets, permitted the people to bury their dead, and then prudently fell back to meet the advance of the army.

Fremont took up his quarters in Springfield, and began ostentatious preparations for an immediate decisive battle, though Price was then more than 50 miles away from him. This Fremont should have known, for in some mysterious manner he was within ready communication with him, so much so as to be able to conclude the following remarkable convention which was duly published in a joint proclamation:

To all Peaceably-Disposed Citizens of the State of Missouri,

Greeting:

Whereas a solemn agreement has be entered into by and between Maj.-Gens. Fremont and Price, respectively, commanding antagonistic forces in the State of Missouri, to the effect that in the future arrests or forcible interference by armed or unarmed parties of citizens within the limits of said State for the mere entertainment or expression of political opinions shall hereafter cease; that families now broken up for such causes may be reunited, and that the war now progressing shall be exclusively confined to armies in the field:

Therefore, be it known to all whom it may concern:

No arrests whatever on account of political opinions, or for the merely private expression of the same, shall hereafter be made within the limits of the State of Missouri, and all person who may have been arrested and are now held to answer upon such charges only shall be forthwith released; but it is expressly declared that nothing in this proclamation shall be construed to bar or interfere with any of the usual and regular proceedings of the established courts under statues and orders made and provided for such offenses.

All peaceably disposed citizens who may have been driven from their homes because of their political opinions, or who may have left them from fear of force and violence, are hereby advised and permitted to return, upon the faith of our positive assurances that while so returning they shall receive protection from both the armies in the field wherever it can be given.

All bodies of armed men acting without the authority or recognition of the Major-Generals before named, and not legitimately connected with the armies in the field, are hereby ordered at once to disband.

Any violation of either of the foregoing articles hall subject the offender to the penalty of military law, according to the nature of the offense.

In testimony whereof the aforesaid Maj.-Gen John Charles Fremont, at Springfield, Mo., on this 1st day of November, A.D. 1861, and Maj.-Gen. Sterling Price, at Cassville, Mo., on this 5th day of November, A.D. 1861, have hereunto set their hands, and hereby mutually pledge their earnest efforts to the enforcement of the above articles of agreement according to their full tenor and effect, to the best of their ability.

J.C. Fremont, Major-General Commanding

Sterling Price, Major-General Commanding

The practical effect of this was that Price was allowed to send such of his men as he wished home for the Winter, with a safeguard against their being molested by the Union troops, but it had no effect in protecting Union men from being harassed by guerrilla tormentors, who cared as little for conventions and proclamations as for the Sermon on the Mount.

In the meanwhile, Fremont’s astonishing ill success in purely military matters, the freely expressed opinion of all who came in contact with him as to his glaring incompetence, added to the fearful stories of the corruption of the men immediately surrounding him, were making his position very insecure. President Lincoln sent his intimate and life-long friend, David Davis, whom he was about to elevate to the Supreme Bench, to St. Louis with a commission to investigate the rank-smelling contracts and disbursements. No report was ever made public, but it was generally known that they found even worse than they feared.

The Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, undertook a tour of investigation on his own account, accompanied by Adjutant-General Lorenzo Thomas. Some of the things which they found are set forth in the following extracts from the memorandum from Gen. Thomas to his superior officer:

Samuel Curtis“Gen. Curtis said of Gen. Fremont that he found no difficulty in having access to him, and when he presented business connected with his command, it was attended to. Gen. Fremont never consulted him on military matters, nor informed him of his plans. Gen. Curtis remarked that while he would go with freedom to Gen. Scott and express his opinions, he would not dare to do so to Gen. Fremont. He deemed Gen. Fremont unequal to the command of an army, and said that he was no more bound by law than by the winds.

“Col. Andrews, Chief Paymaster, called and presented irregularities in the Pay Department, and desired instructions from the Secretary for his government, stating that he was required to make payments and transfers of money contrary to law and regulations. Once, upon objecting to what he conceived an improper payment, he was threatened with confinement by a file of soldiers. He exhibited an order for the transfer of $100,000 to the Quartermaster’s Department, which was irregular. Exhibited abstract of payment by one Paymaster (Maj. Febiger) to 42 persons, appointed by Gen. Fremont, viz: one Colonel, three Majors, eight Captains, 15 First Lieutenants, 11 Second Lieutenants, one Surgeon, three Assistant Surgeons; total 42. Nineteen of these have appointments as engineers, and are entitled to cavalry pay.

“Maj. Allen, Principal Quartermaster, had recently taken charge at St. Louis, but reported great irregularities in his Department, and requested special instructions. These he deemed important, as orders were communicated by a variety of person, in a very irregular manner, requiring disbursements of money. These orders were often verbally given. He was sending, under Gen. Fremont’s orders, large amounts of forage from St. Louis to the army where corn was abundant and very cheap. The distance was 160 miles. He gave the indebtedness of the Quartermaster’s Department in St. Louis to be $4,506,309.73.

“By direction of Gen. Meigs, advertisements were made to furnish grain and hay, and contracts made for specific sums –28 cents per bushel for corn, 30 cents for oats, and $17.95 per ton for hay. In face of this another party at St. Louis—Baird, or Baird & Palmer (Palmer being of the old firm in California of Palmer, Cook & Co)—were directed to send to Jefferson City (where hay and corn abound) as fast as possible 100,000 bushels of oats, with a corresponding amount of hay, at 33 cents per bushel for grain and $19 per ton for hay.

“Captain Edward M. Davis, a member of his staff, received a contract by the direct order of Gen. Fremont for blankets. They were examined by a board of army officers consisting of Capt. Hendershott, 4th U.S. Artillery, Capt. Haines, Commissary of Subsistence, and Capt. Turnley, Assistant Quartermaster. The blankets were found to be made of cotton and were rotten and worthless. Notwithstanding this decision they were purchased, and given to the sick and wounded soldiers in hospitals.

“One week after the receipt of the President’s order modifying Gen. Fremont’s proclamation relative to emancipation of slaves, Gen. Fremont, by note to Capt. McKeever, required him to have 200 copies of the original proclamation and address to the army, of same date, printed and sent immediately to Ironton, for the use of Maj. Gavitt, Indiana Cavalry, for distribution through the country. Capt. McKeever had the copies printed and delivered. The order is as follows: ‘Adjutant-General will have 200 copies of proclamation of Commanding General, date Aug. 30th, together with the address to the army of same date, sent immediately to Ironton, for the use of Maj. Gavitt, Indiana Cavalry. Maj. Gavitt will distribute it through the country. J.C.F., Commanding General, Sept. 23rd, 1861’

“As soon as I obtained a view of the several encampments at Tipton, I expressed the opinion that the forces there assembled could not be moved, as scarcely any means of transportation were visible. I saw Gen. Hunter, second in command, and conversed freely with him. He stated that there was great confusion, and that Fremont was utterly incompetent; that his own division was greatly scattered, and the force then present defective in may respects; that he required 100 wagons, yet he was ordered to march that day, and some of his troops were already drawn out on the road. His cavalry regiment (Ellis’s) had horses, arms (indifferent), but no equipments; had to carry their cartridges in their pockets; consequently, on their first day’s march from Jefferson City, in a heavy rain, the cartridges carried about their persons were destroyed. This march to Tipton (35 miles) was made on a miry, heavy earth road parallel to the railroad, and but a little distance from it. The troops were directed by Gen. Fremont to march without provisions or knapsacks, and without transportation. A violent rainstorm came up, and the troops were exposed to it all night, were without food for 24 hours, and when food was received the beef was found to be spoiled.

“Gen. Hunter stated that he had just received a written report from one of his Colonels, informing him that but 20 out of 100 of his guns would go off. These were the guns procured by Gen. Fremont in Europe. I may here state that Gen. Sherman, at Louisville, made a similar complaint of the great inferiority of these European arms. He had given men orders to file down the nipples. In conversation with Col. Swords, Assistant Quartermaster-General, at Louisville, just from California, he stated that Mr. Selover, who was in Europe with Gen. Fremont, wrote to some friend in San Francisco that his share of the profit of the purchase of these arms was $30,000.

“Gen. Hunter expressed to the Secretary of War his decided opinion that Gen. Fremont was incompetent and unfit for his extensive and important command. This opinion he gave reluctantly, owing to his position as second in command.

President Lincoln sent the following characteristic letter to Gen. S.R. Curtis, who, being in command at St. Louis, was directly accessible, and a man in whose discretion the President felt he might trust:

Washington, Oct. 24th, 1861

Brig-Gen. S.R. Curtis

Dear Sir: On receipt of this with the accompanying enclosures, you will take safe, certain and suitable measures to have the enclosure addressed to Maj.-Gen. Fremont delivered to him with all reasonable dispatch, subject to these conditions only, that if, when Gen. Fremont shall be reached by the messenger—yourself or anyone sent by you—he shall then have, in personal command, fought and won a battle, or shall then be in the immediate presence of the enemy in expectation of a battle, it is not to be delivered, but held for further orders. After, and not until after, the delivery to Gen. Fremont, let the enclosed addressed to Gen. Hunter be delivered to him.

A. Lincoln

The following decisive order was one of the enclosures:

Headquarters of the Army, Washington, Oct. 24th, 1861

General Orders No. 18

Maj.-Gen. Fremont, of the U.S. Army, the present Commander of the Western Department of the same, will, on the receipt of this order, call Maj.-Gen Hunter, of the U.S. Volunteers, to relieve him temporarily in that command, when he (Maj.-Gen. Fremont) will report to General Headquarters, by letter, for further orders.

Winfield Scott

A special messenger arrived at Springfield, Nov. 2nd, with the order, which created consternation at Fremont’s headquarters. It is more than probable that Fremont felt his elevation to be such that he could try conclusions with the Administration, and refuse to obey the order.

There was considerable talk at that time about military headquarters as to a dictator, and this was so rife about McClellan’s that his journal constantly abounds in allusions which indicate that he was putting the crown away from him with increasing gentleness each time. There was much of the same atmosphere about the headquarters of the Army of the West, and it is claimed that Fremont at first decided not to obey the order, but on Sigel’s urgent representations finally concluded to do so, and issued the following farewell order to his troops:

Headquarters Western Department,

Springfield, Mo., Nov. 2nd, 1861

Soldiers of the Mississippi Army:

Agreeably to orders this day received I take leave of you. Although our army has been of sudden growth, we have grown up together, and I have become familiar with the brave and generous spirit which you bring to the defense of your country, and which makes me anticipate for you a brilliant career. Continue as you have begun, and give to my successor the same cordial and enthusiastic support with which you have encouraged me. Emulate the splendid example which you have already before you, and let me remain, as I am, proud of the noble army which I had thus far labored to bring together.

Soldiers, I regret to leave you. Most sincerely I thank you for the regard and confidence you have invariably shown me. I deeply regret that I shall not have the honor to lead you to the victory which you are just about to win, but I shall claim to share with you in the joy of every triumph, and trust always to be fraternally remembered by my companions in arms.

J.C. Fremont

Major-General, U.S. Army

FremontHe left at once for St. Louis, with his Body Guard for an escort. Though these men had been enlisted for three years, they were ordered by Gen. McClellan to be mustered out, and Maj. Zagonyi was offered the Colonelcy of a new regiment.

The time and manner of the removal enabled Gen. Fremont’s ardent partisans to complain loudly that he was relieved on the eve of a battle in which he would have accomplished great things, and was thus denied an opportunity to achieve lasting fame and render essential service to the country. The evidence, however, is conclusive that at that time Price was at Pineville, fully 50 miles away, and in the midst of a very rough country, instead of being in Fremont’s immediate front, as Fremont certainly supposed.

Whether he would have accepted battle after Fremont had reached him at Pineville, is a matter of conjecture. The pressure in favor of Fremont continued strong enough, however, to bring about the offer of a new command to him the following year, but it was grotesquely shrunken from the proud proportions of that from which he had been relieved. It was styled the Mountain Department, and embraced a large portion of West Virginia. Even in this restricted area he again failed to give satisfaction.

Gen. John PopeJune 8, 1862, he fought an indecisive battle against Stonewall Jackson at Cross Keys [Actually, Jackson beat Fremont and Pope like rented mules in that campaign, just not in relative casualties between Fremont & Jackson. But casualties are not the be-all of a campaign –results are. Jackson used speed and terrain to keep his much more numerous adversaries separated and unable to crush him with their superior numbers. McElroy has some real issues in admitting any Confederate success of arms –even Wilson’s Creek is a Union victory to him. Some victory. –ed], took umbrage at being placed under the command of Gen. John Pope, whom he had once commanded, asked to be relieved from command, and joined the ranks of the bitter critics of President Lincoln’s Administration, though still retaining his commission and pay as a Major-General.

He still thought his was a name to conjure with, and May 31st, 1864 accepted the nomination for President from a convention of dissatisfied Republicans assembled at Cleveland, resigning his commission at last, June 4th, 1864.

The chill reception with which the country received his nomination at last disillusioned even him, and in September he withdrew from the field, to clear the way for Lincoln’s re-election. He then became connected with the promotion of a Pacific railway over the southern routes which he had surveyed, lost his money and property in the course of time, appealed to Congress for relief, and in 1890 was by special act put on the retired list of the Army with the rank of Major-General.


Sherman in St Louis

Sherman in St. Louis

by

William Tecumseh Sherman

Excerpted and introduced by G.E. Rule, from “Memoirs of General William T. Sherman,” by Gen. W.T. Sherman, Volume 1, 1875


Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, along with Gen. U.S. Grant, is usually considered one of the two greatest Union heroes of the war. Confederate partisans, however, often see Sherman as something of a devil figure for the way he “burned his way to the sea” through Georgia, finally reaching the coast at Savannah.  The other thing Sherman is noted for is coining the definitive American rejection of the smallest possibility that he might be a candidate for President of the United States. Quoth Sherman, “If nominated I will not run; if elected I will not serve.”  To this day, any American politician who is serious about removing his name from presidential speculation must make a “Shermanesque” statement.

Sherman in St. Louis covers April and May of 1861. Sherman, forced by the secession of the state to leave his position as head of a military college in Louisiana, accepted a job as president of a railroad in St. Louis.  This is his account of two of the most turbulent months in the history of St. Louis.  Sherman relates how Frank Blair offered him Nathaniel Lyon’s job on May 8th, 1861, and Sherman turned him down.  Sherman wanted a spot in the “Regular army” and was not willing to give up the lucrative presidency of a railroad for only a 90-day commitment as a general of militia that Blair was offering him.  But what if Sherman’s pride and financial concern for his family had been a little less?  With Nathaniel Lyon as his chief lieutenant, one can easily see the pair of them making a great success for the Union in Missouri  –and Sherman becoming so irreplaceable in that position that the political influence of Frank & Montgomery Blair would ensure that Lincoln could not afford to move him from it.  The Union men of Missouri could have been much better off, but at what cost to the larger effort?

The complete electronic text of both volumes of Sherman’s memoirs is available for free download at Project Gutenburg.


CHAPTER VIII.

MISSOURI

APRIL AND MAY, 1861.

Further Reading: Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman

Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865

Civil War St. Louis by Louis S. Gerteis

Memoirs by John Charles Fremont

John Charles Fremont: Character As Destiny
by Andrew Rolle

Damned Yankee: The Life of General Nathaniel Lyon
by Christopher Phillips

Frank Blair: Lincoln’s Conservative by William Earl Parrish

During the time of these events in Louisiana, I was in constant correspondence with my brother, [Ohio Senator] John Sherman, at Washington; Mr. Ewing [Sherman’s father-in-law], at Lancaster, Ohio; and Major H. S. Turner, at St. Louis. I had managed to maintain my family comfortably at Lancaster, but was extremely anxious about the future. It looked like the end of my career, for I did not suppose that “civil war” could give me an employment that would provide for the family. I thought, and may have said, that the national crisis had been brought about by the politicians, and, as it was upon us, they “might fight it out” Therefore, when I turned North from New Orleans, I felt more disposed to look to St. Louis for a home, and to Major Turner to find me employment, than to the public service.

I left New Orleans about the 1st of March, 1861, by rail to Jackson and Clinton, Mississippi, Jackson, Tennessee, and Columbus, Kentucky, where we took a boat to Cairo, and thence, by rail, to Cincinnati and Lancaster. All the way, I heard, in the cars and boats, warm discussions about polities; to the effect that, if Mr. Lincoln should attempt coercion of the seceded States, the other slave or border States would make common cause, when, it was believed, it would be madness to attempt to reduce them to subjection.  In the South, the people were earnest, fierce and angry, and were evidently organizing for action; whereas, in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, I saw not the least sign of preparation.  It certainly looked to me as though the people of the North would tamely submit to a disruption of the Union, and the orators of the South used, openly and constantly, the expressions that there would be no war, and that a lady’s thimble would hold all the blood to be shed.  On reaching Lancaster, I found letters from my brother John, inviting me to come to Washington, as he wanted to see me; and from Major Tamer, at St. Louis, that he was trying to secure for me the office of president of the Fifth Street Railroad, with a salary of twenty-five hundred dollars; that Mr. Lucas and D. A. January held a controlling interest of stock, would vote for me, and the election would occur in March.  This suited me exactly, and I answered Turner that I would accept, with thanks.  But I also thought it right and proper that I should first go to Washington, to talk with my brother, Senator Sherman.

Mr. Lincoln had just been installed, and the newspapers were filled with rumors of every kind indicative of war; the chief act of interest was that Major Robert Anderson had taken by night into Fort Sumter all the troops garrisoning Charleston Harbor, and that he was determined to defend it against the demands of the State of South Carolina and of the Confederate States.  I must have reached Washington about the 10th of March.  I found my brother there, just appointed Senator, in place of Mr. Chase, who was in the cabinet, and I have no doubt my opinions, thoughts, and feelings, wrought up by the events in Louisiana; seemed to him gloomy and extravagant.  About Washington I saw but few signs of preparation, though the Southern Senators and Representatives were daily sounding their threats on the floors of Congress, and were publicly withdrawing to join the Confederate Congress at Montgomery.  Even in the War Department and about the public offices there was open, unconcealed talk, amounting to high-treason.

One day, John Sherman took me with him to see Mr. Lincoln.  He walked into the room where the secretary to the President now sits, we found the room full of people, and Mr. Lincoln sat at the end of the table, talking with three or four gentlemen, who soon left.  John walked up, shook hands, and took a chair near him, holding in his hand some papers referring to, minor appointments in the State of Ohio, which formed the subject of conversation.  Mr. Lincoln took the papers, said he would refer them to the proper heads of departments, and would be glad to make the appointments asked for, if not already promised.  John then turned to me, and said, “Mr. President, this is my brother, Colonel Sherman, who is just up from Louisiana, he may give you some information you want.”  “Ah!” said Mr. Lincoln, “how are they getting along down there?” I said, “They think they are getting along swimmingly—they are preparing for war.”  “Oh, well!” said he, “I guess we’ll manage to keep house.” I was silenced, said no more to him, and we soon left.  I was sadly disappointed, and remember that I broke out on John, d—ning the politicians generally, saying, “You have got things in a hell of a fig, and you may get them out as you best can,” adding that the country was sleeping on a volcano that might burst forth at any minute, but that I was going to St. Louis to take care of my family, and would have no more to do with it.  John begged me to be more patient, but I said I would not; that I had no time to wait, that I was off for St. Louis; and off I went.  At Lancaster I found letters from Major Turner, inviting me to St. Louis, as the place in the Fifth Street Railroad was a sure thing, and that Mr. Lucas would rent me a good house on Locust Street, suitable for my family, for six hundred dollars a year.

Mrs. Sherman and I gathered our family and effects together, started for St. Louis March 27th, where we rented of Mr. Lucas the house on Locust Street, between Tenth and Eleventh, and occupied it on the 1st of April.  Charles Ewing and John Hunter had formed a law-partnership in St. Louis, and agreed to board with us, taking rooms on the third floor In the latter part of March, I was duly elected president of the Fifth Street Railroad, and entered on the discharge of my duties April 1, 1861.  We had a central office on the corner of Fifth and Locust, and also another up at the stables in Bremen.  The road was well stocked and in full operation, and all I had to do was to watch the economical administration of existing affairs, which I endeavored to do with fidelity and zeal.  But the whole air was fall of wars and rumors of wars.  The struggle was going on politically for the border States.  Even in Missouri, which was a slave State, it was manifest that the Governor of the State, Claiborne Jackson, and all the leading politicians, were for the South in case of a war.  The house on the northwest corner of Fifth and Pine was the rebel headquarters, where the rebel flag was hung publicly, and the crowds about the Planters’ House were all more or less rebel.  There was also a camp in Lindell’s Grove, at the end of Olive, Street, under command of General D. M. Frost, a Northern man, a graduate of Pest Point, in open sympathy with the Southern leaders.  This camp was nominally a State camp of instruction, but, beyond doubt, was in the interest of the Southern cause, designed to be used against the national authority in the event of the General Government’s attempting to coerce the Southern Confederacy.  General William S. Harney was in command of the Department of Missouri, and resided in his own house, on Fourth Street, below Market; and there were five or six companies of United States troops in the arsenal, commanded by Captain N. Lyon; throughout the city, there had been organized, almost exclusively out of the German part of the population, four or five regiments of “Home Guards,” with which movement Frank Blair, B. Gratz Brown, John M. Schofield, Clinton B. Fisk, and others, were most active on the part of the national authorities.  Frank Blair’s brother Montgomery was in the cabinet of Mr. Lincoln at Washington, and to him seemed committed the general management of affairs in Missouri.

The newspapers fanned the public excitement to the highest pitch, and threats of attacking the arsenal on the one hand, and the mob of d—d rebels in Camp Jackson on the other, were bandied about.  I tried my best to keep out of the current, and only talked freely with a few men; among them Colonel John O’Fallon, a wealthy gentleman who resided above St. Louis.  He daily came down to my office in Bremen, and we walked up and down the pavement by the hour, deploring the sad condition of our country, and the seeming drift toward dissolution and anarchy.  I used also to go down to the arsenal occasionally to see Lyon, Totten, and other of my army acquaintance, and was glad to see them making preparations to defend their post, if not to assume the offensive.

The bombardment of Fort Sumter, which was announced by telegraph, began April 12th, and ended on the 14th.  We then knew that the war was actually begun, and though the South was openly, manifestly the aggressor, yet her friends and apologists insisted that she was simply acting on a justifiable defensive, and that in the forcible seizure of, the public forts within her limits the people were acting with reasonable prudence and foresight.  Yet neither party seemed willing to invade, or cross the border.  Davis, who ordered the bombardment of Sumter, knew the temper of his people well, and foresaw that it would precipitate the action of the border States; for almost immediately Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee, followed the lead of the cotton States, and conventions were deliberating in Kentucky and Missouri.

On the night of Saturday, April 6th, I received the following, dispatch:

Washington, April 6,1861.

Major W. T. Sherman:

Will you accept the chief clerkship of the War Department? We will make you assistant Secretary of War when Congress meets.

M. Blair, Postmaster-General.

To which I replied by telegraph, Monday morning; “I cannot accept;” and by mail as follows:

Monday, April 8, 1861.

Office of the St. Louis Railroad Company

Hon. M. Blair, Washington, D. C.

I received, about nine o’clock Saturday night, your telegraph dispatch, which I have this moment answered, “I cannot accept.”

I have quite a large family, and when I resigned my place in Louisiana, on account of secession, I had no time to lose; and, therefore, after my hasty visit to Washington, where I saw no chance of employment, I came to St. Louis, have accepted a place in this company, have rented a house, and incurred other obligations, so that I am not at liberty to change.

I thank you for the compliment contained in your offer, and assure you that I wish the Administration all success in its almost impossible task of governing this distracted and anarchical people.

Yours truly, W.T. SHERMAN

I was afterward told that this letter gave offense, and that some of Mr. Lincoln’s cabinet concluded that I too would prove false to the country.

Later in that month, after the capture of Fort Sumter by the Confederate authorities, a Dr. Cornyn came to our house on Locust Street, one night after I had gone to bed, and told me he had been sent by Frank Blair, who was not well, and wanted to see me that night at his house.  I dressed and walked over to his house on Washington Avenue, near Fourteenth, and found there, in the front room, several gentlemen, among whom I recall Henry T. Blow.  Blair was in the back room, closeted with some gentleman, who soon left, and I was called in.  He there told me that the Government was mistrustful of General Harney, that a change in the command of the department was to be made; that he held it in his power to appoint a brigadier-general, and put him in command of the department, and he offered me the place.  I told him I had once offered my services, and they were declined; that I had made business engagements in St. Louis, which I could not throw off at pleasure; that I had long deliberated on my course of action, and must decline his offer, however tempting and complimentary.  He reasoned with me, but I persisted.  He told me, in that event, he should appoint Lyon, and he did so.

Finding that even my best friends were uneasy as to my political status, on the 8th of May I addressed the following official letter to the Secretary of War:

Office of the St. Louis Railroad Company, May 8,1881.

Hon. S. Cameron, Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.

Dear Sir: I hold myself now, as always, prepared to serve my country in the capacity for which I was trained.  I did not and will not volunteer for three months, because I cannot throw my family on the cold charity of the world.  But for the three-years call, made by the President, an officer can prepare his command and do good service.

I will not volunteer as a soldier, because rightfully or wrongfully I feel unwilling to take a mere private’s place, and, having for many years lived in California and Louisiana, the men are not well enough acquainted with me to elect me to my appropriate place.

Should my services be needed, the records of the War Department will enable you to designate the station in which I can render most service.

Yours truly, W. T. SHERMAN.

To this I do not think I received a direct answer; but, on the 10th of the same month, I was appointed colonel of the Thirteenth Regular Infantry.

I remember going to the arsenal on the 9th of May, taking my children with me in the street-cars.  Within the arsenal wall were drawn up in parallel lines four regiments of the “Home Guards,” and I saw men distributing cartridges to the boxes.  I also saw General Lyon running about with his hair in the wind, his pockets full of papers, wild and irregular, but I knew him to be a man of vehement purpose and of determined action.  I saw of course that it meant business, but whether for defense or offense I did not know.  The next morning I went up to the railroad-office in Bremen, as usual, and heard at every corner of the streets that the “Dutch” were moving on Camp Jackson.  People were barricading their houses, and men were running in that direction.  I hurried through my business as quickly as I could, and got back to my house on Locust Street by twelve o’clock.  Charles Ewing and Hunter were there, and insisted on going out to the camp to see “the fun.”  I tried to dissuade them, saying that in case of conflict the bystanders were more likely to be killed than the men engaged, but they would go.  I felt as much interest as anybody else, but staid at home, took my little son Willie, who was about seven years old, and walked up and down the pavement in front of our house, listening for the sound of musketry or cannon in the direction of Camp Jackson.  While so engaged Miss Eliza Dean, who lived opposite us, called me across the street, told me that her brother-in-law, Dr. Scott, was a surgeon in Frost’s camp, and she was dreadfully afraid he would be killed.  I reasoned with her that General Lyon was a regular officer; that if he had gone out, as reported, to Camp Jackson, he would take with him such a force as would make resistance impossible; but she would not be comforted, saying that the camp was made up of the young men from the first and best families of St. Louis, and that they were proud, and would fight.  I explained that young men of the best families did not like to be killed better than ordinary people.  Edging gradually up the street, I was in Olive Street just about Twelfth, when I saw a man running from the direction of Camp Jackson at full speed, calling, as he went, “They’ve surrendered, they’ve surrendered!” So I turned back and rang the bell at Mrs. Dean’s.  Eliza came to the door, and I explained what I had heard; but she angrily slammed the door in my face!  Evidently she was disappointed to find she was mistaken in her estimate of the rash courage of the best families.

I again turned in the direction of Camp Jackson, my boy Willie with me still.  At the head of Olive Street, abreast of Lindell’s Grove, I found Frank Blair’s regiment in the street, with ranks opened, and the Camp Jackson prisoners inside.  A crowd of people was gathered around, calling to the prisoners by name, some hurrahing for Jeff Davis, and others encouraging the troops.  Men, women, and children, were in the crowd.  I passed along till I found myself inside the grove, where I met Charles Ewing and John Hunter, and we stood looking at the troops on the road, heading toward the city.  A band of music was playing at the head, and the column made one or two ineffectual starts, but for some reason was halted.  The battalion of regulars was abreast of me, of which Major Rufus Saxton was in command, and I gave him an evening paper, which I had bought of the newsboy on my way out.  He was reading from it some piece of news, sitting on his horse, when the column again began to move forward, and he resumed his place at the head of his command.  At that part of the road, or street, was an embankment about eight feet high, and a drunken fellow tried to pass over it to the people opposite.

One of the regular sergeant file-closers ordered him back, but he attempted to pass through the ranks, when the sergeant barred his progress with his musket “a-port.”  The drunken man seized his musket, when the sergeant threw him off with violence, and he rolled over and over down the bank.  By the time this man had picked himself up and got his hat, which had fallen off, and had again mounted the embankment, the regulars had passed, and the head of Osterhaus’s regiment of Home Guards had come up.  The man had in his hand a small pistol, which he fired off, and I heard that the ball had struck the leg of one of Osterhaus’s staff; the regiment stopped; there was a moment of confusion, when the soldiers of that regiment began to fire over our heads in the grove.  I heard the balls cutting the leaves above our heads, and saw several men and women running in all directions, some of whom were wounded.  Of course there was a general stampede.  Charles Ewing threw Willie on the ground and covered him with his body.  Hunter ran behind the hill, and I also threw myself on the ground.  The fire ran back from the head of the regiment toward its rear, and as I saw the men reloading their pieces, I jerked Willie up, ran back with him into a gully which covered us, lay there until I saw that the fire had ceased, and that the column was again moving on, when I took up Willie and started back for home round by way of Market Street.  A woman and child were killed outright; two or three men were also killed, and several others were wounded.  The great mass of the people on that occasion were simply curious spectators, though men were sprinkled through the crowd calling out, “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!” and others were particularly abusive of the “damned Dutch” Lyon posted a guard in charge of the vacant camp, and marched his prisoners down to the arsenal; some were paroled, and others held, till afterward they were regularly exchanged.

A very few days after this event, May 14th, I received a dispatch from my brother Charles in Washington, telling me to come on at once; that I had been appointed a colonel of the Thirteenth Regular Infantry, and that I was wanted at Washington immediately.

Of course I could no longer defer action.  I saw Mr. Lucas, Major Turner, and other friends and parties connected with the road, who agreed that I should go on.  I left my family, because I was under the impression that I would be allowed to enlist my own regiment, which would take some time, and I expected to raise the regiment and organize it at Jefferson Barracks.  I repaired to Washington, and there found that the Government was trying to rise to a level with the occasion.  Mr. Lincoln had, without the sanction of law, authorized the raising of ten new regiments of regulars, each infantry regiment to be composed of three battalions of eight companies each; and had called for seventy-five thousand State volunteers.  Even this call seemed to me utterly inadequate; still it was none of my business.  I took the oath of office, and was furnished with a list of officers, appointed to my regiment, which was still, incomplete.  I reported in person to General Scott, at his office on Seventeenth Street, opposite the War Department, and applied for authority to return West, and raise my regiment at Jefferson Barracks, but the general said my lieutenant-colonel, Burbank, was fully qualified to superintend the enlistment, and that he wanted me there; and he at once dictated an order for me to report to him in person for inspection duty.

Satisfied that I would not be permitted to return to St. Louis, I instructed Mrs. Sherman to pack up, return to Lancaster, and trust to the fate of war.

I also resigned my place as president of the Fifth Street Railroad, to take effect at the end of May, so that in fact I received pay from that road for only two months’ service, and then began my new army career.

General William T. Sherman’s house in St. Louis (post-war)

912 Garrison Ave.

built in 1850, presented to Sherman by the people of St. Louis after the war

Grant in Missouri

Grant In Missouri

by

Ulysses S. Grant

Excerpted and introduced by G.E. Rule from “Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Volume 1”, by Ulysses S. Grant, 1885

General US Grant


Gen. U.S. Grant (later the 18th President of the United States from 1869-1877), along with Gen. W.T. Sherman, is usually considered one of the two greatest Union heroes of the war. His wife, Julia Dent Grant, was the daughter of a prominent St. Louis slaveholding family. Grant’s well-known failures in business prior to the war can be partly attributed to the odd midway position he held between Secessionists and Unionists in the decade before the war. The Unionists did not fully trust him because of his in-laws, and the Secessionists could not trust him because he was known to be a Union man.

“Grant in Missouri” covers the period from late 1860 thru 1861. It describes Grant’s experiences in St. Louis at the time of the Camp Jackson affair, and his campaigning in Missouri thru the Battle of Belmont, after which his scene of operations moved to Tennessee. It also describes how a St. Louis Minute Man, Major Barrett, attempted to abuse Grant’s hospitality by using information gained socially one day to capture Grant the next. It would be interesting to speculate how events might have been different if he had succeeded.

The complete electronic text of both volumes of Grant’s memoirs is available for free download at Project Gutenburg.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE COMING CRISIS.

CHAPTER XVII.

OUTBREAK OF THE REBELLION—PRESIDING AT A UNION MEETING—MUSTERING OFFICER OF STATE TROOPS—LYON AT CAMP JACKSON—SERVICES TENDERED TO THE GOVERNMENT.

CHAPTER XVIII.

APPOINTED COLONEL OF THE 21ST ILLINOIS—PERSONNEL OF THE REGIMENT—GENERAL LOGAN—MARCH TO MISSOURI—MOVEMENT AGAINST HARRIS AT FLORIDA, MO.—GENERAL POPE IN COMMAND—STATIONED AT MEXICO, MO.

CHAPTER XIX.

COMMISSIONED BRIGADIER-GENERAL—COMMAND AT IRONTON, MO.—JEFFERSON CITY—CAPE GIRARDEAU—GENERAL PRENTISS—SEIZURE OF PADUCAH—HEADQUARTERS AT CAIRO.

CHAPTER XX.

GENERAL FREMONT IN COMMAND—MOVEMENT AGAINST BELMONT—BATTLE OF BELMONT—A NARROW ESCAPE—AFTER THE BATTLE.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE COMING CRISIS * * *

The winter of 1860-1 will be remembered by middle-aged people of to-day as one of great excitement. South Carolina promptly seceded after the result of the Presidential election was known. Other Southern States proposed to follow. In some of them the Union sentiment was so strong that it had to be suppressed by force. Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri, all Slave States, failed to pass ordinances of secession; but they were all represented in the so-called congress of the so-called Confederate States. The Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of Missouri, in 1861, Jackson and Reynolds, were both supporters of the rebellion and took refuge with the enemy. The governor soon died, and the lieutenant-governor assumed his office; issued proclamations as governor of the State; was recognized as such by the Confederate Government, and continued his pretensions until the collapse of the rebellion. The South claimed the sovereignty of States, but claimed the right to coerce into their confederation such States as they wanted, that is, all the States where slavery existed. They did not seem to think this course inconsistent. The fact is, the Southern slave-owners believed that, in some way, the ownership of slaves conferred a sort of patent of nobility—a right to govern independent of the interest or wishes of those who did not hold such property. They convinced themselves, first, of the divine origin of the institution and, next, that that particular institution was not safe in the hands of any body of legislators but themselves.

Meanwhile the Administration of President Buchanan looked helplessly on and proclaimed that the general government had no power to interfere; that the Nation had no power to save its own life. Mr. Buchanan had in his cabinet two members at least, who were as earnest—to use a mild term—in the cause of secession as Mr. Davis or any Southern statesman. One of them, Floyd, the Secretary of War, scattered the army so that much of it could be captured when hostilities should commence, and distributed the cannon and small arms from Northern arsenals throughout the South so as to be on hand when treason wanted them. The navy was scattered in like manner. The President did not prevent his cabinet preparing for war upon their government, either by destroying its resources or storing them in the South until a de facto government was established with Jefferson Davis as its President, and Montgomery, Alabama, as the Capital. The secessionists had then to leave the cabinet. In their own estimation, they were aliens in the country which had given them birth. Loyal men were put into their places. Treason in the executive branch of the government was estopped. But the harm had already been done. The stable door was locked after the horse had been stolen.

During all of the trying winter of 1860-1, when the Southerners were so defiant that they would not allow within their borders the expression of a sentiment hostile to their views, it was a brave man indeed who could stand up and proclaim his loyalty to the Union. On the other hand men at the North—prominent men—proclaimed that the government had no power to coerce the South into submission to the laws of the land; that if the North undertook to raise armies to go south, these armies would have to march over the dead bodies of the speakers. A portion of the press of the North was constantly proclaiming similar views. When the time arrived for the President-elect to go to the capital of the Nation to be sworn into office, it was deemed unsafe for him to travel, not only as a President-elect, but as any private citizen should be allowed to do. Instead of going in a special car, receiving the good wishes of his constituents at all the stations along the road, he was obliged to stop on the way and to be smuggled into the capital. He disappeared from public view on his journey, and the next the country knew, his arrival was announced at the capital. There is little doubt that he would have been assassinated if he had attempted to travel openly throughout his journey.



CHAPTER XVII.

OUTBREAK OF THE REBELLION—PRESIDING AT A UNION MEETING—MUSTERING OFFICER OF STATE TROOPS—LYON AT CAMP JACKSON—SERVICES TENDERED TO THE GOVERNMENT.

The 4th of March, 1861, came, and Abraham Lincoln was sworn to maintain the Union against all its enemies. The secession of one State after another followed, until eleven had gone out. On the 11th of April Fort Sumter, a National fort in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, was fired upon by the Southerners and a few days after was captured. The Confederates proclaimed themselves aliens, and thereby debarred themselves of all right to claim protection under the Constitution of the United States. We did not admit the fact that they were aliens, but all the same, they debarred themselves of the right to expect better treatment than people of any other foreign state who make war upon an independent nation. Upon the firing on Sumter President Lincoln issued his first call for troops and soon after a proclamation convening Congress in extra session. The call was for 75,000 volunteers for ninety days’ service. If the shot fired at Fort Sumter “was heard around the world,” the call of the President for 75,000 men was heard throughout the Northern States. There was not a state in the North of a million of inhabitants that would not have furnished the entire number faster than arms could have been supplied to them, if it had been necessary.

As soon as the news of the call for volunteers reached Galena, posters were stuck up calling for a meeting of the citizens at the courthouse in the evening. Business ceased entirely; all was excitement; for a time there were no party distinctions; all were Union men, determined to avenge the insult to the national flag. In the evening the courthouse was packed. Although a comparative stranger I was called upon to preside; the sole reason, possibly, was that I had been in the army and had seen service. With much embarrassment and some prompting I made out to announce the object of the meeting. Speeches were in order, but it is doubtful whether it would have been safe just then to make other than patriotic ones. There was probably no one in the house, however, who felt like making any other. The two principal speeches were by B. B. Howard, the post-master and a Breckinridge Democrat at the November election the fall before, and John A. Rawlins, an elector on the Douglas ticket. E. B. Washburne, with whom I was not acquainted at that time, came in after the meeting had been organized, and expressed, I understood afterwards, a little surprise that Galena could not furnish a presiding officer for such an occasion without taking a stranger. He came forward and was introduced, and made a speech appealing to the patriotism of the meeting.

After the speaking was over volunteers were called for to form a company. The quota of Illinois had been fixed at six regiments; and it was supposed that one company would be as much as would be accepted from Galena. The company was raised and the officers and non-commissioned officers elected before the meeting adjourned. I declined the captaincy before the balloting, but announced that I would aid the company in every way I could and would be found in the service in some position if there should be a war. I never went into our leather store after that meeting, to put up a package or do other business.

The ladies of Galena were quite as patriotic as the men. They could not enlist, but they conceived the idea of sending their first company to the field uniformed. They came to me to get a description of the United States uniform for infantry; subscribed and bought the material; procured tailors to cut out the garments, and the ladies made them up. In a few days the company was in uniform and ready to report at the State capital for assignment. The men all turned out the morning after their enlistment, and I took charge, divided them into squads and superintended their drill. When they were ready to go to Springfield I went with them and remained there until they were assigned to a regiment.

There were so many more volunteers than had been called for that the question whom to accept was quite embarrassing to the governor, Richard Yates. The legislature was in session at the time, however, and came to his relief. A law was enacted authorizing the governor to accept the services of ten additional regiments, one from each congressional district, for one month, to be paid by the State, but pledged to go into the service of the United States if there should be a further call during their term. Even with this relief the governor was still very much embarrassed. Before the war was over he was like the President when he was taken with the varioloid: “at last he had something he could give to all who wanted it.”

In time the Galena company was mustered into the United States service, forming a part of the 11th Illinois volunteer infantry. My duties, I thought, had ended at Springfield, and I was prepared to start home by the evening train, leaving at nine o’clock. Up to that time I do not think I had been introduced to Governor Yates, or had ever spoken to him. I knew him by sight, however, because he was living at the same hotel and I often saw him at table. The evening I was to quit the capital I left the supper room before the governor and was standing at the front door when he came out. He spoke to me, calling me by my old army title “Captain,” and said he understood that I was about leaving the city. I answered that I was. He said he would be glad if I would remain over-night and call at the Executive office the next morning. I complied with his request, and was asked to go into the Adjutant-General’s office and render such assistance as I could, the governor saying that my army experience would be of great service there. I accepted the proposition.

My old army experience I found indeed of very great service. I was no clerk, nor had I any capacity to become one. The only place I ever found in my life to put a paper so as to find it again was either a side coat-pocket or the hands of a clerk or secretary more careful than myself. But I had been quartermaster, commissary and adjutant in the field. The army forms were familiar to me and I could direct how they should be made out. There was a clerk in the office of the Adjutant-General who supplied my deficiencies. The ease with which the State of Illinois settled its accounts with the government at the close of the war is evidence of the efficiency of Mr. Loomis as an accountant on a large scale. He remained in the office until that time.

As I have stated, the legislature authorized the governor to accept the services of ten additional regiments. I had charge of mustering these regiments into the State service. They were assembled at the most convenient railroad centres in their respective congressional districts. I detailed officers to muster in a portion of them, but mustered three in the southern part of the State myself. One of these was to assemble at Belleville, some eighteen miles south-east of St. Louis. When I got there I found that only one or two companies had arrived. There was no probability of the regiment coming together under five days. This gave me a few idle days which I concluded to spend in St. Louis.

from "Border City" by Galusha AndersonThere was a considerable force of State militia at Camp Jackson, on the outskirts of St. Louis, at the time. There is but little doubt that it was the design of Governor Claiborne Jackson to have these troops ready to seize the United States arsenal and the city of St. Louis. Why they did not do so I do not know. There was but a small garrison, two companies I think, under Captain N. Lyon at the arsenal, and but for the timely services of the Hon. F. P. Blair, I have little doubt that St. Louis would have gone into rebel hands, and with it the arsenal with all its arms and ammunition.

Frank Blair

Further Reading: Damned Yankee: The Life of General Nathaniel Lyon
by Christopher Phillips

Frank Blair: Lincoln’s Conservative by William Earl Parrish

Blair was a leader among the Union men of St. Louis in 1861. There was no State government in Missouri at the time that would sanction the raising of troops or commissioned officers to protect United States property, but Blair had probably procured some form of authority from the President to raise troops in Missouri and to muster them into the service of the United States. At all events, he did raise a regiment and took command himself as Colonel. With this force he reported to Captain Lyon and placed himself and regiment under his orders. It was whispered that Lyon thus reinforced intended to break up Camp Jackson and capture the militia. I went down to the arsenal in the morning to see the troops start out. I had known Lyon for two years at West Point and in the old army afterwards. Blair I knew very well by sight. I had heard him speak in the canvass of 1858, possibly several times, but I had never spoken to him. As the troops marched out of the enclosure around the arsenal, Blair was on his horse outside forming them into line preparatory to their march. I introduced myself to him and had a few moments’ conversation and expressed my sympathy with his purpose. This was my first personal acquaintance with the Honorable—afterwards Major-General F. P. Blair. Camp Jackson surrendered without a fight and the garrison was marched down to the arsenal as prisoners of war.

from "The Fourth City"Up to this time the enemies of the government in St. Louis had been bold and defiant, while Union men were quiet but determined. The enemies had their head-quarters in a central and public position on Pine Street, near Fifth—from which the rebel flag was flaunted boldly. The Union men had a place of meeting somewhere in the city, I did not know where, and I doubt whether they dared to enrage the enemies of the government by placing the national flag outside their head-quarters. As soon as the news of the capture of Camp Jackson reached the city the condition of affairs was changed. Union men became rampant, aggressive, and, if you will, intolerant. They proclaimed their sentiments boldly, and were impatient at anything like disrespect for the Union. The secessionists became quiet but were filled with suppressed rage. They had been playing the bully. The Union men ordered the rebel flag taken down from the building on Pine Street. The command was given in tones of authority and it was taken down, never to be raised again in St. Louis.

I witnessed the scene. I had heard of the surrender of the camp and that the garrison was on its way to the arsenal. I had seen the troops start out in the morning and had wished them success. I now determined to go to the arsenal and await their arrival and congratulate them. I stepped on a car standing at the corner of 4th and Pine streets, and saw a crowd of people standing quietly in front of the head-quarters, who were there for the purpose of hauling down the flag. There were squads of other people at intervals down the street. They too were quiet but filled with suppressed rage, and muttered their resentment at the insult to, what they called, “their” flag. Before the car I was in had started, a dapper little fellow—he would be called a dude at this day—stepped in. He was in a great state of excitement and used adjectives freely to express his contempt for the Union and for those who had just perpetrated such an outrage upon the rights of a free people. There was only one other passenger in the car besides myself when this young man entered. He evidently expected to find nothing but sympathy when he got away from the “mud sills” engaged in compelling a “free people” to pull down a flag they adored. He turned to me saying: “Things have come to a —- pretty pass when a free people can’t choose their own flag. Where I came from if a man dares to say a word in favor of the Union we hang him to a limb of the first tree we come to.” I replied that “after all we were not so intolerant in St. Louis as we might be; I had not seen a single rebel hung yet, nor heard of one; there were plenty of them who ought to be, however.” The young man subsided. He was so crestfallen that I believe if I had ordered him to leave the car he would have gone quietly out, saying to himself: “More Yankee oppression.”

By nightfall the late defenders of Camp Jackson were all within the walls of the St. Louis arsenal, prisoners of war. The next day I left St. Louis for Mattoon, Illinois, where I was to muster in the regiment from that congressional district. This was the 21st Illinois infantry, the regiment of which I subsequently became colonel. I mustered one regiment afterwards, when my services for the State were about closed.

Brigadier-General John Pope was stationed at Springfield, as United States mustering officer, all the time I was in the State service. He was a native of Illinois and well acquainted with most of the prominent men in the State. I was a carpet-bagger and knew but few of them. While I was on duty at Springfield the senators, representatives in Congress, ax-governors and the State legislators were nearly all at the State capital. The only acquaintance I made among them was with the governor, whom I was serving, and, by chance, with Senator S. A. Douglas. The only members of Congress I knew were Washburne and Philip Foulk. With the former, though he represented my district and we were citizens of the same town, I only became acquainted at the meeting when the first company of Galena volunteers was raised. Foulk I had known in St. Louis when I was a citizen of that city. I had been three years at West Point with Pope and had served with him a short time during the Mexican war, under General Taylor. I saw a good deal of him during my service with the State. On one occasion he said to me that I ought to go into the United States service. I told him I intended to do so if there was a war. He spoke of his acquaintance with the public men of the State, and said he could get them to recommend me for a position and that he would do all he could for me. I declined to receive endorsement for permission to fight for my country.

Going home for a day or two soon after this conversation with General Pope, I wrote from Galena the following letter to the Adjutant-General of the Army.

GALENA, ILLINOIS,

May 24, 1861.

COL. L. THOMAS

Adjt. Gen. U. S. A.,

Washington, D. C.

SIR:–Having served for fifteen years in the regular army, including four years at West Point, and feeling it the duty of every one who has been educated at the Government expense to offer their services for the support of that Government, I have the honor, very respectfully, to tender my services, until the close of the war, in such capacity as may be offered. I would say, in view of my present age and length of service, I feel myself competent to command a regiment, if the President, in his judgment, should see fit to intrust one to me.

Since the first call of the President I have been serving on the staff of the Governor of this State, rendering such aid as I could in the organization of our State militia, and am still engaged in that capacity. A letter addressed to me at Springfield, Illinois, will reach me.

I am very respectfully,

Your obt. svt.,

U. S. GRANT.

This letter failed to elicit an answer from the Adjutant-General of the Army. I presume it was hardly read by him, and certainly it could not have been submitted to higher authority. Subsequent to the war General Badeau having heard of this letter applied to the War Department for a copy of it. The letter could not be found and no one recollected ever having seen it. I took no copy when it was written. Long after the application of General Badeau, General Townsend, who had become Adjutant-General of the Army, while packing up papers preparatory to the removal of his office, found this letter in some out-of-the-way place. It had not been destroyed, but it had not been regularly filed away.

I felt some hesitation in suggesting rank as high as the colonelcy of a regiment, feeling somewhat doubtful whether I would be equal to the position. But I had seen nearly every colonel who had been mustered in from the State of Illinois, and some from Indiana, and felt that if they could command a regiment properly, and with credit, I could also.

Having but little to do after the muster of the last of the regiments authorized by the State legislature, I asked and obtained of the governor leave of absence for a week to visit my parents in Covington, Kentucky, immediately opposite Cincinnati. General McClellan had been made a major-general and had his headquarters at Cincinnati. In reality I wanted to see him. I had known him slightly at West Point, where we served one year together, and in the Mexican war. I was in hopes that when he saw me he would offer me a position on his staff. I called on two successive days at his office but failed to see him on either occasion, and returned to Springfield.



CHAPTER XVIII.

APPOINTED COLONEL OF THE 21ST ILLINOIS—PERSONNEL OF THE REGIMENT—GENERAL LOGAN—MARCH TO MISSOURI—MOVEMENT AGAINST HARRIS AT FLORIDA, MO.—GENERAL POPE IN COMMAND—STATIONED AT MEXICO, MO.

While I was absent from the State capital on this occasion the President’s second call for troops was issued. This time it was for 300,000 men, for three years or the war. This brought into the United States service all the regiments then in the State service. These had elected their officers from highest to lowest and were accepted with their organizations as they were, except in two instances. A Chicago regiment, the 19th infantry, had elected a very young man to the colonelcy. When it came to taking the field the regiment asked to have another appointed colonel and the one they had previously chosen made lieutenant-colonel. The 21st regiment of infantry, mustered in by me at Mattoon, refused to go into the service with the colonel of their selection in any position. While I was still absent Governor Yates appointed me colonel of this latter regiment. A few days after I was in charge of it and in camp on the fair grounds near Springfield.

My regiment was composed in large part of young men of as good social position as any in their section of the State. It embraced the sons of farmers, lawyers, physicians, politicians, merchants, bankers and ministers, and some men of maturer years who had filled such positions themselves. There were also men in it who could be led astray; and the colonel, elected by the votes of the regiment, had proved to be fully capable of developing all there was in his men of recklessness. It was said that he even went so far at times as to take the guard from their posts and go with them to the village near by and make a night of it. When there came a prospect of battle the regiment wanted to have some one else to lead them. I found it very hard work for a few days to bring all the men into anything like subordination; but the great majority favored discipline, and by the application of a little regular army punishment all were reduced to as good discipline as one could ask.

The ten regiments which had volunteered in the State service for thirty days, it will be remembered, had done so with a pledge to go into the National service if called upon within that time. When they volunteered the government had only called for ninety days’ enlistments. Men were called now for three years or the war. They felt that this change of period released them from the obligation of re-volunteering. When I was appointed colonel, the 21st regiment was still in the State service. About the time they were to be mustered into the United States service, such of them as would go, two members of Congress from the State, McClernand and Logan, appeared at the capital and I was introduced to them. I had never seen either of them before, but I had read a great deal about them, and particularly about Logan, in the newspapers. Both were democratic members of Congress, and Logan had been elected from the southern district of the State, where he had a majority of eighteen thousand over his Republican competitor. His district had been settled originally by people from the Southern States, and at the breaking out of secession they sympathized with the South. At the first outbreak of war some of them joined the Southern army; many others were preparing to do so; others rode over the country at night denouncing the Union, and made it as necessary to guard railroad bridges over which National troops had to pass in southern Illinois, as it was in Kentucky or any of the border slave states. Logan’s popularity in this district was unbounded. He knew almost enough of the people in it by their Christian names, to form an ordinary congressional district. As he went in politics, so his district was sure to go. The Republican papers had been demanding that he should announce where he stood on the questions which at that time engrossed the whole of public thought. Some were very bitter in their denunciations of his silence. Logan was not a man to be coerced into an utterance by threats. He did, however, come out in a speech before the adjournment of the special session of Congress which was convened by the President soon after his inauguration, and announced his undying loyalty and devotion to the Union. But I had not happened to see that speech, so that when I first met Logan my impressions were those formed from reading denunciations of him. McClernand, on the other hand, had early taken strong grounds for the maintenance of the Union and had been praised accordingly by the Republican papers. The gentlemen who presented these two members of Congress asked me if I would have any objections to their addressing my regiment. I hesitated a little before answering. It was but a few days before the time set for mustering into the United States service such of the men as were willing to volunteer for three years or the war. I had some doubt as to the effect a speech from Logan might have; but as he was with McClernand, whose sentiments on the all-absorbing questions of the day were well known, I gave my consent. McClernand spoke first; and Logan followed in a speech which he has hardly equaled since for force and eloquence. It breathed a loyalty and devotion to the Union which inspired my men to such a point that they would have volunteered to remain in the army as long as an enemy of the country continued to bear arms against it. They entered the United States service almost to a man.

General Logan went to his part of the State and gave his attention to raising troops. The very men who at first made it necessary to guard the roads in southern Illinois became the defenders of the Union. Logan entered the service himself as colonel of a regiment and rapidly rose to the rank of major-general. His district, which had promised at first to give much trouble to the government, filled every call made upon it for troops, without resorting to the draft. There was no call made when there were not more volunteers than were asked for. That congressional district stands credited at the War Department to-day with furnishing more men for the army than it was called on to supply.

I remained in Springfield with my regiment until the 3d of July, when I was ordered to Quincy, Illinois. By that time the regiment was in a good state of discipline and the officers and men were well up in the company drill. There was direct railroad communication between Springfield and Quincy, but I thought it would be good preparation for the troops to march there. We had no transportation for our camp and garrison equipage, so wagons were hired for the occasion and on the 3d of July we started. There was no hurry, but fair marches were made every day until the Illinois River was crossed. There I was overtaken by a dispatch saying that the destination of the regiment had been changed to Ironton, Missouri, and ordering me to halt where I was and await the arrival of a steamer which had been dispatched up the Illinois River to take the regiment to St. Louis. The boat, when it did come, grounded on a sand-bar a few miles below where we were in camp. We remained there several days waiting to have the boat get off the bar, but before this occurred news came that an Illinois regiment was surrounded by rebels at a point on the Hannibal and St. Joe Railroad some miles west of Palmyra, in Missouri, and I was ordered to proceed with all dispatch to their relief. We took the cars and reached Quincy in a few hours.

When I left Galena for the last time to take command of the 21st regiment I took with me my oldest son, Frederick D. Grant, then a lad of eleven years of age. On receiving the order to take rail for Quincy I wrote to Mrs. Grant, to relieve what I supposed would be her great anxiety for one so young going into danger, that I would send Fred home from Quincy by river. I received a prompt letter in reply decidedly disapproving my proposition, and urging that the lad should be allowed to accompany me. It came too late. Fred was already on his way up the Mississippi bound for Dubuque, Iowa, from which place there was a railroad to Galena.

My sensations as we approached what I supposed might be “a field of battle” were anything but agreeable. I had been in all the engagements in Mexico that it was possible for one person to be in; but not in command. If some one else had been colonel and I had been lieutenant-colonel I do not think I would have felt any trepidation. Before we were prepared to cross the Mississippi River at Quincy my anxiety was relieved; for the men of the besieged regiment came straggling into town. I am inclined to think both sides got frightened and ran away.

I took my regiment to Palmyra and remained there for a few days, until relieved by the 19th Illinois infantry. From Palmyra I proceeded to Salt River, the railroad bridge over which had been destroyed by the enemy. Colonel John M. Palmer at that time commanded the 13th Illinois, which was acting as a guard to workmen who were engaged in rebuilding this bridge. Palmer was my senior and commanded the two regiments as long as we remained together. The bridge was finished in about two weeks, and I received orders to move against Colonel Thomas Harris, who was said to be encamped at the little town of Florida, some twenty-five miles south of where we then were.

At the time of which I now write we had no transportation and the country about Salt River was sparsely settled, so that it took some days to collect teams and drivers enough to move the camp and garrison equipage of a regiment nearly a thousand strong, together with a week’s supply of provision and some ammunition. While preparations for the move were going on I felt quite comfortable; but when we got on the road and found every house deserted I was anything but easy. In the twenty-five miles we had to march we did not see a person, old or young, male or female, except two horsemen who were on a road that crossed ours. As soon as they saw us they decamped as fast as their horses could carry them. I kept my men in the ranks and forbade their entering any of the deserted houses or taking anything from them. We halted at night on the road and proceeded the next morning at an early hour. Harris had been encamped in a creek bottom for the sake of being near water. The hills on either side of the creek extend to a considerable height, possibly more than a hundred feet. As we approached the brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see Harris’ camp, and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as though it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to have been back in Illinois, but I had not the moral courage to halt and consider what to do; I kept right on. When we reached a point from which the valley below was in full view I halted. The place where Harris had been encamped a few days before was still there and the marks of a recent encampment were plainly visible, but the troops were gone. My heart resumed its place. It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the question I had never taken before; but it was one I never forgot afterwards. From that event to the close of the war, I never experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy, though I always felt more or less anxiety. I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his. The lesson was valuable.

Inquiries at the village of Florida divulged the fact that Colonel Harris, learning of my intended movement, while my transportation was being collected took time by the forelock and left Florida before I had started from Salt River. He had increased the distance between us by forty miles. The next day I started back to my old camp at Salt River bridge. The citizens living on the line of our march had returned to their houses after we passed, and finding everything in good order, nothing carried away, they were at their front doors ready to greet us now. They had evidently been led to believe that the National troops carried death and devastation with them wherever they went.

In a short time after our return to Salt River bridge I was ordered with my regiment to the town of Mexico. General Pope was then commanding the district embracing all of the State of Missouri between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, with his headquarters in the village of Mexico. I was assigned to the command of a sub-district embracing the troops in the immediate neighborhood, some three regiments of infantry and a section of artillery. There was one regiment encamped by the side of mine. I assumed command of the whole and the first night sent the commander of the other regiment the parole and countersign. Not wishing to be outdone in courtesy, he immediately sent me the countersign for his regiment for the night. When he was informed that the countersign sent to him was for use with his regiment as well as mine, it was difficult to make him understand that this was not an unwarranted interference of one colonel over another. No doubt he attributed it for the time to the presumption of a graduate of West Point over a volunteer pure and simple. But the question was soon settled and we had no further trouble.

My arrival in Mexico had been preceded by that of two or three regiments in which proper discipline had not been maintained, and the men had been in the habit of visiting houses without invitation and helping themselves to food and drink, or demanding them from the occupants. They carried their muskets while out of camp and made every man they found take the oath of allegiance to the government. I at once published orders prohibiting the soldiers from going into private houses unless invited by the inhabitants, and from appropriating private property to their own or to government uses. The people were no longer molested or made afraid. I received the most marked courtesy from the citizens of Mexico as long as I remained there.

Up to this time my regiment had not been carried in the school of the soldier beyond the company drill, except that it had received some training on the march from Springfield to the Illinois River. There was now a good opportunity of exercising it in the battalion drill. While I was at West Point the tactics used in the army had been Scott’s and the musket the flint lock. I had never looked at a copy of tactics from the time of my graduation. My standing in that branch of studies had been near the foot of the class. In the Mexican war in the summer of 1846, I had been appointed regimental quartermaster and commissary and had not been at a battalion drill since. The arms had been changed since then and Hardee’s tactics had been adopted. I got a copy of tactics and studied one lesson, intending to confine the exercise of the first day to the commands I had thus learned. By pursuing this course from day to day I thought I would soon get through the volume.

We were encamped just outside of town on the common, among scattering suburban houses with enclosed gardens, and when I got my regiment in line and rode to the front I soon saw that if I attempted to follow the lesson I had studied I would have to clear away some of the houses and garden fences to make room. I perceived at once, however, that Hardee’s tactics—a mere translation from the French with Hardee’s name attached—was nothing more than common sense and the progress of the age applied to Scott’s system. The commands were abbreviated and the movement expedited. Under the old tactics almost every change in the order of march was preceded by a “halt,” then came the change, and then the “forward march.” With the new tactics all these changes could be made while in motion. I found no trouble in giving commands that would take my regiment where I wanted it to go and carry it around all obstacles. I do not believe that the officers of the regiment ever discovered that I had never studied the tactics that I used.



CHAPTER XIX.

COMMISSIONED BRIGADIER-GENERAL—COMMAND AT IRONTON, MO.—JEFFERSON CITY—CAPE GIRARDEAU—GENERAL PRENTISS—SEIZURE OF PADUCAH—HEADQUARTERS AT CAIRO.

I had not been in Mexico many weeks when, reading a St. Louis paper, I found the President had asked the Illinois delegation in Congress to recommend some citizens of the State for the position of brigadier-general, and that they had unanimously recommended me as first on a list of seven. I was very much surprised because, as I have said, my acquaintance with the Congressmen was very limited and I did not know of anything I had done to inspire such confidence. The papers of the next day announced that my name, with three others, had been sent to the Senate, and a few days after our confirmation was announced.

When appointed brigadier-general I at once thought it proper that one of my aides should come from the regiment I had been commanding, and so selected Lieutenant C. B. Lagow. While living in St. Louis, I had had a desk in the law office of McClellan, Moody and Hillyer. Difference in views between the members of the firm on the questions of the day, and general hard times in the border cities, had broken up this firm. Hillyer was quite a young man, then in his twenties, and very brilliant. I asked him to accept a place on my staff. I also wanted to take one man from my new home, Galena. The canvass in the Presidential campaign the fall before had brought out a young lawyer by the name of John A. Rawlins, who proved himself one of the ablest speakers in the State. He was also a candidate for elector on the Douglas ticket. When Sumter was fired upon and the integrity of the Union threatened, there was no man more ready to serve his country than he. I wrote at once asking him to accept the position of assistant adjutant-general with the rank of captain, on my staff. He was about entering the service as major of a new regiment then organizing in the north-western part of the State; but he threw this up and accepted my offer.

Neither Hillyer nor Lagow proved to have any particular taste or special qualifications for the duties of the soldier, and the former resigned during the Vicksburg campaign; the latter I relieved after the battle of Chattanooga. Rawlins remained with me as long as he lived, and rose to the rank of brigadier general and chief-of-staff to the General of the Army—an office created for him—before the war closed. He was an able man, possessed of great firmness, and could say “no” so emphatically to a request which he thought should not be granted that the person he was addressing would understand at once that there was no use of pressing the matter. General Rawlins was a very useful officer in other ways than this. I became very much attached to him.

Shortly after my promotion I was ordered to Ironton, Missouri, to command a district in that part of the State, and took the 21st Illinois, my old regiment, with me. Several other regiments were ordered to the same destination about the same time. Ironton is on the Iron Mountain railroad, about seventy miles south of St. Louis, and situated among hills rising almost to the dignity of mountains. When I reached there, about the 8th of August, Colonel B. Gratz Brown—afterwards Governor of Missouri and in 1872 Vice-Presidential candidate—was in command. Some of his troops were ninety days’ men and their time had expired some time before. The men had no clothing but what they had volunteered in, and much of this was so worn that it would hardly stay on. General Hardee—the author of the tactics I did not study—was at Greenville some twenty-five miles further south, it was said, with five thousand Confederate troops. Under these circumstances Colonel Brown’s command was very much demoralized. A squadron of cavalry could have ridden into the valley and captured the entire force. Brown himself was gladder to see me on that occasion than he ever has been since. I relieved him and sent all his men home within a day or two, to be mustered out of service.

Within ten days after reading Ironton I was prepared to take the offensive against the enemy at Greenville. I sent a column east out of the valley we were in, with orders to swing around to the south and west and come into the Greenville road ten miles south of Ironton. Another column marched on the direct road and went into camp at the point designated for the two columns to meet. I was to ride out the next morning and take personal command of the movement. My experience against Harris, in northern Missouri, had inspired me with confidence. But when the evening train came in, it brought General B. M. Prentiss with orders to take command of the district. His orders did not relieve me, but I knew that by law I was senior, and at that time even the President did not have the authority to assign a junior to command a senior of the same grade. I therefore gave General Prentiss the situation of the troops and the general condition of affairs, and started for St. Louis the same day. The movement against the rebels at Greenville went no further.

From St. Louis I was ordered to Jefferson City, the capital of the State, to take command. General Sterling Price, of the Confederate army, was thought to be threatening the capital, Lexington, Chillicothe and other comparatively large towns in the central part of Missouri. I found a good many troops in Jefferson City, but in the greatest confusion, and no one person knew where they all were. Colonel Mulligan, a gallant man, was in command, but he had not been educated as yet to his new profession and did not know how to maintain discipline. I found that volunteers had obtained permission from the department commander, or claimed they had, to raise, some of them, regiments; some battalions; some companies—the officers to be commissioned according to the number of men they brought into the service. There were recruiting stations all over town, with notices, rudely lettered on boards over the doors, announcing the arm of service and length of time for which recruits at that station would be received. The law required all volunteers to serve for three years or the war. But in Jefferson City in August, 1861, they were recruited for different periods and on different conditions; some were enlisted for six months, some for a year, some without any condition as to where they were to serve, others were not to be sent out of the State. The recruits were principally men from regiments stationed there and already in the service, bound for three years if the war lasted that long.

The city was filled with Union fugitives who had been driven by guerilla bands to take refuge with the National troops. They were in a deplorable condition and must have starved but for the support the government gave them. They had generally made their escape with a team or two, sometimes a yoke of oxen with a mule or a horse in the lead. A little bedding besides their clothing and some food had been thrown into the wagon. All else of their worldly goods were abandoned and appropriated by their former neighbors; for the Union man in Missouri who staid at home during the rebellion, if he was not immediately under the protection of the National troops, was at perpetual war with his neighbors. I stopped the recruiting service, and disposed the troops about the outskirts of the city so as to guard all approaches. Order was soon restored.

I had been at Jefferson City but a few days when I was directed from department headquarters to fit out an expedition to Lexington, Booneville and Chillicothe, in order to take from the banks in those cities all the funds they had and send them to St. Louis. The western army had not yet been supplied with transportation. It became necessary therefore to press into the service teams belonging to sympathizers with the rebellion or to hire those of Union men. This afforded an opportunity of giving employment to such of the refugees within our lines as had teams suitable for our purposes. They accepted the service with alacrity. As fast as troops could be got off they were moved west some twenty miles or more. In seven or eight days from my assuming command at Jefferson City, I had all the troops, except a small garrison, at an advanced position and expected to join them myself the next day.

But my campaigns had not yet begun, for while seated at my office door, with nothing further to do until it was time to start for the front, I saw an officer of rank approaching, who proved to be Colonel Jefferson C. Davis. I had never met him before, but he introduced himself by handing me an order for him to proceed to Jefferson City and relieve me of the command. The orders directed that I should report at department headquarters at St. Louis without delay, to receive important special instructions. It was about an hour before the only regular train of the day would start. I therefore turned over to Colonel Davis my orders, and hurriedly stated to him the progress that had been made to carry out the department instructions already described. I had at that time but one staff officer, doing myself all the detail work usually performed by an adjutant-general. In an hour after being relieved from the command I was on my way to St. Louis, leaving my single staff officer to follow the next day with our horses and baggage.

The “important special instructions” which I received the next day, assigned me to the command of the district of south-east Missouri, embracing all the territory south of St. Louis, in Missouri, as well as all southern Illinois. At first I was to take personal command of a combined expedition that had been ordered for the capture of Colonel Jeff. Thompson, a sort of independent or partisan commander who was disputing with us the possession of south-east Missouri. Troops had been ordered to move from Ironton to Cape Girardeau, sixty or seventy miles to the south-east, on the Mississippi River; while the forces at Cape Girardeau had been ordered to move to Jacksonville, ten miles out towards Ironton; and troops at Cairo and Bird’s Point, at the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, were to hold themselves in readiness to go down the Mississippi to Belmont, eighteen miles below, to be moved west from there when an officer should come to command them. I was the officer who had been selected for this purpose. Cairo was to become my headquarters when the expedition terminated.

In pursuance of my orders I established my temporary headquarters at Cape Girardeau and sent instructions to the commanding officer at Jackson, to inform me of the approach of General Prentiss from Ironton. Hired wagons were kept moving night and day to take additional rations to Jackson, to supply the troops when they started from there. Neither General Prentiss nor Colonel Marsh, who commanded at Jackson, knew their destination. I drew up all the instructions for the contemplated move, and kept them in my pocket until I should hear of the junction of our troops at Jackson. Two or three days after my arrival at Cape Girardeau, word came that General Prentiss was approaching that place (Jackson). I started at once to meet him there and to give him his orders. As I turned the first corner of a street after starting, I saw a column of cavalry passing the next street in front of me. I turned and rode around the block the other way, so as to meet the head of the column. I found there General Prentiss himself, with a large escort. He had halted his troops at Jackson for the night, and had come on himself to Cape Girardeau, leaving orders for his command to follow him in the morning. I gave the General his orders—which stopped him at Jackson—but he was very much aggrieved at being placed under another brigadier-general, particularly as he believed himself to be the senior. He had been a brigadier, in command at Cairo, while I was mustering officer at Springfield without any rank. But we were nominated at the same time for the United States service, and both our commissions bore date May 17th, 1861. By virtue of my former army rank I was, by law, the senior. General Prentiss failed to get orders to his troops to remain at Jackson, and the next morning early they were reported as approaching Cape Girardeau. I then ordered the General very peremptorily to countermarch his command and take it back to Jackson. He obeyed the order, but bade his command adieu when he got them to Jackson, and went to St. Louis and reported himself. This broke up the expedition. But little harm was done, as Jeff. Thompson moved light and had no fixed place for even nominal headquarters. He was as much at home in Arkansas as he was in Missouri and would keep out of the way of a superior force. Prentiss was sent to another part of the State.

General Prentiss made a great mistake on the above occasion, one that he would not have committed later in the war. When I came to know him better, I regretted it much. In consequence of this occurrence he was off duty in the field when the principal campaign at the West was going on, and his juniors received promotion while he was where none could be obtained. He would have been next to myself in rank in the district of south-east Missouri, by virtue of his services in the Mexican war. He was a brave and very earnest soldier. No man in the service was more sincere in his devotion to the cause for which we were battling; none more ready to make sacrifices or risk life in it.

On the 4th of September I removed my headquarters to Cairo and found Colonel Richard Oglesby in command of the post. We had never met, at least not to my knowledge. After my promotion I had ordered my brigadier-general’s uniform from New York, but it had not yet arrived, so that I was in citizen’s dress. The Colonel had his office full of people, mostly from the neighboring States of Missouri and Kentucky, making complaints or asking favors. He evidently did not catch my name when I was presented, for on my taking a piece of paper from the table where he was seated and writing the order assuming command of the district of south-east Missouri, Colonel Richard J. Oglesby to command the post at Bird’s Point, and handing it to him, he put on an expression of surprise that looked a little as if he would like to have some one identify me. But he surrendered the office without question.

The day after I assumed command at Cairo a man came to me who said he was a scout of General Fremont. He reported that he had just come from Columbus, a point on the Mississippi twenty miles below on the Kentucky side, and that troops had started from there, or were about to start, to seize Paducah, at the mouth of the Tennessee. There was no time for delay; I reported by telegraph to the department commander the information I had received, and added that I was taking steps to get off that night to be in advance of the enemy in securing that important point. There was a large number of steamers lying at Cairo and a good many boatmen were staying in the town. It was the work of only a few hours to get the boats manned, with coal aboard and steam up. Troops were also designated to go aboard. The distance from Cairo to Paducah is about forty-five miles. I did not wish to get there before daylight of the 6th, and directed therefore that the boats should lie at anchor out in the stream until the time to start. Not having received an answer to my first dispatch, I again telegraphed to department headquarters that I should start for Paducah that night unless I received further orders. Hearing nothing, we started before midnight and arrived early the following morning, anticipating the enemy by probably not over six or eight hours. It proved very fortunate that the expedition against Jeff. Thompson had been broken up. Had it not been, the enemy would have seized Paducah and fortified it, to our very great annoyance.

When the National troops entered the town the citizens were taken by surprise. I never after saw such consternation depicted on the faces of the people. Men, women and children came out of their doors looking pale and frightened at the presence of the invader. They were expecting rebel troops that day. In fact, nearly four thousand men from Columbus were at that time within ten or fifteen miles of Paducah on their way to occupy the place. I had but two regiments and one battery with me, but the enemy did not know this and returned to Columbus. I stationed my troops at the best points to guard the roads leading into the city, left gunboats to guard the river fronts and by noon was ready to start on my return to Cairo. Before leaving, however, I addressed a short printed proclamation to the citizens of Paducah assuring them of our peaceful intentions, that we had come among them to protect them against the enemies of our country, and that all who chose could continue their usual avocations with assurance of the protection of the government. This was evidently a relief to them; but the majority would have much preferred the presence of the other army. I reinforced Paducah rapidly from the troops at Cape Girardeau; and a day or two later General C. F. Smith, a most accomplished soldier, reported at Cairo and was assigned to the command of the post at the mouth of the Tennessee. In a short time it was well fortified and a detachment was sent to occupy Smithland, at the mouth of the Cumberland.

The State government of Kentucky at that time was rebel in sentiment, but wanted to preserve an armed neutrality between the North and the South, and the governor really seemed to think the State had a perfect right to maintain a neutral position. The rebels already occupied two towns in the State, Columbus and Hickman, on the Mississippi; and at the very moment the National troops were entering Paducah from the Ohio front, General Lloyd Tilghman—a Confederate—with his staff and a small detachment of men, were getting out in the other direction, while, as I have already said, nearly four thousand Confederate troops were on Kentucky soil on their way to take possession of the town. But, in the estimation of the governor and of those who thought with him, this did not justify the National authorities in invading the soil of Kentucky. I informed the legislature of the State of what I was doing, and my action was approved by the majority of that body. On my return to Cairo I found authority from department headquarters for me to take Paducah “if I felt strong enough,” but very soon after I was reprimanded from the same quarters for my correspondence with the legislature and warned against a repetition of the offence.

Soon after I took command at Cairo, General Fremont entered into arrangements for the exchange of the prisoners captured at Camp Jackson in the month of May. I received orders to pass them through my lines to Columbus as they presented themselves with proper credentials. Quite a number of these prisoners I had been personally acquainted with before the war. Such of them as I had so known were received at my headquarters as old acquaintances, and ordinary routine business was not disturbed by their presence. On one occasion when several were present in my office my intention to visit Cape Girardeau the next day, to inspect the troops at that point, was mentioned. Something transpired which postponed my trip; but a steamer employed by the government was passing a point some twenty or more miles above Cairo, the next day, when a section of rebel artillery with proper escort brought her to. A major, one of those who had been at my headquarters the day before, came at once aboard and after some search made a direct demand for my delivery. It was hard to persuade him that I was not there. This officer was Major Barrett, of St. Louis [Barrett was a Minute Man; see Thomas Snead’s piece elsewhere on this site for more on the Minute Men –ed]. I had been acquainted with his family before the war.



CHAPTER XX.

GENERAL FREMONT IN COMMAND—MOVEMENT AGAINST BELMONT—BATTLE OF BELMONT—A NARROW ESCAPE—AFTER THE BATTLE.

From the occupation of Paducah up to the early part of November nothing important occurred with the troops under my command. I was reinforced from time to time and the men were drilled and disciplined preparatory for the service which was sure to come. By the 1st of November I had not fewer than 20,000 men, most of them under good drill and ready to meet any equal body of men who, like themselves, had not yet been in an engagement. They were growing impatient at lying idle so long, almost in hearing of the guns of the enemy they had volunteered to fight against. I asked on one or two occasions to be allowed to move against Columbus. It could have been taken soon after the occupation of Paducah; but before November it was so strongly fortified that it would have required a large force and a long siege to capture it.

In the latter part of October General Fremont took the field in person and moved from Jefferson City against General Sterling Price, who was then in the State of Missouri with a considerable command. About the first of November I was directed from department headquarters to make a demonstration on both sides of the Mississippi River with the view of detaining the rebels at Columbus within their lines. Before my troops could be got off, I was notified from the same quarter that there were some 3,000 of the enemy on the St. Francis River about fifty miles west, or south-west, from Cairo, and was ordered to send another force against them. I dispatched Colonel Oglesby at once with troops sufficient to compete with the reported number of the enemy. On the 5th word came from the same source that the rebels were about to detach a large force from Columbus to be moved by boats down the Mississippi and up the White River, in Arkansas, in order to reinforce Price, and I was directed to prevent this movement if possible. I accordingly sent a regiment from Bird’s Point under Colonel W. H. L. Wallace to overtake and reinforce Oglesby, with orders to march to New Madrid, a point some distance below Columbus, on the Missouri side. At the same time I directed General C. F. Smith to move all the troops he could spare from Paducah directly against Columbus, halting them, however, a few miles from the town to await further orders from me. Then I gathered up all the troops at Cairo and Fort Holt, except suitable guards, and moved them down the river on steamers convoyed by two gunboats, accompanying them myself. My force consisted of a little over 3,000 men and embraced five regiments of infantry, two guns and two companies of cavalry. We dropped down the river on the 6th to within about six miles of Columbus, debarked a few men on the Kentucky side and established pickets to connect with the troops from Paducah.

I had no orders which contemplated an attack by the National troops, nor did I intend anything of the kind when I started out from Cairo; but after we started I saw that the officers and men were elated at the prospect of at last having the opportunity of doing what they had volunteered to do—fight the enemies of their country. I did not see how I could maintain discipline, or retain the confidence of my command, if we should return to Cairo without an effort to do something. Columbus, besides being strongly fortified, contained a garrison much more numerous than the force I had with me. It would not do, therefore, to attack that point. About two o’clock on the morning of the 7th, I learned that the enemy was crossing troops from Columbus to the west bank to be dispatched, presumably, after Oglesby. I knew there was a small camp of Confederates at Belmont, immediately opposite Columbus, and I speedily resolved to push down the river, land on the Missouri side, capture Belmont, break up the camp and return. Accordingly, the pickets above Columbus were drawn in at once, and about daylight the boats moved out from shore. In an hour we were debarking on the west bank of the Mississippi, just out of range of the batteries at Columbus.

The ground on the west shore of the river, opposite Columbus, is low and in places marshy and cut up with sloughs. The soil is rich and the timber large and heavy. There were some small clearings between Belmont and the point where we landed, but most of the country was covered with the native forests. We landed in front of a cornfield. When the debarkation commenced, I took a regiment down the river to post it as a guard against surprise. At that time I had no staff officer who could be trusted with that duty. In the woods, at a short distance below the clearing, I found a depression, dry at the time, but which at high water became a slough or bayou. I placed the men in the hollow, gave them their instructions and ordered them to remain there until they were properly relieved. These troops, with the gunboats, were to protect our transports.

Up to this time the enemy had evidently failed to divine our intentions. From Columbus they could, of course, see our gunboats and transports loaded with troops. But the force from Paducah was threatening them from the land side, and it was hardly to be expected that if Columbus was our object we would separate our troops by a wide river. They doubtless thought we meant to draw a large force from the east bank, then embark ourselves, land on the east bank and make a sudden assault on Columbus before their divided command could be united.

About eight o’clock we started from the point of debarkation, marching by the flank. After moving in this way for a mile or a mile and a half, I halted where there was marshy ground covered with a heavy growth of timber in our front, and deployed a large part of my force as skirmishers. By this time the enemy discovered that we were moving upon Belmont and sent out troops to meet us. Soon after we had started in line, his skirmishers were encountered and fighting commenced. This continued, growing fiercer and fiercer, for about four hours, the enemy being forced back gradually until he was driven into his camp. Early in this engagement my horse was shot under me, but I got another from one of my staff and kept well up with the advance until the river was reached.

The officers and men engaged at Belmont were then under fire for the first time. Veterans could not have behaved better than they did up to the moment of reaching the rebel camp. At this point they became demoralized from their victory and failed to reap its full reward. The enemy had been followed so closely that when he reached the clear ground on which his camp was pitched he beat a hasty retreat over the river bank, which protected him from our shots and from view. This precipitate retreat at the last moment enabled the National forces to pick their way without hindrance through the abatis—the only artificial defence the enemy had. The moment the camp was reached our men laid down their arms and commenced rummaging the tents to pick up trophies. Some of the higher officers were little better than the privates. They galloped about from one cluster of men to another and at every halt delivered a short eulogy upon the Union cause and the achievements of the command.

All this time the troops we had been engaged with for four hours, lay crouched under cover of the river bank, ready to come up and surrender if summoned to do so; but finding that they were not pursued, they worked their way up the river and came up on the bank between us and our transports. I saw at the same time two steamers coming from the Columbus side towards the west shore, above us, black—or gray—with soldiers from boiler-deck to roof. Some of my men were engaged in firing from captured guns at empty steamers down the river, out of range, cheering at every shot. I tried to get them to turn their guns upon the loaded steamers above and not so far away. My efforts were in vain. At last I directed my staff officers to set fire to the camps. This drew the fire of the enemy’s guns located on the heights of Columbus. They had abstained from firing before, probably because they were afraid of hitting their own men; or they may have supposed, until the camp was on fire, that it was still in the possession of their friends. About this time, too, the men we had driven over the bank were seen in line up the river between us and our transports. The alarm “surrounded” was given. The guns of the enemy and the report of being surrounded, brought officers and men completely under control. At first some of the officers seemed to think that to be surrounded was to be placed in a hopeless position, where there was nothing to do but surrender. But when I announced that we had cut our way in and could cut our way out just as well, it seemed a new revelation to officers and soldiers. They formed line rapidly and we started back to our boats, with the men deployed as skirmishers as they had been on entering camp. The enemy was soon encountered, but his resistance this time was feeble. Again the Confederates sought shelter under the river banks. We could not stop, however, to pick them up, because the troops we had seen crossing the river had debarked by this time and were nearer our transports than we were. It would be prudent to get them behind us; but we were not again molested on our way to the boats.

From the beginning of the fighting our wounded had been carried to the houses at the rear, near the place of debarkation. I now set the troops to bringing their wounded to the boats. After this had gone on for some little time I rode down the road, without even a staff officer, to visit the guard I had stationed over the approach to our transports. I knew the enemy had crossed over from Columbus in considerable numbers and might be expected to attack us as we were embarking. This guard would be encountered first and, as they were in a natural intrenchment, would be able to hold the enemy for a considerable time. My surprise was great to find there was not a single man in the trench. Riding back to the boat I found the officer who had commanded the guard and learned that he had withdrawn his force when the main body fell back. At first I ordered the guard to return, but finding that it would take some time to get the men together and march them back to their position, I countermanded the order. Then fearing that the enemy we had seen crossing the river below might be coming upon us unawares, I rode out in the field to our front, still entirely alone, to observe whether the enemy was passing. The field was grown up with corn so tall and thick as to cut off the view of even a person on horseback, except directly along the rows. Even in that direction, owing to the overhanging blades of corn, the view was not extensive. I had not gone more than a few hundred yards when I saw a body of troops marching past me not fifty yards away. I looked at them for a moment and then turned my horse towards the river and started back, first in a walk, and when I thought myself concealed from the view of the enemy, as fast as my horse could carry me. When at the river bank I still had to ride a few hundred yards to the point where the nearest transport lay.

The cornfield in front of our transports terminated at the edge of a dense forest. Before I got back the enemy had entered this forest and had opened a brisk fire upon the boats. Our men, with the exception of details that had gone to the front after the wounded, were now either aboard the transports or very near them. Those who were not aboard soon got there, and the boats pushed off. I was the only man of the National army between the rebels and our transports. The captain of a boat that had just pushed out but had not started, recognized me and ordered the engineer not to start the engine; he then had a plank run out for me. My horse seemed to take in the situation. There was no path down the bank and every one acquainted with the Mississippi River knows that its banks, in a natural state, do not vary at any great angle from the perpendicular. My horse put his fore feet over the bank without hesitation or urging, and with his hind feet well under him, slid down the bank and trotted aboard the boat, twelve or fifteen feet away, over a single gang plank. I dismounted and went at once to the upper deck.

The Mississippi River was low on the 7th of November, 1861, so that the banks were higher than the heads of men standing on the upper decks of the steamers. The rebels were some distance back from the river, so that their fire was high and did us but little harm. Our smokestack was riddled with bullets, but there were only three men wounded on the boats, two of whom were soldiers. When I first went on deck I entered the captain’s room adjoining the pilothouse, and threw myself on a sofa. I did not keep that position a moment, but rose to go out on the deck to observe what was going on. I had scarcely left when a musket ball entered the room, struck the head of the sofa, passed through it and lodged in the foot.

When the enemy opened fire on the transports our gunboats returned it with vigor. They were well out in the stream and some distance down, so that they had to give but very little elevation to their guns to clear the banks of the river. Their position very nearly enfiladed the line of the enemy while he was marching through the cornfield. The execution was very great, as we could see at the time and as I afterwards learned more positively. We were very soon out of range and went peacefully on our way to Cairo, every man feeling that Belmont was a great victory and that he had contributed his share to it.

Our loss at Belmont was 485 in killed, wounded and missing. About 125 of our wounded fell into the hands of the enemy. We returned with 175 prisoners and two guns, and spiked four other pieces. The loss of the enemy, as officially reported, was 642 men, killed, wounded and missing. We had engaged about 2,500 men, exclusive of the guard left with the transports. The enemy had about 7,000; but this includes the troops brought over from Columbus who were not engaged in the first defense of Belmont.

The two objects for which the battle of Belmont was fought were fully accomplished. The enemy gave up all idea of detaching troops from Columbus. His losses were very heavy for that period of the war. Columbus was beset by people looking for their wounded or dead kin, to take them home for medical treatment or burial. I learned later, when I had moved further south, that Belmont had caused more mourning than almost any other battle up to that time. The National troops acquired a confidence in themselves at Belmont that did not desert them through the war.

The day after the battle I met some officers from General Polk’s command, arranged for permission to bury our dead at Belmont and also commenced negotiations for the exchange of prisoners. When our men went to bury their dead, before they were allowed to land they were conducted below the point where the enemy had engaged our transports. Some of the officers expressed a desire to see the field; but the request was refused with the statement that we had no dead there.

While on the truce-boat I mentioned to an officer, whom I had known both at West Point and in the Mexican war, that I was in the cornfield near their troops when they passed; that I had been on horseback and had worn a soldier’s overcoat at the time. This officer was on General Polk’s staff. He said both he and the general had seen me and that Polk had said to his men, “There is a Yankee; you may try your marksmanship on him if you wish,” but nobody fired at me.

Belmont was severely criticized in the North as a wholly unnecessary battle, barren of results, or the possibility of them from the beginning. If it had not been fought, Colonel Oglesby would probably have been captured or destroyed with his three thousand men. Then I should have been culpable indeed.


Lady With Spurs

The Lady with Spurs

by

John Fiske

Excerpted and introduced by G. E. Rule, from “The Mississippi Valley in the Civil War”, by John Fiske, 1900


Further Reading: Damned Yankee: The Life of General Nathaniel Lyon
by Christopher Phillips

Frank Blair: Lincoln’s Conservative by William Earl Parrish

John Fiske was a well-known chronicler of the history of the United States with many books to his credit. His “The Mississippi Valley in the Civil War” starts in St. Louis, but quickly moves elsewhere. This book originated from a series of lectures Fiske gave in St. Louis in 1886 in support of a fund dedicated to erecting a monument to U.S. Grant. These lectures were hosted by William Tecumseh Sherman. Fiske clearly believes that the Civil War was won in the West, and that the Union victories in Missouri in 1861-1862 were indispensable preconditions to that victory.

“The Lady With Spurs” tells the famous story of Nathaniel Lyon’s masquerading as an old woman to scout the Missouri State Guard encampment at Camp Jackson on May 9th, 1861. This unorthodox scouting mission lead directly to the Union Safety Committee’s decision to demand the surrender of Camp Jackson on pain of immediate assault. While many believe the story, and many do not (how does a man with a beard –even if veiled—manage to successfully pose as a woman?), this is one of the few accounts that actually supplies first-hand witnesses to bolster its credibility. The second section is Fiske’s footnote giving his sources. These would seem to be nearly unassailable.



A fine cordial hospitality was dispensed at the camp in those balmy days of early May. The surgeon of [Francis P.] Blair’s regiment had dined there on the 8th, and he could have told anybody, says [Missouri State Guard] General [D.M] Frost, “that it was a very attractive place, because he saw it filled with the fairest of Missouri’s daughters, who from morn to dewy eve threaded its mazes in company with their sons, brothers, and lovers. He could also have described the beautiful United States flag which waved its folds in the breeze from the flagstaff over my tent.” from "Border City" by Galusha AndersonOne of the visitors next day came in a light open carriage then known as a “Jenny Lind,” and was leisurely driven by a coloured servant up and down the avenues “Jeff Davis”, “Beauregard”, and “Sumter”, and the rest. This visitor, dressed in a black bombazine gown and closely veiled, was a familiar sight on the streets of St. Louis, as she took the air daily in her light carriage. Everybody recognized her as Mrs. Alexander, the mother of Mrs. Blair, but nobody accosted her or expected recognition from her because she was known to be blind. What should have brought this elderly lady to Camp Jackson? Was it simply the Negro coachman gratifying some curiosity of his own?

A couple of hours later, as Blair was sitting in the porch of the southern house of the arsenal, chatting with Colonel Simmons and a few other friends, the Jenny Lind carriage drove up, and the familiar figure, in its black gown and veil, alighted and came up the steps. It was natural enough that Blair should greet his wife’s mother and escort her into the house. But as they stepped upon the threshold, a slight uplifting of the bombazine skirt disclosed a sturdy pair of cavalry boots to the eyes of Colonel Simmons and another gentleman, who glanced at each other significantly but said never a word.

LyonHad the close veil been lifted, it would have revealed the short red beard and piercing blue eyes of Nathaniel Lyon, the “little Connecticut abolitionist,” as some called him.

* * *

In my opening lecture at St. Louis, April 15, 1886, I mentioned the fact of Lyon’s visiting Camp Jackson disguised in woman’s clothes. For this statement I was taken to task in some of the newspapers, which derided it as an “old woman’s story”, too absurd for belief. I was thereupon assured by several members of the Blair family, friends of mine, that the story, although an old woman’s, was literally true. In proof thereof General Blair’s son, Francis Preston Blair III, took me to call upon his grandmother, Mrs. Alexander, a fine old lady of eighty-three. From her lips I heard the story, just as I have above given it, and she showed me the bombazine gown and close veil which she had lent to Lyon. As to the Simmons incident, it was told me by Colonel Simmons himself, who was soon afterward on Lyon’s staff, and at a later date on the staff of General Rosecrans at Stone River.


Taming the Southern Belles of St Louis

Taming the Southern Belles of St. Louis

by

John McElroy

Excerpted and introduced by G. E. Rule, from “The Struggle for Missouri”, John McElroy, 1909


Missouri Civil War Reader, Volume I now available

The Fight for Missouri by Thomas L. Snead, 1886

The Struggle for Missouri by John McElroy, 1909

The Story of a Border City During the Civil War by Galusha Anderson, 1908

The Crisis by Winston Churchill, 1901

Basil Duke in Missouri by Gen. Basil Wilson Duke, 1911

The Brown-Reynolds Duel, 1911

Cost per CD ROM is $24.95 + $4.00 priority mail shipping

In 1863, at the age of sixteen, John McElroy joined an Illinois cavalry regiment.  Six months later he was taken prisoner and remained so until the end of the war, spending much of the time at the infamous Andersonville prison.  In 1879 he wrote a book about his experiences, “Andersonville: A Story of Rebel Military Prisons. Fifteen Months a Guest of the so-called Southern Confederacy”.  In 1909 he was back with “Struggle for Missouri”, with little of his anti-Confederate heat dissipated.  This book starts with a Missouri-centric history of the slavery controversy from the founding of the Republic and continues thru the Battle of Pea Ridge in March of 1862.

“The Struggle for Missouri” is dedicated “To the Union Men of Missouri”, and they get the better end of every argument or controversy in its pages. According to McElroy, the viciousness of the guerrilla war in Missouri was due to one simple fact  –the mass of non-slaveholding secessionists were “White Trash” with a “dog-like fidelity” to the slaveholding upper-class secessionists. Just in case the reader might miss this vital point the first time, McElroy drives it home again and again, using “White Trash” nine times in his first chapter before settling down to just the occasional mention thereafter.  This class was so relatively numerous in Missouri, according to McElroy, because most of the nice folk who were pioneering in the first half of the 1800s shunned slaveholding Missouri for more civilized places like Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas.

Despite McElroy’s “White Trash” obsession, “The Struggle for Missouri” does have virtues.  The plates in it are very nice, with large, striking black & white plates of Union heroes like Blair, Fremont, Sigel, Curtis, and Schofield. There are nice plates of Claiborne Fox Jackson and Sterling Price as well.  There are also two beautiful color plates  –one of the fateful meeting in June of 1861 at the Planter’s Hotel, and another of the St. Louis levy packed with steamboats before the war. McElroy supports his points liberally with more (and more complete) official documents than many other contemporary works on Missouri, though he usually fails to cite exactly where he found them.  His description of the Planter’s Hotel confrontation between Lyon and Price has some poetry to it, and McElroy seems to respect Sterling Price as much as it is in him to respect any Confederate.

Taming the Southern Belles in St. Louis is one of the few light-hearted stories that McElroy relates. To an age less used to euphemisms (whether that be good or bad), when McElroy refers to “ women of the town plying their vocation” and “disreputable women” he is talking about prostitutes. Or perhaps “sex industry workers” would be the current politically correct term (and maybe that euphemism habit isn’t dead yet).


The secessionists of St. Louis had been encouraged by the untoward course of events in the East. After Bull Run had come the shocking disaster of Ball’s Bluff, and with Gen. Price only a short distance away on the Osage threatening Jefferson City and north Missouri, they felt their star in the ascendant, and became unbearably insolent. Gen. Halleck repressed them [in late 1861] with a vigorous hand, yet without causing the wild clamor of denunciation which characterized Gen. Butler’s Administration of New Orleans.

It will be remembered that at that time it was thought quite the thing for young Secessionist women to show their “spirit” and their devotion to the South by all manner of open insult to the Yankee soldiers. Spitting at them, hurling epithets of abuse, and contemptuously twitching aside their skirts were regarded as quite the correct thing in the good society of which these young ladies were the ornaments. This had become so intolerable in New Orleans, that Gen. Butler felt constrained to issue his famous order directing that women so offending should be treated as “women of the town plying their vocation.” This was made the pretext of “firing the Southern heart” to an unwarranted degree, and Jeff Davis issued a proclamation of outlawry against Ben Butler, with a reward for his head.

Sanguine Secessionists hoped that this “flagrant outrage” by “Beast Butler” would be sufficient cause for the recognition of the Southern Confederacy by France and England.

Gen. Halleck met the same difficulty as Butler very shrewdly. The Chief of Police of St. Louis had some measure of control over the disreputable women of the city, and made law for them. Under Gen Halleck’s order he instructed these women to vie with and exceed their respectable sisters in their manifestations of hostility to the Union cause and of devotion to the South. Where the fair young ladies of the Southern aristocracy were wearing Secession rosettes as big as a rose, the women of the demimonde sported them as big as a dahlia or sunflower. Where the young belle gave a little graceful twitch to her skirts to prevent any possible contamination by touching a passing Yankee, the other class flirted theirs’ aside in the most immodest way. It took but a few days of this to make the exuberant young ladies of uncontrollable rebel proclivities discard their Secession rosettes altogether, and subside into dignified, self-respecting persons, who took no more notice of a passing Union soldier than they did of a lamp-post or tree-box.

Meeting at the Planters House

from "Struggle for Missouri" by McElroyThe Meeting at the Planters House

by

John McElroy

Excerpted and introduced by G.E. Rule, from “The Struggle for Missouri”, John McElroy, 1909


In 1863, at the age of sixteen, John McElroy joined an Illinois cavalry regiment. Six months later he was taken prisoner and remained so until the end of the war, spending much of the time at the infamous Andersonville prison. In 1879 he wrote a book about his experiences, “Andersonville: A Story of Rebel Military Prisons. Fifteen Months a Guest of the so-called Southern Confederacy”. In 1909 he was back with “Struggle for Missouri”, with little of his anti-Confederate heat dissipated. This book starts with a Missouri-centric history of the slavery controversy from the founding of the Republic and continues thru the Battle of Pea Ridge in March of 1862.

“The Struggle for Missouri” is dedicated “To the Union Men of Missouri”, and they get the better end of every argument or controversy in its pages. According to McElroy, the viciousness of the guerrilla war in Missouri was due to one simple fact –the mass of non-slaveholding secessionists were “White Trash” with a “dog-like fidelity” to the slaveholding upper-class secessionists. Just in case the reader might miss this vital point the first time, McElroy drives it home again and again, using “White Trash” nine times in his first chapter before settling down to just the occasional mention thereafter. This class was so relatively numerous in Missouri, according to McElroy, because most of the nice folk who were pioneering in the first half of the 1800s shunned slaveholding Missouri for more civilized places like Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas.

Despite McElroy’s “White Trash” obsession, “The Struggle for Missouri” does have virtues. The plates in it are very nice, with large, striking black & white plates of Union heroes like Blair, Fremont, Sigel, Curtis, and Schofield. There are nice plates of Claiborne Fox Jackson and Sterling Price as well. There are also two beautiful color plates –one of the fateful meeting in June of 1861 at the Planter’s Hotel, and another of the St. Louis levy packed with steamboats before the war. McElroy supports his points liberally with more (and more complete) official documents than many other contemporary works on Missouri, though he usually fails to cite exactly where he found them. His description of the Planter’s Hotel confrontation between Lyon and Price has some poetry to it, and McElroy seems to respect Sterling Price as much as it is in him to respect any Confederate.

Missouri Civil War Reader CD-ROM

Missouri Civil War Reader, Volume I now available

Cost per CD ROM is $24.95 + $4.00 priority mail shipping

“The Meeting at the Planters House” describes the fateful confrontation that was the demarcation between imperfect and uneasy peace in Missouri and outright war between Secessionists and Unionists. McElroy’s account calls on both Union and Secessionist first-hand observers to give one of the most complete and detailed descriptions of the meeting to be found. Being McElroy, and unable to do otherwise, he gives the Union side the best of it, and his description of Governor Jackson in particular makes not the slightest effort to be fair.

It seems unlikely that either side had much hope for the meeting, and that it is much more likely that both only agreed to it in hopes of maneuvering the public blame for War onto the shoulders of the other. Jackson and Price certainly would have liked to have bought more time for the Missouri State Guard to organize, but one of Lyon’s rock-ribbed demands was the immediate dispersion of the Guard. It is highly unlikely that any agreement that could have been reached would have lasted for more than a month or two, if that long.


Gov. Jackson and Gen. Price did not lose all heart at the change of commanders [from Harney to Lyon]. They seemed to have hopes that they might in some way mold Lyon to their wishes as they had Harney, and sought an interview with him. Gen. Lyon was not averse to an interview, and sent to Jackson and Price the following passport:

Headquarters, Department of the West

St. Louis, June 8th, 1861

It having haven suggested that Gov. Claiborne F. Jackson and ex-Gov. Sterling Price are desirous of an interview with Gen. Lyon, commanding this Department, for the purpose of effecting, if possible, a pacific solution of the domestic troubles of Missouri, it is hereby stipulated on the part of Brig.-Gen. N. Lyon, U.S.A., commanding this Military Department, that, should Gov. Jackson or ex-Gov. Price, or either of them, at any time prior to or on the 12th day of June, 1861, visit St. Louis for the purpose of such interview, they and each of them shall be free from molestation or arrest on account of any charges pending against them, or either of them, on the part of the United States, during their journey to St. Louis and their return to Jefferson City.

Given under the hand of the General commanding, the day and year above written.

N. Lyon

Brigadier-General, Commanding

According, on June 11th, 1861, Price and Jackson arrived at St. Louis by special train from Jefferson City, put up at the Planters’ House, and informed Gen. Lyon of their arrival. The old State pride cropped out in a little dispute as to which should call upon the other. Jackson as Planters House 1859Governor of the “sovereign and independent” State of Missouri and Price as Major-General commanding the forces, felt it was due them that Lyon, a Brigadier-General in the United States service, should visit them rather than they him at the Arsenal. Lyon’s soul going direct to the heart of the matter, was above these technicalities, waved them aside impatiently, and said that he would go to the Planters’ House and call on them.

Accompanied by Col. Frank P. Blair and Maj. Conant, of his Staff, he went at once to the Planters’ House, and there ensued a four hours’ interview of mightiest consequences to the State and the Nation.

Jackson and Price were accompanied by Col. Thomas L. Snead, then an Aid of the Governor, afterward Acting Adjutant-General of the Missouri State Guards, Chief of Staff of the Army of the West, and a member of the Confederate Congress. He makes this statement as to the opening of the conference:

“Lyon opened it by saying that the discussion on the part of his Government ‘would be conducted by Col. Blair, who enjoyed its confidence in the very highest degree, and was authorized to speak for it.’ Blair was, in fact, better fitted than any man in the Union to discuss with Jackson and Price the grave questions then at issue between the United States and the State of Missouri, and in all her borders there were no men better fitted than they to speak for Missouri on that momentous occasion.

“But despite the modesty of his opening, Lyon was too much in earnest, too zealous, too well informed on the subject, too aggressive, and too fond of disputation to let Blair conduct the discussion on the part of his Government. In half an hour it was he who was conducting it, holding his own at every point against Jackson and Price, masters though they were of Missouri politics, whose course they had been directing and controlling for years, while he was only the Captain of an infantry regiment on the Plains. He had not, however, been a mere soldier in those days, but had been an earnest student of the very questions that he was no discussing, and he comprehended the matter as well as any man, and handled it in the soldierly way to which he had been bred, using the sword to cut the knots that he could not untie.”

Really the interview soon became a parley between the two strong men who were quickly to draw their swords upon one another. The talking men, the men of discussion and appeal passed out, and the issue was in the hands of the men who were soon to hurl the mighty weapons of war.

JacksonJackson, who was a light, facile politician, used to moving public assemblies which were already of his mind, had but little to say in the hours of intense parley, but interjected from time to time with parrot-like reiteration, that the United States troops must leave the State and not enter it. “I will then disband my own troops and we shall certainly have peace.”

BlairBlair, an incomparably stronger man, but still a politician and rather accustomed to accomplishing results by speeches and arguments, soon felt himself obscured by the mightier grasp and earnestness of Lyon, and took little further part. There remained, then, the stern, portentous parley between Lyon and Price, who weighed their words, intending to make every one of them good by deadly blows. They looked into one another’s eyes with set wills, between which were the awful consequences of unsheathed swords.

Gen. Price stated at some length his proposals, and claimed that he had carried out his understanding with Gen. Harney in good faith, not violating it one iota.

Gen. Lyon asked him sharply how that could be, according to Gen. Harney’s second proclamation in which he denounced the Military Bill [recently passed by the State of Missouri] as unconstitutional and treasonable?

Gen. Price replied that he had made no agreement whatever with Gen. Harney about the enforcement or carrying out of the Military Bill.

Gen. Lyon answered this by presenting a copy of the following memorandum which had been sent by Gen. Harney as the only basis on which he would treat with Jackson and Price:

Memorandum for Gen. Price –May 21, 1861

Gen. Harney is here as a citizen of Missouri, with all his interests at stake in the preservation of the peace of the State.

He earnestly wishes to do nothing to complicate matters, and will do everything in his power, consistently with his instructions, to preserve peace and order.

He is, however, compelled to recognize the existence of a rebellion in a portion of the United States, and in view of it he stands upon the proclamation of the President itself, based upon the laws and Constitution of the United States.

The proclamation demands the dispersion of all armed bodies hostile to the supreme law of the land.

Gen. Harney sees in the Missouri Military Bill features which compel him to look upon such armed bodies as may be organized under its provisions as antagonistic to the United States, with the meaning of the proclamation, and calculated to precipitate a conflict between the State and the United States.

He laments the tendency of things, and most cordially and earnestly invites the cooperation of Gen. Price to avert it.

For this purpose, Gen. Harney respectfully asks Gen. Price to review the features of the bill, in the spirit of law, warmed and elevate by that of humanity, and seek to discover some means by which its action may be suspended until some competent tribunal shall decide upon its character.

The most material features of the bill calculated to bring about a conflict are, first, the oath required to be taken by the Militia and State Guards (an oath of allegiance to the State of Missouri without recognizing the existence of the Government of the United States); and, secondly, the express requirements by which troops within the State not organized under the provisions of the Military Bill are to be disarmed by the State Guards.

Gen. Harney cannot be expected to await a summons to surrender his arms by the State troops.

From this statement of the case the true question becomes immediately visible and cannot be shut out of view.

Gen. Price is earnestly requested to consider this, and Gen. Harney will be happy to confer with him on the subject whenever it may suit his convenience.

N.B. –Read to Gen. Price in the presence of Maj. H.S. Turner, on the evening of the 21st of May.

Naturally this threw Gen. Price into much confusion, and his face reddened with mortification, but after a few minutes he said that he did not remember hearing the paper read; that it was true that Hitchcock and Turner had come from Gen. Harney to see him, but he could recall nothing any such paper being presented. The discussion grew warmer as Gen. Lyon felt more strongly the force of his position. Gen. Price insisted that no armed bodies of Union troops should pass through or be stationed in Missouri, as such would occasion civil war. He asserted that Missouri must be neutral, and neither side should arm. Gov. Jackson would protect the Union men and would disband his State troops.

Gen. Lyon opposed this by saying, in effect:

That if the Government withdrew its forces entirely, secret and subtle measures would be resorted to to provide arms and perfect organizations which, upon any pretext, could put forth a formidable opposition to the General Government; and even without arming, combinations would doubtless form in certain localities, to press and drive out loyal citizens, to whom the Government was bound to give protection, but which it would be helpless to do, as also to repress such combinations, if its forces could not be sent into the State. A large aggressive force might be formed and advanced from the exterior into the State, to assist it in carrying out the Secession program; and the Government could not, under the limitation proposed, take posts on these borders to meet and repel such force. The Government could not shrink from its duties nor abdicate its corresponding right; and, in addition to the above, it was the duty of its civil officers to execute civil process, and in case of resistance to receive the support of military force. The proposition of the Governor would at once overturn the Government privileges and prerogatives, which he (Gen. Lyon) had neither the wish nor the authority to do. In his opinion, if the Governor and the State authorities would earnestly set about to maintain the peace of the State, and declare their purposes to resist outrages upon loyal citizens of the Government, and repress insurrections against it, and in case of violent combinations, needing cooperation of the United States troops, they should call upon or accept such assistance, and in case of threatened invasion the Government troops took suitable posts to meet it, the purposes of the Government would be subserved, and no infringement of the State rights or dignity committed. He would take good care, win such faithful cooperation of the State authorities to this end, that no individual should be injured in person or property and that the utmost delicacy should be observed toward all peaceable persons concerned in these relations.”

Gen. Lyon based himself unalterably upon this proposition, and could not be moved from it by anything Price or Jackson could say.

Gov. Jackson entered into the discussion again to suggest that they separate and continue the conference further by correspondence; but Lyon, who felt vividly that the main object of the Secessionists was to gain time to perfect their plans, rejected this proposition, but said that the was quite willing that all those present should reduce their views to writing and publish them; which, however, did not strike Jackson and Price favorably. As to the close of the interview, Maj. Conant says:

“As Gen. Lyon was about to take his leave, he said: ‘Gov. Jackson, no man in the State of Missouri has been more ardently desirous of preserving peace than myself. Heretofore Missouri has only felt the fostering care of the Federal Government, which has raised her from the condition of a feeble French colony to that of an empire State. Now, however, from the failure on the part of the Chief Executive to comply with constitutional requirements, I fear she will be made to feel its power. Better, sir, far better, that the blood of every man, woman and child of the State should flow that that she should successfully defy the Federal Government.’”

Col. Snead has published this account of the close of the conference:

“Finally, when the conference had lasted four or five hours, Lyon closed it, as he had opened it, ‘Rather,’ said he (he was still seated, and spoke deliberately, slowly, and with a peculiar emphasis), ‘rather than concede to the State of Missouri the right to demand that my Government shall not enlist troops within her limits, or bring troops into the State whenever it pleases, or move its troops at its own will into, out of, or through the State; rather than concede to the State of Missouri for one single instant the right to dictate to my Government in any matter however unimportant, I would (rising as he said this and pointing in turn to every one in the room) see you, and you, and you, and you, and every man, woman, and child in the State, dead and buried.’

“Then turning to the Governor, he said: ‘This means war. In an hour one of my officers will call for you and conduct you out of my lines.’

“And then, without another word, without an inclination of the head, without even a look, he turned upon his heel and strode out of the room, rattling his spurs and clanking his saber, while we, whom he left, and who had known each other for years, bade farewell to each other courteously and kindly, and separated –Blair and Conant to fight for the Union, we for the land of our birth.”

When the great American painter shall arise, one of the grandest of themes for his pencil will be that destiny-shaping conference on that afternoon in June, 1861. He will show the face of Gov. Jackson as typical of the class of Southern politicians who raised the storm from the unexpected violence of which they retreated in dismay. There will be more than a suggestion of this in Jackson’s expression and attitude. He entered the conference full of his official importance as the head of the great Sovereign Sate, braving the whole United States, and quite complacent as to his own powers of diction and argument. He quickly subsided, however, from the leading character occupying the center of the stage to that of chorus in the wings, in the deadly grapple of men of mightier purpose –Lyon and Price, who were to ride the whirlwind he had been contriving, and rule the storm he had been instrumental in raising.

Even Blair, immeasurably stronger mentally and morally than Jackson –Blair, tall, sinewy, alert, with face and pose revealing the ideal leader that he was—even he felt the presence of stronger geniuses, and lapsed into silence.

The time for talking men was past. Captains of host were now uttering the last stern words, which meant the crash of battle and the death and misery of myriads. Hereafter voices would be swords, and arguments flame from the brazen mouths of cannon hot with slaughter.

General Sterling PriceSterling Price, white-haired, large of frame, imposing, benignant, paternal, inflexible as to what he considered principle, was to point the way which 100,000 young Missourians were to follow through a thousand red battlefields.

General Nathaniel LyonNathaniel Lyon, short of stature, red-haired, in the prime of manhood and perfected soldiership, fiery, jealous for his country’s rights and dignity, was to set another 100,000 young Missourians in battle array against their opponents, to fight them to complete overthrow.

After they withdrew from the conference, Gov. Jackson, as Price’s trumpeter, sounded the call “to arms” in a proclamation to the people of Missouri.