Father Bannon – Bio by James M Gallen

Father Bannon

by James M. Gallen

Jim Gallen is an attorney practicing in St. Louis. He is a member of the Wm. T. Sherman/Billy Yank Camp No. 65 of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. He has written numerous articles on the Civil War and other historical topics which have been published in newsletters and posted on websites across the country.

“John B. Bannon: Chaplain, Soldier and Diplomat” previously published in “The Christian Banner”, Vol. XV, #1, 1999; Bushwacker (Civil War Round Table of St. Louis), Vol. IV, #93, October 25, 2000; Bugle Call Echoes, San Joaquin Valley Civil War Round Table, Vol. IX, No. 3, March, 2001.


JOHN B. BANNON:
CHAPLAIN, SOLDIER AND DIPLOMAT

by
James M. Gallen
Father BannonRev. John B. Bannon was one of the most prominent and respected chaplains to serve in the Civil War. General Sterling Price, whose men he served, remarked: “I have no hesitancy in saying that the greatest soldier I ever saw was Father Bannon.” Father Bannon’s service to the Confederacy as chaplain, soldier and diplomat makes his story one worth telling.

Like so many of the troops who fought in the Civil War, Father Bannon’s story did not begin in America. He was born on December 29, 1829 in Roosky, Ireland. He was ordained into the priesthood at Maynooth, County Kildare, in May, 1853. He volunteered to follow so may of his countrymen who had fled famine and sought a new life in America. He chose to serve the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri whose Archbishop, Peter Kenrick, was also a son of Ireland.

St. John's Catholic Church, St. LouisFather Bannon was soon recognized as one of the leading clergymen in St. Louis, and in 1858, was assigned as pastor of the new parish of St. John the Apostle on the then west end of the city. While there he supervised the building of the church building.

In the St. Louis area, which Father Bannon served, he became a prominent leader of the Irish community, many of whom joined him when he went to war. The coming of the War found St. Louis, a deeply divided community. Archbishop Kenrick attempted to guide his divided flock by adopting a policy of neutrality toward the war which surrounded him. In support of this policy Kenrick discouraged his priests from serving as chaplains for either army. Father Bannon, however, could not be dissuaded,

Father Bannon’s military career commenced in November, 1860 when he joined Captain Kelly’s Washington Blues as a chaplain in its response to a call for militia troops to defend western Missouri from raiders from “Bloody Kansas.” The campaign was short and Father Bannon was back in St. Louis by the first Sunday of December, 1860.

After the firing on Fort Sumter, St. Louis began to polarize into two armed camps. In early May, Bannon remained close to Captain Kelly’s troops at Camp Jackson on the western edge of the city. After the surrender of Camp Jackson its troops, including Bannon, became prisoners of the Federal forces until release on May 11, 1861. Bannon returned to St. John’s where he remained until December 15, 1861. At the time of his departure Bannon was targeted for arrest by Federal authorities due to the views which he had expressed from the pulpit. On the night of the 15th, Bannon snuck out of the back door in disguise and a false beard, while Federal officials entered the front door. He then continued his clandestine journey across Missouri to Springfield where he became a member of the “Patriot Army of Missouri,” under the command of General Sterling Price. He then commenced his service as a chaplain, initially voluntary, to the First Missouri Confederate Brigade.

Bannon remained with the First Missouri Confederate Brigade until August 4, 1863. He and the rest of the Brigade had been taken prisoner at the fall of Vicksburg. Although not officially paroled, Bannon was released and went to Mobile and then on to Richmond.

Although his main service was to the Irish Catholic members of the First Missouri, some of whom had been parishioners at St. John’s, Bannon was widely respected in the army. He quickly earned the title of “the Catholic priest who always went into battle.” In accord with instructions to remain in the rear, it was the practice of may Confederate chaplains to pray with their men before battle and then remain in the rear to comfort the wounded  Bannon, however, believed that the chaplains who shared their men’s hardships and dangers “were much respected by all the men, whether Catholics or not; for they saw that [I] did not shrink from danger or labor to assist them.” In his view the practice of many chaplains caused them to become “frequently objects of derision, always disappearing on the eve of an action, when they would stay behind in some farm house till all was quiet.”

At the battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas, Bannon was seen to be in the thick of the action. As firing continued, Father Bannon was seen to be blessing, standing or kneeling with soldiers, and administering the last rites to the dying. His service during this battle led General Price to comment: “The greatest soldier I ever saw was Father Bannon. In the midst of the fray he would step in and take up a fallen soldier. If he were a Catholic, he would give him the rites of the Church; if a Protestant, and if he desired, he would baptize him.” Toward the end of the battle Bannon met general Van Dorn who ordered him to the rear. Bannon refused an order to move to the field hospitals, even under thereat of arrest, responding, “I can attend there later. I must attend now to those who are not able to be removed from the field.” Bannon explained his understanding of his duty when he wrote, “I am doing God’s work, and He has no use for cowards or skilkers. A Catholic priest must do his duty and never consider the time or place. If I am killed, I am not afraid to meet my fate. I am in God’s keeping. His holy will be done.”

The nights before a battle were busy ones for Bannon. Throughout the night he, “Would go up to a watch-fire, and waking one of the men, called him aside, hear his confession, and send him to summon another. The whole night would be spent thus in going from campfire to campfire. The men were always willing to come, generally too glad of the opportunity; some would even be watching for me.” When the night was over and the hour for the battle had arrived, Father Bannon had to substitute group for individual service. “When the time came for advancing, I made a sigh for them all to kneel, and gave them absolution (and) I then went to the second line, or the reserve, till it was their turn also to advance.” It was reported that “no men fight more bravely than Catholics who approach the sacraments before battle.” Bannon only reported one soldier who evaded his service.  An Irish Catholic artillery gunner declined because he had been long from the Sacraments and was afraid of confession.” Father Bannon tried to win him over with the assurance: “Come, man, I know what a soldier’s confession is.” Unfortunately the soldier refused reconciliation and was killed the next day.

Father Bannon’s support of the Confederate cause was based on deeply felt principles. His feelings derived from three influences, ethnic, religious and a general observation of the state of America in his day.

Among many Irish-Americans of his day, a parallel was seen between the British desire to impose its culture and will on Ireland and the efforts of the North to impose its standards on the South. This identification of the North as the oppressor led many Irish-Americans to support the Confederacy.

The circumstances prevalent in St. Louis led some Catholics to identify abolitionism with anti-Catholicism. Many Germans who had participated in the revolutions in Europe in 1848 had immigrated to St. Louis. In their struggles in Europe for freedom and the unification of Germany, their main enemy had been the Austrian Empire, which was identified with Catholicism. The hostility of the German community toward the Irish and its prominence in the Union cause in St. Louis drove many Irish Catholics, including Father Bannon, into the Confederate camp.

His observation of Northern and Southern society also led Bannon to his decision to support the Confederacy. In Bannon’s view the issue could be defined in terms of good versus evil and the forces of light against the darkness. His view of the struggle was revealed in his sermons. The Southerners were God’s chosen people while the Unionists were the Egyptians or philistines. He preached that the struggle was on between “the cross and the crescent, for which the last, the Yankee substitutes the dollar; a war between materialism and infidelity of the North, and the remnant of Christian civilization yet dominant in the South.” The clash between an industrial and an agrarian culture, again reminiscent of the struggle between Britain and Ireland, was on over the future development of North America. Bannon clearly shared the Southern vision.

Jefferson DavisFather Bannon’s service to the Confederacy did not end when he left the First Missouri Brigade. At the time of his visit to Richmond, one of the main military problems facing the Confederacy was the growing imbalance in military strength due in part to the influx of immigrants, many of them Irish, into the Union Army. On August 30, 1863, Bannon was surprised to receive a request from President Jefferson Davis to meet him at the President’s house.  During the visit President Davis asked Bannon to undertake a secret diplomatic mission to Ireland to discourage Irish immigrants from enlisting in the Union Army. In further conversation with Davis and Secretary of War Judah Benjamin, Bannon suggested that his mission be expanded to include an attempt to persuade the Papal States to extend recognition to the Confederacy. It was hoped that recognition by one European state would induce others to follow.

Bannon left America on October 3, 1863 aboard the Robert E. Lee. After arriving in Liverpool, England, Bannon headed for Italy. While in the Vatican he was accorded several long audiences with Pope Pius IX, during which he argued the Confederate cause. Although formal recognition was not obtained, the Pope did speak warmly of the Confederacy. In early December, Pope Pius did send a letter addressed “to the Illustrious and Honorable Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.”  This was taken as a defacto recognition by many and generated widespread outrage in the North.  It would also be helpful in Bannon’s mission in Ireland.

VaticanAfter the conclusion of the Vatican effort, Bannon returned to his native Isle in October, 1863. His first duty was to write long letters to the families of fifty or sixty Irish natives who had died while fighting for the First Missouri. Bannon them approached his diplomatic mission with zeal.  He found that his mission to the Vatican increased his acceptance among the Irish clergy to circulate handbills at the major ports of departure. The handbill reported that the Irish immigrant would be cajoled to join the union Army and be sent to be slaughtered in a “fight for a People that has the greatest antipathy to his birth and creed.” Besides the handbills, Bannon employed a series of large posters which were  nailed up in major ports and on the Churches of Cublin. The most effective poster, employed in 1864 contained the exchange of letters between Pope Pius IX and Judah BenjaminPresident Davis and a letter from Bannon. After he had won over the upper and middle classes, Bannon made an effort to reach the common people, who provided the recruits. To do this he sent a copy of his poster to every parish priest in Ireland. The poster was entitled “remnant of Christian civilization was yet dominant in the South.” He concluded his statement with the assertion; “As a priest of the Catholic Church, I am anxious to see the desires of the Holy Father realized speedily, and therefore have taken this means to lay before you the expression of his sentiments on the subject of the American War, knowing that no Catholic will persevere in the advocacy of an aggression condemned by his Holiness.”

The campaign by Bannon was highly effective. It is estimated the Irish recruits for the Union Army dropped two-thirds between December, 1863 and May, 1864. On May 28, 1864 Bannon reported to Secretary of State Benjamin that his money was exhausted and his mission complete. Benjamin had expressed his gratitude for the services provided by Bannon.

Bannon never returned to America. After the war he was prohibited by law from preaching at St. John’s Church. He joined the Jesuit order, of which he was one of its most distinguished Irish members until his death on July 14, 1913. Although he is little remembered in America, his legacy lives on in St. John’s Church which continues to serve the people of downtown St. Louis.

For more information of Father Bannon see:

Rock Champion

Rock Champion

Knight of the South

by Robert L. Durham

Robert L. Durham works as a computer specialist for the Defense Logistics Agency , mainly working Security Assistance for foreign countries. He has recently returned to college studying for a history degree. He has had articles published in “The Alamo Journal,” and in “The Journal of the Alamo Society.”  The two articles in “The Alamo Journal” will be included in a “best of” compilation due out in March 2002. He’s also had book reviews published in “True West,” “Muzzleloader,” and “The Alamo Journal” and is on the book review staff of “The Civil War News.”

Robert L. Durham has an article currently available in the February issue of “Wild West” titled “Flashing Sabers at Solomon’s Fork.”

J. Rock Champion was destined to become a hero — with such a name, how could he be other? In his short life, he won the hearts of his superiors in the Confederate Army, and became almost a legend among the men he served with. When his body was carried off the field of his final battle, the gray-clad soldiers who had served under him or beside him, took note of his passing almost as if he had been a famous commander, of much higher rank than a mere captain of cavalry.

Practically nothing is known about Rock Champion’s early life. There is not even a certainty about his first name, being recorded as both John and James. Rock may not even have been his middle name, but a nickname for Rockne. The only thing that can be said with any degree of certainty is that he was an Irish immigrant. [Note: I recently found him listed in the 1857 St. Louis Directory. Champion was a steamboat mate listed as living at the King’s Hotel. –D. H. Rule]

Missouri, a border state, was fairly evenly split between settlers from the northern states and those from the southern states. In the months preceding the Civil War, St. Louis, Missouri was a hotbed of conflicting passions, sharply divided on ethnic lines. Many settlers from Europe settled in St. Louis, most of them from Germany and Ireland. The German immigrants, by and large, sided with the Union while their Irish counterparts sided with the newly forming Confederacy.

The majority of the German immigrants were Lutherans, refugees from the 1848 Peasant Revolution, many of them anti-Catholic. The Peasant Revolution was an attempt to establish a centralized government in Germany, based upon Marxist principles. They naturally sided with the strong Federal Government advocated by the Republican Party of the middle 1800s. The Irish immigrants, on the other hand, opposed a strong centralized government because they had fled a strong British government in Ireland. Almost exclusively Democratic, the St. Louis Irish supported the rights of the states to leave the Union. [1]

The Missouri governor, Democrat Claiborne Fox Jackson, and most of the other Democratic legislators threw their complete support to the seceded states. In a State Convention, they declared that any effort to try to coerce these states back into the Union would cause Missouri to rally to the side of those states, in resistance to the Northern invaders. However, an effort to force a vote for Missouri’s secession met with failure because it failed to win support from conservatives, among them the future Confederate general, Sterling Price.

Francis P. Blair, Jr., leader of Missouri’s Republicans, formed the St. Louis Unionists into militia units, called Home Guards or Wide Awakes. The majority of the members of these units were Germans, and a great many had European military training. In response, the secessionists formed their own militia units, calling themselves Minute Men. Two of the southern leaders were Kentuckian Basil W. Duke and South Carolinian Colton Greene. Another leader of the Minute Men was J. Rock Champion. Described as “a big-hearted, big-bodied Irishman”, the six feet two inch giant was a natural leader of men. [2] On 13 February, he was elected Lieutenant of Company F, the Jackson Grays.

The opposing units started drilling soon after the election of Abraham Lincoln. The Minute Men were casting covetous eyes on the huge stash of weapons stored in the U. S. arsenal in St. Louis. Not trusting the loyalties of the arsenal commander, Frank Blair succeeded in getting Captain Nathaniel Lyon’s Company B of the 2nd U. S. Infantry transferred to St. Louis from Fort Riley, Kansas. The Minute Men felt they had to do something in retaliation. Since a Confederate banner had not yet been adopted, they had improvised two secessionist flags, on which they had “blazoned . . . every conceivable thing that was suggestive of a Southern meaning.” They mounted the flags over their headquarters building. In the pre-dawn darkness of the morning of 4 March 1861, Rock Champion, Basil Duke, Colton Greene, Arthur McCoy, and James Quinlan went quietly through the city to the Federal courthouse. “Champion and Quinlan undertook to place one of these flags on the very summit of the courthouse dome, and did so at great risk to neck and limb.”

The next morning, when the Unionist elements of the town discovered the secessionist symbols, there was no question of the identity of the guilty parties. The Wide Awakes assembled and marched to the headquarters of the Minute Men, where they demanded the removal of the improvised flag. The St. Louis police department, fearing that they would not be able to prevent a conflict between the Wide Awakes and the Minute Men, called on the state militia for assistance. The mayor of St. Louis, O. D. Filley, appealed to the leaders of the Minute Men to take down the flag to prevent needless bloodshed. Rock Champion helpfully “suggested that the mayor should call on his fire department and turn out the engines to throw water on the crowd, which he . . . thought would certainly cause it to disperse.” The mayor, naturally, refused to except his proposal. There was much yelling, some pushing and shoving, and some fist fights between individuals. Finally, the Wide Awake mob abandoned the fight, and left the Minute Men to fly their flag unhindered. [3]

In the aftermath of Fort Sumter, President Lincoln called for troops to help suppress the rebellion. Governor Jackson, an ardent southern sympathizer, refused. Jackson then sent a letter to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, requesting cannon to use in an assault on the Federal arsenal. He sent Basil Duke and Colton Greene to Montgomery, Alabama to receive delivery of the arms and transport them to St. Louis. [4]

President Lincoln appointed Nathaniel Lyon a brigadier general, and assigned him the task of circumventing the plans of the southern sympathizers. Under orders from the War Department, Lyon formed five companies of U. S. Volunteers and five companies of U. S. Reserves. Lyon emptied the arsenal by using the weapons it contained to arm these troops, transporting the few remaining firearms to Alton, Illinois for safe keeping. Since the Governor’s plans for capturing the arsenal were effectively stymied by Lyon, Jackson ordered state militia general Daniel M. Frost to establish a training camp, which he named Camp Jackson. On 10 May 1861, Lyon led 7,000 troops to capture the camp, which contained less than 700 men. General Lyon succeeded in taking the camp, but a short, bloody struggle with secessionist protestors resulted in the deaths of 28 citizens, two women and a baby among them. [5]

Camp Jackson riot

riot following Camp Jackson, illustration from Harper’s Magazine

Outmaneuvered at every turn, on 1 June, Governor Jackson called for 50,000 volunteers for the Missouri State Guard, and sent a request to President Davis to send an army to Missouri to support the secessionists. Two weeks later, on 14 June, General Lyon moved against Jefferson City, the state capital. The state government fled without a fight. [6]

The Confederates, under the command of newly commissioned General Sterling Price, regrouped in southwestern Missouri. Price busily organized his men into regiments and brigades. Champion was elected Captain of Company B, Joseph Kelly’s “Fighting Irish” Infantry Regiment, 6th Division, Missouri State Guard. Brigadier General Mosby Monroe Parsons was appointed to command the 6th Division. On 5 July, the Missourians attacked and defeated a Federal volunteer force at Carthage, Missouri. General Parsons reported, “it is due that I should call to your excellency’s especial notice the ability and daring of Colonel Kelly, of my regiment of infantry, and all the officers under his command.” [7]

Troops from Arkansas under Brigadier General N. Bart Pearce, and other soldiers from Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana commanded by Brigadier General Ben McCulloch, soon joined the Missourians. In early August, the Confederates were ready to strike back at the Federals, and moved toward Springfield, Missouri. On the morning of 10 August 1861, the combined Federal forces of Lyon and Franz Sigel attacked the Confederates, resulting in a bloody clash of arms at Oak Hill, or Wilson’s Creek. Colonel Kelly temporarily commanded Parson’s Division during the battle and Lieutenant Colonel Stephen O. Coleman led his regiment. When Coleman was mortally wounded, Captain Champion assumed command of the regiment for the remainder of the battle. [8]

The independent minded Ben McCulloch refused to cooperate further with General Price, and Price’s Missourians went on alone to reoccupy Springfield. Sterling Price now led his command north, gathering new volunteers for his army along the way. On 2 September, a Kansas Brigade under Brigadier General J. H. Lane attempted to halt Price’s column at Dry Wood Creek, Missouri. General Parson deployed his artillery and ordered his infantry to charge the Kansans. Colonel Kelly had been wounded in the hand at Wilson’s Creek, [9] so Champion still commanded the regiment. Encouraging his men, “forward my brave boys of Carthage and Springfield,” he led them against the Jayhawkers. A history of Vernon County, Missouri tells of him, standing six feet, two inches in his long cavalry boots, “raging like a mad bull up and down the line of file closers, yelling ‘aim low!’” The Northern soldiers retreated, abandoning the road to the Missourians. [10]

General Lane, afraid that Price’s soldiers were embarked on an invasion of Kansas, posted his Kansas Brigade at Fort Scott and Barnesville, in hopes of blocking the Missourians. However, Price moved, instead, toward Lexington, Missouri. Lane received intelligence, on 5 September, that this was happening, but he was still convinced that the move on Lexington could be no more than a feint, and that Price would soon be “moving to the rear for the purpose of crossing over to the north side in detail.” [11]

Price reached the outskirts of Lexington, in northwest Missouri, on 12 September. A force of approximately 2800 men, with seven six-pounder cannons and two mortars, garrisoned Lexington. Ironically, one of the Federal regiments was the 23rd Illinois Volunteers, known as the “Irish Brigade,” so the siege of Lexington would be partly fought out between opposing Irishmen. [12] The Union forces contested the Confederate advance with skirmishers positioned in cornfields and hedges along the roads into town. [13]

Division Commander, Brigadier General Parsons, formed a line of battle. He placed his artillery under Captain Guibor in the center, Colonel Dills’ Infantry Regiment on the left, and Kelly’s Regiment, with Champion in command, on the right. Brigadier General John B. Clark’s Third Division of the Missouri State Guard, under command of Colonel Congreve Jackson, supported Parsons’ line. Parsons stated, in his Official Report, that Champion “led the Kelly infantry . . . immediately forward after the formation of the line of battle and engaged the enemy in the corn-field, and after a short conflict the enemy were dislodged and retired in the direction of the city.” [14]

Parsons and Clark followed the retreating enemy closely, until they retired within the fortified grounds of the Masonic College. Parsons ordered his artillery to open fire on the Union trenches and the college buildings, keeping up a brisk cannonade until twilight, when he was ordered to withdraw to the Fair Grounds for the night. [15]

The next morning, Wednesday, 18 September, Parsons was ordered to lead his men back into action, and the Confederates began the siege of Lexington in earnest, with Parsons’ division covering the southern approaches. Throughout the 18th and 19th, Guibor’s Artillery Battery pounded the Union defensive works, and Champion’s men skirmished with the Federals, keeping them pinned down. Champion’s men, according to Parsons, “advanced within 150 yards of the enemy’s works and succeeded in firmly establishing themselves on College street, from which they kept up a murderous fire upon the enemy as they would show themselves upon the entrenchment.” [16]

On the morning of 20 September, the Confederate Missourians came up with a novel method of attacking the Union trenches. They constructed a breastwork of hemp bails, which they soaked with water so the enemy could not set them afire with hot shot. Sheltered behind this barricade, covered by sniper fire from the skirmishers of Rock Champion and others, the Rebels began rolling the bales forward toward the enemy line. With ammunition low, and no way of stopping the inexorable Confederate advance, the Union defenders raised a white flag and surrendered unconditionally. In his Official Report of the battle, General Parsons commended “Captain Champion and the officers and soldiers of the Kelly infantry, who rendered most efficient and precious services as skirmishers.” [17]

General John C. Fremont was assigned to take over command of the Union troops in Missouri on 25 July. Fremont commanded almost 40,000 men, and Price abandoned Springfield, retreating back to the southern limits of the state before Fremont’s overwhelming advantage in numbers. Price put his army into winter quarters along the banks of the Sac River near Osceola, Missouri. McCulloch settled in with his troops across the border in Arkansas. Fremont was preparing an advance against the forces of Price and McCulloch when, on 2 November, General David Hunter replaced him. Just before Christmas, Hunter evacuated Springfield and Price reoccupied the town. [18]

On 7 January, Champion was transferred to the cavalry, being appointed captain of Company K, Colonel Robert “Black Bob” McCulloch’s 2nd Regiment, Missouri Cavalry. [19] On January 29th, 1862, Major-General Earl Van Dorn was assigned to command of the District of the Trans-Mississippi. According to Price’s Chief of Staff, Colonel L. Snead, “We Samuel R. Curtis Missourians were delighted; for he was known to be a fighting man, and we felt sure he would help us to regain our State.” [20] Van Dorn’s plans and preparations to retake all of Missouri for the Confederacy were interrupted when the newly formed Union Army of the Southwest, under General Samuel Ryan Curtis advanced against Price’s forces at Springfield. Price abandoned Missouri, moving his troops into Arkansas, arriving near Van Buren on 21 February. Van Dorn linked Price’s Missouri State Guard with McCulloch’s Division, and Brigadier-General Albert Pike’s Indian and Texan brigade. [21]

On 7 March, Van Dorn attacked the Union forces of General Curtis that were gathered around Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Generals McCulloch and Pike led their Confederate units against the Union left flank, troops under Brigadier General Franz Sigel, Colonel Peter J. Osterhaus, and Colonel Jefferson C. Davis, positioned around Leetown. Price’s Missouri State Guard advanced on the Yankee right, against the Union division of Colonel Eugene A. Carr assembled around a picturesque inn called Elkhorn Tavern. Pea Ridge isolated Elkhorn Tavern from Leetown, so the battle developed as two separate conflicts, with no Confederate coordination between their two forces. [22]

Carr’s Federals concentrated their defense around the tavern and outbuildings, placing twenty cannons there to solidify their position. Guibor unlimbered two of his guns in the road in front of the tavern and began an uneven artillery duel with the Yankees. A member of Guibor’s Battery, Hunt P. Wilson, described what happened next:

Now came the crisis. A regiment of United States infantry moved out of the timber on the left front of the guns, about one hundred yards distant, with a small field intervening, the fences around it leveled to the ground. On Guibor’s right was the tavern, on his left a blacksmith’s shop, and in the lot some corncribs. Behind these buildings “Rock” Champion had placed his company of cavalry to protect their horses from thickly flying bullets. Rock’s quick eye saw the bright bayonets as they were pushing through the brush, and, riding up, he yelled in his rough-and-ready style, “Guibor, they’re flankin’ you!” “I know it, but I can’t spare a gun to turn on them,” was the reply. There was no supporting infantry on his left. Said Rock, “I’ll charge them!” This meant to attack a full regiment of infantry advancing in line, 700 or 800 strong, with 22 men. . . Galloping back a few paces to his little band, his clear, ringing voice could be heard by friend and enemy. “Battalion, forward, trot, march, gallop, march, charge!” and with a wild yell in they went, their gallant chief in the lead. . . Within thirty seconds they were right in the midst of the surprised Federal infantry, shouting, slashing, shooting. . . The result was precisely what Champion had foreseen, and proved his reckless courage was directed by good judgement. The attack was a clear surprise, the result a stampede; the infantry fired an aimless, scattering volley, then, expecting a legion of horsemen to fall on them, fled in confusion. Champion did not follow. Knowing when to stop as well as to commence, he secured their flag and quickly returned to the battery which he had saved, with a loss of only three of his gallant rough-riders. [23]

The Confederate troops on the left successfully captured Elkhorn Tavern, their first objective, but the troops on the right were defeated, with the loss of General Ben McCulloch. The battle faded as night came on but continued the next day, with the Rebels ultimately being forced to retreat. Missouri had been saved for the Union. The Confederates would continue to fight for Missouri throughout the remainder of the war, but would never again pose a serious threat to the Federal forces there.

With the war in the trans-Mississippi Confederacy at a stalemate, Van Dorn was ordered to cross the Mississippi River with most of his troops, and join the Confederate soldiers of General Albert Sydney Johnston in Corinth, Mississippi, where they might have a greater effect on the war. They moved as quickly as possible, but did not reach Johnston’s army in time to participate in the Battle of Shiloh. [24]

In the early summer of 1862, the 2nd Missouri Cavalry was attached to General Martin E. Green’s Infantry Brigade, as the thinking in the early stages of the war was that the most effective force was one of combined arms, infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Later, in June, they “were organized into a brigade of cavalry and placed under that brave and efficient general, Frank C. Armstrong . . . The brigade consisted . . . of the 2nd Missouri Cavalry, about one thousand strong . . . of brave young Missourians, without a conscript in the ranks . . .; the 2nd Arkansas Cavalry, some eight hundred numbers, commanded by Colonel Slemmons; the 1st Mississippi Cavalry, about one thousand in numbers, commanded by Colonel Pinson; also the 7th Tennessee Cavalry, a full regiment, commanded by Col. William H. Jackson . . .; and Wirt Adam’s Battalion, and a small battalion commanded by Colonel Saunders. In all, a magnificent body of fighting cavalry, ready and eager to measure arms with the Federal cavalry.” [25] On 20 June, Champion was transferred to command of Company C of the same regiment. [26]

On the 1st of July, Champion’s regiment was involved in a sharp little skirmish with Federal troops at Booneville, Mississippi. On 18 July, the brigade left Tupelo, Mississippi for a raid into Alabama, surprising the Federal garrison at Courtland, Alabama on the 25th. Again, Captain Champion distinguished himself.

Armstrong’s after-action reports states, “Having arrived near Courtland, avoiding all roads as much as possible, I sent two companies under Captain Roddey and a detachment of 60 men, with long-range guns, selected from the several battalions, under Captain Champion, to advance upon the flank. I succeeded, through corn fields and by-paths, in getting within 500 yards of the enemy’s camp, when I charged them with the main body of cavalry, the two commands of Captains Roddey and Champion moving promptly to the positions previously assigned them. The enemy’s infantry fell back under cover of the railroad and fired a volley, but I soon crossed the railroad and charged down it on the north side, which drove them from the trestle work and forced them to take shelter under the bank of a creek, where it was impossible to get at them on horseback. I immediately pushed around some dismounted men to charge them on foot. Seeing this they ceased firing, threw down their arms, and surrendered.” Armstrong’s men succeeded in capturing 133 prisoners, and destroyed the railroad depot and a bridge. [27]

A vital duty of the Confederate Cavalry under General Armstrong was the constant patrolling of the no-man’s land north of Corinth. Troopers from both sides often visited a plantation between the lines, and the Federal Cavalry had taken everything worth taking. On one occasion, the Colonel of a Union Cavalry Regiment “insulted the young lady in a manner so gross that she caused it to be circulated among our cavalry that she would give her hand and fortune to any officer or private who would bring to her satisfactory proof that he had killed this colonel.” [28]

Rock Champion, a knight errant at heart, could hardly resist the plea of this fair Southern maiden. Soon, Colonel McCullough’s 2nd Missouri and the offending colonel’s “regiments faced each other in a hot and furious engagement, during which Cpt Champion, in a hand to hand conflict, killed the Federal Colonel, whose command immediately retreated. The young lady was properly informed of the fate of her enemy and the name of her avenger; she promptly returned a note expressive of her obligation, and declared her readiness to fulfill the pledge she had given. After a brief correspondence, the Captain waited upon the youthful beauty, and was as much struck by her charms, grace and fascination, as he had been by the romantic incidents of her history.” As in every good romance, they were soon betrothed. [29] Edwin C. Bearss believes this story is apocryphal, since there is no record of any senior Federal officers being killed during this time period. [30] This is a good story nonetheless, illustrating how his compatriots were weaving Rock Champion’s daring adventures into a legendary tapestry.

In August, Armstrong led the Missourians and the rest of his brigade on another expedition. Their mission was to “threaten Bolivar [Tennessee], and, if possible, take Jackson and destroy the Mobile and Ohio Railroad.” [31] The brigade left Baldwyn, Mississippi on 22 August with 1600 men, and were reinforced by 1100 more troopers under Colonel William H. “Red” Jackson when they reached Holly Springs. [32] Armstrong pushed on across the Tennessee line on 27 August, moving through Grand Junction and Van Buren, Tennessee toward Bolivar.

Colonel Marcellus M. Crocker commanded the Union garrison at Bolivar. The road south of Bolivar split, the west branch passing through Middleburg to Grand Junction, and the east branch toward Van Buren, Tennessee. On the morning of 30 August, receiving word of the Confederate approach, Crocker ordered Colonel Mortimer Leggett to advance his brigade, consisting of two infantry regiments, one cavalry regiment, and an artillery section, to meet the Confederates on the Van Buren Road. They ran into the 7th Tennessee under “Red” Jackson.

Ordering Jackson to fight a delaying action on the Van Buren Road, Armstrong sent the 2nd Missouri and 2nd Arkansas on a flanking maneuver in an attempt to outflank the Federals on the Grand Junction Road through Middleburg. Leggett shifted part of his force to meet the threat to his flank. The Confederate Cavalry charged three times, but were stopped each time.

Coincidentally with the developing action south of town, a regiment of Federal cavalry, the 2nd Illinois under Colonel Harvey Hogg, arrived in Bolivar by train just in time to lend a hand. Crocker ordered Hogg to reinforce Leggett, and he arrived just as the Rebels of the 2nd Missouri were preparing for their fourth attempt. [33] Colonel Leggett “discovered that a full regiment of cavalry was forming in the rear of those firing upon us, evidently with the determination of charging upon our cavalry and that portion of the infantry on the left of the road. I said to Colonel Hogg if he had any doubt about holding his position he had better fall back and not receive their charge. He promptly replied, ‘Colonel Leggett, for God’s sake don’t order me back.’ I replied, ‘Meet them with a charge, colonel, and may Heaven bless you.’ He immediately ordered his men to draw their sabers, and after giving the order to ‘Forward’ he exclaimed, ‘Give them cold steel, boys.’” [34]

Armstrong, at nearly the same time, ordered his bugler to sound the charge. The 2nd Missouri Confederate Cavalry, with Colonel McCulloch and Captain Rock Champion riding side by side at the head of the column, rode to meet the Federal cavalry, with their sabers drawn. C. Y. Ford, of Company G of the 2nd Missouri, remembered that “our sabers glittering in the bright sunshine made an imposing line of battle. The Yanks were game, and plainly we could hear their bugle sounding the charge.” [35] The two forces met in a confusing tangle of revolver and carbine shots, and clashing sabers. [36] Among the first to fall was Captain Rock Champion, killed instantly with a shot through the forehead. [37]

The Confederates were driven back in this charge but rallied and finally emerged victorious, forcing the Union soldiers back into the defenses of Bolivar. The Official Report of General Sterling Price, commanding the Army of the West, said that Van Dorn’s troopers “drove them back with heavy loss, killing and wounding a large number and capturing 73 prisoners.” Armstrong bypassed Bolivar, going on to cross the Hatchie River, take “possession of the railroad for more than thirty hours, during which time he destroyed all the bridges and a mile of trestle work. Returning, he encountered the enemy in force near Denmark, attacked and routed them, killing and wounding about 75 of them, capturing 213 prisoners, and taking two pieces of artillery, after which he returned to Baldwyn.”

Captain Rock Champion was not among those who returned to Baldwyn. Price’s report concludes, “The entire loss upon the expedition was, in killed, wounded, and missing, 115, among whom I regret to mention Captain J. Rock Champion, whose reckless daring and intrepid boldness have illustrated the battle-fields of Missouri, Arkansas, and Alabama, as well as that of Bolivar, in which he fell far in advance of his command.” [38] C. Y. Ford, who served with him in the 2nd Missouri, described him as “a most distinguished looking soldier, so much so as any soldier I saw in my four years service.” [39] Rock Champion died as a true son of Missouri, and a knight of the South.


Bibliography

Anderson, Ephraim McD., Memoirs: Historical and Personal; Including the Campaigns of the First Missouri Confederate Brigade. Dayton, Ohio, 1972.

Brewer, James D., The Battle of Britton’s Lane. Internet Address: http://www.brittonlane1862.madison.tn.us/battle_history.htm

Brewer, James D., The Raiders of 1862. Westport, Connecticut, 1997.

Confederate Service Records, National Archives, Register of Officers and Soldiers of the Army of the Confederate States who were killed in battle, or who died of wounds or disease. Washington, D. C.

Confederate Service Records, National Archives, Roster of the Second Missouri Cavalry, P. A. C. S.; Organized August 17, 1862; mustered into Confederate service different dates, for during the war. Washington, D. C.

Duke, Basil W., Reminiscences of General Basil Duke, C. S. A. Garden City, New York, 1911.

Dwight, Henry, “The War Album of Henry Dwight.” Albert Castel, ed., Civil War Times Illustrated (June 1980).

Eakin, Joanne Chiles and Donald R. Hale, Compilers, Branded as Rebels: A list of Bushwhackers, Guerillas, Partisan Ranger, Confederates and Southern Sympathizers from Missouri during the War Years. Independence, Missouri, 1993.

Ford, C. Y., “Fighting With Sabers.” Confederate Veteran (Volume 30, 1922).

Gottschalk, Phil, In Deadly Earnest: The History of the First Missouri Brigade, C. S. A. Columbia, Missouri, 1991.

Hancock, Richard Ramsey, Hancock’s Diary: or, A History of the Second Tennessee Confederate Cavalry, With Sketches of First and Seventh Battalions; Also, Portraits and Biographical Sketches. Dayton, Ohio, 1999.

Johnson, Robert Underwood and Clarence Clough Buel, Editors, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol. I. Secaucus, New Jersey, .

Missouri State Archives, Civil War Confederate Service Record for Champion, J. Rock, Capt., Co. K, Second Reg’t Mo. Vols. C. S. A. CAV. Jefferson City, Missouri.

Piston, William Garrett and Thomas P. Sweeney, “‘Don’t Yield an Inch!’: The Missouri State Guard.” North & South (June 1999).

Snead, Thomas L., The Fight for Missouri. New York, New York, 1886.

United States War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington, DC., 1880-1901.

Williams, Scott, Father John B. Bannon and the St. Louis Irish Confederates. Internet Address: http://www.geocities.com/~sterlingprice/kelly.htm

Winter, William C., The Civil War in St. Louis: A Guided Tour. St. Louis, Missouri, 1994.

Young, J. P., The Seventh Tennessee Cavalry, (Confederate.): A History. Dayton, Ohio, 1976.

Young, R. E., Wilson’s Creek: The Great Battle Fought 39 Years Ago Today. Internet Address: http://www.missouri-scv.org/html/bjul1998.htm


[1] Scott Williams, Father John B. Bannon and the St. Louis Irish Confederates (Internet Address: http://www.geocities.com/~sterlingprice/kelly.htm ).

[2] Thomas L. Snead, The Fight for Missouri (New York, New York, 1886), pp. 108, 109. Phil Gottschalk, In Deadly Earnest: The History of the First Missouri Brigade, CSA (Columbia, Missouri: 1991), p. 6. Joanne Chiles Eakin & Donald R. Hale, Branded as Rebels: A list of Bushwhackers, Guerillas, Partisan Rangers, Confederates and Southern Sympathizers from Missouri during the War Years (Independence, Missouri, 1993) p 66.

[3] Basil W. Duke, Reminiscences of General Basil Duke, C. S. A. (Garden City, New York: 1911), pp. 38-41.

[4] Ibid., pp. 43-44.

[5] Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel, Editors, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol. I, (Colonel Thomas L. Snead, The First Year of the War in Missouri), Secaucus, New Jersey, p. 265; Gottschalk, p. 13.

[6] Johnson and Buel, (Snead), p. 267.

[7] Government Printing Office, War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vols (Washington, DC: 1880-1901), Series I, Volume III, p. 37. Hereafter cited as OR.

[8] Ibid., p. 101; R. E. Young, “Wilson’s Creek: The Great Battle Fought 39 Years Ago Today,” Missouri State Tribune, August 10, 1900. Internet Address: Missouri Battle of the Month, http://www.missouri-scv.org/html/bjul1998.htm .

[9] OR, Series I, Volume III, p. 101.

[10] Ephraim McD. Anderson, Notes and Foreword by Edwin C. Bearss, Memoirs: Historical and Personal; Including the Campaigns of the First Missouri Confederate Brigade (Dayton, Ohio: 1972), pp. 50-52.

[11] OR, Series I, Volume III, pp 163-164.

[12] Johnson and Buel, (Colonel James A. Mulligan, The Siege of Lexington, MO.), p. 307.

[13] OR, Series I, Volume III, p. 448.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., p. 449; Johnson and Buel (Mulligan), p. 308.

[16] OR, Series I, Volume III, p. 449.

[17] Ibid., p. 450; Johnson and Buel (Mulligan), p. 308.

[18] Gottschalk, pp. 36-37, 42; Johnson and Buel (Snead), pp. 274-275.

[19] Missouri State Archives. Civil War Confederate Service Record for Champion, J. Rock, Capt., Co. K, Second Reg’t, Mo. Vols. C. S. A. CAV. Jefferson City, Missouri.

[20] Johnson and Buel (Snead), p. 275.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Gottschalk, pp. 73, 84.

[23] Johnson and Buel (Hunt P. Wilson account, reprinted from the “St. Louis Republican”), p. 323.

[24] Gottschalk, pp. 73, 84.

[25] C. Y. Ford, “Fighting With Sabers,” Confederate Veteran, Volume 30, 1922, p. 290.

[26] Confederate Service Records, National Archives, Roster of the Second Missouri Cavalry, P. A. C. S.; organized August 17, 1862; mustered into Confederate service different dates, for during the war. Washington, DC.

[27] OR, Series I, Volume XVI, Part I, pp. 827-828.

[28] Anderson, p. 215.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid., Notes, pp. 503-504.

[31] OR, Series I, Volume XVII, Part II, p. 688.

[32] OR, Series I, Volume XVII, Part I, p. 120.

[33] James D. Brewer, The Raiders of 1862 (Westport, Connecticut: 1997), pp. 17-27.

[34] OR, Series I, Volume XVII, Part I, p. 48.

[35] Ford, p. 290.

[36] Ibid, p. 290. Brewer, The Raiders of 1862, pp. 24-27. Young, J. P., The Seventh Tennessee Cavalry, (Confederate.): A History (Dayton, OH, 1976), p. 45.

[37] Ford, p. 290. Confederate Service Records, Register of Officers and Soldiers of the Army of the Confederate States who were killed in battle, or who died of wounds or disease. Washington, DC.

[38] OR, Series I, Volume XVII, Part I, pp. 51-52, 120.

[39] Ford, p. 290.

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.

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.

Manly Missouri Crossdressers of the Civil War

One of our visitors’ all-time favorite articles!

Manly Missouri Cross-Dressers of the Civil War

by

John N. Edwards,

John Fiske,

Cole Younger,

Absalom C. Grimes

Excerpted and introduced by G.E. Rule, from “Noted Guerrillas or the Warfare of the Border”, by John N. Edwards, 1877; “The Mississippi Valley in the Civil War”, by John Fiske, 1900;  “The Story of Cole Younger”, by Himself, 1903; “Confederate Mail Runner”, by Absalom C. Grimes, edited by M. M. Quaife, 1926

Introduction to John N. Edwards

Introduction to John Fiske

Introduction to Absalom C. Grimes

Introduction to Cole Younger


The Manly Missouri Cross-Dressers of the Civil War, both Union and Confederate, engaged in a time-honored tradition. In 62 B.C., the Roman politician Clodius put the empire on the road to civil war when he disguised himself as a woman and snuck into Caesar’s house.  Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Stuart heir to the British throne, dressed as a woman to escape the English in 1746 after his invasion to reclaim the throne of his father failed.  In modern times, early in his army career, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak cross-dressed (complete with explosives-packed purse) in order to carry off an attack on a terrorist group suspected of being responsible for the 1972 attack on Israel’s Olympians at Munich.

The curious thing is, every one of the accounts given below –told by four different authors– has the same thing in common.  Apparently, in Missouri, wearing your cavalry boots under your dress signified a fellow who was just engaging in a stratagem as opposed to one who was indicating an alternative lifestyle choice.  Or possibly they all just really liked the feel of leather against their skin beneath their frillies…. on second thought, let’s stick with the stratagem theory.


We start with the purtiest guerrilla of them all; Jesse James, courtesy of John N. Edwards:

Four miles from Independence, and back a little from the road leading to Kansas City, a house stood occupied by several women light of love. Thither regularly went Federal soldiers from the Independence garrison, and the drinking was deep and the orgies shameful. Gregg set a trap to catch a few of the comers and goers. Within the lines of the enemy, much circumspection was required to make an envelopment of the house successful. He chose Jesse James from among a number of volunteers and sent him forward to reconnoiter the premises. Jesse, arrayed in coquettish female apparel, with his smooth face, blue eyes, and blooming cheeks, looked the image of a bashful country girl, not yet acquainted with vice, though half eager and half reluctant to walk a step nearer to the edge of its perilous precipice. As he mounted, woman fashion, upon a fiery horse, the wind blew all about his peach colored face the pink ribbons of a garish bonnet, and lifted the tell-tale riding habit just enough to reveal instead of laced shoes or gaiters, the muddy boots of a born cavalryman. Gregg, taking ten men, followed in the rear of James to within half a mile of the nearest picket post, and hid himself in the woods until word could be brought from the bagnio ahead. If by a certain hour the disguised Guerrilla did not return to his comrades, the picket were to be driven in, the house surrounded, and the inmates forced to give such information as they possessed of his where­abouts. Successful, and Gregg neither by word nor deed, was to alarm the outpost or furnish indication in any manner that Guerrillas were in the neighborhood.

Jesse James, having pointed out to him with tolerable accuracy the direction of the house, left the road, skirted the timber rapidly, leaped several ugly ravines, floundered over a few marshy places, and finally reached his destination without meeting a citizen or encountering an enemy. He would not dismount, but sat upon his horse at the fence and asked that the mistress of the establishment might come out to him. Little by little, and with many a gawky protest and many a bashful simper, he told a plausible story of parental espionage and family discipline. He, ostensibly a she, could not have beaux, could not go with the soldiers, could not sit with them late, nor ride with them, nor romp with them; she was tired of it all and wanted a little fun. Would the mistress let her come occasionally to her and bring with her three or four neighbor girls, who were in the same predicament? The mistress laughed and was glad. New faces to her were like new coin, and she put forth a hand and patted the merchantable thing upon the knee, and ogled her smiling mouth and girlish features gleefully. As she-wolf and venturesome lamb separated, the assignation was assured. That night the amorous country girl, accompanied by three of her young female companions, was to return, and the mistress–confident in her ability to provide them lovers–was to make known among the soldiers the attractive acquisition.

It lacked an hour of sunset when Jesse James got back to Gregg; an hour after sunset the Guerrillas, following hard upon the track made by the boy spy, rode rapidly on to keep the tryst­ing. The house was gracious with lights, and jubilant with laughter. Drink abounded, and under cover of the clinking glasses, the men kissed the women. Anticipating an orgy of unusual attractions, twelve Federals bad been lured out from the garrison and made to believe that bare-footed maidens ran wild in the woods, and buxom lasses hid for the hunting. No guards were out; no sentinels were posted. Jesse James crept close to a window and peered in. The night was chill and a large wood fire blazed upon a large hearth. All the company was in one room, five women and a dozen men. Scattered about yet ready for the grasping, the cavalry carbines were in easy reach, and the revolvers handy about the person. Sampson trusting everything to Delilah might not have trusted so much if under the old dispensation there had been anything of bushwhacking.


Next up, that grand dame with a commanding presence; Nathaniel Lyon, as given by John Fiske:One of the visitors [to Camp Jackson, St. Louis] next day came in a light open carriage then known as a “Jenny Lind,” and was leisurely driven by a colored 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.

Had 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.


Cole Younger, the crone, from his memoirs:

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

Next morning there rode up to the picket line at Independence an old apple-woman, whose gray hair and much of her face was nearly hidden by an old-fashioned and faded sun-bonnet. Spectacles half hid her eyes and a basket on her arm was laden with beets, beans and apples.

The left rein was leather but a rope replaced the right.

“Good morning, grandmother,” bantered the first picket. “Does the rebel crop need any rain out in your country?”

The sergeant at the reserve post seized her bridle, and looking up said: “Were you younger and prettier, I might kiss you.”

“Were I younger and prettier, I might box your ears for your impudence.”

“Oh, ho! You old she-wolf, what claws you have for scratching!” he retorted and reached for her hand.

The quick move she made started the horse suddenly, or he might have been surprised to feel that hand.

But the horse was better than apple-women usually ride, and that aroused some suspicion at Col. Buell’s headquarters, so that the ride out was interrupted by a mounted picket who galloped alongside and again her bridle was seized.

The sergeant and eight men of the guard were perhaps thirty paces back.

“What will you have?” asked the apple-woman. “I am but a poor lone woman going peaceably to my home.”

“Didn’t you hear the sergeant call for you, d–n you?” answered the sentinel.

A spurred boot under the ragged skirt pierced the horse’s flank; the hand that came from the apple basket fired the cocked pistol almost before the sentry knew it, and the picket fell dead.

The reserve stood as if stupefied. That night I gave Quantrell, for Col. Hays, a plan showing the condition of affairs in Independence. The morning of the 11th the attack was made and Col. Buell, his force shot to pieces, surrendered.

The apple-woman’s expedition had been a success.


Edwards again, this time with a Union soldier who’s a real cutie-pie.  The Confederate guerrillas raided a bawdy house and used a trick to separate the 11 Federal soldiers inside from the 5 prostitutes.  However, this resulted in only 10 dead Federals. . .and now there were 6 women.    According to Edwards, Frank James spared the imposter’s life.

East of Wellington four miles there was a large house occupied by some lewd women notorious for their favors and their enticements. Poole knew the situation well, and suggested to Jarrett that a sufficient detour should be made to encompass the building. Arriving there about eleven o’clock at night, it appeared from the outside as if some kind of a frolic was going on. Lights shone from many of the windows. Music could be heard occasionally and the sound of dancing feet. Frank James crept to a back door, peered in for a few moments, and counted five women and eleven men. Some of the men were in the laps of the women, and some were so close to them that to risk a volley would be murderous. The Guerrillas waited an hour for a more favorable opportunity to fire, but waited in vain. At no time without hitting a woman could they make sure of shooting more than a single man, but Jarrett solved the problem speedily. He was dressed in Federal uniform, and after placing his men so as to cut off from the house its occupants if they once came outside, he rode boldly up to the fence in front of the premises and cried:

“Hello!” A soldier came to the door with a gun in his hand and answered him. Jarrett, authoritatively and positively, continued: “Who are you that come to this place in defiance of every order issued for a month? What business have you here tonight? Who gave you permission to come? Where are your passes? Come out to me that I may read them?”

Thinking Jarrett a provost captain scouting for runaways from the Lexing­ton garrison, ten of the eleven militiamen started confidently for the fence, receiving when half way the crushing fire of twenty concealed Guerrillas. In a space four blankets might have covered, the ten fell and died, only one of the lot discharging a weapon or making the least pretence at resistance. Frank James counted them, stooping to do so, and as he arose he remarked, sententiously: “There are but ten here; awhile ago there were eleven.” The building was entered, searched from bottom to top, minutely examined in every nook and corner­-no soldier. The women were questioned one at a time and separately. They knew only that when the man at the fence called the whole party went out together. Frank James, whose impassive face had from the first expressed neither curiosity nor doubt, spoke up again and briefly. “Awhile ago I counted but five women, now there are six.” Save four sentinels on duty at either end of the main road, the Guerrillas had gathered together in the lower large room of the dwelling house. The fire had burned low, and was fitful and flickering. Where there had been half a dozen candles there were now only two. “Bring more,” said Poole, “and we will separate this wolf from the ewes.” “Aye, if we have to strip the lot,” spoke up a coarse voice in the crowd.” “Silence!” cried Jarrett, laying a hand upon a pistol, and turning to his men in the shadow, “not a woman shall be touched. We are wild beasts, yes; but we war on wild beasts.

More lights were brought, and with a candle in each hand Poole went from woman to woman, scanning the face of each long and searchingly, and saying, when he had finished, “I give it up. If one of the six here is a man, let him keep his dress and his scalp.” Frank James, just behind Poole, had inspected each countenance also as the candles passed before it, and when Poole had done speaking, he laid a finger upon a woman’s shoulder and spoke as one having authority. “This is the man. If I miss my reckoning, shoot me dead.”  The marvelous nerve, which up to this time had stood with the militiaman as a shield and a defense, deserted him when the extremity came, and he turned ghastly white, trembled to his feet, and fell, sobbing and praying, upon his knees. Horrified by the slaughter of his comrades in the yard, and afraid to rush from the house lest he be shot down also, he hurriedly put on the garments of one of the women, composed his features as best he could, and awaited in agonized suspense the departure of the Guerrillas. Almost a boy, his smooth, innocent face was fresher and fairer than the face of any real woman there: His hair, worn naturally long and inclined to be brown, was thick and fine. The dress hid his feet, or the boots would have betrayed him at the start. Not knowing that an observation had been made before the firing, and the numbers accurately taken of both men and women, he hoped to brave it through and laugh afterwards and tell to his messmates how near death had passed to him and did not stop.


Lastly, Ab Grimes, on a Confederate attempting to escape from Myrtle Street Prison in St. Louis. This same story, without naming the prisoner, is also in Churchill’s THE CRISIS:Among other prisoners who received much attention was Captain Hampton Boone, a very handsome young man and a great favorite with the ladies. One day some of his lady friends brought in a suit of feminine attire, and dressed Boone in it, to attempt an escape. He refused to take off his cavalry boots and don the slippers they had provided for him. He thought the boots would be of value to him if he succeeded in escaping. At the outside door a guard stood on either side of the three steps leading to the street. As Boone passed out with a lady on either side of him the wind blew his dress to one side and exposed his boots to the gaze of the guard. After Boone had walked a few steps the guard started after him and Boone ran down Broadway. When he started running he began tearing the dress off with both hands. He tore off the outside skirt, but a big, old-fashioned hoop skirt, then the height of fashion, was like a birdcage and he could not tear it off. As he sprang from the street to the pavement one foot went through the hoop skirt and he turned a double somersault upon the pavement, one guard falling over him. This ended his exhibition of speed. It was in the afternoon and the streets were filled with people. Everyone laughed, including Boone. He came back swinging his poke bonnet by the strings, a guard on each side of him.

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.

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“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.


Palmyra Massacre

The Palmyra Massacre

Palmyra, Missouri

1869 map, fairgrounds in foreground

Map link–follow this link and search “Palmyra” to see closer views of map


October 18, 1862, in Palmyra, Missouri, ten prisoners were shot in retaliation for the presumed murder of a local Union man. General John McNeil became known as the “Butcher of Palmyra” and was denounced in newspapers both in the Union states and in other countries. Confederate enlistments, and reenlistments, increased after the massacre. Further Reading: Forty-Six Years in the Army by John McAllister Schofield

With Porter in North Missouri: A Chapter in the History of the War Between the States
by Joseph A. Mudd

Available from Camp Pope Bookshop


“The madness of rebellion has become so deep seated that ordinary methods of cure are inadequate.”

Palmyra Courier, October 18, 1862

“…here in Missouri our Government commenced by extending toward the rebels in our midst every kindness.”

William R. Strachan, Provost Marshal, Palmyra, Missouri

“…cherishing, as I do, the firm conviction that my action was the means of saving lives and property of hundreds of loyal men and women, I feel that my act was the performance of a public duty.”

John McNeil, in a July 1889 response to an article in “The Century” magazine

Bio of General John McNeil

SAINT LOUIS, MO., June 12, 1862.

Colonel McNEIL, Palmyra, Mo.:

I want you to take the field in person, with as much of your force as can be spared, and exterminate the rebel bands in your division…

Don’t rest until you have exterminated the rascals.

J. M. SCHOFIELD,

Brigadier-General

PALMYRA, MO., October 8, 1862

JOSEPH C. PORTER:

SIR: Andrew Allsman, an aged citizen of Palmyra and a non-combatant having been carried from his home by a band of persons unlawfully arrayed against the peace and good order of the State of Missouri and which band was under your control, this is to notify you that unless said Andrew Allsmart is returned unharmed to his family within ten days from date ten men, who have belonged to your band and unlawfully sworn by you to carry arms against the Government of the United States and who are now in custody, will be shot, as a meet reward for their crimes, among which is the illegal restraining of said Allsman his liberty, and, if not returned, presumptively aiding in his murder.

Your prompt attention to this will save much suffering.

Yours, &c.,

W. R. STRACHAN,

Provost-Marshal. General District Northeast Missouri

Per order of brigadier-general commanding McNeil’s column.

headquarters of

Provost Marshal

Colonel William Strachan,

Palmyra, Missouri


Palmyra memorial statue


Vindication of General McNeil

(newspaper editorial by William R. Stachan, Provost Marshal of Palmyra–portions not directly related to Palmyra and McNeil were deleted)

HEADQUARTERS PROVOST-MARSHAL,
Palmyra, Mo., December 10, 1862.

To the Editor of the New York Times:

SIR: Noticing in your issue of December 1 an extended extract from foreign papers, accompanied by an editorial, upon the execution of ten rebels at this place…

Now, Mr. Editor, here in Missouri our Government commenced by extending toward the rebels in our midst every kindness, and a degree of clemency that soon caused it to be much safer, in every part of our State, to be a rebel than to be a Union man. Every neighborhood was coerced, whilst the Government was maintaining within the State a large force, at no time less than 50,000 men, and often largely over-running those figures. Still treason continued rampant, traitors publicly held forth on the clemency with which they were treated, regarding it as proof and confession of the weakness of the Government, that she dare not hurt anyone. Union men and their families were forced to leave their homes and their all and fly for protection and for life to the loyal States…  Will our Government never understand our situation? Will it continue to strengthen the cause of the robbers and murderers? What is to become of us?

…Finally, General Schofield, whom all who know must admit to be a gentleman of remarkable kindness of heart, began to come up to the exigency of the times, and issued General Orders, No. 18, an extract from which appears hereinafter. That order has, I believe, never been countermanded, and is in force to this day…

I could give a long list of crimes the most horrid committed by these scoundrels, that would make even fiends in hell shudder…. all this in a State that refused to secede from the Union, hundreds of miles inside of the Federal lines…

In the particular case of Andrew Allsman, he was a man upward of sixty years of age, taken from his family and murdered. Of the ten men executed, one of them was one of the party who murdered Mr. Pratt, above alluded to [deleted]. The other nine men were all caught with arms, and all of them had been once pardoned for their former treason by taking the oath of allegiance to the United States, and had deliberately perjured themselves by going out again–the very oath they took expressly stipulating that “death would be the penalty for a violation of this their solemn oath and parole of honor.” Now, sir, are such men entitled to the consideration of honorable warfare (as you seem to think in your criticisms), or are they not rather to be treated as outlaws and beyond the pale of civilization? And, sir, living as we do in Missouri, in times of red revolution, assassination, rapine, in violation of all laws, both human and divine, acts of justice necessarily assume the garb of severity, and the more severe to the criminal the more merciful to the community. And now, in view of the facts that I have alluded to, publishing as you do a loyal paper in a loyal State, a thousand miles removed from the scenes of these outrages, can you unthinkingly join in the howl raised by the full-fledged and semi traitors in our midst against such or any other acts that insure the punishment of treason and traitors?

…What is war? Is it anything but retaliation? Must we allow our enemies, the enemies of liberty and republicanism, to outrage all the laws of war, and not take some steps to show them the propriety of adhering to those laws?

…Mr. Editor, if you could have been a witness to many scenes that attended General McNeil’s visit to the various posts of his district, made but two weeks since, when he traversed the whole country on horseback, attended by but two orderlies, when old men would come out of their farm houses, shake hands with the general, call down blessings upon him, ask him to delay so that their wives could come out and thank him for executing justice…

Bio of General McNeil

General McNeil has even in the early part of this terrible war been censured from headquarters for being too lenient toward the rebels. Time and experience proved to him that in order to save bloodshed it was necessary to show some examples of severe punishment, and the result, in giving security to persons and property of loyal men in our section, has amply justified the steps taken by him. Do you suppose that a rebellion that in this late day has ventured to employ the scalping knife of the savage in its service, that commenced in fraud, that has sustained itself from the commencement by robbery, that has practiced extermination and banishment and confiscation toward citizens that ventured to remain true to their original allegiance, can be put down without somebody being hurt? Let me ask of you to do justice to a kind and brave officer, who has simply dared to do his duty, and in doing so has obtained the thanks and deepest feelings of gratitude from every loyal man in Northern Missouri…

…These terrible “butcheries” (i.e., the just punishing of guerrillas, assassins, and violators of parole) have finally restored safety here. Since the public execution of the ten men at Palmyra, not a murder nor a single personal outrage to a Union man has been committed in Northeastern Missouri, or since the rebels learned what would be the price of a Union man’s life, three months ago, for it is that time since official notice was served on them of what would be done if Allsman was not returned to his home, and that the decimal system would be carried out for each loyal noncombatant that should subsequently be murdered by them, so long as guerrillas could be found in the district. “Verily a tree shall be known by its fruits? A wise punishment has once more enabled the dove of peace to hover over our households, unterrified. Guerrillas in this district found their vocation gone. Traitors began at last to recognize that the oath of loyalty meant something…

In conclusion, Mr. Editor, if you are correct in your denunciations of what you term a “butchery,” do not waste your anathemas upon General McNeil alone because he saw proper to teach traitors that the life of an unarmed non-combatant Union man, a loyal citizen of the United States, was a sacred thing–that murderers should not take it with impunity–but bestow some of it upon equally gallant and meritorious officers like General Merrill, who executed ten of those perjured scoundrels at Macon City, and General Schofield, who issued Orders No. 18, or General Halleck, whose orders touching bridge-burners and guerrillas I had supposed until now even the editor of the Times approved of.

WM. R. STRACHAN,

Provost. Marshal, Palmyra

Palmyra Monument, inscription:

Erected to the Memory of

Capt. Thomas A Sidenor

Willis T. Baker

Thomas Humston

Morgan Bixler

John Y. McPheeters

Hiram T. Smith

Herbert Hudson

John M. Wade

Francis M. Lear

Eleazer Lake

HORRIBLE FEDERAL OUTRAGE–TEN CONFEDERATES MURDERED–THE FULL PARTICULARS OF THE SCENE.
From the Palmyra, Missouri Courier.

Saturday last, the 18th instant, witnessed the performance of a tragedy in this once quiet and beautiful city of Palmyra, which, in ordinary and peaceful times, would have created a profound sensation throughout the entire country, but which now scarcely produces a distinct ripple upon the surface of our turbulent social tide.

It will be remembered by our readers that on the occasion of Porter’s descent upon Palmyra, he captured, among other persons, an old and highly respected resident of this city, by name Andrew Allsman. This person formerly belonged to the Third Missouri Cavalry, though too old to endure all the hardships of very active duty. He was, therefore, detailed as a kind of special or extra provost-marshal’s guard or cicerone, making himself generally useful in a variety of ways to the military of the place. Being an old resident, and widely acquainted with the people of the place and vicinity, he was frequently called upon for information touching the loyalty of men, which he always gave to the extent of his ability, though acting, we believe, in all such cases with great candor, and actuated solely by a conscientious desire to discharge his whole duty to his Government. His knowledge of the surrounding country was the reason of his being frequently called upon to act as a guide to scouting parties sent out to arrest disloyal persons. So efficiently and successfully did he act in these various capacities, that he won the bitter hatred of all the rebels in this city and vicinity, and they only waited the coming of a favorable opportunity to gratify their desire for revenge. The opportunity came at last, when Porter took Palmyra. That the villains, with Porter’s assent, satiated their thirst for his blood by the deliberate and predetermined murder of their helpless victim no truly loyal man doubts. When they killed him, or how, or where, are items of the act not yet revealed to the public. Whether he was stabbed at midnight by the dagger of the assassin, or shot at midday by the rifle of the guerrilla; whether he was hung and his body hidden beneath the scanty soil of some oaken thicket, or left as food for hogs to fatten upon, or whether, like the ill-fated Wheat, his throat was severed from ear to ear, and his body sunk beneath the wave, we know not. But that he was foully, causelessly murdered it is useless to attempt to deny.

When General McNeil returned to Palmyra, after that event, and ascertained the circumstances under which Allsman had been abducted, he caused to be issued, after due deliberation, the following notice:

“PALMYRA, MO., October 8, 1862.

“JOSEPH C. PORTER:

“SIR: Andrew Allsman, an aged citizen of Palmyra, and a non-combatant, having been carried from his home by a band of persons unlawfully arrayed against the peace and good order of the State of Missouri, and which band was under your control, this is to notify you that unless said Andrew Allsman is returned, unharmed, to his family within ten days from date, ten men, who have belonged to your band, and unlawfully sworn by you to carry arms against the Government of the United States, and who are now in custody, will be shot as a meet reward for their crimes, among which is the illegal restraining of said Allsman of his liberty, and, if not returned, presumptively aiding in his murder.

“Your prompt attention to this will save much suffering.

“Yours, &c.,

“W. R. STRACHAN,

“Provost-Marshal-General, District of Northeastern Missouri.

“Per order of brigadier-general commanding McNeil’s column.”

A written duplicate of this notice he caused to be placed in the hands of the wife of Joseph C. Porter, at her residence in Lewis County, who it was well known was in frequent communication with her husband. The notice was published widely, and as Porter was in Northern Missouri during the whole of the ten days subsequent to the date of this notice, it is impossible that, with all his varied channels of information, he remained unapprised of General McNeil’s determination in the premises.

Many rebels believed the whole thing was simply intended as a scare, declaring that McNeil did not dare [?] to carry out the threat.

The ten days elapsed, and no tidings came of the murdered Allsman. It is not our intention to dwell at length upon the details of this transaction. The tenth day expired with last Friday. On that day ten rebel prisoners, already in custody, were selected to pay with their lives the penalty demanded. The names of the men so selected were as follows: Willis Baker, Lewis County; Thomas Humston, Lewis County; Morgan Bixler, Lewis County; Herbert Hudson, Rails County; John M. Wade, Rails County; Marion Lair, Rails County; Capt. Thomas A. Sidner, Monroe County; Eleazer Lake, Scotland County, and Hiram Smith, Knox County. These parties were informed on Friday evening that unless Mr. Allsman was returned to his family by 1 o’clock on the following day, they would all be shot at that hour. Most of them received the announcement with composure or indifference. The Rev. James S. Green, of this city, remained with them during that night, as their spiritual adviser, endeavoring to prepare them for their sudden entrance into the presence of their Maker. A little after 11 a.m. the next day, three Government wagons drove to the jail; one contained four and each of the others three rough board coffins. The condemned men were conducted from the prison and seated in the wagons, one upon each coffin. A sufficient guard of soldiers accompanied them, and the cavalcade started for the fatal grounds. Proceeding east to Main street, the cortege turned and moved slowly southward as far as Malone’s livery stable; thence turning east, it entered the Hannibal road, pursuing it nearly to the residence of Col. James Culbertson; there, throwing down the fences, they turned northward, entering the fair grounds (half a mile east of the town), on the west side, and, driving within the circular amphitheatrical ring, paused for the final consummation of the scene.

The ten coffins were removed from the wagons and placed in a row 6 or 8 feet apart, forming a line north and south, about 15 paces east of the central pagoda or music stand, in the center of the ring. Each coffin was placed upon the ground, with its foot west and head east. Thirty soldiers of the Second Missouri State Militia were drawn up in a single line, extending north and south, facing the row of coffins. This line of executioners ran immediately at the east base of the pagoda, leaving a space between them and the coffins of 12 or 13 paces. Reserves were drawn up in line upon either bank [flank] of these executioners.

The arrangements completed, the doomed men knelt upon the grass between their coffins and the soldiers, while the Rev. R. M. Rhodes offered up a prayer. At the conclusion of this, each prisoner took his seat upon the foot of his coffin, facing the muskets which in a few moments were to launch them into eternity. They were nearly all firm and undaunted, two or three only showing signs of trepidation.

The most noted of the ten was Capt. Thomas A. Sidner, of Monroe County, whose capture at Shelbyville, in the disguise of a woman, we related several weeks since. He was now elegantly attired in a suit of black broadcloth, with a white vest. A luxurious growth of beautiful hair rolled down upon his shoulders, which, with his fine personal appearance, could not but bring to mind the handsome but vicious Absalom. There was nothing especially worthy of note in the appearance of the others. One of them, Willis Baker, of Lewis County, was proven to be the man who last year shot and killed Mr. Ezekiel Pratt, his Union neighbor, near Williamstown, in that county. All the others were rebels of lesser note, the particulars of whose crimes we are not familiar with.

A few minutes after 1 o’clock, Colonel Strachan, provost-marshal-general, and Reverend Rhodes shook hands with the prisoners, two of them accepting bandages for their eyes. All the rest refused. A hundred spectators had gathered around the amphitheater to witness the impressive scene. The stillness of death pervaded the place. The officer in command now stepped forward, and gave the word of command, “Ready, aim, fire.” The discharges, however, were not made simultaneously, probably through want of a perfect previous understanding of the orders and of the time at which to fire. Two of the rebels fell backward upon their coffins and died instantly. Captain Sidner sprang forward and fell with his head toward the soldiers, his face upward, his hands clasped upon his breast and the left leg drawn half way up. He did not move again, but died immediately. He had requested the soldiers to aim at his heart, and they obeyed but too implicitly. The other seven were not killed outright, so the reserves were called in, who dispatched them with their revolvers.

It seems hard that ten men should die for one. Under ordinary circumstances it would hardly be justified; but severe diseases demand severe remedies. The safety of the people is the supreme law. It overrides all other considerations. The madness of rebellion has become so deep seated that ordinary methods of cure are inadequate. To take life for life would be little intimidation to men seeking the heart’s blood of an obnoxious enemy. They could well afford to make even exchanges under many circumstances. It is only by striking the deepest terror in them, causing them to thoroughly respect the lives of loyal men, that they can be taught to observe the obligation of humanity and of

Absalom Grimes Obit

Grimes’ Obituary

A. C. Grimes, 1906 newspaper photo


Ralls County Record
New London, Missouri, Friday, March 31, 1911

Capt. Ab. C. Grimes Dead

Captain Ab. C. Grimes, a noted Confederate mail carrier, pioneer river pilot and manager of hunting preserves, died at his home, No. 437 Olive Street, St. Louis, last Monday night.

He was 76 years old and had been ill for a month.

His career was linked with the life of Mark Twain, the late humorist, as both were pilots and members of the same Confederate company.

For thirty years Captain Grimes guided river steamers through tortuous currents. On leaving the river the old soldier located in Lincoln county and managed game preserves, which were visited by thousands of St. Louisians.

Capt. Grimes moved to St. Louis four years ago.

He was twice married. His second wife was much younger than he. Shortly after his second marriage, in 1905, Captain Grimes shot a man whom he accused of insulting his bride.

The river pilot was born to the rank as his father was a pilot on the earliest boats on the Mississippi river. His mother’s brother was also a pilot and owner of steamers plying the Mississippi.

When the Civil War began Captain Grimes left the river and joined a company organized at New London, Ralls County, by Captain Theodore Brace. Mark Twain enlisted in the same company on the day that Grimes was accepted.

During the war General Sterling B. Price selected Captain Grimes and Robert Louden to act as mail carriers. These intrepid fighters smuggled mail between the soldiers in the Southern Army and the home folks in the North.

Six times the late Captain was captured by Union soldiers, but on five occasions he escaped. When taken the sixth time he was incarcerated in the Gratiot Street Prison, from where he attempted to escape and got shot.

Prior to his effort to escape he was sentenced to be hanged, but this was commuted through the influence of the late Archbishop Ryan of Philadelphia, who was then located in St. Louis. The Confederate soldier was sent to Jefferson City for confinement.

When stealing through the lines to get his mail in the hands of the soldiers on the battlefields, Captain Grimes was assisted by many women now living here who were Southern sympathizers.

After the war and his retirement from the river, Captain Grimes became manager of the King’s Lake Shooting Club in Lincoln county. He remained with the club thirteen years and then built a clubhouse a few miles down the shore of the lake. This clubhouse he named Grimes’ King Lake Club, where he lived for ten years.

Since coming to St. Louis he has conducted a moving-picture show, next a shooting gallery and lately has worked for the General Compressed-Air Vacuum Cleaning Company.

Lucy Glascock Grimes
His first wife he married in New London in 1865. She was Miss Lucy Glascock, who died in 1903. They had seven children, of whom two survive. They are Hudson Grimes, No. 3448 Pine Street, and Mrs. W.L. Mitchell, of Ferguson, St. Louis county.

The second Mrs. Grimes, Nell Tauke Grimes (1906 newspaper photo)

Mr. Grimes’ second marriage took place December 15, 1905, in Lincoln county to Miss Nell Tauke. She survives him.

The remains will be laid to rest in Barkley Cemetery this (Thursday) afternoon.

Barkley Cemetery, New London, Missouri

Absalom Grimes Bio

Grimes was a steamboat pilot on the upper Mississippi river at the outbreak of the war. Refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the United States suddenly required to renew pilot’s licenses, Grimes left the river and waited, expecting that in a few weeks the “secession disturbance would be settled.” Grimes’ own family was Union, his mother saying she had to leave her home in Ralls County because of the animosity of her pro-secession neighbors to her views. At least one of Grimes’ brothers enlisted in the Union army. Many others of his relatives, aunts and cousins, aided him in his mail smuggling at great personal risk and cost. The family of his fiancée, Lucy Glascock, was also pro-Confederate. Their wartime romance become famous.

Grimes first joined an irregular Missouri State Guard unit in Ralls County, Missouri. Sam Clemens, later famous as author Mark Twain, was a lieutenant in the “Ralls County Rangers.” Twain’s version of the adventures of this unit leans more to the serious side than the version Grimes told. (these hyperlinks take you to another site–use your back button to return here). A Twain biographer gives more credence for accuracy to Grimes’ version. Grimes later joined the 1st Missouri Cavalry CSA as a private and was captured near Springfield, Missouri. He escaped while being sent from Myrtle Street Prison in St. Louis to Alton Prison in Illinois.

Before returning south to join his unit, Grimes decided to gather up letters from Missouri families to carry with him, thus establishing himself in his wartime career, becoming “Official Confederate Mail Carrier”, with a commission as a major, for General Sterling Price’s army. Grimes was captured several times but acquired a reputation as an escape artist, once by escaping from the guardhouse at Cairo, Illinois, then from Gratiot Street Prison in St. Louis while chained in close confinement and under heavy guard.

Excerpts from Grimes’ memoirs telling of his escapes from Gratiot

(this hyperlink takes you to another site–use your back button to return here–the site has very loud music on it, you may wish to mute your audio before following the link)

The next time the Federals arrested him they were very serious about holding on to him and several escape attempts failed.

A letter from Grimes to Lucy Glascock written from prison, Dec. 1863

In the last attempt to escape from Gratiot in June of 1864, shortly before Grimes was scheduled to be hanged as a Rebel spy, two men were killed and Grimes was shot and seriously injured. This ended both his escape attempts and wartime career. Grimes was spared execution through the influence of Union friends, eventually being given a full pardon by President Lincoln.

Grimes married Lucy Glascock in March of 1865. They had seven children together but only two–Hudson D. Grimes and Lottie Grimes Mitchell–survived to adulthood. Grimes returned to river piloting, then into other careers, including the ownership of a hotel. He also owned a hunting resort in Lincoln County, Missouri. A few years after Lucy’s death in 1903, Grimes remarried to a younger woman named Nell Tauke. Grimes died in March of 1911.

A. C. Grimes obituary

Shortly before his death, at daughter Lottie’s insistence, Grimes wrote his memoirs. It’s likely he never intended the memoirs to see publication, and they weren’t published until 1926. The story he tells is true, though contains many errors in dating and sequence of events, but also contains considerable omissions. Grimes was far more deeply associated with the Confederate secret service agents operating under General Price than he says in his book. Still, the book is a fascinating story of the War in Missouri and along the Mississippi River.

Thomas L Snead – Bio

A bio of Thomas L. Snead



SNEAD, THOMAS LOWNDES, soldier, lawyer, author, was born Jan. 10, 1828, in Henrico County, Va. He was a St. Louis lawyer who served in the Confederate army, and after 1865 resumed his profession in New York City. He was the author of  The Fight for Missouri in 1861. He died Oct. 17, 1890, in New York City.

Herringshaw, Thomas William

Herringshaw’s Encyclopedia of American Biography of the Nineteenth Century

American Publishers Association, 1902

Snead, Thomas L., Prices Division

rank at induction: Major

rank at discharge: Actg. Asst General

“Maj. Thomas L. Snead, senior assistant adjutant general of my command, to whom I have been often indebted for vigorous support in hours of perilous trial (apart from the intelligent and faithful performance of the responsible and onerous duties of his office), surpassed himself this day in the intrepid manner with which he bore himself throughout the conflict, rallying the troops again and again, and urging them forward to the scene of action. In this work, under the hottest fire of the enemy, and until we had swept their intrenchments and carried the hill, he was faithfully, fearlessly, and gallantly assisted by Maj. L. A. Maclean, assistant adjutant-general.”

Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, July 4, 1863

Review of “Fight For Missouri” by Thomas L. Snead

Overland monthly and Out West magazine, volume 8, issue 4, July 1886

This is a book of rare merit. It covers a limited period of history, but deals with matters pregnant with the fate of the nation. In the desperate struggle for the preservation of the Union, the adhesion of Missouri to the national cause more than offset the disaster and disgrace of Bull Run. In the beginning of 1861, our author was the editor and proprietor of a secession newspaper in St. Louis, and took a permanent part in the effort to disrupt the Union. Now, after the lapse of twenty-five years, he tells the story of the struggle, from the election of Lincoln to the battle of Wilson’s Creek, on the part of himself, Governor Jackson, Lieutenant-Governor Reynolds, and other States-rights leaders, backed by a large part of the people of the State, to carry Missouri out of the Union. How and why they failed is made clearly to appear. It is the finest tribute to General Lyon and Frank P. Blair yet written, for it is the tribute of an honorable foe, who admits that every scheme and every plan formed by the Secessionists of Missouri were divined and frustrated by the penetration and resolute courage of these two men. No man can rise from its perusal without feeling profound respect and admiration for General Lyon. Our obligations to him are indeed great, and no men are more conscious of it than the foes whom he foiled. To him and to Blair belong the principal credit of saving Missouri to the Union. General Sterling Price was originally strongly opposed ot secession, but the claims of blood and association were too strong for him, when he saw that war was inevitable, and like Lee, he drew his sword but reluctantly, for the defense, as he thought, of kindred and country. His noble, generous character and magnificent courage receive fitting eulogy from our author. The battle of Wilson’s Creek, coming so shortly after Bull Run, showed the metal of which our northern soldiers were made, and is here graphically, and no doubt accurately, described. Impartiality, as near as is possible to attain, careful work, personal knowledge, and a pleasant style, commend the work of our author to his countrymen.