Prison Journal – March – April 1863

Gratiot Street Prison

“Camp and Prison Journal”

by Griffin Frost

March-April 1863

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

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

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

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

Buy a reprint of Frost’s full book from:

Available from Camp Pope Bookshop

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

and check their other Missouri-related publications


March-April 1863

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

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

O woman, woman, light of life,

But cause of so much fuss and strife,

If I could half your foibles tell

You’d laugh at me—I know it well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“My limbs are bowed, though not with toil,

But rusted with a vile repose,

For they have been a dungeon’s spoil

And mine has bean the fate of these.

To whom the goodly earth and air

Are bound, and barr’d—forbidden fare.

Our bread is such as captives’ tears

Have moistened many a thousand years,

Since man first pent his fellow men

Like brutes within an iron den.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prison Journal Jan – Feb 1863

Gratiot Street Prison

“Camp and Prison Journal”

by Griffin Frost

January – February 1863

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

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

QUINCY, ILLINOIS: 1867.

Buy a reprint of Frost’s full book from:

Available from Camp Pope Bookshop

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

and check their other Missouri-related publications

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

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

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

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


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

THE AUTHOR.

January – February 1863

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans,1904.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If measured by its length of bliss

I surely lived an age in this,

For in a moment’s rapturous thrill

Was joy enough a life to fill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Graybeards, Letters of Major Lyman Allen, of the 37th Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry, The “Graybeards” Including The Diaries of Viola Baldwin His Step-Daughter by Harriet Stevens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excitement at Alton Prison

True Tales of the Tenth Kansas Infantry:

Excitement at Alton Prison

by Howard Mann

Duty as prison guards at Alton Prison in April 1864 was monotonous and a repetitive daily routine. The Tenth Kansas had drawn the laborious, unrewarding duty in January 1864 after hard marching and campaigning in Missouri, Arkansas and Indian Territory. Not all prisoners at Alton were confederate rebels. Alton was the first Illinois State penitentiary built in 1833 but closed on the eve of the Civil War in favor of the newer and more modern Joliet prison.[ 1] The large numbers of civilian, women and Union soldier prisoners that were kept in the general population distinguished the prison from other military prisons during the conflict. Among the prisoners were a band of horse thieves from Jersey county, Illinois with a penchant for escape.

The regiment was lauded as veteran troops by the local citizenry.[2] Yet by April the Tenth Kansas had been ravaged by smallpox losing twelve men in March alone.[3] The regiment was also undergoing a severe political crisis that would reach a head in April with the arrest and court-martial of Colonel William Weer for misappropriation of prisoner funds and several incidents of drunkenness and neglect of the prison’s needs.[4] In spite of the turmoil the guards had their orders. On April 1st the local newspaper published “Instructions Concerning Prisoners”.

“…The Secretary also enjoins that sentinels shall be instructed in regard to the rules and regulations of the prison, so that when a sentinel shoots a prisoner, the reason for so doing shall be known.”[5]

The same day ended with an attempt at escape on April 1st.

“Strange as it may seem, prisoners are not always content with the reward of their crimes, and now and then there are those who seek to take “French leave” of their quarters, and commit themselves to the world’s cold charities. Such an effort was made last night by several of the prisoners in the military prison here. It seems that soon after dark the guard on the north end of the prison had his fears excited, or rather the vigilance increased by hearing certain ominous sounds in the earth beneath him. About midnight he could distinctly hear the voices of the would be fugitives. He supposed they were coming out in the second ditch from the wall, and was on the lookout for them there, but on turning discovered a man’s head – with body attached of course – rising from the first ditch. The sentinel immediately fired, the ball just grazing the top of said head, causing it to disappear on double quick.”

“The hole was found full of Jersey county horse thieves – seven in number. Had they succeeded, many of their boon companions from the Sunny South would doubtless have followed. But the plan failed and all still remain in “durance vile”. The tunnel is about forty feet long and well suited to the purpose, the only fault with it being that it opened near the beat of one of the watchful boys of the 10th Kansas”[6]

Tragedy increased the tension between guards and prisoners when on April 6th an altercation occurred.

“Some days since, one Hiram Miller, a prisoner in the Military Prison in this city, attempted to escape thro’ the roof of the building, and was shot at by the guard. He afterwards threatened to kill the guard, private Rice of Co. H, and last night made an attack on him with stones when Rice snapped his gun, which refused to go off. Miller then came at him with a bar of iron, when he ran his bayonet into him, and called for help. The guard outside placed his gun through the grating and shot Miller thro’ the heart.”[7]

Private Hiram Miller had been returned from the hospital on February 1, 1864. The Tenth Kansas guard, Private George Rice, Company H, had enlisted from Terre Haute, Indiana on July 16, 1863. He continued with the regiment by transferring to Veteran Company D until mustering out on August 30, 1865.

The announcement of Colonel Weer’s Court of Inquiry must have given the prisoners a nudge towards a second attempt towards freedom. On April 7th a second attempt was made by some of the ringleaders of the Jersey county prisoners. Two are successful, one, Henderson is a guerilla leader from Jerseyville, Illinois.

“It will be seen by the Military Prison Report published in another column – that four prisoners made their escape last night from Bluff Castle. We understand that they filed the iron grating out of one of the cells on the west side of the building and made their escape in that way. There was a number of others all ready to make their exit in the same manner when they were discovered.”

“Henderson and Needham, who are mentioned in the report as having escaped, are old offenders. The former escaped from the prison once before and was afterwards retaken with the Jersey county horse thieves a few weeks since. Needham was sent here a sentenced prisoner from Memphis, and claims to be a British subject. Both of these desperadoes were engaged in the attempt to escape by digging a tunnel, as published by us a week ago last Saturday. It is very much to be desired that they may be retaken and confined again as, it is unsafe to have them running at large.”[8]

The very next night a second malcontent tried to follow suit.

“We have been informed that Mahlon Bright, a citizen of Jersey County, Illinois, tried to bribe one of the guards to let him escape from the Military Prison last night. But the noble soldier reported the matter to his officers, who gave orders for the place to be closely watched. Very soon the prisoner made his appearance at the same grating from which the prisoners escaped the other night, and commenced letting him self out, but when he heard the guard cock his gun, he made an attempt to get back, but too late to escape the effects of the discharge of the piece. He was wounded in several places, but not dangerously, but sufficiently so to keep him quiet for some time.”[9]

Even prisoners incarcerated in St. Louis heard of the escape. Griffin Frost, a prisoner in the Gratiot Street prison noted in his diary:

“April, 12. – Heard last week that a number of prisoners had escaped from Alton. My brother John has been sent from there to Fort Delaware, it seems he finds the later place a little too tough eve for his philosophy. Says he very much prefers Alton.”[10]

Colonel Weer, even though facing pressure from a petition to remove him from his command, must have felt that the Jersey county rebels had inside assistance. He made allegations against a popular and well-known young lady. Unfortunately he incurred the displeasure of his commanding officer, General William S. Rosecrans. Rosecrans was also pushing along Weer’s inquiry. On April 16th Colonel Weer called his female suspect to his office.

“Upon this subject we place before our readers a communication from a mutual friend. We learn that the lady has gone on a visit to her friends in the East. The following is the communication”

For the Democratic Union

Mr. Editor: – I see in your last issue the statement of the arrest of Miss ANNA FLETCHER (with others) by order of Col. Weer. They were charged with assisting the Jersey County prisoners to escape, by furnishing them with a watch-Spring saw. As regards Miss Fletcher, the above charge was not made against her, at all, before the Provost Marshal General of St. Louis, but a mere request of Col. Weer, that she should be made take the oath of allegiance and give bond. “General Rosecrans, being present laughed and said “It was ridiculous,” and released her without complying with Col. Weer’s request.”

J. F. Griggsby

“We hope the assertions in the above communication taken from the Jerseyville Democratic Union, in reference to Miss Fletcher is true. We cannot help but feel a strong interest in this young lady, and a sincere desire that the charges made against her should prove false, from the fact, that we were well and intimately acquainted with her father, whom we knew to be a noble, high-minded, and intelligent gentleman, and a sincere and devoted friend to his country.”

“It will be recollected, by our citizens, that mainly through his efforts, a company of volunteers were raised in this city for the Mexican war. A man by the name of Baker was chosen captain, and Fletcher, Robbins and Ferguson chosen lieutenants. In the battle of Buena Vista all three of the lieutenants were killed, and the captain lost his right eye. The bodies of the brave and noble fellows were brought to this city. A large crowd turned out to their funeral ceremonies. Patriotic and buncombe speeches were made in abundance, and it was resolved to erect a fine monument over their graves. But nearly twenty years have passed, and there is nothing to mark the spot where these patriotic braves are to be found, except a pine board with their names inscribed thereon. But their memories are ineffaceably engraven on the hearts of a few friends, which is far better than a costly monument erected by a cold and unfeeling world.”

“These being the facts in the history of Miss Fletcher’s father, we shall be very lo(a)th to credit any damaging reports against her character, and are rejoiced to learn from the above communication that there was no substantial reason for her arrest.”[11]

By the end of August 1864, Colonel Weer would be court-martialed and cashiered from the service. The notorious Henderson was gunned down with another southern Illinois rebel Colonel Carlin while planning a raid on Jerseyville. The normal tedium of prisoner of war guard duty did not hold true for the Tenth Kansas during the month of April 1864.


[1]Alton Military Penitentiary in the Civil War: Smallpox and Burial on the Alton Harbor Islands, Cox, Jann, 1988, page 47.

[2]Alton Telegraph, “The 10th Kansas”, April 29, 1864

[3]Listing of Alton National Cemetery Interments by Date, Don Huber Collection

[4]Alton Telegraph, “Court of Inquiry”, April 8, 1864

[5]Alton Telegraph, “Instructions Concerning Prisoners”, April 1, 1864

[6]Alton Telegraph, “Attempted Escape from ‘Bluff Castle”, April 1, 1864

[7]Alton Telegraph, “Prisoner Killed”, April 8, 1864

[8]Alton Telegraph, “Escape of Prisoners”, April 8, 1864

[9]Alton Telegraph, “Another Attempt to Escape”, April  8, 1864

[10]Camp and Prison Journal, Frost, Griffin, 1994, page 122

[11] Alton Telegraph, “The Arrest of Miss Fletcher”, April 29, 1864

Raid on a Nest of Nymphs

True Tales of the Tenth Kansas Infantry:

Raid on a Nest of Nymphs

by Howard Mann

In August of 1864, the Tenth Kansas had almost completed its obligation to the Union. After a tenuous start as part of the Kansas Brigade in 1861, consolidation in early 1862, weathering the tests of battle throughout the fall and winter months of 1863, and enduring the tedious pursuit of guerillas until assigned the grueling duty of prison guards at Alton Prison in Illinois in 1864, the Tenth was about to muster out. The most wearing aspect of the Tenth Kansas’s tenure was the inconsistency of its officers. Colonel William Weer was undergoing a court-martial for embezzlement of prisoner funds. Lieutenant Colonel John T. Burris had been detached from the regiment since the Indian Expedition on administrative duties at Fort Leavenworth and Kansas City. Major Henry H. Williams, while remaining with the regiment had been detached in St. Louis on the staff of Brigadier General Thomas Ewing.

Gratiot Street PrisonThe original posting of the Tenth Kansas as prison guards at Alton Military Prison did not require all of the regiment’s ten companies. Other companies were assigned to provide guards at St. Louis’s two prisons, Gratiot Street Prison (the old McDowell Medical College) and the Myrtle Street Prison. Some of the soldiers under the command of Captain Mathew Quigg were assigned to provost guard duty in the city of St. Louis.

Mathew Quigg was one of the premier officers of the Tenth Kansas. Originally a militia officer of “Lane’s Fencibles” from Atchison, Kansas, Captain Quigg led his stalwarts to Fort Leavenworth at the outbreak of war. His unit was uniformed, armed and well-drilled, unlike many of the eager young farm boys who would join Lane’s Brigade in search of adventure. Quigg’s men came prepared for war. Captain Quigg was frequently placed in command in tight situations at Locust Grove and Prairie Grove specifically. At one point he was being backed to replace a colonel in another regiment who was being cashiered. Captain Quigg was a recognized leader. But even a recognized leader can come up against a formidable opponent.

The St. Louis Democrat, August 18, 1864 reported one of Captain Quigg’s last encounters before mustering out the same month.

“RAID ON A NEST OF NYMPHS — A week or two ago, we noticed the visit of Colonel Baker and Captain Quigg to the five-story building on Fifth street, between Pine and Chesnut, the upper stories of which are occupied as dens of prostitution by a happy family of white and black men, women and children. The occasion of this official visit was to inquire into the truth of complaints that had been made to the military authorities in regard to the nuisance committed by the occupants of the house in “Harrolson Alley.” Colonel Baker cautioned the persons found in the rooms, that if any more complaints were brought to him he would proceed to turn them out and take possession of the premises. For a few days the occupants of the rooms gave no cause of complaint, but soon relapsed into their old habits, and so annoyed the females employed in the Government workshop on the opposite side of the alley that they could not endure it, and reported the facts to Colonel Baker. One Tuesday the Colonel sent a Lieutenant of the Provost Guard to notify the nymphs that they must vacate the premises before night. The girls obtained a respite until Wednesday morning, when the Lieutenant took a guard and turned them out of doors. Eighteen rooms were confiscated. Some of the inmates had taken time by the forelock and skedaddled, but others being unable, like Noah’s dove to find rest for the soles of their feet, had returned to the ark and abandoned themselves to their fate. One lady, however, was permitted to remain undisturbed, because she represented herself as the wife of a Lieutenant of the 11th Missouri cavalry, at Little Rock; two or three others were found in bed with haggard countenances, moaning in great apparent distress, and complaining of being exceedingly sick, and of course the officer was too chivalric to turn sick women out into the streets, and they too were allowed to remain. One young girl was sitting on her trunk, with a despairing countenance; she had not found other lodgings, and declared that she intended to end her woes by taking “pizen.” A large sized Amazon, called “Noisey Belle” had been unable to get away because the landlord held her furniture for back rent and would not permit her to remove it. The soldiers settled the dispute by tumbling Belle’s furniture, bedding, crockery-ware, bonnets, bundles, etc., out upon the sidewalk. The upper story was occupied by colored people, who were not molested.

The portion of the building cleared out is owned by the Tyler estate, and is leased to parties who sublet the rooms to any one who will pay for them. This example will doubtless be a sufficient warning to the large congregation of lewd women in other parts of the building, but if they do not conduct themselves with more propriety in (the) future, they also will be ejected by the military arm.”

Captain Quigg returned home and mustered out with about half of the existing regiment by the time the article was published. The remaining veterans of the Tenth again consolidated into four companies of the Veteran Tenth Kansas Volunteer Infantry. The Veteran Tenth would plunge into the nightmarish last days of Hood’s Franklin/Nashville campaign and end up charging the earthworks at Fort Blakeley, Alabama. Added to the Tenth’s honors should be the storming of “Harrolson’s Alley”.

Gratiot Street Prison FAQ

Gratiot Street Prison FAQ:

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

by D. H. Rule

How is Gratiot pronounced?

grass-shut

Where does the name come from?

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

Does anything remain on the site?

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

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

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

Gratiot 1863

What sort of area was Gratiot Street Prison in?

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

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

What kind of prisoners were held there?

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

Was Gratiot the only prison in St. Louis?

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

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

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

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

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

What were the main causes of death at Gratiot?

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

What was the capacity?

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

Were there many escapes?

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

What was security like? How were people kept in?

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

Did executions take place at Gratiot?

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

Where were the dead buried?

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

Elijah Alexander Mays by Larry Thomas

Elijah Alexander Mays

by Larry Thomas

Alexander Mays was born about 1820 in Maury County, Tennessee. He was the son of John and Eleanor “Nelly” Dorton Mays. Little is known about his father, John Mays including when or where he was born or who his parents were.  In fact about the only thing known for sure is that on April 16, 1818 John married Nelly Dorton in Maury County, Tennessee. John died, or left, in the 1820’s while they were living in Maury County, Tennessee leaving no will. Alexander would have been under 10 years old when his father died.  Alexander’s mother, Eleanor “Nelly” Dorton was born about 1798 in North Carolina, probably Cabarrus County, the daughter of Charles Dorton.

After John’s death, Eleanor was living in Maury County in 1830 with her three children, including Alexander, next to Robert Mays. What relationship Robert Mays was, if any, is unknown.  In 1840, Nelly was in Marshall County, Tennessee, and was still living there in 1850. Alexander was living elsewhere, and only Nelly’s daughter Gracey was living with her. Alexander had one other sibling, a sister, but her name and what happened to her is unknown.

The first record of Alexander on his own is on September 7, 1840 in Marshall County, Tennessee when he is named on the record for work on the McColums Gap road. A few months after that, on December 28, he married Sarah Hopwood Beck, the widow of Ebenezer Beck who was about 10 years his senior.  Sarah Hopwood was born about 1811 in Bedford County, Tennessee, the daughter of the Reverend Willis and Penelope Moore Hopwood. Her father, the Reverend Hopwood was a Baptist circuit rider, but later converted and became one of the leaders of the Disciples of Christ faith movement in middle Tennessee. About 1828 Sarah had married Ebenezer Beck and had seven children before his death in 1839.  Ebenezer is buried in the Hopwood Cemetery in Marshall County, Tennessee, near Sarah’s grandparents. Sarah’s father traveled a wide area from almost Nashville, TN down into Alabama to help spread the Disciples of Christ faith. While a devout minister, he also had no difficulties with owning slaves. His granddaughter, Mary Beck Dorton, told that he didn’t believe in whipping the slaves, that if they caused trouble, he just sold them.

The next time Alexander appears is in 1848 when he is named to work on the road with his father-in-law, Willis Hopwood. It must be understood that work on the road also means that you furnish hands to work on the road. It is doubtful that Willis, a minister and slave owner, was actually helping clear the road himself whereas Alexander probably actually did work.

The first child of Alexander and Sarah that we know of, was Thomas, born in 1841 in Marshall County, Tennessee. Three to four years later, in 1845, a daughter, Gracie Ellen was born and in 1847 their son John Alexander was born, also in Marshall County. The fourth child born of this union was William, born on August 5, 1850, a few months before Sarah’s father died.

On July 19, 1852, their youngest son William Mays died, just short of two years old.  He is buried in the Hopwood cemetery in Marshall County, Tennessee near the resting place of his great grandparents, William and Nancy Willis Hopwood. Shortly after this, Alexander, Sarah and their three remaining children left for Missouri along with Alexander’s mother, Eleanor and her slaves and most likely some of Sarah older children from her prior marriage. They had arrived in Missouri by January 22, 1854 when their last child was born, Andrew Craig Mays.

On July 13, 1858, Elijah made his mark on a statement for the purchase of 124 and 1/2 acres in Madison Co., Missouri. He stated that he had been living there since July 27, 1857 and that he had a dwelling house and other appurtenances with six acres in cultivation.  Elijah stated that he was 36 years old and was the head of a family. Living in nearby counties were Sarah’s children by Ebenezer Beck, Clark, Mary Polly who married William Sennekey Dorton, and probably Malinda Jane who married Harvey Dorton.

For whatever reason, Elijah and Sarah moved a little further west and were living in Reynolds County, Missouri on March 11, 1859. On February 15, 1860 Elijah made a claim for the purchase of 120 acres for 12 1/2 cents per acre in Reynolds County. He stated that he was living on this land and that he had about four acres in cultivation as well as a dwelling house. He also stated that this land was for his personal use and for the purpose of actual settlement. As late as 1871, only eight other families had settled in the valley besides Alexander’s family in one household, and his mother Eleanor in another.

The land they settled is in a small, quiet valley surrounded by fairly steep hills on what is now highway HH just south of Ellington. Located in the valley was the Bethlehem School and Church.  The first full-time pastor was Rev. Jacob Lewis who arrived shortly before Alexander and Sarah, in 1852. It is likely that their families attended service at the Bethlehem Church as we know Sarah’s father was a devout preacher and that her son Andrew was a member of the Philadelphia Baptist Church after he moved to Arkansas. Later on, just before moving, Andrew was attending school at Bethlehem, as well as his older brother John’s children and the former slaves of Alexander’s mother Eleanor.

In 1860 Alexander, or E. A., and Sarah Mays were living in Reynolds County with their four children, including Thomas. Ironically, Thomas also shows up in the St. Francois County, Missouri census which was taken a few months earlier, living with Clark Beck, his half brother from his mother’s first marriage. In this census Thomas was listed as a coal miner, a job which undoubtedly didn’t have much appeal since he was now a farmhand in Reynolds County. Across the road was Eleanor Mays, Alexander’s mother.  On this census she stated that she was a farmer with $200 worth of personal property, that she could not read or write, and that she owned 2 slaves. While Alexander and his mother were unable to read or write, Sarah was, and any papers signed together, had Alexander’s mark and Sarah’s signature. Another interesting fact was that while in Tennessee he used the name Alexander, but after arriving in Missouri he began using E. A. or Elijah A.  It is known that there was another Elijah Mays living nearby in Tennessee, possibly a cousin or uncle, and our Elijah went by Alexander to avoid confusion.

A story passed on to the family by Elijah’s grandson Charles Edgar Mays was that while living in Missouri, Elijah was loading the wagon to make a trip to town, his son Andrew wanted to go but Elijah told him “You cannot go this time.” Andrew told his father, “Pap if you don’t let me go, I will cut up your deer hide.” Elijah gave him a little switching and told Andrew, “There will be plenty more if you touch my deer hide.”

The Civil War was a tough time for southern Missouri, having troops from both sides patrolling the area. The town of Barnsville (Ellington after the war) was actually abandoned and ceased to exist during the war. One night in 1863, Union troops came through the area and, according to history books, raided the homes of several families in the Bethlehem area. The history books show that Andrew Chitwood, an older man was shot on his porch. Up the valley a Mr. Bowers, while trying to escape out his back door was shot in the back and died shortly thereafter from his wounds. William Murril and David Angel were persuaded to join and fight with the Union army. But records show that Murril later died in the Alton, Illinois prison in December, 1864, listed as a conscript.

On December 30th, 1862 E. A. Mays was captured by Captain Bruett of the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry.  The Union Captain stated that Alexander had refused to take the oath to the United States and to give bond.  He stated that Alexander said he would not care if he had to work his lifetime at the fortifications. He was taken to Van Buren, Missouri for a few days and on January 6, 1863, when his youngest son Andrew was only 8 years old, Elijah Alexander Mays, civilian, Reynolds County, Missouri, was confined to the Gratiot Street, Union prison in St. Louis, Missouri. On January 26th, Alexander was listed as “unaccounted for”. There were a great many escapes made from these prisons and it might be that he tried, but on February 5, 1863 he was back and made a statement to the authorities. He stated that he was born in Maury Co, Tennessee, was 43 years old, a farmer, married and had four children. When asked why he was arrested, he stated that “I don’t know-Have no idea-thought I had always been a good loyal citizen.”  When asked if he was a southern sympathizer he stated that “I hate to see the south crushed as it is spoken of – I rather think I am.” The interviewer stated that he did not make a good impression and doubted that he was truthful. He also stated that he was mild, firm, vigorous and healthy. It was also stated that  “No doubt a traitor at heart, but too ignorant to do much harm.”

In November 1862, shortly before Alexander’s arrival, the Gratiot Street prison had 800 prisoners, when it’s maximum capacity was around 500 prisoners. Captain Griffin Frost, a Southern officer, who kept a diary throughout the entire war, wrote that he arrived at Gratiot on the last day of 1862, one week before Alexander’s arrival, that they were escorted to their quarters, “a very dark, gloomy place, and very filthy besides.” The prisoners found that the Gratiot Street prison was a hard place and the “fare so rough, it seems an excellent place to starve.” In March of 1863 smallpox broke out among the prisoners causing them to wonder that “every disease under heaven does not break out in the lower quarters, half starved and crowded together as they are in dirt and rage.” On February 26th Alexander was sent to the Burnett Hospital. It is possible that he too had smallpox but there is no record of his ailment.  In April two physicians were appointed by the Sanitary Commission and declared the prisons to be a disgrace “to us as a Christian people.” “In these rooms the prisoners spent day and night, for the small yard of the prison is scarcely sufficient to contain a foul and stinking privy…. it is difficult to conceive how human beings can continue to live in such an atmosphere as must be generated when the windows are closed at night or in stormy weather. Here were persons lying sick, with pneumonia, dysentery and other grave diseases awaiting admission to the hospital.” The records are confusing but on either March 9th or April 25th, 1863 Alexander was sent to the Alton, Illinois prison.

While in the Alton prison, Alexander fared no better. The prison was so bad that it had been condemned two years prior to the war and it too had an epidemic of smallpox in 1863. Overcrowding in the prison made the disease impossible to control or eliminate.  Captain Frost, who was also transferred to Alton, stated in his diary that “…this is a much harder place than Gratiot-it is almost impossible to sleep on account of the rats, which run over us all through the night…  There is much sickness’ the small-pox is prevailing, and many are dying daily.” A nearby island in the Mississippi river, called Ellis, was used for a burying ground. Since the building of the Alton lock and dam this grave site is now under water. Guards transported the wrapped bodies to the island in the darkness where they were placed in common graves. Prisoners, guards, even the doctors feared going to the island, afraid they would never return. No one knows the number buried on the smallpox island. Records indicate 1,613 deaths, but other estimates place the total as high as 5,000.  Other bodies were taken to the old prison burying ground near North Alton.

It appears that on August 3rd, Alexander was sent back to the Gratiot Street prison, where by October, there were nine hundred and sixty prisoners, many without bunks. On September 2d, the Judge Advocate recommended that E. A. Mays be kept in prison during the bushwhacking months (September and October) and then released on bond of one thousand dollars. Through all this Alexander survived, for on November 27, 1863, while in the Gratiot Street prison, is a single final entry, “Sent South of the U.S. lines.” It appears that Alexander never made it back to his family and home.

At this time Sarah Hopwood Mays’ daughter, Polly Beck Dorton was living in Farmington, Missouri and her husband William was away fighting for the Southern army. It is unknown if the tragedy in her mother’s household was the cause, or some other reason, but in a story related by Elsie Dawson, Polly’s granddaughter, Polly decided to travel to Tennessee to visit her mother.  Since the Mays family had long since moved to Reynolds County, Missouri, it was undoubtedly there that Polly traveled and not Tennessee.

“She (Polly) had a big old mare, with an enlarged knee, about as big as a gallon bucket.  It was caused by another horse kicking her. She also had a fine young mare, but the Captain of the Home Guard told her that his men had their eyes on her and was going to take her. She let the Captain take her to ride himself. He kept her until the war ended. So she and the children made the long trip to Tennessee.

“On the way, the soldiers would stop her to take the mare. But when they saw the ‘big knee’, they would let her keep the mare. She had to get ‘Passes’ along the way, to get by the armies. The Captains would tell her to hurry, there might be a battle at any time.

“All three of them rode the mare sometimes but most of the time Grandma walked and let the children ride. She found her Mother OK, visited a while and returned home to Missouri.” After the war Polly and her family moved to Craighead County, Arkansas.

It is likely that the family never knew what had happen to Elijah, but sometime prior to 1870, Sarah had married for a third time to James Stallcup. At this time the only child left at home was a 15 year old Andrew. The same year, 1870 her Sarah’s mother in law, Eleanor is listed as Ellen Maze, Maze being a common misspelling in Reynolds County, especially among those that were unable to read and write. She names Rythe, Nancy and William as “whites” and as domestic servants, but in 1860 they were listed as slaves. The courthouse in Reynolds County burned in 1871 so all records before then have been lost. The last record found of Eleanor is when she appears on the 1871 Enumeration of Residents for the Bethelem School. Since Eleanor does not appear on the 1872 Enumeration, and no other record’s can be found naming her, it can be determined that she passed away about 1871.  Eleanor had been a widow for over forty years, had traveled half way across the United States. She is probably buried in the old Mays cemetery or the Bethlehem Church cemetery, both south of Ellington. In 1872 Andrew was attending the Bethlehem school but shortly after his grandmother’s death Andrew left Missouri for Craighead County, Arkansas where he married Rosley Caroline Sullins in 1874. James Stallcup died a short while later, around August, 1875.

In 1876 Sarah appears on the county tax list living next to her son Alex Beck. But in September 1876 she and her daughter Gracie, whose husband James McMillin had also recently died, sold the 120 acres of land Elijah had purchased in 1859 to her son, John Mays. Tradition says that Andrew moved his family to Arkansas, so it can be reasoned that he returned to Reynolds county to help move his mother and sister. Sarah moved in with Andrew and his family while  Gracie bought the land next to Andrew on Lost Creek in Craighead County, Arkansas.

John remained in Reynolds Co., Missouri after everyone else had left for Arkansas. He served in the Missouri Militia for two years after the Civil War and was described as 6 foot tall with dark eyes, hair and complexion. About 1865 John married Cisley Chitwood, the daughter of Andrew Chitwood, who was shot on his porch, probably in the same raid that took John’s father away. Later he was elected to the local School board for several years in the 1870’s.

Interestingly, Eleanor must have been very close to her one time slaves, for from 1876 forward, these slaves are listed as having taken the name Mays, and continued to live next to John Alexander Mays, her grandson. It appears that these individuals were living on the land that Eleanor was farming in 1860. In the early 1880’s when the last of the Mays family, John, moved to Craighead County, Arkansas and bought land from his sister Gracie, the former slaves moved with him. Nancy Cooper, John Alexander Mays’ granddaughter, remembers her father Charles Edgar talking about “Mammy Blythe” (Rythe on the 1870 census) as taking care of the children when growing up. Several of this family of former slaves are buried on the outskirts of the Ransom cemetery outside Jonesboro, where several of Eleanor’s descendants and in-laws are buried.

Sarah lived out the rest of her days with Andrew. She died on October 5, 1899 and is buried in the Shiloh Cemetery with a stone that says only “Mother of A.C. Mays”. Her obituary appeared in the Jonesboro Sun on October 12, 1899 stating “Grandma Mays died Thursday, October 5, 1899 at 6 o’clock at the residence of her son A. C. Mays, two miles north of this city, at the ripe old age of 87 years and was buried Friday at 6 p.m. in Shiloh Cemetery.” Her grandson, Charles Edgar described her as “…about 5’8” tall, large frame, stood fairly straight and not too fat. Her complexion was that of a high sun tan.” “She wore dresses of many yards of cloth as was the custom in those days.  Her top dress had a deep pocket, I knew she was preparing to smoke. I would get all excited and say ‘Grandma can I get you the light for your pipe? She always smiled and would say, ‘Yes.’” “Besides being kind to me, she was strange and intriguing.”


Sources:

Marriage License of John Mays and Nelly Dorton, issued Maury Co., TN, April 16, 1818, Book W-1, page 27.

1830 Census Maury Co. TN     AGLL Film M19-177, Page 349.

1840 Census Marshall Co. TN       AGLL Film M704-531.

1850 Marshall Co. TN Census   Oct 24, 1850, Page 131.

Letter from Elsie Dawson, granddaughter of Mary Beck Dorton.

Marshall Co. TN Court Minutes Vol A, page 414,  Sept 7, 1840, Alexander Mays appears in Marshall County records for the first time in record for McColums Gap road.

Record of License from Marshall Co., TN, FHL 0024762-Marriage Bonds Marshall Co., TN, license of Alexender Mays and Sarah Beck, December 28, 1840.

Marriage Record of Willis Hopwood and Penelope Moore, Pittsylvania Co., VA

Christian Magazine, Vol. IV, Sept. 1851, p. 288 ; Jesse Ferguson, Editor, “Obituary of Reverend Willis Hopwood”.

Tennessee Christians  A History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Tennessee; by Herman A. Norton, 1971, Pg. 12-15.

The Story of the Churches The Disciple of Christ, Electronic Version, by Errett Gates, Ph. D.   1905 The Baker and Taylor Co.  pages 164-168

Marshall County, TN Will Book, page 242-246, Will of Willis Hopwood

Marshall County Tennessee Court Minutes 1845-1848,  page 361 Record road work of Alexander “Mase”.

Tombstones of William Mays, William Hopwood and Nancy Hopwood, Hopwood Cemetery, Marshall Co., TN.

Death Certificate of Andrew Craig Mays.

1900 Jonesboro Township, Craighead Co., AR Census.

Madison Co., MO. Land Deed Book G,  Page 731-732

1860 St. Francois Co., MO Census.

National Archives, General Land Entry Files, Patent 37329, Reynolds Co., MO.

Reynolds County, Missouri, ‘Sesquicentennial Year’ 1845-1995, Vol. I, Page 24, 31-32.

Annual Enumeration of Local (School) Board, 1871 and 1872.

1860 Reynolds Co., MO Census, Barnsville PO.

Camp and Prison Journal by Griffin Frost, Reprinted 1994 by Press of the Camp Pope Bookshop, P.O. Box 2232, Iowa City, IA  52244.

Missouri Prisoners of War, From Gratiot Street Prison & Myrtle Street Prison, St. Louis, MO and Alton Prison, Alton, Illinois Including Citizens, Confederates, Bushwhackers and Guerrillas,  By Joanne Chile Eakin, 1995, Printed in Independence, MO  64055.

National Archives and Records Administration, Collection of Confederate Records, Record Group 109, Union Provost Marshals’ File of Papers Relating to Individual Civilians, Roll 179.

The Cole Family Allied Lines, by Kathe Hager Hollingshaus & Peggy Ann Silva Shumway, Page 276 by granddaughter Elsie Dawson.

1870 Reynolds Co., MO Census, Barnsville, Webb Township

Index of Reynolds Co., MO Probate Records, Reynolds County Genealogy Society.

1876 Reynolds Co., MO County Tax List.

Obituary of Sarah Hopwood, The Jonesboro Sun, Oct. 12, 1899, page 5.

The Jonesboro Evening Sun, Thursday, July 7, 1938, “Over 100 Attend Reunion of Mays Family near City”.

Obituary of Andrew C. Mays, Jonesboro Daily Tribune, Nov. 13, 1937.

Post Civil War Missouri Militia Enrollment List 1865-1866, Reynolds County Missouri, Transcribed by Marcia V. (Moyer) Branstetter, California, MO  65018.

Various Craighead Co., AR land deeds.

Statement of Nancy Cooper, granddaughter of John Alexander Mays.

The Craighead County Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXIII, Spring 1985, No. 2, April 1985, “The Mays Family” by Charles Edgar Mays, page 9-14.

Provost Marshals

Provost Marshals

by D. H. Rule

James O. Broadhead: Ardent Unionist, Unrepentant Slaveholder by Kirby Ross new December 6, 2002


George E. Leighton – George Elliot Leighton, Born March 7, 1835 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Came to St. Louis in 1858. Lawyer in St. Louis. Lieutenant in 3rd Missouri US Reserve Volunteers, April 1861. Major in 5th Missouri State Militia Cavalry. Married Isabella Bridge October 23, 1862. Son George B. Leighton born 1864. Provost Marshal of St. Louis fall 1861 through 1862. 1863 Colonel of 7th Regiment Enrolled Missouri Militia. Later President of the Missouri Historical Society. Died July 4, 1901.

“I was on the other side myself, but I recollected Colonel Leighton’s administration, and, though this was a Southern city, I can say that the only recollection of it to most of us is admiration for the man himself. I can’t say that we indorsed all his moves, of course, but most of his orders were worded with great humanity, and were carried out in the same manner so long as he was personally present to supervise them. He was not responsible for the doings of some of his subordinates.” Jefferson Meek, 1901


GENERAL ORDERS No. 13.

HDQRS. DEPT. OF THE MISSOURI,
Saint Louis, Mo., December 4, 1861.

I. Lieut. Col. Bernard G. Farrar is hereby appointed provost-marshal-general of this department. Capt. George E. Leighton is provost-marshal of the city of Saint Louis and its vicinity. All local provost-marshals will be subject to the orders of the provost-marshal-general, who will receive his instructions direct from these headquarters.


OFFICE OF PROVOST-MARSHAL,
Saint Louis, Mo., December 4, 1861

I may be permitted to say that on my appointment to the position I hold I found the department greatly disorganized and that from the date of the proclamation of martial law there had been exercised a very general jurisdiction over civil as well as military matters. Perhaps at first it was in a measure necessary, but if so the necessity exists no longer; and it has been my aim by thorough organization to increase its efficiency though operating with a less force and disentangle it from all connection with civil matters except in cases of absolute necessity and where it is believed the interests of the Government imperatively require it.

The police department of the city is under the control of men of unquestioned loyalty, and a thorough understanding exists between the chief of that department and myself so that there may be co-operation when desired. The executive of the city while he is not to be considered loyal is not one who would give aid or assistance against us. He has scrupulously avoided all chance of collision and where the peace and good order of the city has been involved has not hesitated to operate in connection with this department.

The council and aldermen are all of undoubted disloyalty but nothing is to be apprehended from them, the police and executive being the only branches of the city government with which it is desirable that this department should co-operate.

I have the honor to be, general,

GEORGE E. LEIGHTON,

Provost-Marshal.

“I was informed Colonel Leighton was to be married that night at the Trinity Episcopal Church… Out of pure deviltry I proposed to attend the ceremony. To this some of my friends seriously objected, while others said I would not dare do such a risky thing, when all the government officials and the police were on the alert to capture me. A dare or a challenge was a thing I never dodged, so I determined to undertake it. My dear friend, Miss Lizzie Pickering, proposed to accompany me and we were present when the ceremony was performed. We occupied seats near the rear of the church and left promptly after the ceremony. A few days later I wrote Colonel and Mrs. Leighton a note of congratulations, and he had the note published in the St. Louis Globe under the title, ‘Insolent Nerve.'” — Absalom C. Grimes


James H. Baker – former Secretary of State of Minnesota, fought in the Sioux uprising. Born in Monroe, Ohio, May 6, 1829. Moved to Minnesota in 1857 where he served two terms as Secretary of State. Married Rose Thurston September 25, 1852. She died March 21, 1873. Two sons, Arthur and Harry Baker. Married December 23, 1879 to Zula Bartlett. Baker died May 25, 1913 in Mankato, Minnesota. Provost Marshal of St. Louis and Department of Missouri 1863-65. Baker’s Correspondence in the Official Records

From the 1864 St. Louis Directory:

Provost Marshal General’s Dept. of the Missouri

Office, 5th st., cor. St. Charles

Colonel J. H. Baker, P. M. General

Lt. Col. C. W. Davis, 1st Asst. P. M. General

Capt. Saml. S. Burdett, 2d Asst. P. M. General

Lieut. J. C. Bradler, 3d Asst. P. M. General

Lieut. G. H. Richardson, 4th Asst. P. M. General

Lieut. Geo. W. Shinn, Chief of Bureau of Examiners

Samuel S. Boyd, Solicitor

Capt. Peter Fallon [sic–Tallon], Chief U. S. Military Police

A. B. Converse, Asst. Chief U. S. Mil. Police


James O. Broadhead – James Overton Broadhead. May 28, 1819-August 7, 1898. Lawyer from Virginia with many Southern friends and sympathies, pro-slavery. Married Mary Snowden Dorsey. Children: Nannie Dorsey Broadhead-1849, Charles L. S. Broadhead-1853, May Mary W.Broadhead-1856, John D. Broadhead-1858.

See: James O. Broadhead: Ardent Unionist, Unrepentant Slaveholder by Kirby Ross new December 6, 2002

“With the approbation of Governor Gamble, General Schofield appointed as a staff officer and assigned to duty as provost-marshal-general one James O. Broadhead, who, it is said, declared recently in Saint Louis that every damned abolitionist in the country ought to be hung, with Chase and Stanton at their head. Under this new administration, faithful, diligent, and competent assistant provost-marshals were arbitrarily removed without any cause being assigned and their places supplied by those whose sympathies were with the Conservatives.”BROADHEAD, James O., lawyer, was born in Albemarle county, Va., May 19, 1819. He was educated at the high school, and when sixteen years of ago studied for one year at the University of Virginia. In June, 1837, he removed to Missouri, where he studied law in the office of Edward Bates for three years. In 1841 he began the practice of the law in Pike county, Mo., and in 1845 was elected as a delegate to the constitutional convention of the state. In 1846 he was elected to the state legislature from Pike county, and in 1850 to the state senate, and served in that capacity four years. In 1859 he located in St. Louis, and in February, 1861, he was appointed U.S. district attorney of Missouri, but resigned when he found it interfered with his duties as a delegate to the state convention, “for vindicating the sovereignty of the state, and the protection of its institutions.” Under the provisions of resolutions offered by Mr. Broadhead, this convention abolished the existing state government, and established a provisional government, which for the first three years of the civil war managed its affairs, raising and organizing a military force in support of the United States government. He was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of the 3d Missouri cavalry, and was assigned to duty on the staff of General Schofield, as provost marshal-general of the department of Missouri. In 1876 he was [p.416] appointed by President Grant as counsel on the part of the government in the prosecution of the “whisky frauds.” In 1878 he was chosen president of the American bar association, which met at Saratoga, N.Y. In 1882 he was elected a representative to the 48th Congress as a Democrat, and in 1885 was appointed by the government as special agent to make preliminary search of the record of the French archives in the matter of the French spoliation claims, making his report in October, 1885. He was U.S. minister to Switzerland, 1893-’97, and on his return he took up the practice of his profession. He died in St. Louis, Mo., Aug. 7, 1898.

Johnson, Rossiter, ed. Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, – Vol. I-X (10). Boston, MA: The Biographical Society, 1904

From the  Westliche Post, a German newspaper in St. Louis:

MISSOURI AS HUNTING-GROUND FOR NEGRO-CATCHERS.

Our Jail, under the administration of General Schofield and Provost-Marshal Broadhead, has become area; “slave-pen? Every day blacks and colored people of all shades–men, women, and children–are thrown into it, who had believed in the gospel of liberty proclaimed by “honest “–it is too great a shame that this word must now be written with quotation marks–by honest Father Abraham. This honest man has made Missouri a real hunting-ground for nigger-catchers, and the authorities appointed by him protect this “honest” calling in every possible way. If we say the Jail has become a slave-pen, we don’t mean to censure the jailer. He is bound to receive the slaves that are arrested by order of the provost-marshal and brought to jail; he is bound to do it as his duty, and we are sure it is a disagreeable duty to him. But who has given our Provost-Marshal-General Broadhead authority to recall and declare null and void the free papers which have been given by his predecessors or by former commanders of this department to the slaves of rebel masters? Does a slave become a free man by a certificate of liberty, duly made out by competent authority, or is such a certificate of liberty a mere piece of paper, which may be torn up at pleasure? Is the great liberty proclamation of the President himself also a mere rag, which every provost-marshal may spit upon and kick with his feet, if he so chooses? Every day fugitive slaves from all quarters of the rebellious States are arrested in our streets by professional rascals and dragged to jail. The process of such an outrage is a very- simple one. Any rebel from Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, or any other slave State sells his human property to a dealer in men’s flesh, who is, of course, a “loyal” man, Just as Mr. Lincoln is an “honest man, and this slave-trader puts immediately his blood-hounds on the track of the scented game, which is then surely fated, for the provost-marshal-general never neglects to play his role. Thus, in the past month hundreds of liberated slaves have been carried back into slavery; thus, yesterday, six of them sat in the jail waiting for the next boat to Kentucky, and thus things will continue as long as Schofield and Broadhead are at the head of affairs, and probably as long as “honest Old Abe” sits in the White House. We spoke to an old soldier of the Twelfth Regiment, who had carried a musket in the service of liberty since the commencement of the war, and we heard him say, “May my right hand wither before it ever again throws a ticket for Abraham Lincoln into the ballot-box and may my lips be struck dumb if ever I pronounce that name otherwise than with contempt!A negro who has gone through all the toils of the Twelfth Regiment for two years is now a fugitive slave in the jail, caught on Lincoln’s slave-hunting ground in Missouri.

To such a pass has a weak-brained and weak-spirited Republican administration brought affairs in Missouri that it has incurred the hatred and the disgust of all true Union men, of all true emancipationists, and of all those who are honestly in favor of liberty: while noon its head descend the blessings and the praises of those who stigmatized the conquerors of Camp Jackson as murderers and the author of the emancipation proclamation as an Abolitionist. Be it so. Italia far a da so. We will help ourselves.


Thomas T. Gantt – Thomas Tasker Gantt. Lawyer. Born in the District of Columbia July 22, 1814. Attended West Point 1831-33 but a military career was prevented by an injury. Moved to St. Louis May, 1839. In 1845 Gantt was appointed by President Polk as United States District Attorney for the District of Missouri, as which he served four years. City counselor of St. Louis 1853 for two years. Elected to State Convention February 1861 from the city and county of St. Louis as an unconditional Union man. Gantt became a colonel in the Army of the Potomac August 1861 by appointment of General McClellan. He served as judge advocate. Resigned due to ill health and returned to St. Louis in July 1862. Served as unpaid Provost Marshal from July to November 1862. Returned to law practice until 1875 when he was first a member of the Constitutional Convention of Missouri, then a judge of the Court of Appeals. In January 1877 he returned to private law practice. Died June 17, 1889.
“He is a man of warm impulses, and a generous friend. By his own industry, energy, and enterprise he has acquired a competent fortune; is a fine scholar, a finished and accomplished lawyer, and has won for himself in the community where he has so long lived, the reputation of an honest man, and an upright, public-spirited, worthy citizen, ever to be relied upon in the hour of danger and public emergency.” –Personal Recollections of John F. Darby (mayor of St. Louis 1835)

Thomas Gantt building in St. Louis, built 1877

A link to photos of Gantt’s grave on Find-a-Grave

(use your back button to return here)


Franklin A. Dick – Franklin Archibald Dick. From Pennsylvania. Lawyer. Lieut. Col. and Provost-Marshal-General, Dept. of the Missouri, brother-in-law of Frank Blair. Married Mira M. (Midge) Alexander November 25, 1851 (she was the sister of Blair’s wife). Credited with getting the dress from his mother-in-law that Nathaniel Lyon wore on his scouting trip into Camp Jackson (see Lady With Spurs).

“Hither came the trusty agents of Missouri’s cruel hyena, F. A. Dick, Provost Marshal of St. Louis…” from Shelby and his Men by John N. Edwards, 1867

SAINT LOUIS, March 5, 1862.

[Hon. FRANCIS P. BLAIR,  Jr.]

DEAR FRANK: There is one thing that at first was inexplicable to me—it is the feeling or policy that induces U. S. officers to grant extraordinary privileges to the rebel officers who are taken as prisoners, such as releasing of a number of them in this city on parole by General Halleck, thus giving them the opportunity of going freely among our wealthy secessionists. The consequence of this was that these home rebels ran after the officers, dined and feted them, encouraged them to stand firm in their disloyalty, and so bold and defiant did they become as I am informed that General Halleck has revoked the parole, gathered up the officers and sent them to confinement at Alton.

I was surprised that so judicious a man as Halleck should have fallen into this error; but with his usual correctness he soon saw his mistake. From what I have learned of the feelings of the regular officers I am inclined to believe that Halleck fell into this error through their influence. I have heard most loyal and sensible officers of the U.S. Army say that they had no personal feeling whatever in the war nor toward the officers whom they captured. This I suppose because these officers of ours have kept aloof from political contests and do not recognize in the rebel officers the instigators and workers up of this rebellion. In our eyes Buckner, Floyd, Jo. Johnston, &c., are traitors, and none the less so because they hold in this rebellion the place of officers. If the rebellion had been less formidable and soon put down these men would not have been treated as officers but as felons if captured. There are necessary reasons why to a certain extent we have to treat them as conducting a war and therefore according to the rules of war. The only reason that I recognize for this is that we may save our own soldiers from severe treatment when captured by them. Beyond this there is no necessity for our going, and I say that it is only necessity or in other words our inability to do so that prevented us in the beginning from hanging them all as traitors. The privates and non-commissioned officers in the rebel armies are mostly ignorant men who enlisted as they believed to protect their country from an unjust aggressive war. The proper treatment for them—all I believe concur in this—treat them fairly, correct the errors they have been educated in, inform them of the truth and let them go back home when it can be safely done. But these men who under a mock government are called officers, who are but political desperadoes in military garb and disguise, must be punished; if not for their misdeeds certainly for the sake of the country. Will the privates, the masses, believe their leaders criminals or in the wrong when they see them set at large on their honor and allowed to associate with the wealthy rebels who so openly honor them?

I call your attention to this matter at this early day hoping that you will think it Worth while to bring the matter before Secretary Stanton. The officers of the Army do not feel the effects of this rebellion as the masses of the people do. To them (the officers of the U.S. Army) it is a war merely, and not a political struggle—maddened, desperate, and aimed to destroy rather than submit to a political defeat. Believing as I do that the practice I have spoken of is a serious evil and that the only way of remedying it is for the Secretary of War to make general regulations upon the subject, to be departed from by commanding officers only for pressing reasons, I therefore suggest that you call his attention to the matter. I have no fear that General Halleck will again fall into the error, but in my opinion few of our officers are equal to him in correctness of judgment.

Yours, very truly,

F. A. DICK.


HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI,
Saint Louis, January 15, 1863.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

I telegraphed a request that I might confer by letter before executing your telegraphic order concerning provost-marshals’ orders, and the provost-marshals generally.

The provost-marshal system is not of my planting or growth, but is now so old, deep-rooted, and wide-spread it cannot be summarily disposed of without danger of losses and disasters. It began in General Fremont’s administration, by the appointment of Major McKinstry in this city, who was followed by Colonel McNeil and Captain Leighton; neither of them were properly in the United States service. From this it spread out through the whole department, and when I came in command Colonel Gantt was provost-marshal-general, and hundreds were elsewhere located; most of them not officers in the United States service, except by virtue of their appointment as provost-marshals. General Halleck had given the system a head by creating a provost-marshal-general, and issued some orders devolving specific duties on these functionaries, and, by a kind of common understanding, provost-marshals took charge of prisoners, watched contraband trade, discovered and arrested spies, found out rebel camps, and pursued and arrested the rebels in their neighborhoods. They operate with volunteers, militia and police force, just as circumstances require, and in Southern Iowa and large districts of Missouri, where recruiting guerrilla agents strive to organize their bands, they are the only stationary, permanent official sentinels, who keep me advised and guard the public safety. Public arms, prisoners, contraband property, and forfeited bonds are held by them and properly disposed of, and immediate discharge would create loss and confusion where everything is now quiet and secure For instance, the provost-marshal at Glasgow has 30 or 40 prisoners. At Columbia last Sunday the provost-marshal resisted an effort to rescue a parcel of most desperate prisoners—one a Confederate recruiting officer.

I send you the letter of Colonel Dick, my provost-marshal-general, to show other duties devolved on these men. Soon after my assuming command, I presented to the General-in-Chief the importance of more exact and uniform rules in regard to the system, and desired the matter might be taken up at Washington, but, in the absence of any instructions, I directed the provost-marshal-general to compile and construct some general and uniform rule of action. This he did in Orders, No. 35, which I suppose is the order disapproved by His Excellency the President. It contains the gist of a great many old orders and some new ones, but in the main it conforms to the current business of the system. No paper or person here has made complaints against the order, and I am surprised that such apprehension and immediate necessity should be presented at headquarters. As far as possible, action under the order is suspended, but I presume most of it will be found to be a mere condensation of our police regulations.

I have been urged to send away my regular volunteers, and have stripped portions of my department to comply with pressing demands elsewhere. To compensate for this, provost-marshals, taken from the Enrolled Militia, are earnestly endeavoring to keep me posted and maintain public tranquility. If they are to have no supervision of trade, commerce, or anything but the discipline and government of the troops in the United States service, how am I to prevent contraband of war, guns, ammunition, and other supplies going into the hands of the guerrillas, and how am I to know what is doing or to be done in various parts of my district when I have no other command, and what am I to do with the prisoners and other rebels that are held either in fact or fear by these provost-marshals?

I regret that I am thus forced to defend a system I never did approve and have often condemned. I could not find either statute or military law to rest it upon. I have not appointed one, except to fill the vacancy of the provost marshal-general; but the system has started and grown up from surrounding necessities; it is now working very extensively and quite harmoniously, and I believe it must in some shape be continued during the war. When a nation is at war, war exists everywhere, and we must have some sort of military representatives wherever military offenses can be committed. It costs too much to keep stationary troops everywhere, but without such officers as I may trust and constantly employ in every county of this State and in various parts of my department, I must have many more troops in actual service in Missouri. While, therefore, there is no apparent necessity of a sudden radical change, I most respectfully request that some substitute may be allowed me for a system of military power which now serves a most important purpose throughout my command, or so order the matter that we may perfect what now seems to be a useful military expedient.

I have the honor to be, Mr. Secretary, your very obedient servant,

SAML. R. CURTIS,

Major-General.

[ Inclosure. ]

[SAINT LOUIS, Mo.,] January 15, 1863.

Maj. Gen. SAMUEL R. CURTIS, Commanding:

GENERAL: The telegram of the Secretary of War, of the 14th, to the major-general commanding this department, contemplating a change in the system of provost-marshals in the interior of the State, requires of me that I should present to you some of the duties performed by them.

Commanding officers in the field turn over prisoners captured by them to provost-marshals, who take the evidence against the prisoners and forward it and them to Saint Louis. With guerrillas and marauding bands operating in the State, whenever opportunity occurs, appearing at first one place and then another, our troops are kept moving, and the officers in the field do not furnish the evidence against the men they capture. Were these prisoners considered prisoners of war, and to be sent forward for exchange, but little evidence would be needed, but they are many of them lawless men, known in certain localities. After their capture their friends constantly make efforts to have them released, and it is through the provost-marshals that the facts relating to them are ascertained, and upon which the proper action can be based, as to holding or releasing them. These provost-marshals are made by your orders conservators of the peace. They know and report the state of the country, and can and do determine better than any one else which men can safely be enlarged and which not. Remove them, and to whom shall we apply for the information constantly needed at your headquarters, and to whom will commanders in the field send their prisoners to be examined and forwarded? Again, it is well known that rebel recruiting officers and spies are constantly coming into this State. It is the business of provost-marshals to keep on the watch for them, and to break up their practices; and, but for their efforts, in many counties recruiting for the rebel army would be carried on without danger. There are many disloyal farmers who would constantly aid the rebellion with supplies of different kinds, but for the provost-marshal system. Remove the danger of detection, and the State would furnish (to the rebs) considerable amounts of supplies, and the stream of rebel soldiers southward would be largely increased.

I have released, all the time, men in whose promises reliance could not be placed, but I have felt justified in doing it by placing them under the surveillance of the provost-marshals of their counties. If, however, they have no local officer to care for, they either cannot be released or would soon again be led off into aiding the rebellion. Provost-marshals, too, give confidence to the Union men through the State; they stand as the representatives of the United States Government, and if a neighborhood becomes so rebellious as to endanger Union men, they feel that the report of the provost-marshals will call the attention of the military authorities to the condition of things. To relieve the provost-marshals will be a shock to the Union cause in this State, and will have a most depressing effect upon those who require the support of the Government. They acquire a local knowledge which is valuable and reliable. The men who have been disloyal in Missouri, most of them, remain so; and it will prove a costly mistake to act upon a contrary hypothesis. They are Southern sympathizers who have taken up arms, and they are none the less sympathizers because for the time disarmed; and I feel safe in making the assertion that, if they believe it not too perilous to do it, they will again take up arms, or by other means aid the rebellion. My belief is that these people have got to be kept down while the war rages, and my every day’s experience confirms that belief. After the rebellion becomes powerless, then the Missouri rebels will give up their plans of co-operation, and not until then. So far as they have ceased hostilities, it has been from force, and not voluntary submission, and to consider these people no longer enemies of the Union is to fall into a practical error. They have had pretty hard experience in this war, and I believe, by vigilance, can easily be kept down; but a show of military power is necessary, and the presence of some military force, too, accompanied by the continuation of the military system sufficient to keep them sensible of this, that renewed hostilities on their part will be promptly met by force. If my hypothesis is correct, then the system of military law cannot be dispensed with in Missouri, while disloyal men believe that the Union will be dissolved, and they very generally do believe it. If my judgment and opinions are incorrect, then let the capture and detection of guerrillas and marauders be turned over to the civil authorities, and let military action be confined only to regular movements in the field; and it may be that it will be found that the State is

I consider it my duty as an officer to make this statement relating to the disloyal men in Missouri, believing that the reliable supporters of the Union cause in this State are the men who feel that the safety of this State lies in the control of it by the military power of the United States, so long as this rebellion continues defiant; and these men who alone constitute the strength of the Government in this State will have bitter sufferings to endure, if the protection of the Government is withdrawn.

I have the honor to remain, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

F. A. DICK,

Lieut. Col. and Provost-Marshal- General, Dept. of the Missouri.

James H Baker – Provost Marshal

James H. Baker – Union Provost Marshal

James H. Baker was Union Provost Marshal of St. Louis in 1863, later of the Department of Missouri. In his role as Provost Marshal he pursued, among others, Robert Louden, subject of the article in “North and South” magazine.

Baker was from Minnesota, having served as Secretary of State. He became a Colonel in the 10th Minnesota, later brevet brigadier-general.

Baker in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion

Following are memorial tributes by fellow Minnesotans:


I met General Baker first in the political campaign of 1860. I heard him then make one of the very ablest and most eloquent speeches I had ever listened to, though I had heard speeches by Daniel Webster, Daniel S. Dickinson, William H. Seward, Joshua R. Giddings, Benjamin F. Wade, Stephen A. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and many other noted orators. I say now, after hearing many speeches delivered by General Baker, that in true eloquence he was the peer of all of them, and in power the superior of all of them, Abraham Lincoln excepted. Once I heard Henry Clay, when I was in my “teens” and Clay was an old man, somewhat enfeebled doubtless by age and disappointment; but the old fire flashed as he “picked his flint and tried it again,”–at any rate, he electro-fired me. When I heard General Baker the first time (and many times after), the image of Henry Clay came before me like a flash.


James Heaton Baker, son of Rev. Henry Baker, a Methodist preacher, and Hannah (Heaton) Baker, was born in Monroe, Ohio, May 6, 1829. He graduated at Ohio Wesleyan University in 1852. In 1853 he purchased the Sciota Gazette, at Chillicothe, Ohio. In 1855 he was elected secretary of state on the ticket headed by Salmon P. Chase as governor. In 1857 he removed to Minnesota, where, for two successive terms he was elected to the same office. At the outbreak of the Civil War he resigned, and accepted a colonel’s commission in the Tenth Minnesota Volunteers. In 1863 his command was ordered to the South, and he was detached and made provost marshal of St. Louis, and subsequently of the department of Missouri, in which position he served until the close of the war, he being meanwhile promoted to a brevet brigadier generalship.

At the close of the war he was appointed register of the land office at Booneville, Missouri, but in two years resigned and returned to his farm in Blue Earth county, Minnesota.

In 1871 President Grant appointed him commissioner of pensions, a position for which he was singularly well fitted. He resigned in 1875, and was appointed by President Grant surveyor general of Minnesota. Gen. Baker has been prominent in Masonic circles, and has contributed much to the newspaper and periodical press. He was married Sept. 25, 1852, to Rose, daughter of Reuben H. Thurston, then of Delaware, Ohio, now of Mankato, Minnesota. This estimable lady died at Washington City, March 21, 1873, leaving two sons, Arthur and Harry E. Gen. Baker, since his appointment as surveyor general, has resided at Mankato. He served in 1885 and 1886 as railroad commissioner for the State.


General James H. Baker, a life member of the Minnesota Historical Society, died at his home in the City of Mankato in this state on May 25, 1913.

General Baker was born in Monroe, Butler county, Ohio, on the 6th day of May, 1829. He was the son of Henry Baker, M. D., and Hannah Heaton Baker. In his youth he attended the Firnian Academy at Middletown, Ohio, and later the Ohio Wesleyan University. For a period of time he edited the Sciota Gazette at Chillicothe, Ohio, it then being the oldest newspaper in the state. He served as Secretary of State of Ohio from 1854 to 1856, when Salmon P. Chase was Governor of that State. In 1857 he came to Minnesota, and shortly thereafter located with his family in Blue Earth County.

He was elected Secretary of State in 1859 and again in 1861. In 1862 he was commissioned, by Governor Alexander Ramsey, to be Colonel of the Tenth Minnesota Volunteers, then being recruited for service in the War of the Rebellion. He served with his regiment the first year in the campaign against the Sioux Indians, and in the fall of 1863 with his regiment went South. At the close of the war General Baker was appointed Commissioner of Pensions, and afterward Surveyor General for Minnesota. In 1881 he was elected State Railway Commissioner, in which office he served two terms.

For a time General Baker was the editor and proprietor of the Mankato Free Press. A goodly portion of his life in Blue Earth county was spent on a beautiful farm owned by him near Rapidan, where he personally engaged in agriculture, in which he was always much interested and very progressive.

General Baker was always much interested in the early history of Minnesota, and was never more at home than at the meetings of the old settlers of his county and state. He was pre-eminently a social man, an easy, fluent, and very interesting conversationalist, and hospitable to a fault. He was never more happy than when surrounded by his friends whom he always delighted to entertain.

He was a consistent attendant and supporter of the Methodist Church, and also belonged to the Masonic Order, as well as the Elks, the Grand Army of the Republic, and the Loyal Legion.

He was a power to be reckoned with in politics, and his influence was always felt in the civic and social life of the community in which he lived, and always for the betterment of conditions and of humanity in particular. The life of General Baker stands out as one of pronounced individuality, and of great strength of purpose.

On September 25, 1851, he was married to Rose Lucia Thurston at Delaware, Ohio, who died March 20, 1873. On December 23, 1879, he was married to Miss Zula Bartlett, who survives him and now resides in the homestead in Mankato.
General Baker was away in beautiful Glenwood Cemetery in Mankato. His funeral was held on Wednesday, May 28, 1913, being largely attended.


The late General James H. Baker was a man of many splendid talents. Eminent as he was as an orator, warrior, and statesman, he also possessed rare talents as an author. His numerous and valuable historical and biographical contributions found in the publications of this Society attest this fact. Among these papers are “History of Lake Superior,” “The Sources of the Mississippi River,” “Transportation in Minnesota,” and “The Lives of the Governors of Minnesota.” All these writings show great research and a masterly selection and presentation of the mass of material their author was always able to discover.

The general had a very acute mind and retentive memory, and his long life spanned one of the most eventful periods of the world’s history; and so far as this related to the “Middle West” of our own country, he had a personal acquaintance with most of the great men and a personal touch with most of the big events which went to make up that history. Hence the ease with which General Baker could always command the right material and infuse into it the very life and atmosphere it had when it was the actual reality.

Besides the very unique relation he bore to the people and the times concerning which he wrote, the general had a remarkable command of the English language and a fervid literary spirit, which gave force, fitness, and finish to every sentence he penned. His style is never dull nor florid, but always elegant, incisive, and vigorous.

His monograph on “The Sources of the Mississippi” is a valuable contribution to geographic knowledge, and it dealt a mortal blow to certain theories as to the head of the great river once in vogue. His “History of Lake Superior” did much to call attention to the world’s greatest waterway and the world’s greatest iron mines. “The Lives of the Governors of Minnesota,” forming Volume XIII of this Society’s Historical Collections, written at the eventide of our author’s life, is a fitting climax to his literary activity, being truly a great work, which will grow in worth and importance as the years go by.

Mighty was he with tongue, sword, and pen, and his passing removes from our midst one of our greatest and best citizens.

Absalom Grimes Letter to Lucy Glascock

Letter from

A. C. Grimes to Lucy Glascock,

December 1863

This letter was written to Grimes’ future wife, Lucy Glascock of Ralls County, Missouri, from an iron-lined dungeon beneath Myrtle Street Prison in St. Louis constructed especially to hold Grimes and prevent him from escaping again. Grimes had been arrested in Memphis a few weeks earlier, attempted to escape from Irving Block prison, was taken briefly to Alton Prison, then returned to St. Louis.

“Smith” is a Federal detective who was supposed to spy on Grimes and get information from Grimes on his activities. Instead “Smith” delivered a letter to Lucy, first letting the Union Provost Marshal copy it.

“Mrs. Vail” is Marion Wall Vail, Grimes’ aunt who had been exiled to the south for her role in Grimes’ mail smuggling organization. Bettie is Lucy Glascock’s sister.

The General in Memphis Grimes refers to is General Veatch, who reported on Grimes to General Stephen A. Hurlbut who, in his addition to Veatch’s report on Grimes, suggested he be kept in irons and close confinement for the remainder of the war. Neither had sympathy for the Rebel agent who was in Memphis to marry his sweetheart, Lucy, and then go south of the lines for the last time. The wedding would not take place for another year and a half.

I’ve broken the letter into paragraphs for easier reading, and did some minor spelling corrections. Blanks indicate words that could not be deciphered. Commentary notes inserted in [italics] .

Myrtle Street Prison

Dec 9th 1863

My Darling Lucy

Though misfortune for so many years has been my Lot Kind Providence in his mercy has suffered me already to be the recipient of many blessings & favors. One among the greatest is a prospect that I may let you hear from me & that I may once more hear from you. Through the kindness of a true friend Mr. Smith whom I hereby introduce to you, he has for several days been confined with me in this thing, which did I not so well know its purpose I would have under any other circumstances supposed it to have been made & intended for an Ice Box on some New Orleans Steamboat, not a particle of light but as for air there is plenty of it & very fresh I assure you as I freeze in here. I have a candle all the time when not asleep.

After you left Memphis or at least same day the 25 Ind reg’t left & with it our friend Henry [a Union guard who carried a message from Grimes to Lucy while in Irving Block prison in Memphis] therefore I did not receive the package you promised me please send it by my friend Mr. S. When I get out of this which will be some of there time but can’t say when, he will arrange so as I may get it.

I am not ironed, something very singular, but they upon my word did not iron me. So until all favors in this respect are denied me I upon honor am compelled to remain a prisoner without an attempt to help myself. [this promise arrangement only lasted about a week more]

My Darling Lucy sometimes I am almost persuaded to quit so that I might at last gain the pleasure of being with you through life. All our hopes so far have been vain. Why it is I cannot tell. One at a time when we thought they would soon be realized but alas. Abraham and his Confederates (or whatever they may be called) has interfered. We know but too well with the happiness we anticipated. But then Dear Lucy were I thus knock under & take the oath I fear you would not have the same love & respect for me for then I am no longer a man of truth and honor as I would be severing from my opinion of right. Your opinion must first be given & my Life, it will be respected ask as all your wishes & opinions for the last five years & all my promises I believe has been faithfully kept during that time to you. But as we so well know lack other more of this anon.

I attempted to escape from Memphis on 23rd of Nov. I believe was the cause of my being sent up the river. I was taken in Irons to Alton hand & foot. By Capt. Clark, Genl. Veatch’s Adjutant, three guards. My irons were taken off me there by order of Capt. C. who treated me well & in gratitude will I remember him. Two days I roomed in the best prison rooms but ah! a dispatch came from St. Louis & another piece of ordinance in shape of a 12 pounder was recommended. [ball & chain] A room to myself was also given for my use, ’twas not so large as to get lost in either, or so high up I could fall out of the ___ & break my neck. [the penitentiary cells at Alton were 4 feet by 7 feet by 7 feet high]

That did not seem to satisfy some of my St. Louis friends So on the third day a committee of one was sent to escort me to my native City & it happened to be Mr. Conners, the same man who arrested me in the fall of 1862. I was brought down handcuffed only & must acknowledge Mr. C. treated me well as did the balance of the Detectives although they are a set I must acknowledge I have not much love for & told them so but never the less as I am in their power I will in gratitude remember all the favor shown me by anyone. How long I must remain here I know not.

I must hear from you. I want to know particularly about some things which you must only by word of mouth communicate to Mr. S. when he see you do not write. I was hauled up before Genl V. in Memphis & I told him all the circumstances why I came up to Memphis & my name the first thing otherwise I believe I would have gotten a trial & let out in Memphis. I thought as Genl a gentleman & a soldier he might have compassion upon a poor fellow in my  [?]. But all But, this is the results of depending on leniency from my enemies. He addressed of being in on at least had me if I had not been in Louisville a short time back. I said I been in Memphis two nights which was all ___ on. I told him so but told him I had been a prisoner in St. Louis in Sept 1862 & escaped & also had come within 5 mile of Memphis in Oct with Mrs. Vail & Mrs Freleigh & had come in on the 7th of Nov 1863. That was all I believe Lucy.

I must now must now close but with reluctance for I look on this as the only chance I may have to write to you for a long time & I will keep in good spirits during my imprisonment & wish you to do the same & in knowing that if the time ever does come when I may be released that I go forth with a happy heart to meet you my darling once more & may God in his mercy grant that our persecutions last but a short time & in future favor us more than of late. My Dearest Love to your Ma & Pa & Bettie & all others. I now bid you farewell hoping the war may soon end & again in peace & happiness me & all other may meet. Until then I pray that God in his mercy may protect us both & good bye

Every your devoted

(signed) Abbie.

Lucy say nothing about Mr. S. coming to see you at all as he is only released on bonds & only sees you ___ & me  (signed) Abbie

(from NARA M322 roll 4, service records)

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