Sabotage of the Sultana – Globe Democrat

Sabotage of the Sultana…

This is the last of the three Globe-Democrat Sultana articles appearing between April 23 and May 6, 1888.  It is amazing that this article seems to have been completely lost to history until rediscovered as part of our investigation.  It is a roadmap to Robert Louden’s and William Streetor’s careers.  Using it an experienced person could track down most of the rest. The most serious omission is the fact that Louden’s death-sentence was not just for spying and mail-running, but for boat-burning as well.

Streetor is being either somewhat disingenuous or modest when he talks about “the burning of so many boats by Confederate agents came up in the course of the conversation” and “I asked him in an offhand way what he knew of the Sultana explosion”.  Remember who these two men were and their history together.  They were important figures on opposite sides of the secret war in the West.  Streetor had spent most of his career during the war protecting the Union against the likes of Louden.  The two maximum security areas of Gratiot were full of Confederate secret service agents, including Louden and his mail-running partner Ab Grimes.  Streetor as assistant keeper was deeply concerned with keeping them above all others under lock and key.  Streetor had also been personally involved in thwarting one of Ab Grimes’ regular and always creative escape attempts.  As chief clerk of the prison as well, Streetor would have had access to all Louden’s records and been familiar with the charges and suspicions about Louden’s activities and connections to J.W. Tucker and the “organized boat-burners”.  Certainly Louden knew who Streetor was as well.  The casual conversation that Streetor describes is like an ex-FBI agent and a pardoned serial bank-robber sitting down for a few drinks. Can anyone be surprised where the conversation would end up?

It appears that the transcript of Louden’s Dec. 1863 trial is the origin of Streetor giving his pre-war alias as “Dale” instead of “Deal”. Louden had used “Charlie Deal” as an alias when he first came to St. Louis, principally in his connection with the Liberty Fire Co. No. 6. In taking down the testimony of Chief of U.S. Police Peter Tallon, the court transcriber apparently heard it as “Dale” and used that spelling throughout. Histories of the Volunteer Fire Department of St. Louis –one of which was written by the ex-brother-in-law of Louden’s wife and uncle of his two step-children– clearly give it as “Deal”. As for “Lowden” instead of the proper “Louden” –well, there is a consistent record of mucking-up the spelling of that in creative ways by multiple sources, Union and Confederate, with “Lowden” being the most popular of the incorrect versions.

Unfortunately, this article was practically the last thing we found instead of the first. Almost all of the revelations found in this article had been discovered by us from other sources before we ever saw it. We had talked for months about our case being built around the fact (as we see it) of the centrality of St. Louis –as opposed to Vicksburg or Memphis– to the “sabotage theory.”  More and more we convinced ourselves that if the Memphis papers had published Streetor’s story, then there had to be some significant mention of it in the St. Louis papers.  These two men were just too well known there for the St. Louis papers to have taken no notice whatever of Streetor’s accusation against Louden.

Since we are too far away to easily visit St. Louis, it was decided to take Dennis Northcott of the Missouri Historical Society into our confidence, lay out our suspicions, and ask him if he would search for the article we strongly suspected must exist in the May 5th-10th period.  Dennis reacted like a trooper  –after determining that the MHS collection of the Missouri Republican contained no such article, he volunteered to go to the St. Louis Public Library and search their collection.  A few days later a photocopy of the article below arrived in our mail. Certainly we had hoped for more detail than the Memphis paper had published, but we were shocked at how much more there was.

How could this article have been lost?  Well, for one thing, in a city that knew Bob Louden very well indeed  –both friends and enemies—there was no reaction.  His wife, who still lived there, did not come to his defense in print.  Ab Grimes, his war-time partner, still lived near St. Louis and also did not rise to challenge Streetor’s story.  It is simply not credible Ab Grimes –riverman, Bob Louden’s mail-running  partner, and sometime “guest” of William Streetor’s at Gratiot Street Military Prison–  didn’t know about this article, yet his memoirs say not a word about it, are relatively friendly to Streetor (who was, after all, a Yankee), and even confirm the post-war relationship between Streetor and Louden.  The total silence about Louden in post-war Confederate sources until Ab Grimes memoirs were published in 1926 (his daughter published them 15 years after his death; it is not clear Ab ever intended them to be read outside the family) strongly suggests a tacit understanding by all Louden’s friends that it would be better to leave sleeping dogs lie.

Sultana’s last voyage

A line drawing of this photo appeared in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat article

St. Louis Globe-Democrat

May 6, 1888

BLEW UP THE SULTANA

The Cause of the Horrible Disaster

Explained at Last.

Charlie Dale, a St. Louis Painter, Placed a Torpedo in the Coal Bin on the  Boat—The Steamer Just Before the Wreck.

The recent publication of a number of statements from survivors of the explosion of the Mississippi River steamer Sultana twenty-three years ago, has led to the cause of the disaster, a matter of much historical interest in connection with the war of the rebellion. The generally accepted theories of the explosion are faulty condition and bad management of the boilers. Mr. William C. Streetor, a painter of this city, who now has a shop at 314 Locust street, was a resident of St. Louis during the war, and was employed as a clerk in the Gratiot and Myrtle street prisons.  The facts in his possession regarding the cause of the Sultana explosion, as related to a GLOBE-DEMOCRAT reporter, yesterday, removes this much discussed subject from the field of speculation, fixes the fearful catastrophe as the result of no accident, but of fiendish design, and locates with much particularity the boss dynamiter and murderer of the age.

“Yes, I know something about the Sultana disaster,” said Mr. Streetor, in reply to an inquiry.  “I can give the cause of explosion.  A torpedo in a lump of coal was carried aboard the steamer at Memphis and deposited in the coal pile in front of the boilers for the express purpose of causing her destruction. The man who placed the torpedo on the boat is my authority, for I had the statement from his own lips. He was a notorious Confederate mail carrier and blockade runner, was captured some five or six times, and once, at least, was sentenced to death by a military commission in this city. Toward the close of the war, it will be remembered, President Lincoln issued an order that no one should be executed under military laws until the sentence had been confirmed by the President. It was while awaiting confirmation of the sentence that he escaped from the military prison in this city and made his way South, where he remained until after the close of the war. His friends obtained a pardon for him from President Johnson, and, armed with that, he returned to his home in St. Louis. It was after his return home that he told me the story of how he smuggled the torpedo on board the Sultana. His real name was Robert Lowden, but he was always known in this city by his alias, Charlie Dale. He was a painter by trade, and he worked in the same shop with me for William H. Gray, some three years after the close of the war. Dale was at that time a young, vigorous dare-devil. He possessed bravery of a certain kind, I think, equal to that of any man who ever lived. He was cool and calculating in his disposition, but at times he drank heavily, and when in his cups was disposed to talk a little too much for a man with a record like he had. It was while he was drinking one day that he and I got to talking about the war, and the burning of so many boats by the Confederate agents came up in the course of the conversation. He told me that he had fired no less than half a dozen steamboats on the Mississippi. I asked him in an offhand way what he knew about the Sultana explosion. Then he told me the story of the torpedo in the coal, and, using his own expression, ‘It had got to be too—ticklish a job to set the boat afire and get away from her.’

Out of a hundred other of Dale’s daring exploits during the war one in particular impressed me forcibly as showing the character of this remarkable man. It was accomplished while the federal fleet was lying between Memphis and Vicksburg. Dale had escaped from prison in this city, and was on his way South. He was in a quandary for several days as to how he was going to get through the Federal lines. Finally he hit upon a plan and it was successful. He got a coffin at Memphis, calked it up with white lead, and launched it on the Mississippi. Then he laid himself out in the ghastly looking boat and floated down the stream. He passed the Government gunboats at night, and two or three times when the current of the stream drifted the coffin up against the hulls of the boats he reached out with his hands, pushed his craft clear and landed in the morning safe within the Confederate lines.

“Before the war Dale was a member of the old Liberty volunteer fire company in this city and was well known to a great many people living here now. He died in New Orleans during the yellow fever epidemic along in the latter part of the ‘60s. But to return to the Sultana explosion. I have read carefully all the information I could find about it, and from the character of the explosion I have been led to believe that Charley Dale’s story of the torpedo is true.”

[Article continues with scenes from rescue of survivors. . .]

Sabotage of the Sultana – Memphis Daily Appeal article

Sabotage of the Sultana…

As would be expected, the search for information on the Sultana tragedy has mostly centered in Memphis and Vicksburg.  Consequently, the article below is the one most historians are familiar with when they talk about the Sultana and the “sabotage theory.”  Jerry O. Potter cites it directly in “The Sultana Tragedy” as does William Tidwell in “April ‘65”. Gene E. Salecker’s “Disaster on the Mississippi” does not mention this article directly in the text, but does list it in his secondary sources (Mr. Salecker was kind enough to share by email the text he has of this article  —it is slightly different from the wording given below, which we received from the Memphis Public Library).

What a pale, puny thing this article is compared to the Globe-Democrat article of two days before.  On top of the misspelling of Louden’s name and alias which were present in the original article, this article adds new mistakes –including the assertion that “what has become of him is not known.”  Most importantly, it completely fails to include Streetor’s credentials in making this assertion—his relationship with Louden during and after the war, and the position of responsibility he held during the war working with the Union Provost Marshal’s office as assistant-keeper and chief clerk of Gratiot Street Military Prison.

May 8, 1888 Memphis Daily Appeal

EXPLOSION OF THE SULTANA

Another Theory of the Cause Advanced by a St. Louis Man

St. Louis, Mo, May 7  — The awful explosion on the steamer Sultana near Memphis twenty-three years ago, in which nearly 2,000 Union soldiers lost their lives, has always been a mystery.  The survivors at their reunion have recently made a number of statements regarding the affair, but the most sensational story has been told by a resident of this city, William C. Streeter.  His statement fixes the explosion as the result of design.  He claims that a noted Confederate blockade runner and mail carrier named Robert Lowden, better known during the war as Charles Dale, was the author of the terrible disaster.  Streeter claims that Lowden told him, after the close of the war, that while the Sultana lay at the Memphis wharf, he smuggled aboard a large lump of coal in which was concealed a torpedo.  This he deposited on the fuel pile in front of the boilers for the express purpose of causing the destruction of the boat.

Whether the responsibility for the awful crime rests solely with Lowden, or whether he was acting under the direction of others, Streeter is unable to say.  Lowden had an adventurous career, being captured several times while running blockades, and once narrowly escaped execution.  What has become of him is not known.

Sabotage of the Sultana

Sabotage of the Sultana…

This is the first of the three Sultana articles appearing in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat between April 23 and May 6, 1888.  While it can not be said with certainty that William C. Streetor saw this article, it certainly is possible.

St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 23, 1888

Story of the Sultana

The Steamboat Explosion Which Cost

Two Thousand Lives

How a Soldiers Longing for a Drink and a

Par of Lieutenant’s Epaulets Saved

The Lives of a Chicago Man

and His Companion

[From the Chicago Tribune.]

Friday next a soldierly-appearing German, aged about 45, whose features wear an expression of settled seriousness that rarely changes for an instant, will celebrate the twenty-third anniversary of the Sultana disaster. He is Edward F. Hedrick, for fifteen years a member of the Chicago police force, now proprietor of a well-ordered little saloon on the corner of Centre and Halsted streets. Besides himself there are said to be now living but five of the 2100 passengers aboard the Sultana at the time of the explosion. It will be remembered that about 400 were picked up alive, but a large proportion of that number survived their wounds and exposure only a few days, and many others swelled the roll of victims within a year or two. Mr. Hedrick served two years in the 8th New York Infantry, at the expiration of which time he enlisted at Indianapolis for three years in the 9th Indiana Cavalry. He was captured at Sliver Branch Trestle and imprisoned at Cahaba, Ala. With 2000 other Union prisoners he was exchanged and sent up the river. These passengers taken on at New Orleans, were on the boat when her boilers blew up. Mr. Hedrick recently told the story of the disaster, including the details of his own remarkable escape, for publication in the Tribune, so frankly and graphically that it is best reproduced in his own words:

“When we boarded the Sultana at Vicksburg,” he began, “we were a jolly crowd. Two thousand of us had just been released from a Southern prison and we were happy. The Sultana was a regular Mississippi River packet boat of that period. A thousand passengers would have crowded her uncomfortably; with over 2000 she was like a hive of bees about to swarm.

“We steamed out of Vicksburg and moved slowly up the middle of the river. The spring floods were at their highest, the stream being in some places as much as forty miles wide. We reached Memphis at 8 o’clock in the evening. Three of my prison chums were on board—Johnny Hinckley, Montgomery Hall and John Wills—and as the Captain said he would not leave till midnight we made up our minds to land and have some fun. I’m going to tell you about this because if we hadn’t gone up-town Johnny Hinckley and I would have been blown sky-high with the others. Our main object in landing was to get something to drink. But we soon discovered that the town was under martial rule and that only officers were allowed anything stronger than coffee. We were so thirsty that we went into an alleyway to reconnoiter. When we were out of sight of the street Johnny Hinckley took out of his pocket a pair of lieutenant’s shoulder-straps he had picked up somewhere, put them on, and while we waited in the alley he entered the nearest saloon. He was gone quite awhile and came back a trifle unsteady, and wiping his mouth. Then I put on the shoulder straps and followed his example with equal success. By the time Hall and Wills had performed their part of the programme it was time to start back to the boat. None of us were drunk, but we were full enough to be happy and to care little whether school kept or not.

“It was just about midnight when the boat left Memphis. Everybody was in the best of spirits. There were a number of professional gamblers on board, and as we passed the cabin door I noticed that it was crowded with officers and gamblers who were playing for high stakes. We went to bunk in the middle of the middle deck, between the office and the bar room and directly over the boilers. Hall and Wills were sleepy.  They rolled up in their blankets and were soon snoring. It was the last ever seen of them. I wanted to follow their example, but Johnny Hinckley wouldn’t have it. He was much elated over our luck with the shoulder straps. We were both a little top-heavy, so when he insisted on going to the back end of the boat and turning into a couple of the officer’s cots I readily consented. There were a great improvement over the hard floor of the deck, and we were soon sound asleep.

“The next thing I knew thee was a terrible crash. The passengers were shouting and screaming and jumping into the river on all sides. I got up, and as I moved forward to see what the matter was I bumped my head against a part of the upper deck which had fallen in. Then I saw flames creeping back toward the stern and knew that the boilers had blown up. I ran back to find Hinckley, but his cot was empty. The notion of jumping into the river, as passengers were doing all around, didn’t please me, so I slid down to the freight deck on one of the swinging bumpers that hung over the side. A big crowd of passengers had flocked to the stern, where a lot of mules were quartered. Many of the mules hand broken loose and were stamping up and down the deck. Several of us seized one and threw him overboard, intending to jump ourselves and let him swim us ashore. But the water was black with heads and arms of drowning passengers, and the mule sank instantly with a dozen men under and on top of him. We threw in several more, all with the same result. People were constantly jumping in and carrying others to the bottom with them. There wasn’t a clear space within jumping distance in any direction. The water was rough and churned the crowd of swimmers up and down as though there were logs in a broken raft.

“All the time Capt. Mason was working bravely on the upper deck throwing planks and barrels overboard and shouting to the passengers to keep cool. Many swam ashore on what he threw into the water, but he staid aboard too long to save his own life. After awhile, when most of the passengers had thrown themselves into the river, the boat seemed to drift away from them, leaving a clear space. I had thrown several shutters over, but they had all been seized by those in the water. Finally the flames had driven the terrified mules so closely about me that I was obliged to seize a bit of plank and jump for my life. By the light of the flames I saw what I took for the shore only a few rods distant, and congratulated myself that I was getting off so easily. But it was only an island, and in spite of all I could do the current carried me past the lower end of it. There was no shore in sight. Pretty soon a half-drowned man floating by caught hold of the end of my plank. He placed his whole weight on it, and we commenced to sink together. I cursed him and said: ‘Why don’t you help yourself a little so we can both be saved?’ But he was too exhausted. I let him have the plank, and started to swim with nothing under me. When I was nearly worn out a steamer came by picking up floating passengers so near that I thought of course she would take me on. But the wind was in the wrong direction. They couldn’t hear me, and I gave myself up for lost. Just then a brandy jug floated by. I worked it under me and plucked up courage again. In this way I floated down to where the current struck the bend just above Memphis, and caught the overhanging branch of a half-submerged tree. Dozens of people had floated in just as I had, and were clinging to bushes and trees. The water was so high we couldn’t touch bottom, and there was no land in sight. The blaze of the burning Sultana had been seen from Memphis, and we were presently rescued by one of the boats in search of survivors and bodies of the dead. The water was so cold that we were chilled through, but there was plenty of spirits and a blazing fire on the rescuing boat, besides piles of blankets in which we were wrapped.

“As I walked up the bank at Memphis in my blanket, almost the first person I met was Johnny Hinckley. Before jumping overboard he had secured a life preserver, and floated down to the bend without much difficultly. The people living at the principal hotel bought us new suits of clothes, and in a day or two we came North to Indianapolis. Then I lost track of Hinckley and haven’t seen or heard of him since. I would like to know where he is. You see, it was nothing in the world but his shoulder-straps that saved our lives.”

Story of Another Survivor

Frankfort, Ind., April 12—

James Payne, one of the few survivors of the Sultana disaster, lives in Hamilton County, this State, near Packard’s Mills, and there he was found by the Tribune correspondent. Mr. Payne was a private in the 124th Indiana, which was captured by the Confederates at Spring Hill, Tenn., in 1864. He spent three months amidst the horrors of Andersonville, and was then exchanged. “Orders came to the effect that 500 men should be taken out each day to be exchanged,” said Mr. Payne, “with the provision that the old men were to go first—that is, those who had been longest in the prison. But we found out that a little persuasion in the way of money had a great effect upon the officers of the prison, and as the boys of our company had succeeded in keeping a little money concealed, we bought our exchange, and consequently our company, which was now down to eleven men, got out on the first list.  One of our boys went out on a dead man’s name. When the dead man’s name was called he answered to it. We were taken to Vicksburg, and the morning of the 1st day of May, 1865, we were marched down to the wharf to embark to be sent North and home. We lost no time in getting aboard the Sultana, as that time the largest boat on the Mississippi. She was a side-wheeler of unusual dimensions. She carried eighteen boilers. The boilers and machinery of the Sultana had been inspected at St. Louis just before her down trip, and at Vicksburg just before we started.

“We started from Vicksburg about noon.  Everything went well, excepting our sickness, the result of our confinement, and the rough water, as the river was running high. We landed at Memphis at 11p.m., where we had about 400 hogsheads of sugar to unload. Here occurred my miraculous escape. A number of the boys, myself being one of them, got off here and went up into the town to see if they could get something to eat, and at least get some fresh air. A comrade, whose name I have forgotten, and myself wandered around until we heard the signal to start and then we ran for the boat, but we were too late, and the only result of our efforts was to get into the sand up to our knees. We saw that the Sultana was going to stop at some coal barges and take on some coal, and we in our desperation tried to get aboard here; but it appears that Providence was working in its own mysterious way, and we were again unsuccessful. While we were standing on the wharf, or rather in the sand, we were watching the Sultana, our hope, joy and pride, steam away, feeling our hearts sink within us.

“We watched the Sultana until she got to a point in the river where there is a small island called ‘Hen and Chickens’, seven miles above Memphis, where, to our horror, the boilers exploded, and then what was left of the vessel took fire, and, slowly drifting down the river, burned up. Of course a great many were killed by the explosion, but the greater part of them were either burned to death or driven by the fire into the water and drowned. Some few of the boys were able, by getting hold of some of the floating wreckage, to get ashore. One man, or boy, rather, J.W. Thompson, who was then only 18 years old, swam until he was opposite Memphis, which was seven miles, when he was picked up by a yawl. They were afraid to put out large boats until it became light, consequently no boats but skiffs and yawls were used until morning. A very dense fog also came up just immediately after the explosion. The river was very high at the time, all the bottom lands for miles on each side of the river being inundated. One soldier succeeded in getting upon a log, and also helped upon the log a lady passenger whom he found in the water, and by means of using his hands and feet as oars finally guided the log out of the channel and lodged it safely against some timber. She was, I think, a Chicago lady, and she has since handsomely rewarded him. As to the actual number saved I, of course, do not know, but I do know that it was comparatively few. John W. Thompson, whom I have named, lives now at Fisner’s Switch, Ind. Lieut. Elliot is now living at Indianapolis, Ind. Matthew Wright, the man who went out on the dead man’s name, is now living at Boxytown, Ind. These four men, besides myself, are all the men I think who are living, except Wesley Negley, whom I had almost forgotten.”


This is the second of the three Sultana articles appearing in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat between April 23 and May 6, 1888.  Note that it appears on the 23rd anniversary of the disaster, and talks specifically about a reunion of Sultana survivors being held in Michigan.  One way or the other, this article must be the key event that lead to the publication of the revelations contained in the May 6th article.

There are two possible explanations.  The first is that Streetor saw it and came forward on his own, contacting the paper to tell his story. The Sultana survivors only began meeting about 1885, so it is possible that this was the first notice Streetor had that such a group existed and still memorialized the event.  The second possibility is that Streetor had previously shared his story with others, who when they saw the article contacted the paper and said something like “You really ought to talk to William Streetor about this.”

St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 27th, 1888

Sultana Survivors

Reunion at Hillsdale, Mich.

Special Dispatch to the Globe-Democrat

HILLSDALE, MICH., April 26—

Of the eighty survivors of the great Sultana disaster on April 26, 1865, Joseph Stephens, of Buffalo, N.Y., is the most interested in the re-unions of the remnant of persons now surviving that historical casualty. Stephens is one of the veterans not lost on that occasion and takes the deepest interest in the annual gatherings, at which the attendance grows appreciably less each spring. Mr. Stephens formerly lived in this place, and offered last year to pay the expenses of this year’s reunion if held at his old home, which offer was accepted. The reunion is to last two days.

The programme consists of an address of welcome by the Mayor, response by the President of the society, election of officers and the spinning of yarns about the fatal day. The Grand Army veterans here and the Woman’s Relief Society are taking a leading part in the entertainment of the survivors. A banquet will be given tomorrow night. Only half a dozen of the survivors have arrived up to this evening. A fair representation of the total number is looked for to arrive on the late trains tonight and early in the morning. The celebration proper takes place on the second day.

Story of a Survivor

Special Correspondence of the Globe-Democrat.

FORT WAYNE, IND., April 26.

Two veterans of the late war were distinguished yesterday above the many hundreds of their fellow solider-citizens in Forth Wayne, by receiving circular invitations to attend a meeting of the survivors of the explosion on the Mississippi River steamer Sultana, perhaps the most melancholy incident of the rebellion. The survivors have long since formed an association, and the meeting referred to is to take place at Hillsdale, Mich., on Friday, April 27, the twenty-third anniversary of the catastrophe.

The two gentlemen referred to are Louis Schirmeyer, a clothing store clerk, and Geo. H. Fredericks, a fireman on the Wabash Railway. Mr. Schirmeyer was called upon today by a Globe-Democrat representative, and related his personal experience. It was a thrilling tale, and in substance is as follows:

“I was a member of the 32d Indiana Volunteer Infantry, and had been captured at Chickamauga. I was first sent to Libby Prison, then to Pemberton Prison, next to Danville, Va., and finally to Andersonville, where I remained until the war ended. I was then taken to Vicksburg and placed on board the Sultana with 2,100 others, mostly discharged prisoners. The boat stopped at Memphis at 8 o’clock in the evening and many of us went ashore, and an opportunity for drinking was not neglected. A friend of mine had money and I filled up with beer and almost missed the boat, which resumed its course at midnight. In fact, I was the last to cross the gang plank, which was at once drawn in after me.  In the vast crowd it was difficult to find a place to lie down, but I found one on the top-most deck, just in front of the pilot house. Here I fell into a deep sleep. I was awakened by the noise of a terrific explosion of the boilers, and found myself being hurled upward through the air.  I must have gone up 20 or 25 feet. In falling I struck the shattered pilot house. My face was cut and bleeding, and my hair was half singed off by a flame that burst over me. It was a rude awakening. I swung myself down a rope that hung over the boat’s side, and from a perch on the lower deck peered out into the river. The night was moonless, but the flames spread a bright gleam over the swollen stream. Never can I forget that scene. The heads of the people in the water were so numerous that it seemed as if an apple thrown in any direction must have surely hit one of them. Some cursed, some prayed, all cried out for help. Every few minutes a hand would be uplifted helplessly, and the next moment its owner would be swept out of my sight. The flames grew hotter, and approached more nearly. My place of observation could be held but a little longer. To remain would be to burn to death. To jump would be to drown, for I was an indifferent swimmer. The increasing heat decided me.  I sprang into the water. A mattress, which had been thrown from the cabin deck, floated by me. Two Irishmen seized it. I cautioned them not to bear their entire weight upon it, but they gave no heed and were soon sprawled on its top. The mattress became water-soaked and sunk. The two Irishmen sunk with it. Scenes like this were constantly occurring. I paddled on as best I could. At last, when my strength was almost exhausted, I was struck from behind, and turning about, grasped a floating piece of timber that had probably been a deck support. I threw my arms over it, and in an hour had floated into the branches of a tree that overhung the swollen river. I clambered to a place of safety. Four others found places in the tree. Here we remained until daylight, when one of the many boats that had been sent up from Memphis for the relief of the survivors approached near enough to hear our cries. We were lifted on board. I fainted at once. In three days I was able to pursue my journey by another steamer to Cairo, and at Indianapolis I received an ovation and was mustered out.”

Louden Letters

Louden Letters…

Letters written by Robert Louden from Gratiot Street Prison:

November 1, 1863 – letter by Robert Louden to brother Andrew Louden (a POW in Ohio). Louden wrote and spelled well yet used absolutely no punctuation. The letter has been broken into sentences for easier reading. Liz is his sister. Mollie is his daughter. Lulu is his step-daughter. Arthur is his brother-in-law, Arthur C. McCoy.

Gratiot Sr Prison St Louis Nov 1st

Dear Brother

I suppose you have heard of my arrest if you have received any letter from mother or Liz. At all events I was taken prisoner Sept 2nd 1863 in this city and immediately confined in Lynch’s nigger pen on 5th & Mrytle and a ball & chain on my leg. I was kept there 3 weeks and then I moved to this prison, where I have since been kept in close confinement not having even the liberty of the yard. I am in the same room that Mary was in during her imprisonment, what I am charged with, I do not know, and the probability is that I will not find out until I am about to be tried, and that event seems to be further off now than the day I was taken. I would have been over to see you had I not been taken for I was on my way there and only came here to see about Mollie and get Lulu off to the Convent. They had no one to look to for anything but me, for you are aware that Mary was banished last May and is now in Miss. somewhere. I do not know what will become of the children too. Mother wrote to you of the cruel and inhuman way the Fed’s have treated Father. Nothing had been heard of him at the date of the last letter from mother. She was about frantic at his loss and the way they murdered him but you know the old Jewish law and if you ever rejoin your command carry it out to the full letter. Of your treatment I know nothing but hope it has been better than mine, even little Mollie is not permitted to visit me nor have I been allowed to receive a visitor since my arrest. Where Mary is, God only knows. I seen her for a few minutes when she arrived south and since then have not heard from her or about her. I do not know how you are off for clothing but if you need any send me word and I will try and have some sent to you for I have some money due me by parties in town that I can draw if necessary. Aleck & Jim Buist have both deserted and are in the Yankee nation now. The old lady, Mrs. G. comes down occasionally to get my soiled clothes and generally has Mollie with her but Nellie (you remember her) has stuck to me as she always did & was the first one to come and see what I wanted. Arthur is now a major in the C.S.A. and [?] he will fight them on the last half-inch for he has a double duty to perform now, fight for freedom & revenge both. I am in hopes you will soon be exchanged and if you are well of your wound be in the service again. I do not know what mother says to you but she was in hopes you would take the oath and stay at home, poor Mother she has suffered in this war. Father and Jim gone, you and I in prison. I seen Dave Thomson he has recovered entirely from his wound and says he has enough of the war he was in the 79th Regt of New York at Bull Run. Lizzy and he are living in New York now but I understand Liz is in bad health, when you write send my love to them and to Mother. Frank write to me as soon as you can and if I can assist you let me know. Direct to Robert Louden Gratiot St Prison St Louis hoping you have fully recovered.

I remain

Your affectionate brother

Bob


With his execution nearing, Robert Louden wrote the following letter pleading for mercy. The confession of guilt sparked excited articles in St. Louis newspapers saying Louden had confessed all, and that there were many very nervous people in St. Louis, not knowing if Louden had named them or not.

Gratiot Prison

April 29, 1864

Major General W. S. Rosecrans

Comdg Dept of Missouri

Sir

Upon you as Commander of this Department devolve the duty of appointing the sentence of the Military Commission in my case to be carried into effect, and to you in this hour of tribulation I appeal for that mercy in your power to show me an afflicted wife and helpless family join in this prayer to you.

That I have violated the laws of my country I freely and humbly confess and do not seek to extenuate my guilt but I am deeply and truly penitent for all I have done and pray for forgiveness.

An affectionate wife and infant children will be left entirely destitute at my death, my long imprisonment has diminished their scanty resources and deprived entirely of their natural protection I tremble for their future. My aged parents, residing in Philadelphia have not yet received the sad news of my condemnation, although immediately on the first knowledge of it means were taken to inform them and they will make no delay in coming to see me.

I appeal to you then, to intercede in my behalf for the sake of those who will suffer so much by the execution of my sentence, my sufferings will I hope end with death, for though the intercession of our Divine Saviour I trust to be forgiven for all my sins, but at my death the suffering of my innocent family will commence, for their sake then do not turn from the pleading of an humble and penitent offender.

Throwing myself entirely on your mercy and praying that this appeal may not be in vain, but that sympathizing with my own distress and that of my afflicted and heart-broken family you may think proper to recommend my case for Executive clemency, and solemnly pledging never again to transgress the laws of my country but as a true and loyal citizen to devote myself to my family.

I remain, Sir,

With respect, Yours

Robert Louden

Sabotage of the Robert J Campbell

Sabotage of the Robert J. Campbell, Jr….

The Steamer Robert J. Campbell, Jr., destroyed September 28, 1863 by Isaac Elshire, one of the Organized Boat-burners:

Excerpts of a passenger’s account published in Boston:

“I was a passenger on board the steamer Robert Campbell, Jr. I stood upon the boat with four other men until everyman, women and child that was not burnt was overboard, nor did I leave it then until my neck, face and hands commenced to burn… I saw a women rise for the last time, with her two hands raised to Heaven for help. I recognized in her the mother of two children on board; and as she already sunk twice, my resolution was taken either to save her or perish in the attempt. No sooner thought of that I made for her just as she was going to sink. I got her by her clothing and pulled her into the wheel-house and seated her on the paddle. I then commenced to built a raft out of such things that floated near; and those were principally trunks and boxes of clothing… she was raving about her children“her little angels.” It was an awful moment, but not a moment to be spend in idleness. I had already broken up three boxes and lashed them together, but the raft was not needed, for they came to our relief with a boat. When we got on shore we inquired about the children, but they were not found. The little girl was seven years of age, the boy nine. Both were drowned. I held out the hope to her when we were in the wheel-house that her boy was saved. I saw a man take him under his arm, but I did not tell her that I saw a man jump right on his back as he struck the water… I need not dwell on the horrors of that scene; but the tragedy is played, and I have witnessed it all. It will never be forgotten by me. The cries of those women and children, the groaning and bellowing of the 200 cattle on board, are still ringing in my ears… It is not doubted that the burning of the Campbell is one of a series of similar rebel atrocities, and that the perpetrators of this act came on board at Goodrich’s landing, leaving the steamer just before the discovery of the fire, and getting ashore by means of life preservers.”

Known dead of approximately 40 fatalities:

  • David L. Lynch, age 28, son of William A. and Catherine Lynch, former brother-in-law of Mary Louden (her first husband was David Lynch’s older brother William L. Lynch)
  • Assistant Adjt Gen. Lowden, of the 40th Illinois
  • Lt. Warner of the 53rd Illinois
  • Lt. Hopkins of the 40th Illinois
  • two children, boy aged 9, girl aged 7, of Mrs. Cooley of New Orleans

Sabotage of the Ruth

Sabotage of the Ruth…

The Steamer Ruth, destroyed August 5, 1863:

On the night of August 4, 1863, shortly before midnight, after a refueling stop at Cairo, Illinois, the Ruth burned. The Ruth was enroute to Vicksburg with eight Union payroll masters and $2.6 million dollars in army payroll on board. The money was reported destroyed. Twenty-six of the one hundred fifty passengers, military and civilian, were killed. Grimes, in his memoirs, places the blame squarely on Robert Louden. St. Louis Provost Marshal documents also link Louden to the burning of the Ruth. Louden ultimately confessed to destroying the Ruth, was tried and convicted.

From The Missouri Republican, August 6, 1863:

“Ruth burned last night. Crew saved. Twenty-six lives lost. Boat, cargo, books and two million six hundred thousand dollars total loss. One Paymaster and three Paymaster Clerks lost… the flames spread all over the boat in less than five minutes. There  is no satisfactory theory as to how the fire originated. It is believed, however, to have been fired by an incendiary in the interest of the rebel Government.”

Known dead of 26 fatalities:

  • Maj. Theodore D. Greenwaldt, paymaster
  • L. R. Martin, clerk
  • S. G. Sampson, clerk
  • H. C. Fletcher, clerk
  • Frank Oglesby, clerk of the steamer (son of the captain of the Ruth)
  • two negro deck hands
  • a chambermaid
  • colored woman deck passenger
  • One corporal and four privates of Company I, Ninth Wisconsin
  • several passengers

J W Tucker and the Boatburners

Sabotage of the Sultana…

Joseph W. Tucker and the Boat-Burners

by G. E. Rule

See also Tucker’s War: Missouri and the Northwest Conspiracy by G. E. Rule – original research on J. W. Tucker, one of the most important, yet shadowy, figures in the secret war for Missouri, head of the Boat-Burners a secret service sabotage unit

A South Carolinian by birth, Joseph W. Tucker has been greatly underestimated by historians trying to understand the War in the West.  Methodist minister, pro-secession newspaper editor, lawyer, political ally of Claiborne Jackson and Sterling Price, spymaster—the very diversity of his roles has lead to a fragmentary telling of his story.

You will find Albert Castel and Thomas C. Reynolds talking about “Deacon Tucker” and his role as one of Sterling Price’s most important political lieutenants. Christopher Phillips writes of Tucker the St. Louis newspaper editor tried for treason by U.S. Attorney James O. Broadhead in the spring of 1861. According to Broadhead, Tucker skipped bail when the trial appeared to be going against him, forfeiting a $10,000 bond. Tidwell, Hall, and Gaddy speak of Tucker the boss of the boat-burners in “Come Retribution.” The Official Records of both armies note “Judge Tucker” in this role as well.  Pro-Union Baptist minister Galusha Anderson writes with astonishment of the pro-secession minister who tried to bait him into a duel. David E. Long credits Tucker as a relatively minor Confederate spy in “The Jewel of Liberty.”  It does not help matters that Tucker sometimes identified himself as “J. Wofford Tucker.”

All are the same J.W. Tucker, and all of these authors seem unaware of the totality of Tucker’s role and just how influential he was in Confederate Missouri circles—and by extension to the War in the West. Appreciation for Tucker’s influence wasn’t always so unknown, however. One post-war history of St. Louis goes so far as to credit Tucker with arranging the naming of Sterling Price to head the Missouri State Guard. This meeting was said to have taken place in Tucker’s St. Louis State Journal offices, with most of the important pro-secession leaders—including Governor Jackson—in attendance. While certainly apocryphal in its exact details (Jackson’s aide Thomas L. Snead and Lt. Gov. Thomas C. Reynolds give more reliable accounts of how Price came to be Major General of the Guard), this account shows just how influential Tucker was believed to be at a time when many of the war’s participants were still around to share their memories of events.

Tucker had his bellicose thumb in other important pies than just the effort to interdict Union shipping on the Mississippi. In due course we will be sharing our research in those areas as well.

Below are two letters relating to Judge Deacon J.(oseph) W.(offord) Tucker (take your pick on combination of names—everyone else has) and the boat-burners. The first letter, from the OR, provides the earliest documented evidence of official non-Missouri Confederate support for Tucker’s boat-burners. Johnston’s dating of this encounter suggests that it was probably June of 1863 when he agreed to provide funds to support Tucker and his boat-burners. However, keep in mind that Tucker’s close connections to the highest levels of Missouri Confederates strongly suggests that he and his group could have been drawing financial support from that quarter from well before this date. It isn’t documented—it wouldn’t need to be—but it is a reasonable supposition.

The excerpts from Tucker’s 1864 letter to Jefferson Davis do not paint the boat-burners in a particularly patriotic light. “Filthy lucre” seems to be much more the aim of at least some of them, even by the admission of their paymaster. It is however another indicator of how easily Tucker’s group was able to strike in Union-held Memphis.

While Robert Louden is well-documented to have been a drinker, which can be expensive, and he was not unfond of money, there is no reason to believe that his early career as a spy and saboteur was driven by anything other than his support for the Confederacy. Louden was an early Missouri secessionist, closely associated with the Minute Men and their leaders in the spring of 1861. As “Sultana –A Case for Sabotage” documents, in his later career a warm grudge against the Union probably played an increasingly important role.

* * * *

DALTON, January 31, 1864.

Hon. JAMES A. SEDDON, Secretary of War:

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

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

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

Most respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. E. JOHNSTON.

* * * * * * * *

J. W. Tucker to Jefferson Davis.

(From Confederate Memorial Hall.)

(Spotswood Hotel 14th March, 1864.)

Confidential statements; for the President alone

* * *

4. A deputation, under the authority of the order, was sent to confer with me in Mobile in relation to the destruction of the enemy’s marine service, together with armories, arsenals, depots of stores, etc. etc., as a means of weakening and paralysing the military strength of the Federal Government. The Order is desirous of thus aideing our cause. In the Lodge in St. Louis there are seventy-two Engineers serving on the Western Waters, by whom we destroyed ten Federal Transports in ten days. But a doubt arose whether our work was prosecuted by the approval of the Confederate Government; and whether the men employed in this perillous service would be compensated by any provision of law, and especially when officers in the marine service were thrown out of employment by the destruction of the vessels on which they were employed.

5. Our future plans, if sanctioned and aided by the Government, embrace the destruction of that transport service upon which Grant must rely in the great coming struggle of the spring campaign; a week ago we burnt $500,000 worth of hay at the Memphis wharf, to embarrass Sherman; not long since Colt’s pistol and gun Factory became an earnest of what can be done. We design to strike a blow on the same day, at many points, that will paralyze the foe. To do this confidence in the countenance and approval of our government must be inspired. To do this an adjustment for work already done must be had. The final agents are often ignorant, and sometimes vicious men. No argument but money will avail with them. If a settlement now be practicable, and a sum of money, say $100,000, of a character of funds current within the Federal lines, greenbacks, or Foreign exchange, can be placed in the hands of Lieut. Gen. Polk, for disbursement, some in advance, and the rest as the work proceeds, I am most confident we shall be able, through this association, to render important and telling service to our government in the ensuing campaign.

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.

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