Grant in Missouri

Grant In Missouri

by

Ulysses S. Grant

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

General US Grant


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

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

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



CHAPTER XVI.

THE COMING CRISIS.

CHAPTER XVII.

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

CHAPTER XVIII.

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

CHAPTER XIX.

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

CHAPTER XX.

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



CHAPTER XVI.

THE COMING CRISIS * * *

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

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

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



CHAPTER XVII.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank Blair

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

Frank Blair: Lincoln’s Conservative by William Earl Parrish

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

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

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

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

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

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

GALENA, ILLINOIS,

May 24, 1861.

COL. L. THOMAS

Adjt. Gen. U. S. A.,

Washington, D. C.

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

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

I am very respectfully,

Your obt. svt.,

U. S. GRANT.

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

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

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



CHAPTER XVIII.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XIX.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XX.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

Taming the Southern Belles of St Louis

Taming the Southern Belles of St. Louis

by

John McElroy

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


Missouri Civil War Reader, Volume I now available

The Fight for Missouri by Thomas L. Snead, 1886

The Struggle for Missouri by John McElroy, 1909

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

The Crisis by Winston Churchill, 1901

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

The Brown-Reynolds Duel, 1911

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Manly Missouri Crossdressers of the Civil War

One of our visitors’ all-time favorite articles!

Manly Missouri Cross-Dressers of the Civil War

by

John N. Edwards,

John Fiske,

Cole Younger,

Absalom C. Grimes

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

Introduction to John N. Edwards

Introduction to John Fiske

Introduction to Absalom C. Grimes

Introduction to Cole Younger


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

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


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

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

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

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


Next up, that grand dame with a commanding presence; Nathaniel Lyon, as given by John Fiske:One of the visitors [to Camp Jackson, St. Louis] next day came in a light open carriage then known as a “Jenny Lind,” and was leisurely driven by a colored servant up and down the avenues “Jeff Davis”, “Beauregard”, and “Sumter”, and the rest. This visitor, dressed in a black bombazine gown and closely veiled, was a familiar sight on the streets of St. Louis, as she took the air daily in her light carriage. Everybody recognized her as Mrs. Alexander, the mother of Mrs. Blair, but nobody accosted her or expected recognition from her because she was known to be blind. What should have brought this elderly lady to Camp Jackson? Was it simply the Negro coachman gratifying some curiosity of his own?

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

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


Cole Younger, the crone, from his memoirs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Meeting at the Planters House

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

by

John McElroy

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


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

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

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

Missouri Civil War Reader CD-ROM

Missouri Civil War Reader, Volume I now available

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

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

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


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

Headquarters, Department of the West

St. Louis, June 8th, 1861

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

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

N. Lyon

Brigadier-General, Commanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memorandum for Gen. Price –May 21, 1861

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gen. Lyon opposed this by saying, in effect:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Absalom Grimes Bio

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

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

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

Excerpts from Grimes’ memoirs telling of his escapes from Gratiot

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

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

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

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

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

A. C. Grimes obituary

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

Galusha Anderson – Bio

A bio of Galusha Anderson

Galusha Anderson



ANDERSON, Galusha, educator, was born at Bergen, Genesee county, N.Y., March 7, 1832. His father was of Scotch descent, and a strict Presbyterian. The boy, becoming converted to the Baptist faith, determined to become a minister. He was graduated with high honors from the Rochester university in 1854, and from the theological seminary, Rochester, in 1856. He was ordained pastor and took charge of the Baptist church at Janesville, Wisconsin, the same year. His next pulpit was in St. Louis, from 1858 to 1866. In 1866 he went to Newton, Mass., as professor of homiletics in the theological seminary, remaining there for seven years. In 1873 he took charge of the Strong place church in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he preached five years, going thence to the Second Baptist church, Chicago, in 1876. In 1878 he was made president of the Chicago university, and for eight years he endeavored, faithfully, to establish the institution on a firm footing. In 1886 he resigned, and for a short time preached in Salem, giving up his church there to accept the presidency of Denison university, which position he filled very successfully until 1890. He afterwards accepted the chair of homiletics in the Divinity school of Chicago university. Dr. Anderson was given the degrees of D.D., 1866, and LL.D., 1884, by the University of Rochester.

Johnson, Rossiter, ed.

Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans

Vol. I-X (10). Boston, MA

The Biographical Society, 1904

Missouri Oath of Loyalty

The Missouri Oath of Loyalty of 1865

By Galusha Anderson

Excerpted and Introduced by G.E. Rule

from “The Story of a Border City During the Civil War”, Galusha Anderson, 1908

Galusha Anderson 1861

Galusha Anderson 1861

Bio of Galusha Anderson


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

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

The Missouri Loyalty Oath of 1865 can only be interpreted as an extreme and vindictive attempt to exclude any but the staunchest Unionist from public life in Missouri after the war. It is an abomination to the modern eye schooled by the ACLU to consider even most pornography as untouchable by government power under the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A secret police the Third Reich or Stalinists would admire would have been required to enforce it effectively. It reads better as a script for a Monty Python or Saturday Night Live skit than a serious governing document. One can concede that it may have been only prudent at that time and in that place to suspend the franchise of Confederates who had recently borne arms against the United States and still find the Missouri Oath of Loyalty a breathtakingly oppressive instrument. It says much of the mood of the times in Missouri in 1865 that when the Missouri Supreme Court attempted to overturn the Oath, they were all immediately removed from the bench! What is interesting in the account given by Anderson –a Union man who would never accept second place to anyone in his loyalty to the U.S.—is that he clearly believed the Oath was a gross mistake and a grave injustice to many fine citizens of Missouri.

In fact, no less a Union personage than Major-General Frank Blair –who had done more than all of Missouri’s Radical Republicans combined to keep her in the Union when the issue was in doubt in early 1861– declined to take the Oath in 1865 and was refused the right to vote.  When asked why he would not take the Oath, Blair cheerfully explained that while he would gladly take an Oath professing his loyalty to the Union and Missouri going forward, the fact of the matter was that he had taken up arms against the government of Missouri in May and June of 1861 (see Blair and Lyon Save the Union) and hence could not meet the draconian terms of the current Oath.  The radicals were not amused by this perfectly valid point that vividly illustrated the ridiculousness of their Oath, but refused to bend.

In excerpting from Anderson’s book the section concerning the Missouri Oath of Loyalty of 1865, there is always the danger the resulting piece may give an impression unintended by the author of the original work had he the opportunity to write on the Loyalty Oath solely instead of as part of a larger work. Any perceived problems of that sort should be laid at the door of the editor, not the author.


Missouri Civil War Reader CD-ROM

Missouri Civil War Reader, Volume I now available

The Fight for Missouri by Thomas L. Snead, 1886

The Struggle for Missouri by John McElroy, 1909

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

The Crisis by Winston Churchill, 1901

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

The Brown-Reynolds Duel, 1911

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

If, after eliminating from the Constitution of the State all that pertained to involuntary servitude, thus making it consonant with the [Missouri] Ordinance of Emancipation, the [Missouri Constitutional] Convention had adjourned sine die, it would have covered itself with imperishable glory. But the act of the legislature by which it was created gave to it almost unlimited powers. It was especially called upon so to amend the Constitution that the elective franchise should be preserved in its purity to all loyal citizens, and to make such other amendments as it might think “essential to the public good”. Under this last clause apparently there was nothing that they might not legally do, and in their remaining work they went to the full limit of their powers. Instead of simply revising the old Constitution they in fact made a new one, and in spots it was admirable. It contained the most progressive doctrines of popular government; but in prescribing who should be legal voters their enactments were so extreme that they appear to us now quite ludicrous. To justify this statement we venture to give in full sections 3 and 6 of article II of the Constitution, together with the prescribed oath, believing that any intelligent reader who begins the perusal of them will proceed with increasing interest to the last line.

Sec 3. At any election held by the people under this Constitution, or in pursuance of any law of this State, or under any ordinance or by-law of any municipal corporation, no person shall be deemed a qualified voter, who has ever been in armed hostility to the United States, or to the lawful authorities thereof, or to the Government of this State; or has ever given aid, comfort, countenance, or support to persons engaged in any such hostility; or has ever, in any manner, adhered to the enemies, foreign or domestic, of the United States, either by contributing to them, or by unlawfully sending within their lines, money, goods, letters or information; or has ever disloyally held communication with such enemies; or has ever advised or aided any person to enter the service of such enemies; or has ever, by act or word, manifested his adherence to the cause of such enemies, or his desire for their triumph over the arms of the United States, or his sympathy with those engaged in exciting or carrying on rebellion against the United States; or has ever, except under overpowering compulsion, submitted to the authority, or been in the service, of the so-called “Confederate States of America”; or has left this State, and gone within the lines of the armies of the so-called “Confederate States of America,” with the purpose of adhering to said States or armies; or has ever been a member of, or connected with, any order, society, or organization, inimical to the Government of the United States, or to the Government of this State; or has ever been engaged in guerrilla warfare against loyal inhabitants of the United States, or in that description of marauding commonly known as “bushwhacking;” or has ever knowingly and willingly harbored, aided, or countenanced, any person so engaged; or has ever come into or left this State for the purpose of avoiding enrollment for or draft into the military service of the United States; or has ever, with a view to avoid enrollment in the militia of this State, or to escape the performance of duty therein, or for any other purpose, enrolled himself, or authorized himself to be enrolled, by or before any officer, as disloyal, or as a Southern sympathizer, or in any other terms indicating his disaffection to the Government of the United States in its contest with rebellion, or his sympathy with those engaged in such rebellion; or, having ever voted at any election by the people in this State, or in any other of the United States, or in any of their Territories, or held office in this State, or in any other of the United States, or in any of their Territories, or under the United States, shall thereafter have sought or received, under claim of alienage, the protection of any foreign government, through any consul or other officer thereof, in order to secure exemption from military duty in the militia of this State, or in the army of the United States; nor shall any such person be capable of holding, in this State, any office of honor, trust, or profit, under its authority; or of being an officer, councilman, director, trustee, or other manager of any corporation, public or private, now existing or hereafter established by its authority; or of acting as a professor or teacher in any educational institution, or in any common or other school; or of holding any real estate, or other property, in trust for the use of any church, religious society, or congregation. But the foregoing provisions in relation to acts done against the United States shall not apply to any person not a citizen thereof, who shall have committed such acts, been naturalized, or may hereafter be naturalized, under the laws of the United States, and who has, since such acts, been naturalized, or may hereafter be naturalized, under the laws of the United States; and the oath of loyalty hereinafter prescribed, when taken by such person, shall be considered as taken in such sense.

Sec. 6 The oath to be taken as aforesaid shall be known as the Oath of Loyalty, and shall be in the following terms:

I, A. B., do solemnly swear, that I am well acquainted with the terms of the third section of the second Article of the Constitution of the State of Missouri, adopted in the year eighteen hundred and sixty-five, and have carefully considered the same; that I have never, directly or indirectly, done any of the acts in said section specified; that I have always been truly and loyally on the side of the United States against all enemies thereof, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the United States, and will support the Constitution and laws thereof, as the supreme law of the land, any law or ordinance of any State to the contrary notwithstanding; that I will, to the best of my ability, protect and defend the Union of the United States, and not allow the same to be broken up and dissolved, or the Government thereof to be destroyed or overthrown, under any circumstances, if in my power to prevent it; that I will support the Constitution of the State of Missouri; and that I make this oath without any mental reservation or evasion, and hold it to be binding on me.

We see from this how intensely in earnest were the delegates of the Convention. But this oath was not wholly a creation of theirs. It had a gradual growth. We have seen with what imperativeness General Halleck demanded an oath of allegiance of all officers of the State, county and city, without which they were not permitted to exercise their functions. The generals of the department that came after him rigorously maintained the same policy. The first sovereign Convention adopted it and strenuously enforced it by the sword. This Convention, receiving it from the first, with wonderful genius for probing the conscience, elaborated it. Under its manipulation the oath became retrospective, introspective and prospective. No man could take it without perjury, who by word or act had been in the past, was in the present, or should be in the future, disloyal to the government of the United States. It not only prohibited one who could not subscribe to it from voting, but also from holding any government office of whatever grade, teaching in any school or preaching the gospel. And to make sure that the fountains of justice should be freed from every suspicion of disloyalty, the Convention vacated the offices of the judges of the Supreme Court, circuit and county courts, and special courts of record throughout the State, and of all clerks of courts, county recorders, and circuit attorneys and their assistants, and “empowered and directed” the Governor of the State to fill these offices so vacated by his appointment. Since most judges and subordinate officers of the courts were unable to subscribe to the oath of loyalty without perjury, the Convention was determined that court officials should be appointed that could. And thinking it unsafe to wait for the slow process of a popular election and probably fearing, if they should, that the elections might not go according to their liking, they took a short cut to clean the Augean stables. It looked like revolution. At all events the Convention went to the full limit, if not beyond the limit, of its powers. The judges of the Supreme Court resisted what they regarded a gross usurpation of authority; but their resistance was vain. They were arrested and tried before the City Recorder as disturbers of the peace, and so sank from public view.

While the Convention designated the oath the “Oath of Loyalty”; the people, seizing upon its exact intent, called it the Test Oath. Its object was to test the loyalty of those who were required to take it. But the oath was too indiscriminate. It did not sufficiently recognize different degrees of guilt. Many in our city and State who were at first swept by the excitement of the hour into the ranks of the secessionists, soon saw their error and thereafter loyally supported the Federal government. Others had at times expressed their sympathy with secessionism, but in all their overt acts had been faithful to the Union. It would naturally have been expected that ordinarily wise and humane legislators would have provided for the full, unconditional pardon of such men. But no; this oath of loyalty was pitiless. It made not the slightest provision for the penitent. The majority of the convention seem to have proceeded on the assumption that men who had been guilty of rebellion in any degree, if they had but expressed a sympathetic emotion in its behalf, were unfit either to vote or teach or preach.

And, for a decade, the most genuine and heart-felt repentance would be altogether vain; since the Convention provided, in the 25th section of the second article of the Constitution, that the General Assembly of the State might repeal the provisions of the oath, so far as the affected voters, after 1871, but so far as they pertained to lawyers, school teachers and ministers not till after 1875. Therefore irrespective of the degree of his guilt, to the attorney, the pedagogue or the preacher, these astute constitution-makers, with a scent for disloyalty keener than that of a hound, for ten long years, granted “no place of repentance,” even though he should seek it “diligently with tears.”

* * *

But after the Emancipation Act was passed, the Convention, having, against the earnest protest of some of its own members, doggedly set itself to the work of making a new Constitution, lost, to a large extent, the confidence of many of the best loyal men of the State. Even a goodly number of the delegates that composed it became to the extent of their power obstructionists. Absenteeism grew apace, and only by the rigid enforcement of the rules could the Convention be saved from disastrous disintegration. Some of its members fell into a vein of ridicule and one of them offered a string of satirical resolutions, which, though unmitigated balderdash, the Convention complacently spread on its minutes.

Most of the constituents of the Convention, while generously recognizing the great merit of much of its work, were often ashamed of what it did and said. In fact its debates were never published, beyond the brief and imperfect reports of them in the daily papers. In explanation of this curious fact, it was hinted that the leaders of the Convention were so mortified by them, that they managed to suppress the whole, both good and bad together.

* * *

But blessed be the Supreme Court of the United States! About three years after the new Constitution had been ratified by the people, it declared by barely one majority that the notorious test oath was unconstitutional. A multitude in our State ever after held in grateful memory that one Federal judge, who tipped the scales against the oath that had too long been a thorn in the body politic.