Gratiot Street Prison Info Sources

Information sources on Gratiot Street Prison

Primary Source books:Grimes, Absalom, Confederate Mail Runner, edited by M. M. Quaife of the Burton Historical Collection, Yale University Press, 1926

Grimes was an agent with the Confederate secret service under General Price, passing back and forth through the Federal lines with letters from families and their relatives in the CSA army. He was in Gratiot St. Prison twice, the first time escaping in a rather dramatic way. Several people have commented that they think Grimes’ amazing story has more than a bit of “old soldiering” to it, but, other than some errors in dating, the book is the truth as can be verified by numerous contemporary sources.

Available from Advanced Book Exchange

Grimes–photo circa 1863 from book

Bio of Absalom Grimes

Excerpts from book:

Campaigning With Mark Twain

Escapes from Gratiot

(these hyperlinks takes you to other sites–use your back button to return here)


Frost, Griffin, Camp and Prison Journal, Press of the Camp Pope Bookshop, reprint edition 1994 (originally printed 1867)

Captain Griffin Frost, of the Missouri State Guard, kept a journal throughout the war and his two stays at Gratiot. Frost writes an interesting story, describing many of the people at Gratiot very well. Some of his racial comments are a bit hard to take but must be viewed in historical context (and that historical context provides a view of the often unseen–and nasty–side of things). Frost’s stated objective in writing was to show that conditions in Union prisons like Gratiot and Alton were as bad as those in Andersonville. In this he fails completely.


Gratiot Street Prison–1876 illustration
Anderson, Galusha, Story of a Border City During the Civil War, Little Brown, 1908Anderson was a pastor in St. Louis just before and during the war. His church was only half a block away from Lynch’s Slave Market. He offered his services as a minister to the Confederate prisoners at Gratiot, but–not surprisingly–none of their accounts mention him. Good, first-hand history by a very priggish sort of writer. A decidedly Union point-of-view. Probably one of the most purely devoted abolitionists in St. Louis, a city of very tangled loyalties.

Available soon on CD-ROM

Galusha Anderson–1861 photo from book

Bio of Galusha Anderson

Galusha Anderson on the 1865 Oath of Loyalty –excerpt from book


Reminiscences of the Women of Missouri During the Sixties, Morningside House, Inc., reprinted 1988

Several excellent accounts of Gratiot and the other St. Louis prisons. (scarce and difficult to find)


Stevens, Harriet, The Graybeards, Letters of Major Lyman Allen, of the 37th Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry, The “Graybeards” Including The Diaries of Viola Baldwin His Step-Daughter, Camp Pope Bookshop, 1998Letters by one of the officers in a unit assigned to guard duty at Gratiot. Some references to Gratiot.



Original prison records:National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 109

M598, rolls 72, 98, 145 — Ledgers from the prison.

M345, rolls 90, 91, 92 — Provost Marshal’s files involving people held at Gratiot Street Prison, files on more that one person. These rolls include daily reports from Gratiot plus some additional ledgers.

M345–All rolls on individual civilians, Provost  Marshal reports. These cover all parts of the USA but a solid 60%, maybe even 80%, of the cases and individuals covered are from the Department of Missouri.

A transcription of Missouri residents (only) listed in the Gratiot Street Prison, Myrtle Street Prison, and Alton Prison ledgers is available in “Missouri Prisoners of War” by Joanne Chiles Eakin. Available from the Civil War Lady’s Book Shoppe.