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Posted December 30, 2004
This is copyrighted material--the article, the pictures, and the introduction--and may not be copied or reproduced in any form, including on other websites, without permission of the authors.
THE ST. LOUIS MUTINY OF THE PROVISIONALS
by Kirby Ross
Also by this author:
available at Amazon.com
By Charley Hester, Edited by Kirby Ross
available at Amazon.com
While most Provisional Enrolled Missouri Militia units were in existence from four to seven months, the 10th and 11th PEMM Regiments lasted only 10 days, making them two of the shortest-lived units in the service of the United States during the entire Civil War. With orders being dispatched from Union headquarters on August 9, 1863, instructing St. Louis EMM commanders to assemble their regiments for the purpose of detailing to the PEMM on September 9, the instructions were kept secret until the last moment. Finally, on September 8, word was spread to the thousands of St. Louis EMM soldiers to assemble the next day.
Upon their arrival at camp as instructed, the men received the first news some of them were going to be detailed to a provisional regiment for at least 30 days, or longer “if necessary.” While the original intent in its creation was that the PEMM was to be an elite organization of picked men, the method used for doing the “picking” for the St. Louis units was quite arbitrary—line up, count off by fours, “this process having been completed, the ‘ones’ were called out and designated as the lucky persons entitled to the prize…. The lottery was exciting.”
As was the aftermath: “The suddenness of this call took the militiamen by surprise, and found them unprepared—some of them at their counting-houses, some in their shops, and all hard at work and laboring to support the families dependent upon them. Of course there was a good deal of complaint among those who suddenly and without a moment’s warning found themselves ‘elected’….”
Regular U.S. Volunteer troops based at New Madrid were preparing to be transferred to Arkansas to assist in the Little Rock campaign, and the two new St. Louis PEMM regiments were intended to take their place. However, even this aspect of the deployment was kept secret, resulting in rumors flying throughout the city, one of the first and most prevalent being that the U.S. command planned on sending them against Jim Lane, a Radical Unionist commander on the Kansas border who was prone to use extreme tactics against those he saw to be his opponents, whether military or civilian. Given the prevalent Radical sentiment of the rank and file St. Louis EMM trooper, the situation became grave as the detailing continued through one St. Louis regiment after another over the next few days.
The reactions of the men chosen were varied and ran the gamut from acceptance, to outright desertion, to the hiring of substitutes (going rate $35 to $75), to the hiring of attorneys to file writs of habeas corpus (the timing for this latter procedure was exceedingly bad for the conscripts—President Lincoln coincidentally suspended the writ on September 15 for reasons quite unrelated to the PEMM fiasco, resulting in Colonel Henry H. Catherwood of the 11th PEMM refusing service of process of the writs from U.S. marshals). With desertions in the 10th PEMM being sporadic but contained, the problem in the 11th PEMM was much more widespread, appearing to be caused, at least in part, by the fact its original commanding officer, Colonel John Knapp, was relieved of duty just one day after the detailing started, and then was not immediately replaced, leaving the unit rudderless for five very critical days.
Finally on September 16, with friends and family looking on, the hapless troops, hungry and without uniforms, were herded onto paddlewheelers as general discontent moved to a fever pitch on the docks around the boat containing the 11th PEMM—
The steamer, which was tied at the foot of Green street, about dusk moved out into the stream to avoid the pressure of the crowd on the wharf, but more likely to prevent a sortie of some of the discontented conscripts….
Soon after . . . anchored out in the river the feeling of discontent, which had been brewing among the men, began to partake of a mutinous character. The anchor was cut loose, and the steamer floated downstream. Threats were circulated that the steamer would be blown up or set on fire. The Captain of the boat, alarmed for the safety of the vessel, consulted with some of the officers present on the condition of affairs.
The authority of the latter was little heeded. The men had eaten nothing since noon, and they determined to land for supper. Amid the general confusion, the ringing of the bell and shouts of the men, the steamer headed at the foot of Cherry street about 11 o’clock, and the 11th Provisional regiment, after this first experiment in soldiery, sought comfortable quarters on shore.
With the local press predicting that another start would be made the next day, the now free-roaming and ill-humored citizen soldiers had other thoughts on the matter as—
about noon the R.D. Hamilton was out in the river searching for her anchor. About fifty Provisionals were on board inspecting the operation. At the wharf was a large pile of commissary stores, and several piles of confiscated bread. Some forty or fifty Provisionals were looking out for the provisions. The disintegrating process seemed going forward. It was uncertain when the steamer would leave.
Tully, one of the men who pointed a bayonet at the breast of an officer in the cabin, Wednesday night, was arrested and sent to the military prison.
Seemingly at an impasse, the mutiny was abated in a very simple manner. On September 19, a mere ten days after declaring the need for more troops due to an emergency, the Union command declared said emergency to no longer exist. That same day the troops of the 10th and 11th PEMM began mustering out of service. With the dispersing of the bulk of the troops back to their civilian pursuits, twenty-two of the leaders of the mutiny found themselves to be without supporters, and were promptly arrested and sent to Gratiot Prison, bringing the controversy to a conclusion.
One further minor problem arose in the wake of the aborted deployment of the St. Louis PEMM regiments, concerning the hiring of substitutes. Of the men originally detailed, up to one-half had hired replacements to assume their military duties. While the conscripting had begun September 9, it was not completed for several days, resulting in replacements that in “most cases were on duty only one night and part of a day, and in some cases only a few hours.” Consequently, many of the men that paid for substitutes desired refunds. The solution to this impasse, if one was reported, has not been located.
The entire PEMM system, not just the two St. Louis regiments, was disbanded within weeks of this affair. This action has been a mystery over the years, and in some specific cases appears to have been done because of Radical sentiments in several of the regiments. However, with these recently uncovered mutiny reports and indications the filings of writs of habeas corpus was becoming a widespread problem within the PEMM, the demise of the Provisional Enrolled Missouri Militia may have had much to do with eliminating a growing crisis in what was essentially an organization manned by conscripts. (The filing of writs of habeas corpus was generally seen as a legal avenue for “disloyal” citizens. The notion that the most loyal of citizens—the Radicals—were resorting to it possibly was posing a great dilemma for government and military officials).
Authors Note: Up to the present time, evidence of this mutiny had largely been lost to history. Apparently not wishing to encourage additional outbreaks within other Missouri Provisional EMM units, virtually nothing was reported in official military dispatches or the Union-controlled press. While the two major St. Louis newspapers, the Democrat and the Republican, did publish short articles on the surprise conscriptions, they totally ignored the resulting mutiny. One relatively minor local newspaper, the Union, did brave the storm and save the story of the mutiny for posterity, possibly to the great ire of the Federal military hierarchy.
The senior Federal commanding officer in Missouri at the time of the mutiny was Major General John M. Schofield (later lieutenant general and General-in-Chief of the U.S. Army after the war). For Schofield's brief and rather partisan analysis of the causes of the St. Louis mutiny, from his 1896 memoirs, click here.
St. Louis Democrat:
“The Draft in St. Louis,” 11 Sept. 1863, p. 1; “What it Means,” 12 Sept. 1863, p. 1; “The Provisional Regiments,” 14 Sept. 1863, p. 1; “The Provisional Regiments,” 19 Sept. 1863, p. 1
St. Louis Republican:
“The E.M.M.,” 11 Sept. 1863, p. 2; “The Enrolled Militia,” 19 Sept. 1863, p. 2
St. Louis Union:
“The Enrolled Militia—the Draft in Missouri,” 10 Sept. 1863, p. 2; “The New Provisional Regiments,” 10 Sept. 1863, p. 4; “How the Detail from the Eighth Were Selected,” 10 Sept. 1863, p. 4; “Petition For A Writ of Habeas Corpus,” 17 Sept. 1863, p. 4; “Departure of the 11th Provisional Regiment,” 17 Sept. 1863, p. 4; “Short Campaign,” 17 Sept. 1863, p. 4; “The Habeas Corpus Case,” 18 Sept. 1863, p. 4; “Relieved From Duty,” 19 Sept. 1863, p. 4; “Re-embarking—Anchor Found,” 19 Sept. 1863, p. 4; “Under Guard—Sergeant W.H. Wells,” 19 Sept. 1863, p. 4; “A Controverted Question,” 21 Sept. 1863, p. 4; “Disbanded,” 22 Sept. 1863, p. 4
©2004 Kirby Ross
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