Posted June 26, 2002

 

General Nathaniel Lyon and

Missouri in 1861

by

James Peckham, 1866

Introduced by G. E. Rule 

James Peckham was a St. Louis Unionist and Republican member of the Missouri legislature in the period leading up to the Civil War. During the war he joined the Union army and eventually became Colonel of the 8th Missouri Infantry. Peckham’s connections to the group centered around Francis P. Blair, Jr. in early 1861 were extensive and close. In many instances it is clear that he is working directly from the personal papers and recollections of Blair, James O. Broadhead, and other members of the "Committee of Safety" and its allies. Peckham is listed on the roster of the "parent company" of the Union Home Guards in January 1861 —a company whose captain was Blair himself. Peckham is not just a chronicler of the events he describes; he was often an actor and first-hand observer as well.

In many ways, "General Nathaniel Lyon and Missouri in 1861" is an unfortunate title for Peckham’s book. Indeed, a much more accurate title and authorship credit for this book would read "The Struggle for St. Louis in 1861" by "The Union Committee of Safety and Friends." While of necessity any treatment of events in Missouri in 1861 must have Lyon near the center of the story, Peckham’s book is much more than the bio of Lyon that its title implies. It contains a wealth of anecdotes about lesser-known but interesting characters like J. Richard Barrett, Elton W. Fox, Charles Elleard, and many others that are not to be found anywhere else. Additionally, there are rosters of Union Home Guard companies, lists of financial contributors to the Union cause in Missouri, and just a general wealth of detail of interest to Civil War scholars and genealogists.

For 1866, well before the publication of any of the other well-known accounts of Missouri during the war, Peckham’s book is nothing short of amazing. Consider all the sources that were not available to Peckham yet --no Snead, McElroy, or Galusha Anderson. The publication of the Official Records of the Rebellion are still far in the future. Peckham’s book is clearly the "granddaddy" of much Missouri Civil War scholarship, relied on extensively by many of the authors who came later—sometimes to the detriment of the historical record in those instances where Peckham got it wrong.

Of course the downside of such an early account by an unapologetic Unionist, is that his access to Confederate sources was limited to rumor, spy reports, newspaper accounts, and captured correspondence. While this was often valuable and reasonably accurate, clearly Peckham is not the best source for what was going on inside secessionist circles. Additionally, there can be no doubt which side Peckham was on, and he is rarely in the mood to be fair-minded about Confederate actions, aims, and personalities. Peckham’s book is not, and makes no attempt to be, an uninterested and balanced account of events. Nevertheless, it is a very valuable contribution and should be read by anyone interested in St. Louis or Missouri during the Civil War.

Peckham’s book is 447 pages, organized into an introduction, four "books", and an appendix. There are no chapters per se. We will be posting the entire text over time, separating each "book" and the appendix into three parts, and posting a part from time to time.

General Nathaniel Lyon and Missouri in 1861

by James Peckham, 1866

Introduction
Sumter

Part I - Part II - Part III

Camp Jackson

Part I - Part II - Part III

The Harney Regime

Part I - Part II - Part III

Wilson's Creek

Part I - Part II - Part III

Appendix

Part I - Part II - Part III

Return to Civil War St. Louis

 


THIS MEMORIAL

OF

THE HEROIC ACTIONS AND DEATH

OF

NATHANIEL LYON

IS MOST RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED TO

CHARLES M. ELLEARD, Esq.,

ONE OF HIS EARLY AND STEADFAST FRIENDS,

BY

THE AUTHOR.

PREFACE.

I SUBMIT this volume to the considerate attention of my countrymen. It is published in order that those who succeed us may know how the men of this generation regarded Truth, and the attitude they assumed in its fearful struggle with Error. No period has been fraught with more momentous interests to humanity than this in which we are living. And no man ever more generously sacrificed himself in the maintenance of Right, or exhibited more religious deference to Justice, or a more gallant soldiership for Truth, than Nathaniel Lyon. No man ever sustained himself with greater nobility of personal deportment. The story of this hero and patriot will stimulate Age to regard patriotism with pious tenacity in the council, and Youth, in the spirit of real chivalry, to buckle on impervious armor for its defense in the field. In unfolding the stupendous drama of the time, the different characters necessary to the plot must find deliberate portrayal, and it is to the greater grandeur of the central figure that it is not obscured by such frequent mention of others. By Americans everywhere, but more especially by MISSOURIANS, the beautiful character of this son of Connecticut will be spoken of with pride, and treasured with reverence, while memory shall remain an attribute of man.

INTRODUCTION.

1860.

THE political contest in Missouri, in 1860, was between those who yielded unqualified obedience to the slave-power, and those who longed for relief from the impositions of the oligarchy. There were in the Democratic party leaders with sufficient influence to induce the party itself to espouse the cause of Douglas; but the selection for governor fell upon one of the most virulent nullifiers who had hounded the great Benton to his grave. Without the possession of more than ordinary sagacity, those leaders saw that the majority of the people, while tolerant toward slavery, were yet averse to secession, and, as Douglas was looked upon as a middle-man, they adopted the cheat of carrying into the gubernatorial chair, under his banner, one in whom they felt they could trust the interests of the South, in any emergency that might arise.

The results of the canvass in 1856 had awakened in the slaveholders gloomy apprehensions as to the security of the "institution." That there should have been found in Missouri such a numerous body of citizens, forming almost a majority, arrayed against the "time-honored party," in whose bosom slavery found the necessary aid and comfort, struck the oligarchy with fear and astonishment. Under the circumstances, (the national canvass of 1856,) a position against the Democracy in 1860 indicated alliance with the "Free-soilers." The vote for Rollins, for Governor, in 1857, caused the tocsin of alarm to be sounded, and slavery, aroused to action, mustered into its service those fiercer passions of human nature, which subjugate the finer sensibilities, and tend to degrade the civilized man.

In 1860, the slaveholder determined to profit by experience. The bitter hate and the opprobrious epithets, which, in the old time, had been hurled against the far-off Garrisonian abolitionists, were launched with renewed force against any freeman who dared to differ from the Democracy. The support of Douglas was considered a sufficient concession to those who were afflicted with the possession of conscience; and when the obtuse voter failed to discover a satisfactory principle under the new guise, he was too often cowed down by a studied ruffianism, and if still persistent in his opposition, it was only to serve the pro-slavery policy from the Bell-Everett platform. While they opposed the Democracy, which they claimed to do as an organization, the Bell-Everetts were as bitter against the Republicans as were the slave-drivers themselves, making the extent of their abuse the measure of their apology for their points of difference from the oligarchy.

But in the whole State there were some twenty thousand Republicans, who were not to be deterred from the performance of their duty by any threat, not to be dismayed by the appearance of any danger. Only in St. Louis, however, did they maintain any kind of an organization, but in that city they were not only splendidly organized, but presented a very formidable front. It may have been that, by reason of three parties being in the field in each canvass, they generally held possession of a majority of the city and county offices; but there were wards in the city, where opposition to them was useless. In 1858 and 1859, Republican meetings were invariably disturbed by the partisans of slavery, who, from their hiding-places in the dark, frequently hurled missiles at the speakers, or rent the air with noisy exclamations of passionate hate or gross obscenity.

The leading spirit and chief adviser of the Republicans in 1860 and 1861 was Frank Preston Blair, Jr. who in the canvass of 1856, had whispered the magic word, EMANCIPATION. No history of Missouri in the momentous crisis of 1861 can possibly be complete without having that name stamped upon its pages in characters of splendid coloring. Himself a Southerner, and a slaveholder, the stereotyped cry of "Yankee prejudice," "New England education," and "Nigger equality" could not be raised against him in efforts to intensify passion and excite hate. His own personal courage and coolness, silenced the pretensions of the insolent, and forced opponents from the employment of abuse into the arena of debate, and there, before his exhaustive arguments and array of facts, the mailed squires of slavery were speedily unhorsed. Even in his personal intercourse with opposing partisans, in whose breasts were lurking the twin passions of hate and fear, he exhibited not only the courteousness of an affable gentleman, but an equanimity of temperament and apparent forgetfulness really wonderful. The antagonist who expected at the first meeting a rupture, because of bitter attacks made upon Mr. Blair in recent speeches, was surprised, in passing, at the placid countenance and nonchalance of manner of his political foe. This power over self, made Mr. Blair powerful with others. Serving a great cause in the interests of humanity, warring against an institution deep-seated in the hearts and purposes of a powerful class, he knew exactly the work before him, and the depths he would necessarily stir into fermentation. He made it his purpose to disregard passion, to answer declamation with argument, and to act in self-defense against ruffianly attack. His example was infused into his partisans. The effect was visible in the rapidly increasing growth of the Republican brotherhood and the permanent radiancy of the Republican idea.

Previous to 1860, the element which, in that year, formed the "Republican Party," was known in St. Louis as the "Free Democratic Party," but it was determined, in the winter of 1860 and 1861, that the name "Republican" should be adopted, and the party identify itself with the great anti-slavery party of the north. It was determined in a council of leaders, composed principally of O. D. Filley, John How, B. Gratz Brown, H. B. Branch, James O. Broadhead, Samuel T. Glover, Henry Boernstein, Charles L. Bernays, J. B. Gardenhire, Carl Daenzer, Allen P. Richardson, Ben. Farrar, Barton Able, Charles M. Elleard, James Castello, R. J. Howard, P. T. McSherry, Henry T. Blow, Alexis Mudd, Franklin A. Dick, Bernard Poepping, Wm. Doench, John H. Fisse, John O. Sitton, John M. Richardson—men representing different sections of the State, and who agreed with Mr. Blair—who corresponded from Washington City freely with his friends—that a State convention should be called, to meet in St. Louis, for the purpose of selecting delegates to attend the Chicago National Convention, and perfecting a State organization of the Republican party in Missouri.

The first convention of men in Missouri who were determined to take public position with the anti-slavery element of the North met, in obedience to a call which originated with the above gentlemen, in the small hall of the Mercantile Library building, on Saturday, May 10, 1860, and organized by choosing B. Gratz Brown, Chairman, and N. T. Doane, J. K. Kidd, Theophile Papin, and Charles Borg, Secretaries. In all the speeches and resolutions, there breathed nothing but the spirit of genuine freedom, and there was inaugurated an open and relentless warfare upon the project of slavery extension. Delegates to Chicago were chosen, and instructed to present the name of Edward Bates as the first choice of Missouri for the presidency of the Union.

Upon the return of the delegation from Chicago, a mass meeting of Republicans was held, at the south end of Lucas Market, to ratify the nomination of Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Blair while speaking was frequently interrupted by yells and blasphemies from political opponents, but his successors upon the platform met with severer treatment. Some were hit by stones, others completely interrupted by gangs of rowdies, who rushed wildly through the crowd, causing indescribable commotion. Several fights occurred, in which several of the rioters were severely worsted, the meeting finally breaking up in a grand row. These scenes were terribly suggestive to some persons who were present, and resulted in an organization, which, in ability for self-defense, in thorough system and perfect understanding and purpose among members, has never been surpassed by any political club in America.

Thus originated the celebrated club of "St. Louis Wide Awakes." When the summer canvass of 1860 opened, the Republicans were assured of complete protection at all their public gatherings. From their headquarters, (furnished gratis by a devoted friend, August Loehner, Esq.,) on the southeast corner of Seventh and Chestnut streets, the Wide Awakes marched in procession to the places of appointed political gatherings, and while the meeting continued, (if at night,) each man, with a lighted lamp placed securely on the end of a heavy stick, stationed himself on the outside of the assembled crowd, thus depriving ruffianly opponents of their hiding-places in the dark. At the first two meetings which the Wide Awakes thus attended, the enemy, not understanding the purposes of the club, began their usual serenade of yells and cheers, but they were speedily initiated into the mysteries of the new order; which initiation consisted in being besmeared with burning camphene, and vigorously beaten with leaded sticks. The least sign of disorderly conduct was the signal for an assault upon the offender, and if he escaped unmaimed he was lucky indeed. As the Republicans never disturbed the meetings of their adversaries, they determined to enjoy quietly their own, and this coming to be understood, there began to be perfect freedom of speech. Public meetings in St. Louis were now more orderly than in any other city in the Union.

It will be seen that this club of Wide Awakes was the basis of a military strength, which in the following year gave prompt response to the call of President Lincoln; and even earlier than that call, not only saved the arsenal, but maintained the cause of freedom and union at the February polls.

The Democracy—both wings—also had their clubs; the "Douglas Club," "Constitutional Guards," "Broom Rangers," &c. The latter organization, in the Douglas interest, was the most effective of any on that side, and adopted the plan of the Wide Awakes in marching with lighted lamps to places of public meeting. The several clubs named, during the summer and fall campaigns of 1860, were upon the street every night (Sundays only excepted) for three weeks previous to the election day, and during the whole time, such were the admirable arrangements of their leaders, never once collided. But the Wide Awakes did not escape insult from bitter partisans on the sidewalks. Once only were they assailed with more than words, and on that occasion some rowdies threw stones into the Wide Awake procession, as it was returning to their headquarters from a public meeting. The latter chased their opponents to the Berthold mansion, on the corner of Fifth and Pine streets, the head quarters of the Douglasites. A brisk showering of stones soon demolished several windows of the building, and consequences still more serious would have ensued, had it not been for the personal efforts of J. Richard Barrett (the Democratic candidate for Congress) on the one side, and Charles M. Elleard, Esq., on the other, both of whom labored diligently to quiet the excited partisans.

In St. Louis, in the summer canvass of 1860, Mr. Blair was the Republican candidate for Congress, Mr. Albert Todd the Bell-Everett, and J. Richard Barrett the Democratic, both wings. There was also an election to fill a vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Mr. Blair, who had obtained a seat in the then Congress, by a vote of the House of Representatives ousting Mr. Barrett. Mr. Blair was defeated for the short term by a combination of causes, the principal of which were, first, a coalition between the Bell-Everetts and the Democrats, and secondly, a fraud in the circulation of a bogus ticket, which declared for Blair "for Congress," but did not state "to fill vacancy." Enough of such tickets were thrown out, which, if they had been counted, would have elected Mr. Blair. The latter was successful for the long term, by a large vote.

In that canvass the question of union and disunion was fully discussed and understood. While the Breckenridge wing of the Missouri Democracy made but a feeble public show, the majority of those who had places upon the ticket were known to be warm friends of the Southern cause. The difference in the attitude of the two wings of the Democracy was simply this: The Breckenridgers desired the election of Mr. Lincoln as a means of breaking up the union of the States; the Douglasites, boasting of political power in that union, maintained that it was their interest to remain there so long as they held such power, but they agreed with the Breckenridge men that, when that power passed away, the necessity for a dissolution would become immediate. I assert, without fear of contradiction, that there was not a single Democrat who remained with the party in 1860, who declared for unconditional unionism; and I assert with equal confidence that there was not a speaker who addressed the people from Democratic platforms in that canvass who did not encourage conditional secession. There was not a speaker in the Democratic party who did not add to secession tendencies by the most vulgar and inflammatory orations against the Republicans, while many declared themselves for the South. Some few of those men have since atoned for their fatal teachings by grasping Union muskets in the Federal army, while many others, warmed into repentance by the sheen of Northern guns, have further illustrated the temper and spirit of the apostate, in frothy declamation and bitter invective against the thoughtless youths whom they had led astray. The Bell-Everetts were as abusive as the Democracy.

But while in St. Louis, under "Wide Awake" protection and Blair example, the Republicans enjoyed comparative security, it was vastly different in every other place in the State. Mr. Blair and Judge William V. N. Bay arranged to speak at Ironton upon the topics of the day, but in order to secure them protection against murderous assault, some three hundred Wide Awakes accompanied them by special train of cars, engaged for the occasion. The slaveocracy attended the meeting with a predetermination to break it up, but they were so largely outnumbered that they acknowledged themselves flanked, and most of them dispersed, muttering in suppressed tones curses upon the "Abolitionists." Samuel T. Glover, one of the most finished orators in the State, appointed with Mr. Blair to speak at Hannibal, but no Wide Awakes were there to protect them, and they were effectually interrupted by the opposition. Missiles hurled at the speakers broke up the meeting. No other efforts were made to canvass the State. The opposition had it all their own way,

Even as early as 1860, organized persecution drove many "plain-speaking" people from their homes, and cowed down others less self-sacrificing. Any appeal to the courts for protection, any hope of assistance from neighbors, were useless. In many instances Democratic postmasters refused to deliver anti-Democratic newspapers sent through the mails, and complaints forwarded to Washington, or published in the public prints, were unheeded. The success of Mr. Lincoln drove the oligarchy to desperation, and the great majority of the people, just from the teachings of the hustings, were inclined to sympathize with the cause of slavery, against that "sectional party, against which the South is almost in arms in self-defense," and which they were taught to believe to be "the author of unimaginable ills."

During the canvass, Claiborne F. Jackson and Thomas C. Reynolds, the Douglas candidates for Governor and Lieutenant-Governor, pretended to some little affection for the American Union; and even after the election, Jackson, in a speech at Boonville, deluded many into the belief that he was averse to secession. But his profession of loyalty was merely a pretense. Events prove that he was cordially in the interests of the South, even before his inauguration as Governor, and that he was ready to throw off all disguise the very moment it should be safe and proper to do so.

 

[NOTE.]

In order that the reader may know the actual result at the polls, in 1860, I give the following:

IN THE STATE.

Douglas............ 58,361 C. F. Jackson .......73,372

Bell ................. 57,762 Orr....................... 65,991

Lincoln.............17,017 Gardenhire ........... 6,124

Breckenridge....30,297 H. Jackson .......... 11,091

IN ST. LOUIS COUNTY.

For Congress (long term).

Blair...11,453. Barrett...9,967. Todd...4,542.

The following Democratic officers were elected in St. Louis county, by the assistance of Bell-Everett votes:

County Marshal, County Recorder, County Jailer, County Coroner; and Barrett was placed, for the short term, so near Blair in the count, that a small fraud was sufficient to secure for the former the certificate of election.

The Republicans elected the Congressman for the First District, County Sheriff, County School Commissioner, and the entire Legislative delegation (one Senator and twelve Representatives).

 


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