General John McNeil – Bio of Butcher of Palmyra

A bio of General John McNeil

“The Butcher of Palmyra”

McNeil, John, brigadier-general, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Feb. 14, 1813. He learned the hatter’s trade in Boston, Mass., engaged in the business first in New York city and subsequently for many years in St. Louis, Mo., and was a member of the Missouri legislature, 1844-45. He was president of the Pacific insurance legislature, 1855-61. He was captain of a volunteer company early in 1861, was promoted colonel of the 3d regiment, U. S. reserve corps, and on July 17, 1861, he defeated, with about 600 men, the Confederate forces under Gen. David B. Harris at Fulton, Mo. He was then placed in command of the city of St. Louis by Gen. Fremont, and on Aug. 3, 1861, he was appointed colonel of the 19th Mo. volunteers. In 1862 he took command of a cavalry regiment, and of the district of northeast Missouri, which he cleared of guerrillas. He was commissioned brigadier-general of volunteers, Nov. 29, 1862; was ordered into southeastern Missouri in December of that year, and in the spring of 1863 he held Cape Girardeau with 1,700 men against Gen. Marmaduke’s force of 10,000. In 1864 he was appointed to command the district of Rolla, Mo., and with the assistance of Gen. John B. Sanborn, Clinton B. Fisk and E. B. Brown he saved the capital from Price’s army. Afterwards he joined his cavalry force with that of Gen. Brown and participated in the campaign which led to the defeat of Price’s army at Newtonia, Oct. 28, 1864. He then commanded central Missouri until April 12, 1865, when he resigned. He was given the brevet rank of major-general of volunteers in recognition of faithful and meritorious services during the war, to date from the day of his resignation. Gen. McNeil was clerk of the criminal court in St. Louis county, 1865-67; sheriff of the county, 1866-70, and clerk of the criminal court again, 1875- 76. He was in 1876 commissioner to the Centennial exhibition in Philadelphia was an inspector in the U. S. Indian service in 1878 and 1882, and at the time of his death was superintendent of the United States post-office, St. Louis branch. He died in St. Louis, Mo., June 8, 1891.

The Union Army A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal States 1861-65

8 vols, Federal Publishing, 1908