Raid on a Nest of Nymphs

True Tales of the Tenth Kansas Infantry:

Raid on a Nest of Nymphs

by Howard Mann

In August of 1864, the Tenth Kansas had almost completed its obligation to the Union. After a tenuous start as part of the Kansas Brigade in 1861, consolidation in early 1862, weathering the tests of battle throughout the fall and winter months of 1863, and enduring the tedious pursuit of guerillas until assigned the grueling duty of prison guards at Alton Prison in Illinois in 1864, the Tenth was about to muster out. The most wearing aspect of the Tenth Kansas’s tenure was the inconsistency of its officers. Colonel William Weer was undergoing a court-martial for embezzlement of prisoner funds. Lieutenant Colonel John T. Burris had been detached from the regiment since the Indian Expedition on administrative duties at Fort Leavenworth and Kansas City. Major Henry H. Williams, while remaining with the regiment had been detached in St. Louis on the staff of Brigadier General Thomas Ewing.

Gratiot Street PrisonThe original posting of the Tenth Kansas as prison guards at Alton Military Prison did not require all of the regiment’s ten companies. Other companies were assigned to provide guards at St. Louis’s two prisons, Gratiot Street Prison (the old McDowell Medical College) and the Myrtle Street Prison. Some of the soldiers under the command of Captain Mathew Quigg were assigned to provost guard duty in the city of St. Louis.

Mathew Quigg was one of the premier officers of the Tenth Kansas. Originally a militia officer of “Lane’s Fencibles” from Atchison, Kansas, Captain Quigg led his stalwarts to Fort Leavenworth at the outbreak of war. His unit was uniformed, armed and well-drilled, unlike many of the eager young farm boys who would join Lane’s Brigade in search of adventure. Quigg’s men came prepared for war. Captain Quigg was frequently placed in command in tight situations at Locust Grove and Prairie Grove specifically. At one point he was being backed to replace a colonel in another regiment who was being cashiered. Captain Quigg was a recognized leader. But even a recognized leader can come up against a formidable opponent.

The St. Louis Democrat, August 18, 1864 reported one of Captain Quigg’s last encounters before mustering out the same month.

“RAID ON A NEST OF NYMPHS — A week or two ago, we noticed the visit of Colonel Baker and Captain Quigg to the five-story building on Fifth street, between Pine and Chesnut, the upper stories of which are occupied as dens of prostitution by a happy family of white and black men, women and children. The occasion of this official visit was to inquire into the truth of complaints that had been made to the military authorities in regard to the nuisance committed by the occupants of the house in “Harrolson Alley.” Colonel Baker cautioned the persons found in the rooms, that if any more complaints were brought to him he would proceed to turn them out and take possession of the premises. For a few days the occupants of the rooms gave no cause of complaint, but soon relapsed into their old habits, and so annoyed the females employed in the Government workshop on the opposite side of the alley that they could not endure it, and reported the facts to Colonel Baker. One Tuesday the Colonel sent a Lieutenant of the Provost Guard to notify the nymphs that they must vacate the premises before night. The girls obtained a respite until Wednesday morning, when the Lieutenant took a guard and turned them out of doors. Eighteen rooms were confiscated. Some of the inmates had taken time by the forelock and skedaddled, but others being unable, like Noah’s dove to find rest for the soles of their feet, had returned to the ark and abandoned themselves to their fate. One lady, however, was permitted to remain undisturbed, because she represented herself as the wife of a Lieutenant of the 11th Missouri cavalry, at Little Rock; two or three others were found in bed with haggard countenances, moaning in great apparent distress, and complaining of being exceedingly sick, and of course the officer was too chivalric to turn sick women out into the streets, and they too were allowed to remain. One young girl was sitting on her trunk, with a despairing countenance; she had not found other lodgings, and declared that she intended to end her woes by taking “pizen.” A large sized Amazon, called “Noisey Belle” had been unable to get away because the landlord held her furniture for back rent and would not permit her to remove it. The soldiers settled the dispute by tumbling Belle’s furniture, bedding, crockery-ware, bonnets, bundles, etc., out upon the sidewalk. The upper story was occupied by colored people, who were not molested.

The portion of the building cleared out is owned by the Tyler estate, and is leased to parties who sublet the rooms to any one who will pay for them. This example will doubtless be a sufficient warning to the large congregation of lewd women in other parts of the building, but if they do not conduct themselves with more propriety in (the) future, they also will be ejected by the military arm.”

Captain Quigg returned home and mustered out with about half of the existing regiment by the time the article was published. The remaining veterans of the Tenth again consolidated into four companies of the Veteran Tenth Kansas Volunteer Infantry. The Veteran Tenth would plunge into the nightmarish last days of Hood’s Franklin/Nashville campaign and end up charging the earthworks at Fort Blakeley, Alabama. Added to the Tenth’s honors should be the storming of “Harrolson’s Alley”.

St Louis in the News

St. Louis in the News

Excerpts from St. Louis newspapers during the Civil War


D. H. Rule

Following are bits and pieces from St. Louis, Missouri newspapers, the Missouri Republican and the St. Louis Democrat, from the Civil War years. These aren’t the world-shaking big news articles, just the tidbits that give the flavor of the city during the war years. As you read, bear in mind that St. Louis was under martial law and the newspapers were censored by the military authorities. The editors could only print approved news or risk imprisonment and confiscation of their papers.

From scanning through the newspapers, it seems the city during the war years averaged about two to three murders per week. During the summer months about two young boys per week drowned in ponds or the river. There was a “floater” found in the Mississippi river every couple days. Infants and small children were routinely found abandoned.

The people were decidedly not what we think of as Victorians. Cuss words were unabashedly used in the newspapers (yet if you read some from the 1880s cuss words are censored out). Ads for sexual problems and sexual diseases were very blunt and explicit.

The flavor of the times was one of a busy, bustling, very alive city that was also more than a bit dangerous.

Articles are in no particular order. Pictures are not from the newspapers–they had no pictures in them.

October 17, 1862We Thursday noticed the arrest of A. J. Ham, cashier of the Bank of St. Louis, by order of Colonel McConnell. Mr. Ham is charged with endeavoring to procure secession songs, for the purpose of circulating them, and thereby doing injury to the Union cause.
St. Louis December 27, 1861Identified—The body of the soldier who was run over and had his head cut off by a train of cars on the Pacific Railroad, Sunday night, has been identified. The name of the deceased was F. Reidenbach. He was a wealthy farmer, and resided in Chamois, near Jefferson City. His wife reached the city Wednesday night, and the body will be disinterred and removed to Chamois.  (they go on to describe an autopsy that suggests the man had been shot first)
May 9, 1861Daily Review of the Saint Louis Market

The market to-day was flat. The impression that the government is now going to enforce the long talked of blockade, deterred buyers from coming forward, and produce for the South is not in demand. This movement, as a military necessity, is unquestionably wise; but locally in St. Louis, it will be rather a severe blow at this time. The idea, however that those who will be affected adversely  will be driven into the rebel ranks, is too preposterous for sensible people to entertain for a moment.

TOBACCO—Market buoyant

FLOUR—Market dull and drooping

LEAD—This article being now contraband of war no shipments are making and we are without quotations.

CORN—Buyers seemed to be afraid to take hold, and the market dragged heavily.

St. Louis 1854

St. Louis in 1854

August 29, 1864Draft! Draft!!—Cavender & Rowse will insure against the draft for one hundred dollars. Call and see them at No. 58 North Third street.
April 26, 1863For the Murder of His Wife—Daniel Miller, the rag-picker, who murdered his wife last Thursday week, was yesterday fully committed to jail by the Recorder, to await the action of the Grand Jury on his case. The Recorder decided the case was not bailable.
September 26, 1862Appointment—Major Samuel T. Hatch has been appointed by General Gray Assistant Provost Marshal General in his department.
September 7, 1862Inquest—The Coroner held an inquest yesterday in view of the body of Patrick Kerrigan, found drowned in the river. Deceased was a laborer, and leaves a family residing on Cherry street, between Main and Second.
Propaganda Envelope September 4, 1862Mrs. Sappington Banished—Mrs. Drusella Sappington, at whose house the rebel Col. John C. Boone and staff were recently found quartered, has been ordered to leave the State without unnecessary delay, and to remain absent till permitted by United States military authority to return. Mrs. Sappington’s residence is twelve miles from the city, between the Manchester and St. Charles roads. She is the wife of W. D. Sappington, who has left his farm and family in that locality, and joined the rebels. Mrs. Sappington is a daughter of Judge Olly Williams of St. Louis county.
September 7, 1862—Saturday—The cases before the Recorder Saturday morning were few in number and of no interest whatever.
October 5, 1864The Rainy Season—The rain, which would have been so timely in June last, is now coming down in profusion, with no prospect of a let up for some days. This dispensation will, however, have its good effects in filling the well, streams, ponds and springs, and will give a start to the grass, which will for some time yet, till winter, furnish to cattle a pasturage that will make the farmers’ winter feed go further.
September 7, 1863Prisoners—The steamer Wm. L. Ewing arrived yesterday from Memphis, with 138 Confederate prisoners, en route for Alton. We understand they went to Alton on the cars.
May 5, 1864Fat Children—Those of our readers who love fat babies should call and see the fat children exhibited by Mr. M. Stone; on Fifth street near Washington avenue. The boy, who is 12 years of age measures 5 feet 3 ¼ inches around the body. The girl, six years of age, measures 4 feet 6 inches around.
August 25, 1862Great Summer Resort

The New Low Pressure Sidewheel Steamer Traveler, will make four Grand Excursion trips from Detroit to Lake Superior, during the months of July and August.

To the tourist seeking health, pleasure, or valuable information, Lake Superior offers greater attractions than any other portion of the United States…

Steamboats 1859
December 6, 1862A Hard Case—Mrs. Mary Ann Cavanaugh was, Thursday, left by Mrs. Lau in change of the corpse of the latter’s baby, while Mrs. L. went out to make arrangements for its burial. Mrs. Cavanaugh got drunk and cut up a great many uncouth shines, threatening to throw the dead baby into the street, without any apparent good and sufficient reason…
September 19, 1862Departure of General Schofield—Gen. Schofield will leave for Springfield this morning at 10 o’clock.

(so much for military secrets and security)

August 25, 1862United States Police Matters—Rigid measures are being taken to enforce the order regarding places of business. Ten saloons and one beer garden were closed yesterday for remaining open between the hours of four and seven P. M. Captain Tunnecliffe, Chief U. S. Police force, returned Saturday to the city, after an absence of ten days at Buffalo.
May 6, 1864Select Family Matinee, Varieties Theater, Saturday afternoon. “Knights of the Lurielberg.”
April 26, 1863Recovery of the Body of Wat. Sullivan—The body of Wat. Sullivan, drowned in a pond on Cass avenue, Friday evening, was recovered yesterday morning. The Coroner held an inquest in view of it yesterday. Only one of the horses attached to the wagon was drowned.
September 11, 1862Meteorological Observations

Corrected daily by Jacob Blattner, Optician

9 o’clock  Wind S. Bar. 29.60 Thermometer F 76 B 19 Weather Cloudy

12 o’clock Wind S Bar. 29.55 Thermometer F 77 B 20 Weather Cloudy

3 o’clock Wind S. W. Bar 29.50 Thermometer F 73 B 18 Weather Rain

Camp Jackson Riot September 8, 1862District Provost’s –Saturday, P. M. –The following cases were disposed of:

The bond of Andrew Welch canceled, as he was sworn into the service of the United States.

Samuel Tylor, paroled for ten days, to remain within the limits of the city, to attend his wife, who is dangerously sick.

September 4, 1864Highly Important To Invalids—Dr. C. H. Woodhull, the king of cancer and chronic disease doctors, has located his office and residence at No. 41 Fourth street, near Elm, where the afflicted can be insured of a safe and certain cure. He is the only Doctor living that can kill and extract a cancer in twenty-four or forty-eight hours, without instruments, pain, or the loss of a drop of blood; and challenges the world to produce remedies equal to his in removing cancers, diseases of the heart, lungs, chest, throat, liver, stomach, and many others too numerous to mention.
September 7, 1863Concert Hall—No. 49 Market Street—The most celebrated vocalist is now engaged at the above resort and sings every evening.
September 7, 1862Prisoners—Seven prisoners arrived from Montgomery county Saturday morning, and were sent to McDowell’s College for confinement. They were recently bound for Price’s army.
June 22, 1864Ann Flynn in Limbo Again—The notorious Ann Flynn, who has served several terms in the county jail for petit larceny, was arrested by a policeman yesterday, having in her possession two straw hats and a head of cabbage. Whether she wanted the hats for her own head and the cabbage head was not explained.
May 6, 1864Going South—Battery K, 1st Missouri light artillery, Captain James S. Marr, having received a full outfit of guns, horses, etc., will leave in a few days for active service again.
Carte De Viste page December 6, 1862Photographic Albums—A friend told us the best collection of Carte De Visite pictures in the city was at McIntyre’s, No. 9 South Fifth street. He has just received a nice lot more of albums.
December 6, 1862Lost.—We notice an advertisement of a negro boy lost, who is described as “yellowish of grief,” and a “liberal reward” is offered for his recovery. Now, the experience of almost any person in this city will prove that there are a great many “yellowish” boys, full of “grief” in this city; but as to their being “yellowish” on account of their “grief” is not so clear as that they grieve because they are yellow, feeling the want of a full meal, while the refrain of a popular song echoes on their memory:

“O, I wish I was in Dixie!”

February 18, 1864Driver of a Coal Wagon Killed—The name of the man who died on Tuesday from the effects of a fall from his wagon the previous night, is Henry Collet. He was from the Illinois coal mines, was about thirty years old, and fell on Second street, between Plum and Cedar. The Coroner held an inquest on the boy, and found that death had been caused by concussion of the brain, produced by the fall.
June 20, 1864An Infant Stolen—In these war times, when babies are a drug in the market, and almost anybody can get one for the asking, it is rather singular to hear of an infant being stolen. Yet Mrs. Mary Keogan McDermot appeared at the police station on Saturday, and stated that an Irish woman had kidnapped her baby, only three months old…
Gratiot Street Prison August 25, 1862Prison Inspection—Colonel McConnell on Friday inspected the Gratiot street prison, it having been reported by disaffected persons that it was not properly kept. An examination revealed perfect order, and everything working satisfactorily under Captain Bishop’s management.
October 12, 1864Alien Substitutes furnished and three years’ certificates obtained by E. Stafford, No. 30 Olive Street, St. Louis.
October 10, 1863One Adam Kurd, colored, was committed to jail yesterday by the Recorder for theft of twenty pounds of cheese from John Massey’s saloon, No. 10 South Levee.
May 8, 1864The “Modest” Girl Convicted—Julia Quinn, a good-looking little girl of fourteen—the same whose modest demeanor captivated the committee of the Grand Jury during their examination of the jail—was convicted of grand larceny in the Criminal Court yesterday, and condemned to two years’ imprisonment in the penitentiary. She had been sent to the House of Refuge as a juvenile vagrant, but escaped from that institution, after giving evidence of great depravity, and a few days afterwards was arrested for stealing wearing apparel at a house of bad repute. Courthouse
August 29, 1864Saloon Keeper Jugged—Mr. Charles Shultz was sent to jail yesterday by the County Marshal for failing to pay his dram shop license.
October 14, 1862Larceny—Mary King was arrested yesterday for stealing a bonnet and shawl from the house of Mrs. Blake, on Ninth and Morgan streets. The girl was young and intelligent, looking not at all like a thief. She stated that her parents resided on Twenty-fourth and Biddle streets.
Missouri Loyal to the Union May 9, 1864The Stars and Stripes Hoisted.—A eleven o’clock this morning an immense United States flag was hoisted oven the Fair Building on Twelfth street. The workmen, guard, and a concourse of citizens assembled, who were addressed briefly and pertinently by Major Alfred McKay.

“Fellow citizens,” said he, “we are about to raise, to float over the building of the Mississippi Valley Sanitary Fair, that honored and revered flag which has shielded our liberties for nearly a century of the past, and is destined to do so for centuries to come. I desire that you greet our nation’s banner with three cheers.”

Whereupon, the multitude gave three rousing cheers, which were repeated “with a tiger” and the hammers and saws resuming their busy task, the company separated.

(bear in mind, under the martial law in place, if you failed to cheer you might well find yourself tossed into prison as disloyal)

Jayhawkers Versus Bushwhackers

Jayhawkers vs Bushwhackers

Jayhawkers were honorable abolitionists…or lowlife horsethieves. Bushwhackers were patriotic defenders… or murderous bandits. Here are vehemently opposing viewpoints by two of the Civil War’s participants. One area they coincide is in their poor opinion of the genetic traits of their opponents. It’s easier to fight people you see as less than human.

The Kansas



John N. Edwards

The original Jayhawker was a growth indigenous to the soil of Kansas. There belonged to him as things of course a pre-emption, a chronic case of chills and fevers, one starved cow and seven dogs, a longing for his neighbor’s goods and chattels, a Sharpe’s rifle, when he could get it, and something of a Bible for hypocrisy’s sake—something that savored of the real presence of the book to give backbone to his canting and snuffling. In some respects a mountebank, in others a scoundrel, and in all a thief—he was a character eminently adapted for civil war which produces more adventurers than heroes. His hands were large, hairy, and red—proof of inherited laziness—and a slouching gait added to the ungainliness of his figure when he walked. The type was all of a kind. The mouth generally wore a calculating smile—the only distinguishable gift remaining of a Puritan ancestry—but when he felt that he was looked at the calculating smile became sanctimonious. Slavery concerned him only as the slaveholder was supposed to be rich; and just so long as Beecher presided over emigration aid societies, preached highway robbery, defended political murder, and sent something to the Jayhawkers in the way of real fruits and funds, there surely was a God in Israel and Beecher was his great high priest. Otherwise they all might go to the devil together. The Jayhawker was not brave. He would fight when he had to fight, but he would not stand in the last ditch and shoot away his last cartridge. Born to nothing, and eternally out at the elbows, what else could he do but laugh and be glad when chance kicked a country into war and gave purple and fine linen to a whole lot of bummers and beggars? In the saddle he rode like a sand bag or a sack of meal. The eternal “ager cake” made a trotting horse his abomination, and he had no use for a thoroughbred, save to steal him. When he abandoned John Brown and rallied to the standard of Jim Lane—when he gave up the fanatic and clove unto the thief—he simply changed his leader without changing his principles.

Excerpted and introduced by G. E. Rule, from “Noted Guerrillas or the Warfare of the Border”, by John N. Edwards, 1877

For Edwards’ view of the Bushwhackers read Making of a Confederate Guerrilla

Major John N. Edwards, CSA, was General Jo. Shelby’s adjutant and chronicler. At war’s end Edwards chose to share Mexican exile with Shelby as well. When they returned to the U.S. in 1867, Edwards rapidly published three large volumes of wartime experiences. Two dealt specifically with Shelby, “Shelby and his Men”, 1867 and “Shelby’s Expedition to Mexico”, 1872.  In 1874 he published “Noted Guerrillas”, a broad handling of the Confederate irregulars in Missouri during the war. Edwards also founded the Kansas City Times and was its editor for many years.

Make no mistake, Major John N. Edwards was a Confederate and proud of it. You will not find more than passing reference to the other side of the coin in his pages. His flamboyantly purple prose is sometimes entertaining and sometimes tiresome, but is always used in defense of Confederate Missouri and its view of the world and “the recent unpleasantness.”

The Missouri Bushwhacker


John McElroy

Next to Slavery, the South had been cursed by the importation of paupers and criminals who had been transported from England for England’s good, in the early history of the Colonies, to work the new lands. The negro proving the better worker in servitude than this class, they had been driven off the plantations to squat on unoccupied lands, where they bred like the beasts of the field, getting a precarious living from hunting the forest, and the bolder eking out this by depredations upon their thriftier neighbors. Their forebears had been paupers and criminals when sent from England, and the descendants continued to be paupers and criminals in the new country, forming a clearly marked social class, so distinct as to warrant the surmise that they belonged to a different race. As the eastern part of the South and the administration of the laws improved, this element was to some extent forced out, and spread in a noisome trail over Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri. While other immigrants went into the unbroken forest with a few rude tools and in the course of several years built up comfortable homes, theirs never rose above abject squalor. The crudest of cabins sufficed them for shelter, beds of beech leaves were all the couches they required; they had more guns in their huts than agricultural or mechanical implements; they scarcely pretended to raise anything more than a scanty patch of corn; and when they could not put on their tables the flesh of the almost wild razorback hog which roamed the woods, they made meat of woodchucks, raccoons, opossums or any other “varmint” their guns could bring down. They did not scorn hawks or owls if hunger demanded and no better meat could be found.

It was this “White Trash” which added so much to the horrors of the war, especially in Missouri, and so little to its real prosecution. Wolf-like in ferocity, when the advantages were on their side, they were wolf-like in cowardice when the terms were at all equal. They were the Croats, Cossacks, Tolpatches, Pandours of the Confederacy—of little value in battle, but terrible as guerrillas and bushwhackers. From this “White Trash” came the gangs of murderers and robbers, like those led by the Youngers, Jameses, Quantrills, and scores of other names of criminal memory.

As has been the case in all times and countries, these dregs of society became the willing tools of the Slaveholding aristocrats. With dog-like fidelity they followed and served the class which despised and overrode them. Somehow, by inherited habits likely, they seemed to avoid the more fertile parts of the State.

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. “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.

Lady With Spurs

The Lady with Spurs


John Fiske

Excerpted and introduced by G. E. Rule, from “The Mississippi Valley in the Civil War”, by John Fiske, 1900

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

Frank Blair: Lincoln’s Conservative by William Earl Parrish

John Fiske was a well-known chronicler of the history of the United States with many books to his credit. His “The Mississippi Valley in the Civil War” starts in St. Louis, but quickly moves elsewhere. This book originated from a series of lectures Fiske gave in St. Louis in 1886 in support of a fund dedicated to erecting a monument to U.S. Grant. These lectures were hosted by William Tecumseh Sherman. Fiske clearly believes that the Civil War was won in the West, and that the Union victories in Missouri in 1861-1862 were indispensable preconditions to that victory.

“The Lady With Spurs” tells the famous story of Nathaniel Lyon’s masquerading as an old woman to scout the Missouri State Guard encampment at Camp Jackson on May 9th, 1861. This unorthodox scouting mission lead directly to the Union Safety Committee’s decision to demand the surrender of Camp Jackson on pain of immediate assault. While many believe the story, and many do not (how does a man with a beard –even if veiled—manage to successfully pose as a woman?), this is one of the few accounts that actually supplies first-hand witnesses to bolster its credibility. The second section is Fiske’s footnote giving his sources. These would seem to be nearly unassailable.

A fine cordial hospitality was dispensed at the camp in those balmy days of early May. The surgeon of [Francis P.] Blair’s regiment had dined there on the 8th, and he could have told anybody, says [Missouri State Guard] General [D.M] Frost, “that it was a very attractive place, because he saw it filled with the fairest of Missouri’s daughters, who from morn to dewy eve threaded its mazes in company with their sons, brothers, and lovers. He could also have described the beautiful United States flag which waved its folds in the breeze from the flagstaff over my tent.” from "Border City" by Galusha AndersonOne of the visitors next day came in a light open carriage then known as a “Jenny Lind,” and was leisurely driven by a coloured 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.

LyonHad 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.

* * *

In my opening lecture at St. Louis, April 15, 1886, I mentioned the fact of Lyon’s visiting Camp Jackson disguised in woman’s clothes. For this statement I was taken to task in some of the newspapers, which derided it as an “old woman’s story”, too absurd for belief. I was thereupon assured by several members of the Blair family, friends of mine, that the story, although an old woman’s, was literally true. In proof thereof General Blair’s son, Francis Preston Blair III, took me to call upon his grandmother, Mrs. Alexander, a fine old lady of eighty-three. From her lips I heard the story, just as I have above given it, and she showed me the bombazine gown and close veil which she had lent to Lyon. As to the Simmons incident, it was told me by Colonel Simmons himself, who was soon afterward on Lyon’s staff, and at a later date on the staff of General Rosecrans at Stone River.

Taming the Southern Belles of St Louis

Taming the Southern Belles of St. Louis


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


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.