Compton & Dry’s Pictorial History of St. Louis continues to fascinate me every time. This invaluable resource takes you on a visual journey to 1875 St. Louis. In 222 pages, sketch artists figuratively took to the skies in hot air balloons to document the Gateway City in its entirety. So detailed is the book that it certainly looked like it was done that way.
Though published ten years after the guns went silent, Compton & Dry’s book is an utter masterpiece, showing life in St. Louis not long after the war. We can get a sense of post-war St. Louis and how this city grew in its wake.
I want to look at one plate – Plate 10 – which shows the western edge of the United States Arsenal grounds, Lyon Park, and the Bavarian Brewing Company campus (later famously known as Anheuser-Busch). To think that several iconic sites of Civil War St. Louis can be seen here is truly remarkable.
Firstly, if you zoom into “No. 3” on the map, you will find “Gen. Lyon’s Monument.” Lyon Park, named in honor of Union war hero Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon, is in the proximate location where Lyon’s 6,000-man militia (the U.S. Reserve Corps and Home Guard) guarded the arsenal. Looking in closely, you will see an obelisk monument on a small hill. That is the monument dedicated in 1874 to Lyon by the Lyon Monument Association. In 1929, an equestrian monument of Lyon was erected at Lyon Park.
The next spot on the plate is the “United States Arsenal,” shown just below Lyon Park. In 1861, this arsenal (also unofficially named the St. Louis Arsenal) held up to 40,000 small arms. However, by the time of the Camp Jackson Affair in May, there were roughly 10,000. In Missouri alone, there were nearly 40,000 small arms in the state in 1861. Missouri thus had more small arms on hand than any of the slave states – including Harpers Ferry in western Virginia. Additionally, Missouri had eleven coastal, siege, and field guns on hand. No wonder Lyon was so adamant about defending this prized possession.
Finally, you will see in the upper right corner, the location of the Bavarian Brewery, now known as Anheuser-Busch. If you have read the previous post on Beer in Civil War Missouri, you will remember why Adolphus Busch and Eberhard Anheuser chose the spot for their brewery – the caverns. Both served in the Third U.S. Reserve Corps. Remarkably, these two former soldiers under the command of Lyon, chose their brewery two blocks from the park named in their commander’s honor and the Arsenal they guarded.
Next time you read through Compton & Dry, take time to find spots you are familiar with or have read about in other books. You may discover something new, just like I did analyze Plate 10. If you have other insights on the plate, please share below.
Compton, Richard J. and Camille N. Dry. Pictorial St. Louis: The Great Metropolis of the Mississippi Valley. St. Louis: Compton & Co., 1875.