Faugh a Ballagh: The Gateway City’s Irish Soldiers

By the outbreak of the war, St. Louis – the Gateway to the West – was a thriving and diverse, yet divided border town. Unlike many cities in the slave states, St. Louis was home to a growing community of European immigrants. By 1860, over half of the city was foreign born, most from the German Confederation or Ireland. The Germans were, by far, the most populous and influential ethic group in St. Louis. With 50,000 in St. Louis alone and united over the divisive issues of slavery and secession, they made a tremendous impact on the Union war effort in the city and their new home state. Just second to the Germans were the Irish, who accounted for nearly 30,000 (or 20%) of the city’s 161,000 residents. Missouri’s Irish – totally over 43,000 – was the highest population of Irishmen in any state in the South.[1] Typically overlooked compared to the Germans, the Irish were more-so divided over the tense issues encapsulating their community. Their impact on the Civil War in St. Louis deserves more attention and further study.

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A St. Louis-style St. Patrick’s Day in 1874 shows the gathering of  the Irish immigrant community. Courtesy of the Missouri History Museum.

Continue reading “Faugh a Ballagh: The Gateway City’s Irish Soldiers”

St. Joseph Residents Call for Law and Order

On May 26, 1864, the The Weekly Herald and Tribune from St. Joseph published an article about a Union militia captain from De Kalb County who was murdered. In light of this murder – after three years of devastating irregular warfare along the western border – citizens of St. Joseph were fed up with a lack of law and order in their community. The full article is shown below in the clipping: Continue reading “St. Joseph Residents Call for Law and Order”

“Never Was a Deserter” – An Officer Defends a Unionville Soldier’s Honor

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An engraving of a soldier deserting and being caught. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In the fall of 1862, after the 18th Missouri Infantry’s trial by fire at Shiloh, Capt. George Wyckoff penned an official statement about one of his men. Pvt. Charles Gray of Company D went missing in the Spring of 1862 and was subsequently accused of desertion by the regimental command. However, for Capt. Wyckoff, he knew Gray was innocent and wanted to make the record straight. Continue reading ““Never Was a Deserter” – An Officer Defends a Unionville Soldier’s Honor”

What Was the Terrain Really Like on Bloody Hill?

Just last week was the 158th anniversary of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek – the first major battle fought west of the Mississippi River. With approximately 2,500 wounded, killed, and missing Federal and Southern soldiers, the battle itself undoubtedly set the stage for Union occupation and ultimate victory in Missouri. During the battle itself, the climactic fights took place on what was later named “Bloody Hill,” a plateau marked by deep ravines and thick brush. Images of Bloody Hill I took on my visit show the heavy brush and uneven terrain (see below).

During every Southern assault and Federal movement on that hill, units had difficulty maintaining alignment and structure between the ravines. After visiting the battlefield myself in July, I walked along the trails on Bloody Hill and wondered how the terrain looked on a topographical map and elevation profile.

I visited the USGS National Map viewer and pulled up the USGS Imagery Topo map to look at the hill’s elevation and terrain. Continue reading “What Was the Terrain Really Like on Bloody Hill?”

A Missouri Union Soldier’s Definition of a “Patriot”

Two Union soldiers – and patriots, as described by Scott – with the American flag between them. Courtesy of the National Museum of American History.

Just as Price’s Army of Missouri was advancing through central Missouri in October 1864, a soldier in Company F of the 47th Missouri Infantry penned a poem. The patriotic, thoughtful piece was written by Private James Scott, who ultimately submitted his work – titled “The Patriot” – to The North Missourian newspaper out of Daviess County. Continue reading “A Missouri Union Soldier’s Definition of a “Patriot””

A Missouri Confederate Recalls the Retreat to Nashville

Keith Rocco’s depiction of the Battle of Franklin, specifically showing troops in the Army of Tennessee. Courtesy of Keith Rocco.

In 1899, Confederate veteran from De Kalb, Missouri, Sam B. Dunlap, wrote to The Confederate Veteran about his experience with the Army of Tennessee, particularly during the retreat from Franklin to Nashville. Dunlap volunteered to served in Boyd’s Battalion of the First Missouri Artillery. He was captured during the Vicksburg Campaign, but was paroled in time to serve in the 1864 Tennessee Campaign, now with Guibor’s Battery. The Confederate Veteran article was written as Dunlap was writing his own memoirs, which is currently in the collection of The State Historical Society of Missouri. Continue reading “A Missouri Confederate Recalls the Retreat to Nashville”

“To Embalm Their Memories” – Memorial Day At Jefferson Barracks in 1870

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Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery around 1897. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On May 30, 1870, several thousand Civil War veterans and civilians gathered at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery to lay flags at their former comrades’ graves. With over 10,000 graves to decorate, Major General John Pope (commander of the Department of the Missouri) suspended “all business at department headquarters to day; also at the arsenal and at Jefferson Barracks” so all officers and soldiers could participate in the commemorative activities. [1] It was just the second anniversary of the so-called “Memorial – or Decoration – Day,” and each veteran knew the importance of the moment. Continue reading ““To Embalm Their Memories” – Memorial Day At Jefferson Barracks in 1870″

Capturing Some of Price’s Rebels in Knox County

Two Missouri State Guardsmen from Calloway County. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

In early February 1862, pro-Union Missourians could take a sigh of relief. Just months before, the war in Missouri had shifted from Southern victory to retreat. Though the future looked promising for the Unionists, there was still uncertainty. Is the Missouri State Guard out of Missouri for good? Will the state be invaded? What will happen if the Southerners are victorious? Can Federal and State troops protect civilians as promised?

On February 5, The Macon Gazette – a pro-Union paper in Macon County – published an article from nearby Knox County about a group of deserters from Price’s Missouri State Guard who were captured by local militia. For the Unionists in the area, to hear signs of desertion and exhaustion must have been reassuring.

For us historians, it reveals an abundance of information about the Guard’s physical condition, equipment, armament, and morale. What is also quite interesting is the fact that they felt “deceived” by Price and Jackson. With the Guard merging into the Confederate Army of the West, it frustrated many of Price’s men. There were others who felt that the Confederate cause was not what they were fighting for; instead, they were fighting to protect their homes, hearths, and state. Continue reading “Capturing Some of Price’s Rebels in Knox County”

Grapes, Friendship, and the War on the Mississippi River

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Rear Admiral Andrew Hull Foote and James B. Eads. Courtesy of Wikimedia and the Library of Congress.

On September 9, 1862, United States Navy Flag Officer (later, rear admiral) Andrew Hull Foote wrote a letter to St. Louis engineer James Buchanan Eads, who gave the Foote family a basket of grapes as a gift. As many already know, James B. Eads and his Marine Iron Works in Carondelet, Missouri, constructed the iron gun boats for the Union war effort on the Mississippi River. Foote commanded the Western Gunboat Flotilla, the main brown-water naval force that utilized Eads’ gunboats. This one letter between Foote and Eads gives a glimpse into the unique relationship between two of the most influential people for the war on the Mississippi. Continue reading “Grapes, Friendship, and the War on the Mississippi River”

When Nathaniel Lyon Court Martialed the Second Cousin of Robert E. Lee

In the years prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, well over two-hundred future field commanders in the war were stationed in Missouri. These soldiers included Robert E. Lee, Ulysses Grant, James Longstreet, William T. Sherman, Braxton Bragg, and many others. They were trained and drilled on the parade ground of Jefferson Barracks Military Post located only a few miles south of St. Louis along the Mississippi River.

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Willie Lee is shown on the far left with a war-time image of Jefferson Barracks and Nathaniel Lyon on the right. Courtesy of the Reeves Family, Civil War Scholars, Missouri Civil War Museum, and The State Historical Society of Missouri.

Though many – like Ulysses Grant and J.E.B. Stuart – largely had positive experiences serving near one of the largest cities in the United States, some soldiers’ services at Jefferson Barracks were blotted with challenges. One of these soldiers was Lieutenant William “Willie” Fitzhugh Lee. Continue reading “When Nathaniel Lyon Court Martialed the Second Cousin of Robert E. Lee”