“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″

Compton & Dry, Plate 10

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.

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Compton & Dry’s Pictorial St. Louis – Plate 10 – in 1875. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Continue reading “Compton & Dry, Plate 10”

Sherman’s Visit to the Wilson’s Creek Battlefield in 1885

This article was originally posted on the Emerging Civil War blog on September 5, 2018, written by Kristen M. Pawlak. 

Ever since the guns were silenced in the spring of 1865, veterans and civilians alike trek the battlefields of the Civil War to inspire them and understand the carnage and sacrifice that occurred on those hallowed fields. Learning about what happened at these locations and why it matters is one of the most meaningful ways to honor soldiers of the Civil War – even the veterans themselves said that.

One of those veterans was William T. Sherman, the great, but controversial, commander of the Federal military division that captured Atlanta, marched through Georgia and the Carolinas, and forced the surrender of Johnston’s Army of Tennessee at Bennett Place. After the war, he continued to serve in the United States Army as its Commanding General until 1883.

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General William Tecumseh Sherman just three years following his visit to the Wilson’s Creek battlefield. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Having lived in Missouri – specifically in St. Louis – in the years before the Civil War, Sherman had a close relationship with Missouri veterans, particularly fellow West Pointers and career soldiers he served with in the Army before, during, and after the Civil War. In 1885, Sherman “desired to visit the battlefield of Wilson’s Creek and the spot where Gen. Lyon fell.” To Sherman, who knew him personally before the war, Lyon “was somewhat careless in dress and manner, but intensely earnest in his ways, thoughts, and expressions … personally brave to a fault, not very social or friendly, yet honest and fearless.” Though Sherman served at another early-war battle, Manassas, he still wished to walk in the footsteps of a fellow Union war hero. Continue reading “Sherman’s Visit to the Wilson’s Creek Battlefield in 1885”

Thomas L. Snead Writes About Memory of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in 1874

In Missouri’s Civil War history, Thomas L. Snead was at the forefront of the state’s secession crisis, its opening campaigns in 1861, and its relationship with the Confederate government. A native of Virginia, Snead studied law and worked in journalism in St. Louis in the years leading up to the war. His loyalty to Governor Claiborne Jackson earned him a position as his aide, as well as a commission in the Missouri State Guard and as Chief of Staff to Maj. Gen. Sterling Price. In 1864, Snead continued his work for the Confederate efforts in Missouri by serving as a Representative from Missouri in the Second Confederate Congress.

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Thomas L. Snead in the decades following the Civil War. Courtesy of Findagrave.

His most significant role, however, was in forming the memory of the war in Missouri. In 1886, he published The Fight For Missouri, a full-length history of Missouri in 1861, including detailed accounts of the 1861 campaigns. According to the preface of his book, Snead wrote the book “because I am the only living witness to many facts the remembrance of which ought to be preserved.”[1] He was a witness to the Jackson administration, the Planter’s House Hotel meeting, and the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. Snead was also responsible for writing numerous articles on Missouri in the Southern Historical Society Papers.

In late April 1874, while living in New York City as a journalist, Snead wrote a letter to a fellow Missouri Confederate veteran. The fellow veteran was prolific central Missouri artist William B. Cox, who was in the process of painting a scene from the Battle of Wilson’s Creek when Snead wrote him a letter explaining why naming it “The Battle of Wilson’s Creek” would be preferable to the Confederate names of “Oak Hill” or “Springfield.” Continue reading “Thomas L. Snead Writes About Memory of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in 1874”

Missouri Civil War Veterans Attend the 75th Gettysburg Reunion in 1938

In the summer of 1938, seventy-five years after fighting the bloodiest battle in American history, nearly two thousand Civil War veterans gathered on the fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Averaging 94 years-of-age, these veterans of the Blue and Gray came from every corner of the United States – from Maine to California.

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Union veteran Andrew J. Davis of Bethany, Missouri tells Civil War stories to Boy Scouts at the 1938 Gettysburg Reunion. Davis served in the 11th Missouri State Militia Cavalry. He passed away that next year from a cerebral hemorrhage. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Library.

Nearly 80 of these veterans came from Missouri, from major cities like St. Louis and Kansas City to small farming towns, such as Bogard and Higbee. Many more, like N.B. Harless of Texas, lived elsewhere, but fought in Missouri Units. Harless was a veteran of the 9th Missouri Cavalry (CS) and fought through Price’s 1864 Missouri Campaign. Knowing they would pass away in the next few years, many of these veterans believed the 1938 Gettysburg Reunion was their final chance to meet fellow veterans, possibly see their comrades, and share their own forgotten stories from the war – the war in the Trans-Mississippi west. Continue reading “Missouri Civil War Veterans Attend the 75th Gettysburg Reunion in 1938”