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”

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”

Sketching Missouri’s Civil War

Iowa sketch artist Alexander Simplot was to the Trans-Mississippi Theater as Alfred Waud was to the East. With pencil and paper in hand and the pseudonym “A.S. Leclerc,” Simplot was tasked by Harper’s Weekly and the New York Illustrated News to visually document the Civil War in action from 1861 to 1863, particularly focusing on the war along and west of the Mississippi River. Interestingly enough, he was assigned to the Army of the West in the summer and early fall of 1861, and sketched parts of Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon’s campaign through Missouri. Simplot also sketched in St. Louis soon after, where he drew scenes of naval engineer James Eads’ gunboats and the Department of the West.

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Alexander Simplot’s portrait on the left, with a drawing made of a Civil War sketch artist in action. Courtesy of FindaGrave and George Mason University.

A native of Dubuque, Iowa, Simplot was born in 1837 into one of the most wealthy families of the region. Though looked down upon by his successful father, he developed a love of art at an early age. When civil war broke out in April 1861, Simplot had already graduated from Union College in New York and was working as a teacher in his hometown. A demand for sketch artists by newspapers encouraged him to sketch local scenes of the war. After visually documenting the mobilization of Iowa troops in Dubuque, Simplot sent his work to Harper’s Weekly, who immediately expressed interest in further employing him as a special artist. He had found his calling. Continue reading “Sketching Missouri’s Civil War”

The Farewell Letter of a Victim of the Palmyra Massacre

There is no doubt that this letter is one of the most heartbreaking ones I have ever read from the Civil War era. On October 17 and 18, 1862, from the cells of the Palmyra Prison, Captain Thomas A. Sidner of the First Northeast Missouri Cavalry penned a letter to his friends and family, notifying them of his pending execution. In command of the District of Northeast Missouri, Col. John McNeil sentenced to death ten random Confederate prisoners from the Palmyra Prison in retaliation for the supposed murder of a local Union sympathizer. With no ties to the murder, Sidner was told that he was to be executed the next day for a crime he was not guilty of. Later known as the Palmyra Massacre, this act became one of the most infamous war crimes of the entire Civil War.

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Col. John McNeil is on the left, with the District of Northeast Missouri’s Provost Marshal Office in the center and Col. Joseph Porter on the right. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Restoration Movement, and FindaGrave.

Continue reading “The Farewell Letter of a Victim of the Palmyra Massacre”

Guarding Confederates in the Old McDowell Medical College

At the corner of 8th and Gratiot, the McDowell Medical College was transformed into St. Louis’ most notorious prisons for Confederate soldiers and secessionist civilians.

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Two wartime images of Gratiot Street Prison (formerly the McDowell Medical College) flanking Dr. Joseph McDowell. Courtesy of Washington University in St. Louis and the Missouri Historical Society)

Just prior to the outbreak of war, the college was owned and operated by the macabre Dr. Joseph McDowell, who gained a reputation for digging out corpses from local cemeteries for cadaver experiments. Nonetheless, he proved himself to be one of the most respected and knowledgeable medical professionals in the country. Being a secessionist, McDowell left St. Louis and was named Surgeon General for the western Confederate armies. Like many others, though, his property was confiscated by Union authorities in and utilized for the Union war effort there. Continue reading “Guarding Confederates in the Old McDowell Medical College”