“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″

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”

Remembering the Battle and Massacre at Centralia

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Captain “Bloody Bill Anderson”, who lead guerrilla troops at Centralia. Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri. 

This week marked the 154th anniversary of one of the most notorious atrocities during the Civil War. At Centralia, Missouri, Captain “Bloody Bill” Anderson’s band of approximately 80 guerrilla troops converged on the town, hoping to cause damage to Federal troops, as Confederate Major General Sterling Price and his 12,000-man Army of Missouri moved north towards St. Louis. After looting the town, a train along the North Missouri Railroad line was halted by Anderson’s men. They forced everyone off the train, including roughly 24 Union troops returning home from the campaigns in Georgia. After burning the train, the Union troops were massacred. Three companies of the 39th Missouri Infantry under the command of Major A.V.E. Johnston were deployed to the town and were annihilated by Anderson troops along Young’s Creek. Historians and witnesses alike have described the bloody September day at Centralia, Missouri as “an incredibly brutal day” and one of the “most monstrous and inhuman atrocities ever perpetuated by beings wearing the form of man.”
Continue reading “Remembering the Battle and Massacre at Centralia”

A Missourian Describes Why He Joined the State Guard and the Confederate Army

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The First Missouri Brigade at Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Courtesy of Andy Thomas, artist.

Unlike much of the South in the spring of 1861, Missourians stood dominantly neutral and conditional Unionist, though she was a fellow slaveholding state. The Missouri Legislature voted to remain with the Union, an overwhelming 98 to 1 in March. However, in May, when Federal troops fired into a crowd of civilians after capturing several hundred pro-secessionist troops (sanctioned by Governor Claiborne Jackson), hearts and minds changed drastically. Many conditional Unionists and those unsure about Missouri’s role in the war became pro-secessionist and desired to throw out Federal troops in their state. It was a game of revenge. Continue reading “A Missourian Describes Why He Joined the State Guard and the Confederate Army”

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”