A Cemetery in Hannibal

When first I heard that Hannibal’s Old Baptist Cemetery has graves of two veterans of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, I thought to myself, here are men who transplanted themselves to Missouri after the Civil War.  Peel back the pages of history, though, and what is revealed is a remarkable story.

The 55th regiment was the second African-American fighting unit enrolled in Massachusetts.  Its famous cousin, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, fought at Fort Wagner in ’63.  It was the 54th that made movie stars of Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman (the 1989 film Glory).  Soon after the effective date of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the Governor of Massachusetts sought and received the permission of the War Department to enroll African-American troops; soon after that, the Governor realized that there were not enough young men of African descent in Massachusetts to fill a regiment.  Some of the men who were Governor Andrews’ advisors were the same men who armed Kansas immigrants in the 1850s. George L. Stearns was one of them.  Stearns organized a national recruiting effort, and he went to places where populations of African-Americans of military age were abundant.  So, he opened a recruiting office in St. Louis, and agents of the Massachusetts Governor went into Missouri counties such as Marion, Pike and Ralls.

Stearns’ recruiting mission was so successful that Massachusetts formed a second regiment with the excess recruits, the 55th.  While some of the Missouri men who volunteered entered the ranks of the famous 54th, dozens of them found their way into the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.  William Morrison and Richard Miller were two of these men.  It is no accident that they are buried in Hannibal. They returned home, after their unit distinguished itself in the sea islands of the South Carolina shore, and lived out their lives in Missouri.  Corporal Morrison and Private Miller were there, we should presume, when the 55th regiment was among the first Union troops that marched into Charleston, South Carolina, after the fall of the city that was the cradle of Confederate hopes. The occupation of Charleston by African-American troops, on February 21, 1865, was hugely symbolic, as the men of Boston no doubt intended it to be.

The Old Baptist Cemetery in Hannibal holds a place in literary history: Most people who speculate on the subject will tell you that it is the “graveyard of the old-fashioned Western kind” where Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn witnessed the murder of Doc Robinson.  But, almost every square foot of this great river town that Mark Twain immortalized in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has a place in literary history.  Old Baptist Cemetery holds a treasure of another kind, stone memories of common men, banded together, who changed history.

photos by Kelly Suellentrop
Ballwin, MO


I’D RATHER HAVE THAT EAGLE . . . (Part 2 of 2)

Part 1 describes the 8th Wisconsin Infantry’s entry into the State of Missouri in October, 1861, with their eagle mascot, “Old Abe.”  Old Abe heard the sounds of battle the first time at Fredericktown, Missouri, on October 21, 1861.

The Wisconsin men left Missouri for Cairo, Illinois in January, 1862, when Ulysses Grant left the relative safety of that place to march on Forts Donelson and Henry.  The Eighth Regiment had a small part to play in the Island No. 10 campaign, entering New Madrid, Missouri, on April 7, 1862.  Soon the men were on transports steaming up the Tennessee River.  They landed at Hamburg, Tennessee, near the battlefield of Shiloh, following in Grant’s wake.

History records that at the Battle of Farmington, Mississippi, on May 9, 1862, the Eighth Wisconsin Regiment first went into battle.  Old Abe was close to the fighting – closer than he was in Fredericktown.  Guard duty in northern Mississippi and Alabama occupied the summer, until a Confederate force commanded by Missouri’s own Sterling Price threatened the Union’s hold on Corinth, Mississippi.  Price attacked, pushing the Union troops from their outer trenches.  As the battle for Corinth reached its climax, Old Abe broke his tether and soared over the heads of the Confederates.  He invigorated the Union defenders.  General Price was reportedly moved to say:

“That bird must be captured or killed at all hazards. I would rather get that eagle than capture a whole brigade or a dozen battle flags.”

Corinth, October 3-4, 1862, was Old Abe’s finest hour.  But as the Wisconsin Historical Society reports, all together he witnessed 37 battles or engagements in the Civil War.  He was wounded once or twice, some say.  When the Eighth Wisconsin returned to Madison in 1864, the men presented their mascot to the Governor.  Old Abe lived in a special room in the Wisconsin Capitol until 1881, when he died as the result of a fire.  He was revered then; he is revered now.  A bronze likeness stares down from a perch above the rostrum of the Wisconsin State Assembly chambers.

After World War I, the 101st U. S. Army Division was reconstituted a reserve unit with headquarters in Milwaukee.  Called up in World War II, the unit retained its numerical designation and a shoulder patch honoring Wisconsin’s famous eagle, as it moved into airborne operations.  The “Band of Brothers” of Normandy fame, the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division, trace their lineage to a day long ago in Fredericktown, Missouri.

I’D RATHER HAVE THAT EAGLE . . . (Part 1 of 2)

The most famous Civil War mascot was a young eagle from Wisconsin.  “Old Abe,” as he was known by the men of the 8th

Old Abe

Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, arrived in Missouri on October 14, 1861.  He escaped from his handlers as the Wisconsin soldiers marched through north St. Louis, bound for Benton Barracks.  Old Abe soared through the neighborhood, landing on a mansion’s chimney, giving the men a fright.  But he allowed himself to be captured by a constable and he returned to the regiment.  The Eagle Regiment’s first day in the Civil War was an eventful one.

The Wisconsin boys joined up in northern Wisconsin; they trained in Madison and moved to Chicago as they prepared to enter the war.  Their young eagle – seemingly trained – was already acknowledged as a novelty when St. Louis first saw him.  Old Abe was about to become an institution.

The day after the eagle arrived in St. Louis, on October 15, M. Jeff Thompson (Missouri’s legendary Swamp Fox of the Confederacy) captured and burned a railroad bridge on the Big River just south of Desoto, Missouri.  The 8th Wisconsin rushed to the scene, the men laying on their arms in the rain in Desoto that very night, arriving at the bridge on the 16th of October.  Thompson was gone.  The regiment and its eagle mascot proceeded south another 20 miles, to Pilot Knob, and there went into bivouac.

Thompson had not left the scene all together.  A few days after he assaulted the Big River Bridge, Thompson was reported to be at Fredericktown, Missouri.  Union soldiers stationed at Pilot Knob and Cape Girardeau were ordered to converge on Thompson’s force, and so the Eagle Regiment marched east on October 20 with three other regiments of infantry.  The next morning, October 21st, Thompson attacked at Fredericktown.  The Eighth Wisconsin – only a week in the war zone – was told to guard the Union baggage train assembled near the courthouse, a mile from the battle.  Old Abe was tethered to the courthouse roof, out of the way.  Then as the boom of cannon and rattle of small arms reached the courthouse, Old Abe spread his wings, he screeched and cried.  The eagle screamed.

The 8th Wisconsin did not go into battle at Fredericktown.  Once the battle was over, eventually the new regiment went into winter camp south of St. Louis, on the Mississippi near present day Imperial in Jefferson County.  The men and the eagle remained at Camp Curtis until January 17, 1862, then joined Ulysses Grant and the Union’s drive into Tennessee.


A remembrance for the 191st anniversary of the birth of Ulysses S. Grant:

Grant’s strengths and his faults have been debated for well over a century.  I can relate two little known incidents that illustrate what was, simultaneously, his most disarming and undoing personal trait.  Grant was fiercely loyal to people who befriended him.

Grant spent some his most challenging years in St. Louis, 1854-1860, moving about in the Southern society of his wife’s family, centered in Southwest St. Louis County.  This was then a very rural world; he counted as his “neighbors” people who lived many miles from his Hardscrabble Farm.

Case 1:  Dr. James A. Barrett

Dr. Barrett (some times spelled Barret) was a member of a prominent Virginia/Kentucky clan that emigrated to St. Louis before the Civil War.  In 1864, he along with a cousin (pre-War U. S. Congressman John Richard Barrett) became embroiled in a national controversy.   An investigation got underway into the activities of a clandestine group of Southern supporters known as the Sons of Liberty.  James Barrett was targeted as a member of the “Northwest Conspiracy,” alleged to be a massive operation to aid the Confederate war effort and overthrow the government of the United States.  The investigation, centered on the Son of Liberty’s activities in Missouri and Indiana, snared Indiana copperhead congressman Clement L. Vallandigham and others.  Later in the year, one Lambdin P. Milligan and four others were tried by a military tribunal in Indianapolis – the trial timed to precede the national elections in November, 1864. Milligan was sentenced to hang.  He was freed when the U. S. Supreme Court in 1866 issued a landmark Opinion, Ex Parte Milligan, which held that military courts had no jurisdiction to try civilians where civil courts were operating.

Dr. James Barrett of St. Louis was an unindicted conspirator in the trial of Lambdin Milligan. His activities were prominently noted in the testimony of witnesses.  But Barrett was not brought to trial.

On June 25, 1864, Ulysses Grant sent a telegram from headquarters in City Point, Virginia, to the Secretary of War.

“I will feel obliged to you if you will order General Rosecrans to release Dr. J. A. Barrett [on bail],. . . or to give him an immediate trial. The doctor is a copperhead, but I have no idea that he has done anything more than that class of people are constantly doing, and not so much.  He was a neighbor of mine, a clever man, and has a practice in the neighborhood which it will be very inconvenient to other people than himself to have interrupted.”

Grant arrived in City Point ten days before he paused to write his telegram to Secretary Stanton.  He had just completed another of his master strokes, outflanking Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia after Cold Harbor and landing in Lee’s rear at Petersburg.  Grant had on his mind the plight of a country doctor who once supported him in his bid to become County Engineer in St. Louis.

Stanton relented. Rosecrans fumed.  The matter reached the desk of Abraham Lincoln, who wrote to Rosecrans: “When did the Sec. of War telegraph you to release Dr. Barrett? If it is an old thing, let it stand till you hear further.”

Case 2:  General John McCausland

“Tiger John” McCausland graduated first in the VMI class of 1857.  When the Civil War began, McCausland organized Virginia’s Rockbridge Artillery, then served in successively more important command positions in the Confederate army.  He famously escaped from Ft. Donelson in 1862, before Grant captured the place and most of the army that defended it.  As a Brigadier General of cavalry in 1865, he even escaped Grant at Appomattox.

Tiger John McCausland

McCausland’s military reputation, otherwise distinguished, was stained by the burning of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in July, 1864.  Under orders of his superiors, McCausland entered the town and demanded payment of reparations for Union depradations in the Shenandoah Valley.  When his demand was refused, he burned the town.  At the close of the War, McCausland was indicted by a Pennsylvania grand jury for arson; He lived in Mexico and in Europe for a time, finally returning to the United States in 1867 after Ulysses Grant intervened to quash the Pennsylvania indictment.

Tiger John McCausland was born in St. Louis in 1836, son of a John McCausland who gave the name to McCausland Avenue.  The elder McCausland owned large tracts of land in downtown St. Louis, and devised St. Louis’ first system of taxation.  He died the same year his wife died, 1843, leaving John and his brother orphans.  In 1847, John moved to what is now West Virginia to be raised by an uncle.  He had lived with his paternal grandmother in St. Louis County before leaving for the east, but no doubt often visited his aunt Elizabeth Marshall at her home “Fairfax,” restored and standing in Rock Hill near Manchester Road.

The National Register application for McCausland’s post-war home near Henderson, West Virginia states that Ulysses Grant was “an old family friend of the McCauslands.”  Enough said.

Pasta King of St. Louis

John Baptiste Gandolfo journeyed far in nearly 80 years of life.  Born in 1842 in Allasio, on the Italian Riviera, it was happenstance that brought him to St. Louis in 1864.  His regiment, the 178th New York infantry, was rushed here to meet the threat of a Confederate invasion.  As a captain, he commanded his regiment during the October 1, 1864 battle at Pacific, Missouri.  His Civil War service ended in Montgomery, Alabama in 1866; there, he commanded the Union occupiers of the town that had been the cradle of the Confederacy in 1861.  He met and married a Mobile belle, and together they moved to St. Louis in 1870.

In 1876, Gandolfo co-founded the Gandolfo-Ghio Manufacturing Company, and engaged in the manufacture of spaghetti and macaroni, and other food products, on South 8th Street in St. Louis. His company, which changed its name to Checker Food Products, later entered the cereal business and grew to become a major competitor to Ralston Purina.  Over the course of 20 years, long after Gandolfo passed away, the two companies fought out the rights to the Checkerboard and Chex brands.

John Gandolfo died in 1922, and is buried at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery south of St. Louis.  Checker Food Products is still with us.


The Rock Hill Presbyterian Church

James Collier Marshall was born on the eastern shore of Maryland in 1804, among the estuaries of the Atlantic and along a creek named for his family.  His birth occurred in the third year of the incumbency of Chief Justice John Marshall, his third cousin (twice removed).  Their common ancestor settled in Westmoreland County, Virginia, a matter of miles from the birthplaces of George Washington, James Madison and Robert E. Lee.  James Marshall’s father took his family east, settling in Maryland, 100 miles from the ancestral home.  James, though, joined the great western migration in 1838 or ‘39.  He came to rest at the intersection of Manchester Road and Rock Hill Road in St. Louis County, where he lived until he passed away in 1864.

In 1840, James married Elizabeth McCausland of St. Louis.  Over the next quarter-century, James and Elizabeth prospered in St. Louis, acquiring large tracts of land in Rock Hill and where Webster Groves is now.  They gave their name to Marshall Road in Webster, and to the Marshall Road in Kirkwood and Valley Park, where they owned land also.  They were traders and shopkeepers, and they operated a stagecoach stop on old Manchester Road when it was a major artery to the west.  In 1841, they built a home there they called “Fairfax,” which still stands (though not at its original location) on Manchester a little east of Rock Hill Road.

Elizabeth McCausland Marshall was the sister of John McCausland, after whom McCausland Avenue in St. Louis is named.  The brother was a major landholder in St. Louis, including tracts he owned downtown.  Elizabeth and John were part of an extended clan, which included the Kyles of Virginia, who were merchants in Lynchburg before they headed west to St. Louis.  John McCausland died in 1843, and his wife Harriet Kyle McCausland followed him in death a month later.  Left orphaned were St. Louis-born sons John and Robert, both under ten years of age. The McCauslands hailed originally from Scotland, but for a least a century they lived in County Tyron, Northern Ireland.  Elizabeth, who was born there, came to America about 1800 with her parents.  She and her 10 siblings were raised solidly in the Presbyterian faith.

Presbyterians were wracked by factionalism in the years before the Civil War, much of it brought on by the issue of slavery.  In 1861, the Church split into northern and southern denominations, a rift that did not heal officially until a reunification in 1983.   A story from the folks at the Fairfax house – not verified by this author – is that the Presbyterian congregation in Rock Hill split along these lines, so much so that pro-slavery people sat on one side of the church, those opposing slavery on the other.   On which side sat the Marshalls is an intriguing, but unanswerable, question.

Artemus Bullard was born in Northbridge, Massachusetts in 1802.  He attended Amherst College, as did his brother who roomed with a young man by the name of Henry Ward Beecher.  Artemus’ sister Eunice married Henry Beecher in 1837.  The Bullards and the Beechers were Congregationalists, descended from English Calvinist cousins to the Scottish Presbyterians. Artemus Bullard was ordained a minister of the Congregational Church.  In 1838 he accepted a position with the First Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, where he engaged in missionary work.  His work led him to establish one of the earliest Presbyterian churches in the “country” that surrounded St. Louis, in Rock Hill.  A church was built there in 1845, at the northeast corner of Manchester and Rock Hill Road, on land James C. Marshall donated.  Marshall’s slaves constructed the church of limestone blocks quarried on his property.  Until 2010, the Rock Hill Presbyterian Church was the oldest west of the Mississippi to operate continuously in the same structure.

In 1850, Artemus Bullard built the Webster College for Boys on land donated by James C. Marshall.  Named for Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster, the institution predated the town that grew up near it – Webster Groves was named for the school that Bullard and Marshall built.  Bullard brought Congregationalist teachers from New England to staff the College, and they in turn were some of the earliest settlers of Webster Groves. The school closed in 1859, but after the Civil War it was reopened as a home for children orphaned in the war.  The original building stands where it was built, on the grounds of today’s Edgewood Children’s Center.

Henry Ward Beecher was a famous, fiery orator and abolitionist preacher in New York whose sister Harriet Beecher Stowe authored Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  There is in the historic record one brief, early mention of Artemus Bullard’s apathy towards the slavery question.  All in all though, particularly considering his lineage, one cannot escape the conclusion that Bullard was firmly in the anti-slavery camp of the Presbyterian Church by the 1850s.

James Marshall owned slaves.  According to the 1850 census, James held eight men and women in bondage.  The oldest slave he owned was 75 years of age at that time, and the youngest, 14.  Marshall had been in Missouri 12 years in 1850.  He continued to own slaves, seven by the count taken in 1860.

Why then this alliance between the slave-owner Marshall and the Massachusetts-bred minister? The book North Webster: A Photographic History of a Black Community (published by the Webster Groves Historical Society in 1993) points out that James Marshall freed some of his slaves in 1863.  Property he gave to them laid the foundation of the historic African American community in Webster Groves.  The book claims that Marshall’s slaves asked to help in the construction of the Rock Hill church, and attended services there along with whites after it was built.  The answer probably lies with Elizabeth.  The Presbyterian McCauslands, of the merchant class, transplanted from Ireland just a generation before, likely were neither slave-owners nor slavery supporters. It was Elizabeth, one suspects, who sought to bring religion to the wilds of Rock Hill and who enlisted a minister of her own faith to do so.

What is possible is that Rock Hill holds a story of two southern families growing in their appreciation of human freedom during the years before the Civil War.  Certainly, important African American history is rooted here.  Presbyterians should consider their old church a shrine.

If there is not enough history for you at the corner of Manchester and Rock Hill Roads, consider John McCausland, the orphaned nephew of Elizabeth Marshall.  Most certainly he visited Fairfax in Rock Hill many times as a boy.  The house was brand-new when John was five years old. He lived with his grandmother in St. Louis for several years after his parents died in 1843.  Then, John and his brother went to live with an uncle in Virginia.  He attended the Virginia

Tiger John McCausland

Military Institute, and upon graduation became an instructor of artillery reporting to Thomas J. Jackson.  He entered the service of the Confederate Army at the beginning the Civil War.  Known as “Tiger John” McCausland, he is vilified for the burning of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and revered by the people of Lynchburg, Virginia, which he defended in 1864.  When he passed away in 1927, he was the second-oldest surviving General of the Confederate Army.  McCausland died in his home “Grape Hill,” standing today near Henderson, West Virginia, on an estate he started with the fortune his father made in St. Louis.

The Castle on Meridian Hill

1920 View of Henderson's Castle

Near Meridian Hill Park in Washington, DC, at Florida Avenue and 16th Street, stands a stone gate, a remnant of a structure razed in 1949.  It is a reminder of the time when this neighborhood was Washington’s Embassy Row, a brainchild of Washington grande dame Mary Foote Henderson.  Henderson built a number of palatial residences in the 1910s and ‘20s that she rented to socialites and to foreign governments.  The Polish Embassy, at 2640 Sixteenth Street, NW, survives from this era.

Mary Henderson lived where the stone gate stands at Florida Avenue, in a mansion known as Henderson’s Castle.  The Castle was built in 1888 by Mary and her husband, former U. S. Senator John Brooks Henderson.  The Castle’s history stretches back in time, to the early days of Missouri’s Civil War.

John Brooks Henderson moved to Missouri from Danville, Virginia, when a boy.  In 1861 Henderson was appointed a general in the Missouri militia, having been active in local politics in Pike County, Missouri.  Henderson’s military career was distinguished by a decision he made to negotiate with Missouri rebels in Callaway County.  At Wellsville, Montgomery County, Henderson agreed to terms offered by Col. Jefferson Jones to diffuse a confrontation there.  Jones would disband several hundred men he had assembled in defense of Callaway County if Henderson would agree not to invade the county with the Union troops at his disposal.  This incident in October, 1861, gave Callaway County its modern nickname, the “Kingdom” of Callaway.  Callawegians still revel in their short-lived sovereignty.

In 1862, Henderson was appointed to fill the unexpired term of a Missourian who was expelled by the U. S. Senate.  Henderson served in the Senate of the United States until 1869.  He is most remembered, when he is remembered at all, as the author and sponsor of the first draft of what would become the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, which he introduced as a Joint Resolution of Congress in 1864.  In 1868, Henderson was one of seven Republicans in the Senate to vote against impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.  For this, Henderson earned mention in John Kennedy’s 1956 work, Profiles in Courage.  Like the other six, Henderson’s political future was ruined by this vote.

John Henderson met Mary Foote in Washington and they married in 1868, before he left the Senate.  They returned to Missouri, and lived there for twenty years, first in Louisiana, Missouri and later in St. Louis.  Although the Henderson’s were very successful during those years, the story that is told in Washington is that their wealth exploded when Missouri county bonds issued during the Civil War – thought to be worthless when the Hendersons purchased them at a deep discount – were redeemed by the federal government at face value.  Whatever the case, the Hendersons moved to Washington, D.C. in 1888, and built the magnificent castle on Sixteenth Street.

John Henderson died in Washington in 1913.  Mary passed away in 1931.

Mary Foote Henderson was born in Seneca Falls, New York, into a Connecticut family that included that state’s Governor Samuel Foote.  Samuel Foote’s son – Mary’s first cousin – was Civil War Admiral Andrew Foote.

The Other Churchill

In 1901, a man by the name of Winston Churchill released his third novel. This man was not the future prime minister of Great Britain.  This Winston Churchill was born in St. Louis in 1871.  His third novel, entitled The Crisis, sold out its first print run (100,000 volumes) in a matter of six days.  It would prove to be America’s best-selling work of fiction that year, and Winston Churchill’s best seller of all time.  Our Churchill is credited the most popular American novelist of the first quarter of the twentieth century.  His novels were in the top 10 list for fiction in each of the years 1900, 1901, 1904, 1906, 1908, 1910, 1913, 1914 and 1915, and were the best-sellers in four of those years.  He corresponded with, and purportedly once met, the British Winston Churchill, whose own literary career was budding in 1900.  Out of deference to the more popular American writer, the British Churchill thereafter signed his works “Winston S. Churchill.”

Our Winston Churchill left St. Louis to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1894.  Instead of going to sea, Churchill became an editor of the Army and Navy Journal. He soon resigned his commission, taking a job with Cosmopolitan Magazine in New York. He met and married a wealthy St. Louis girl, whose fortune permitted Churchill to turn his full attention to writing.  With the proceeds of his second novel, 1899’s Richard Carvel, he built a magnificent home in the artist colony of Cornish, New Hampshire. Among his neighbors there were sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and illustrator Maxfield Parrish.  Churchill’s Cornish estate was rented by President and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson to serve as the summer White House in 1913-1915.

So the world has forgotten this very famous man.  The world, including St. Louis, has also largely forgotten the subject of his most popular work.  The incident at the heart of The Crisis, which was drawn accurately from the historical record and from the reminiscences of Churchill’s St. Louis friends, was the Camp Jackson Affair, also known as the Camp Jackson Massacre.  This is what touched off the Civil War in Missouri.  The date was May 10, 1861, less than a month after Fort Sumter.  In St. Louis that day, units of armed infantry confronted each other was the first time in the American Civil War.

As clouds of war gathered across the nation, the Missouri State Militia established camp in St. Louis for their spring maneuvers, in a field two miles west of downtown.  The militiamen were primarily sons of Southern pioneer families. Politically they reflected the predominant agrarian and Southern sympathies of the Missouri government of the time.  St. Louis on the other hand was a stew-pot of foreign cultures.  In 1861, St. Louis had more people of foreign birth in its population, proportionately, than any other city in the United States.  Many of these people immigrated a decade earlier, after pro-democratic uprisings consumed much of western Europe in 1848-1849.  Particularly in St. Louis, prominent German-Americans who left Europe (and Hungarians and Czechs and Poles) tended to the radical left.  It was the left that lost the struggle in Europe.

Motives are still debated.  The state government’s decision to assemble the militia in St. Louis was doubtlessly intended as a provocation.  Most historians agree that the state militia was receiving arms captured from a federal arsenal in the South.  St. Louis was the site of the largest arsenal in the western United States.  At first, it was protected by a tiny force of regular Army troops.  In the weeks leading up to May 10, with the active support of the Lincoln Administration, German-Americans mobilized in social and athletic clubs that dotted the city (their turnvereins).  These troops were accepted into federal service by a process that skirted legality.  Thee were commanded by a Connecticut regular army captain named Nathaniel Lyon.

Now swelled to 6,000 to 7,000 in all, Lyon’s regulars and specially enrolled German regiments surrounded the militia at Camp Jackson.  The militia quickly surrendered.  A crowd of onlookers gathered all morning. Then, with the captives lined up to be marched to the Arsenal, one of the German regiments fired into the crowd.  Several men of the militia and several of the federal troops died or were wounded.  Nearly a hundred civilian casualties ensued, many of them women and children.  Twenty eight people died.  No one to this day knows why Lyon’s men fired.


In 1901, a New York critic went out in the streets of Manhattan to gauge the public’s reaction to The Crisis.  He reported that every person he approached had read the book, or had bought it to read.  The critic, not enamored with the book, thought that it was the “psychology of the mob” that fueled the book’s popularity.  In 1901, St. Louis was the center of New York’s attention, as it was the epicenter, forty years before, of the nation’s greatest crisis.


Mokane City Cemetery

Many Missourians who follow the Civil War know the book Pilot Knob: The Thermopylae of the West.  The 1914 work describes the 1864 Battle of Pilot Knob and its aftermath.  The most remarkable feature of this episode was the cross-country retreat of the Union garrison to the safety of the railroad at Leasburg, Missouri.  The Union General commanding the garrison, Thomas Ewing, claimed to have covered 66 miles in 39 hours.  The authors of Thermopylae of the West accept his estimate; a survey of the garrison’s likely route confirms that the distance traveled by Ewing’s column was not less than 60 miles. The amount of time consumed by the march is accurate, judging by the reports and correspondence in the Official Records.  The arithmetic cannot be challenged. These men averaged 37 to 40 miles per day.

Peterson and Hanson, the authors of Thermopylae of the West, make a striking claim that Ewing’s retreat lies in the top rank of history’s great forced marches of infantry.  The claim is incredulous, particularly when one considers that Ewing brought with him a couple dozen civilians who had fought with him at Pilot Knob.  In his report, Ewing claims that refugee women and children accompanied him on the march as well.

There are many things that Peterson and Hanson exaggerate in their account of the battle and retreat.  No less an authority than General Henry Halleck, “Old Brains” of the old army, provides some independent verification of the extraordinary nature of Ewing’s retreat.  In his 1846 classic Elements of Military Art and Science, Halleck includes his own short list of great forced marches.  “In 1803 Wellington’s cavalry in India marched the distance of sixty miles in thirty-two hours.”  That’s cavalry, mind you.  Halleck comments that infantry can be counted on to march 30 miles a day in spurts of two or three days, but only with the advantage of favorable roads.

Ewing had cavalry with him: six companies of the Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry.  This hardly accounts for the rapidity of the march of the companies of the 14th Iowa Infantry and the 47th and 50th Missouri regiments of infantry.  It is true that Ewing’s retreat was an astonishing feat.

The Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry figures into the subject of this piece.  Peterson and Hanson give us a reference to a young cavalryman of the Third who stopped to marry his girl during the retreat.  According to one of Peterson’s post-war interviews, the man was Aleck Adams and the young lady made the harrowing trip to Leasburg with the army.  It is time we gave her a name.

Mary Elizabeth Gibson was born in Virginia in 1835.  She was raised in southeast Callaway County. At age twenty, in Portland, Missouri, she married a man named Jacob Detwiler.  Little is known of Jacob, except that in her Civil War widow’s pension application Mary recounts that he was an itinerant shoemaker.  Mary divorced him, and was left to raise a young daughter on her own.  Late 1863 found Mary working in a Hermann, Missouri hotel or tavern.  William Alexander Adams, nine years her junior, was in Hermann recuperating from a battle wound.  The next year, on September 14, 1864, Aleck and Mary wed.  She went to live with Aleck’s father at his home in northern Iron County, very near the road that connects Ironton to Caledonia.  Not two weeks later, Ewing used this road (modern State Highway 21) to escape the clutches of Price’s army.  Mary was in the right place and at the right time.  Adams’ family tradition, passed on by great grandson Ken Lilly, confirms that Mary was on the retreat to Leasburg.  As reported in Thermopylae of the West, she rode Aleck’s horse a good deal of the way, he leading his bride on foot.

After the war, Mary and Aleck moved to Mokane, Missouri, in Callaway County.  They had six children of their own.  Aleck passed away in 1905.  Mary survived until 1920, when she died in Mokane at the age of 85.  Aleck has a veteran’s stone in the Mokane Cemetery.  Mary’s resting place is not marked.

If General Ewing’s report can be believed, Mary Elizabeth Gibson Adams was not the only woman who took part in one of the great forced marches of our Civil War.  At least her story can be preserved for posterity, for which special thanks is due Bruce Ketchem, former administrator of the Deutschheim State Historic Site in Hermann.

Now, if the Duke of Wellington had some Missouri women with him in India . . .

A Legacy of the Camp Jackson Affair

Mystery Man

In the 1950s, Groucho Marx would lob this question to You Bet Your Life contestants who were on the ropes:  Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?

Ulysses S. Grant is the only President buried in Manhattan.  His mausoleum on Riverside Drive was completed in 1897. Its exterior is modeled after artists’ conceptions of the tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus, a wonder of ancient Greece that gave us the word for such monuments.  The magnificent interior space is a nod in the direction Napoleon’s tomb in Paris.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, Grant’s Tomb was New York’s most popular attraction, outpacing even the Statue of Liberty.  Over the decades that followed, the site fell gradually but steadily into disrepair. The National Park Service accepted responsibility for the eyesore in 1957, but for years thereafter it suffered the usual neglect. The centennial of the Tomb’s dedication finally provided the impetus for improving it, and this magnificent edifice was re-dedicated in 1997.  It has been returned to its former glory.  Grant’s Tomb promises to be the premier venue for New York residents and visitors who might pause during the sesquicentennial years, to look past the hustle and bustle of the great city for a glimpse of the Civil War.  It is one of few, but by no means only, reminders of the Civil War still present in Manhattan.

In 1903, New York dedicated a monument in Grand Army Plaza, Fifth Avenue and 60th Street.  The world knows the place as “the Plaza.”   It is an equestrian statue of a triumphant William Tecumseh Sherman, executed by a man born in Ireland with the improbable name (for an Irishman) of Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  This was the last work of the most famous American sculptor of his day.  In all of its gold-gilt glory, it is easy to imagine it gracing a boulevard in Paris.  What is difficult to imagine is that this statue is one of only twelve out-of-doors equestrian statues that exist in all of Manhattan.

Here is a question that Groucho Marx never asked:

Out of the twelve equestrian statutes in Manhattan, six depict men or women who were not Americans;

Two do not depict human beings;

Two of the remaining four were U. S. Presidents;

The last two portray military men who witnessed the Camp Jackson Affair in St. Louis on May 10, 1861;

There is no equestrian statue of Ulysses Grant in Manhattan.

One of the two is William Tecumseh Sherman.  With war coming on, Sherman resigned as commandant of a Louisiana military school – the predecessor of Louisiana State University.  Sherman took a position as president of a streetcar company and as a result he was in St. Louis on May 10, 1861.

Camp Jackson was the second major incident of America’s Civil War.  Union troops in St. Louis took members of the Missouri State Militia into custody.  A Union regiment fired into the ranks of the militia, and into a crowd of onlookers that had gathered at the scene. Nearly a hundred civilian casualties ensued, many of them women and children.  Twenty eight people died.

Sherman died in New York City in 1891, but he is buried in St. Louis.

The second military man whose bronzed image graces the streets of Manhattan is Union General Franz Sigel. His equestrian statue stands near Grant’s Tomb, overlooking Riverside Park at the west end of 106th Street.  Sigel emigrated to New York from Germany in 1852, and taught for a time in the New York Public Schools.  He continued his teaching career when he moved to St. Louis in 1857.  Just before the Civil War, Sigel became Superintendent of the St. Louis Public Schools.  Sigel was at Camp Jackson as colonel of the Third Missouri Infantry Volunteers.  A company of his regiment is the one that fired into the crowd.  Sigel died in New York and is buried in a Yonkers cemetery.

Ulysses Grant, too, witnessed the Camp Jackson incident.  He had deep ties to the St. Louis area before the Civil War, but by May 10, 1861 he had moved his family to Illinois.  He came to St. Louis on the fateful day because he was on a recruiting mission for Illinois’ Governor.

Grant is buried in Grant’s Tomb.

Mystery Man