Wednesday, June 1, 2016

St Louis in the CIvil War

View of Saint Louis (Source: Library of Congress)

"The Convention (Missouri State Convention 1861) was fully informed how matters stood in St Louis for on the 20th of March Isidore Bush stated on behalf of the thousands of German citizens whom I have the honor to represent that should a conflict be inevitable your German fellow citizens will stand by the Government and by the Union." (Source: The Union Cause in St. Louis in 1861: An Historical Sketch, Robert Julius Rombauer, p 172)

Arsenal at St Louis  Link

Camp Jackson  Link

The secessionist element was in the majority in practically all parts of the interior of the State. St Louis was an exception. This determined the then Governor Claiborne F Jackson, a sympathizer with the slave owners, to strike a blow to capture St Louis, as this would put him in possession of the St Louis arsenal. The first step of the secessionists in this direction was the erection of Camp Jackson.
Camp Jackson
This plan was frustrated through the vigilance of General Nathaniel Lyon who had but recently been transferred from Fort Riley to St Louis, in command of the small garrison holding the arsenal. The officers in command of the first four regiments on the side of the Union were among the members of the St Louis Turn Union, located at Tenth street between Market and Walnut streets. Four companies of Turners had assembled early in the night at the St Louis arsenal and placed themselves at the disposition of General Lyon. A constant stream of German volunteers added to the regiments and were provided with arms by the commander. There were approximately 800 men, of whom nine tenths were of direct German descent. This was the situation on May 10, 1861. A council of war was held by General Lyon Blair Sigel and the others and General Lyon decided to anticipate the rebels by striking a blow before the opposition was ready to act.

The volunteers were assigned to their posts during the night. By 10 o'clock the next morning, Camp Jackson was surrounded and General Lyon demanded its surrender. Seeing no way out, all the hate and rage of the rebels turned against the loyal Germans. As they were being marched to the arsenal, as prisoners street riots broke out at many places along the line, and the Germans were assailed on every hand with cries of dirty Dutch and other insulting names. (Source: Issues and Events, Volume 8, Vital Issue Company, 1918, p. 312)

By Unknown - Link, Public Domain, Link

This eventually led to gunfire. Exactly what provoked the shooting remains unclear, but the most common explanation is that a drunkard stumbled into the path of the marching soldiers, and fired a pistol into their ranks, fatally wounding Captain Constantin Blandowski of the 3rd Missouri Volunteer Infantry.(Source: The Role of German Immigrants in Civil War Missouri, Link) The Volunteers, in reaction, fired over the heads of the crowd, and then into the crowd. Some 28 civilians were killed, including women and children; more than 75 were wounded.(Source: Jefferson Barracks, Sandie Grassino and Art Schuermann, (2011), p.33)

Naturally St Louis was thrown into a great deal of excitement by the events of the day. The Missouri Republican in its issue of the next day (May,11) gave full account of what had happened the day before. Regarding the excitement that prevailed during evening it said, "It is almost impossible to describe the intense exhibition of feeling which was manifested last evening the city. All the most frequented streets and avenues were thronged with citizens in the highest state of excitement and loud huzzas and occasional shots were heard in various localities. There was very little congregating on the street corners. Everybody was on the move and banished from their thoughts. Crowds of men rushed through the principal bearing banners and devices suited to their fancies and by turns cheering or groaning. Some armed and others were not armed, and all seemed to be at work." A charge was made on a gun store, HE Dimick, on Main Street, the door was broken and the crowd secured fifteen or twenty guns before sufficient number of police could be collected to arrest proceedings. Chief McDonough marched down about twenty policemen armed with muskets and in dispersing the mob, and protecting the from further molestation. Squads of armed were stationed at several of the most public corners the offices of the Missouri Democrat and the Anzeiger Westetts were placed under guard for protection. 

Public Domain, Link

As the evening wore on quiet was restored and the 2 streets became cleared of people. Order prevailed during the next day until early in the evening, when another street skirmish occurred between a regiment of Home Guards made up largely of Germans and a band of Southern sympathizers. The Home Guards were attacked while on their way from the arsenal where they had been armed. Six men were killed in the fray four of whom belonged to the Home Guards, and several innocent passersby were wounded. The incident served to stir anew the passions of the people and to deepen the gulf between the two factions. The climax was reached on Sunday the second day 3 after the capture of the camp. Terrible fear came upon the people, especially the Southern sympathizers. Many felt that the Germans were going to overrun the city and put to death all the Southerners. Early that morning some of the prominent citizens of St Louis went to General Harney, who had returned the day before, and implored him to protect the city against the attack which they thought the Germans were planning to make. General Harney assured them that there was no danger, but to quiet their fears he sent out detachments of soldiers from the arsenal to those parts of the city that were thought to be the most exposed to attack, and he had posted a proclamation declaring there was no ground for fear and appealing to the people to be calm. These acts of Harney however had exactly the opposite effect from what he intended, instead of quieting the people, they excited them still more, instead of allaying, they intensified their alarm. By early afternoon a great host of people were fleeing terror stricken and in great haste from the city. Carriages and wagons filled with trunks valises hastily made bundles and frightened men, women, and children were flying along the streets toward every point of the compass. Some scared souls unable to obtain a vehicle of any kind were walking or running with breathless haste, carrying all sorts of bundles in their hands, under their arms, or on their shoulders. All these were fleeing from imaginary danger. But the fancied conflagration and slaughter which they believed themselves to be escaping were to them awful realities, enacted with all their attendant horrors over and over again within their minds. Some of the panic stricken people fled into the country and found shelter in the villages and farmhouses. Many crossed the river in ferries and sought refuge in Illinois notwithstanding the fact that it was a strong Union state. Others took passage in steamboats and went either up or down the river. Those who did not flee from the city barricaded themselves in their homes and awaited the coming of the enemy with guns loaded. The dreaded calamity however did not come and in a day or two the refugees began to come back to their homes and places of business. (Source:A History of Missouri, Eugene Morrow Violette,p 346-348)

Civil courts remained open in St. Louis throughout the Civil War, but martial law trumped civil law from August, 1861 (Link) until General John Pope rescinded it in March, 1865. (Source: Cities in American Political History, edited by Richard Dilworth, SAGE Publications, Sep 13, 2011, p. 231) Also see Civil War fortifications in St Louis. Link

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