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MAY 11, 1861.-Riot in Saint Louis, Mo.

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by Rebforever, Aug 1, 2017.

  1. Rebforever

    Rebforever Captain

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    Nasty little situation.

    "Report of Captain Nathaniel Lyon, Second U. S. Infantry.

    SAINT LOUIS ARSENAL, May 12, 1861.

    SIR: On yesterday I left to Captain Callender and Lieutenant Saxton the duty of receiving and arming about 1,200 men from the northern portion of the city, who on returning to their station were fired upon by a mob, which fire was returned by the troops, from which, all told on both sides, about twelve persons were killed, two of whom, so far as I am informed, were of the United States troops; further particulars of which may be hereafter transmitted.

    General Harney having arrived has assumed command of the department, and has ordered into the city all the troops of the regular service now hearer (except my own company) and four pieces of artillery.

    It is with great delicacy and hesitancy I take the liberty to observe that the energetic and necessary measures of day before yesterday, and reported in my communication of yesterday, require persevering and consistent exertion to effect the object in view of anticipating combinations and measures of hostility against the General Government, and that the authority of General Harney under these circumstances embarrasses, in the most painful manner, the execution of the plans I had contemplated, and upon which the safety and welfare of the Government, as I conceive, so much depend, and which must be decided in a very short period.

    Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    N. LYON,"

    Serial 003 Page 0009 Chapter X
     

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  3. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Camp Jackson affair

    The Camp Jackson affair, also known as the Camp Jackson massacre, was an incident during the American Civil War that occurred on May 10, 1861, when a volunteer Union Army regiment captured a unit of secessionists at Camp Jackson, outside the city of St. Louis, in the divided slave state of Missouri.

    The newly-appointed Union commander in Missouri, Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon, had learned that the ostensibly neutral state militia training in Camp Jackson was planning to raid the federal arsenal in St. Louis. After capturing the entire unit, Lyon marched the captives into town in order to parole them. En route, hostile secessionist crowds gathered, and after an accidental gunshot, Lyon's men fired into the mob, killing at least 28 civilians and injuring dozens of others. Several days of rioting throughout St. Louis followed. Pro-slavery locals were also particularly angered by the presence in Lyon’s force of many German abolitionists who had fled the failed revolutions of 1848. The violence ended only after martial law was imposed and Union regulars were dispatched to the city.
    ...
    Lyon suspected the Camp Jackson force of conspiring to attack the arsenal. His suspicions were confirmed by personal investigation after he visited Camp Jackson, allegedly disguised as an elderly woman.[citation needed] On May 10, Lyon marched on Camp Jackson with about 6,000 Missouri Volunteers and U.S. Regulars. Lyon forced the surrender of the militia, taking 669 prisoners.
    ....
    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 Lyon's marching soldiers and fired a pistol into their ranks, fatally wounding Captain Constantin Blandowski of the 3rd Missouri Volunteer Infantry.[a] 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.[8]
    ....
    Some Missourians had attempted to find compromise as "Conditional Unionists", who opposed secession but with conditions: that slavery not be interfered with, and that no "coercion" or military force be used against the seceding states of the Confederacy. After the Camp Jackson affair, many of these "Conditional Unionists" became full Confederate supporters, such as former Governor Sterling Price.

    Nonetheless, Lyon's actions ensured Union control of Missouri. After the war, the Missouri Volunteers were praised as "saviors of Missouri."​
     
  4. Patrick H

    Patrick H Captain

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    I have always thought the hot-headed Lyon marched his captives through the city to make a display of them. I've always thought it was a very arrogant, bad plan. This backfired when a sympathetic mob gathered around. Unfortunately, gunfire broke out. Lyon's volunteers and regulars were not well disciplined in the face of an angry, rock throwing mob. Some agree that a bystander probably fired the first shot. Others insist that Lyon's troops fired first into the angry mob. I doubt we will ever know the truth of it. What we DO know is that a short while later, Lyon literally declared war on the governor of Missouri and I am reasonably certain he was not authorized to do that. It is obvious from Lyon's report that he tried to put the best light on a situation that was at least partially of his own making.

    I guess there's no doubt about my opinion of Lyon... That's because of some of the things he did when he arrived in my home town.
     
  5. mofederal

    mofederal Sergeant Major

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    The crowd were southern sympathizers, no doubt angered by Lyon's actions. The troops marching by a that fateful moment down 5th Street 5th Regiment of US Reserve Corps Missouri Volunteers were said to have been recruited from the 10 Ward of St. Louis, and were mostly ethnic Germans. The crowd were shouts of anger and violence and loud cursing of the "Dutchmen," and were seen to be throwing dirt clods, rocks and debris at the marchers. Reaching the intersection of Walnut (now Broadway), the trouble began. It triggered several days of violence in St. Louis.

    There were three soon to well known people present or nearby. William Sherman and two of his sons, present in the crowd. U.S. Grant who was at the Arsenal and Joseph O. Shelby, also watching the procession. Grant and Sherman were awaiting news of commissions.

    The political scene in May of 61 in St. Louis, was a complicated mess. Democrats, Republicans, "conditional unionists." Price was a one of leading conditional unionists. The St. Louis Wide Awakes a pro union paramilitary group, who were the main core of Lyon's troops. Missouri State Guard sympathizers, pro confederate supporters. Something was going to happen, and it did on May 11th.
     
  6. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    I would think that the main core of Lyon's troops were the Turners.
     
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  7. mofederal

    mofederal Sergeant Major

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    I forgot to bring in the Turners, some of the volunteer groups drilled in Turner Halls, some in old breweries. In one old hall in St. Louis, they found a 1855 Springfield hidden in a space in the floor. I can't remember the year it was found. There also the Minute Men, who pro secessionist, from Missouri or elsewhere. They were a southern paramilitary response to the Wide Awakes. I was more up on this at one time, as I had to research it for a talk at the Arch, when I worked there. There are several good books published years ago on the subject. Nathanial Lyon and Missouri in 1861 by George Peckham, The Fight for Missouri by Thomas L. Snead, and The Struggle for Missouri By John McElroy.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2017
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  8. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    More on the Wide Awakes.
     
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  9. Rebforever

    Rebforever Captain

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    Thanks for the heads up on the above books. I need to get into that a little more. :smile coffee: :thumbsup:
     
  10. Lusty Murfax

    Lusty Murfax Corporal

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    Lyon's report is noteworthy for the amount of information he chooses to conceal, as well as the blatant falsehood that armed troops were fired upon from the crowd. General Harney didn't authorize Lyon to arm over 1,000 German Turnvereins before the incident. They were armed as a part of a scheme developed in secret between Lyon and Blair and the Wide-Awakes. Lyon also failed to mention that he had used the untrained and very recently armed German foreigners to storm the Missouri State Militia camp and arrest the almost entirely unarmed State trainees. Eye witness accounts indicate the crowd formed as a result of the Camp Jackson invasion and and displayed their anger toward the Germans, as they marched the Missourian prisoners off down the streets. Several nervous Germans panicked and fired into the crowd. The "hostility" Lyon described was certainly a direct result of his belligerent actions against the State.

    General Lyon, only a Captain ten days earlier and now a Brigadier General and Blair, a newly minted Colonel would fully show their hands on May 31, 1861 during the infamous meeting with Missouri officials at the Planters Hotel. Missouri Governor Jackson and former Governor and newly appointed General Sterling Price of the Missouri State Guard met with Lyon and Blair. The MSG was the official State Militia. The meeting had been arranged in an effort to prevent open war in Missouri between the Federal and State governments. Lyon essentially declared war against the State of Missouri and he did it all by his lonesome. Read Snead's The Struggle For Missouri, as he was an eye witness to the meeting.
     
  11. Patrick H

    Patrick H Captain

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    For more insights into Lyon's character, you can read E.F. Ware's account of campaigning with Lyon from Boonville to Wilson's Creek. I referenced this memoir in another thread yesterday, but it's well worth a read. Ware was with an Iowa regiment that met up with Lyon in Boonville, just after the first Battle of Boonville. The town was still occupied and, although Ware doesn't mention it, freedom of speech and press had been suspended. One newspaper's press had been broken and its type thrown into the river. Pro-secession shops had been stripped. People were being watched and their reputations smeared.

    Ware describes crossing the Missouri River from Howard County into Boonville. He describes a limestone quarry with a rock shelf right at the river's edge. As his boat approached he saw two men standing there: Lyon and Blair.

    This is all very powerful stuff for me, because I know the locales so well. The rock shelf is now buried under a railroad bed, and the quarry is overgrown. Ware describes an earthen fort, which happened to sprawl across the land where I grew up. It, too, is buried under suburban development in one place and scraped away in another place.

    Lyon was not well liked by his troops, nor, as far as I can tell, by anyone else. Ware's full memoir is online at this link:

    http://cdm.sos.mo.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/shscivilwar/id/6658/rec/15
     
  12. mofederal

    mofederal Sergeant Major

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    I have an older book on Lyon which is good: ****ed Yankee The Life of Nathaniel Lyon by Christopher Phillips. I have never read the Ware book, but I used to own a copy of his book The Indian War of 1864.

    The St. Louis wide Awakes were an political Club which was an outgrowth of the 1860 Republican National Convention in 1860. This was a nation wide organization made up of teens and young adults. They had a uniform of a sort, a black cape or robe, a black glazed hat and they carried a torch at least 6 feet high. A large flame blazing from a pivoting container of whale oil. They carried banners with a large open eye featured on them. This group were active at night and conducted marches with their flaming torches. They were said to exist in every county and state of the North (free states). They were present in most major cities, including St. Louis. They also adopted a mission statement of their purpose. The Minute Men were created in the South as a response to the Wide Awakes, and very active in St. Louis.
     
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  13. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Wide Awakes | The Civil War in Missouri
    grinspan2b.jpg
     
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  14. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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  15. mofederal

    mofederal Sergeant Major

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    Thanks for the pictures. I never knew the Minute Men badge existed. They are quite striking. I forgot just how military their "uniforms" looked, wearing what looks like forage caps and wheel hats from the Mexican War. I saw a description of the capes or robes calling them oil cloth. The Wide Awakes were active for decades after the war. Descriptions of the are as a militaristic fraternal organization. They also had a military rank structure, but it was believed to have almost no national governing structure.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2017
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  16. wausaubob

    wausaubob 2nd Lieutenant

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    Almost 5 months after the secessionist crisis began?
     
  17. Lusty Murfax

    Lusty Murfax Corporal

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    They look like KKK clansmen in black. Was their intent to intimidate the populace?

    I know you are aware of this, but for others Blair's brother was a member of Lincoln's Cabinet in D.C. Blair used his personal back-channel connections to circumvent the regular military chain of command and undermine Gen. Harney, Commander of the Dept. of the West and based in St. Louis. Blair's and Lyon's unusually quick promotion is credited to Blair's political maneuverings. Blair also had used his pull to secure Lyon's appointment locally to ensure control of the St. Louis Arsenal. He used them again to have Harney recalled to D.C. for consultations, and replacemenet by Lyon after he left St. Louis. This is quite a chain of events in little more than one month's time. One day Lyon is a lowly Lt. stationed at a prairie frontier fort out on the Great Plains in command of little more than himself, a few days later he is a General in command of the Dept. of the West commanding a Federal assault on a sovereign State, which has yet to secede.
     
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  18. mofederal

    mofederal Sergeant Major

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    The whole Blair family involvement is very telling in early 1861 Missouri. Lyon, though an oddity, was really the right choice for the position. It was a dirty deal played on Harney, though southern, he was completely loyal to the union. No time was wasted by Blair in pulling off this coup.
     
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  19. wausaubob

    wausaubob 2nd Lieutenant

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    This is pointless. Missouri voted for Stephen A. Douglas in the 1860 election. Douglas was clearly advocating a unionist position in the election. The Missouri unionists were better acquainted with the methods used by the pro-slavery agitators, due to the conduct of popular sovereign dispute in Kansas, than any other part of the nation.
    Missouri was in a state of rebellion.
    If there were women and children in the crowd viewing the march of the prisoners why were they there? There were sufficient men there to be witnesses and the men are surely capable of walking home from the parole camps.
     
  20. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    No. Seems more like just dress up like fraternities of the time. OTOH 6 foot lanterns would be impressive at night.
     
  21. mofederal

    mofederal Sergeant Major

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    I think politics was a spectator sport then and people felt a strong need to be part of it, even up to and including war. Until they saw that up close and personal. people still have a need to get involved in the streets. The Democratic answer to the Wide Awakes was the Douglas "Invincibles". These two groups clashed in Illinois. There were other groups that people referred to as marching clubs. The New York Draft Riots and other riots and clashes of the time seemed to involve the whole family.
     
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