Thomas W. Knox.

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was difficult to comprehend, even after the first steps had been
taken. The majority of the Northern people were hoping and believing,
day by day, that something might transpire to quell the excitement and
adjust the difficulties threatening to disturb the country.

Before leaving the Rocky Mountains I did not believe that war was
certain to ensue, though I considered it quite probable. As I passed
through Missouri, the only slave State that lay in my route, I found
every thing comparatively quiet. In St. Joseph, on the day of my
arrival, the election for delegates to the State Convention was being
held. There was no disorder, more than is usual on election days in
small cities. Little knots of people were engaged in discussion, but
the discussions partook of no extraordinary bitterness. The vote of
the city was decidedly in favor of keeping the State in the Union.

Between the 7th of December and the 12th of April, the Northern blood
warmed slowly. The first gun at Sumter quickened its pulsations. When
the President issued his call for seventy-five thousand men for three
months, to put down insurrection, the North woke to action. Everywhere
the response was prompt, earnest, patriotic. In the Northern
cities the recruiting offices were densely thronged. New York and
Massachusetts were first to send their favorite regiments to the
front, but they were not long in the advance. Had the call been for
four times seventy-five thousand, and for a service of three years,
there is little doubt the people would have responded without

For a short time after my arrival at the East, I remained in a small
town in Southern New Hampshire. A few days after the first call was
issued, a friend invited me to a seat in his carriage for a ride to
Portsmouth, the sea-port of the State. On reaching the city we found
the war spirit fully aroused. Two companies of infantry were drilling
in the public square, and the citizens were in a state of great
excitement. In the course of the afternoon my friend and myself were
arrested, by a committee of respectable citizens, who suspected us of
being Southern emissaries. It was with great difficulty we convinced
them they had made a slight mistake. We referred them to the only
acquaintances we had in the city. They refused to consider the truth
established in the mouths of two witnesses, and were not induced to
give us our liberty until all convenient proof of our identity had
been adduced.

To be arrested within twenty miles of home, on suspicion of being
delegated from Charleston or Montgomery, was one of my most amusing
experiences of the war. The gentleman who accompanied me was a very
earnest believer in coercion. His business in Portsmouth on that
occasion was to offer his services in a regiment then being formed.
A few months later he received a commission in the army, but did not
obtain it through any of our temporary acquaintances at Portsmouth.

Our captors were the solid men of the city, any one of whom could
have sat for the portrait of Mr. Turveydrop without the slightest
alteration. On taking us into custody, they stated the grounds on
which they arrested us. Our dark complexions and long beards had
aroused suspicions concerning the places of our nativity. Suspicion
was reduced to a certainty when one of them heard me mention my
presence in Missouri on the day of choosing candidates for the
Convention. Our purpose was divined when I asked if there was any
activity at the Navy Yard. We were Rebel emissaries, who designed to
lay their Navy Yard in ashes!

On our release and departure we were followed to our homes, that the
correctness of our representations might be ascertained. This little
occurrence, in the center of New England, where the people claim to
be thoroughly quiet and law-abiding, indicated that the war spirit in
that part of the North was more than momentary.

The West was not behind the Eastern States in the determination
to subdue the Rebellion. Volunteers were gathering at Cairo, and
threatening to occupy points further down the Mississippi. At
St. Louis the struggle was active between the Unionists and the

A collision was a mere question of time, and of short time at the

As I visited _The Herald_ office for final instructions, I found that
the managing editor had determined upon a vigorous campaign. Every
point of interest was to be covered, so that the operations of our
armies would be fully recorded from day to day. The war correspondents
had gone to their posts, or were just taking their departure. One
correspondent was already on the way to Cairo. I was instructed to
watch the military movements in Missouri, and hastened to St. Louis as
fast as steam could bear me.

Detained twelve hours at Niagara, by reason of missing a railway
train, I found that the opening war gave promise of affecting that
locality. The hotel-keepers were gloomy at the prospect of losing
their Southern patronage, and half feared they would be obliged to
close their establishments. There were but few visitors, and even
these were not of the class which scatters its money profusely. The
village around the Falls displayed positive signs of dullness, and
the inhabitants had personal as well as patriotic interest in wishing
there was no war. The Great Cataract was unchanged in its beauty
and grandeur. The flood from the Lakes was not diminished, and the
precipice over which the water plunged was none the less steep. The
opening war had no effect upon this wonder of the New World.

In Chicago, business was prostrated on account of the outbreak of
hostilities. Most of the banks in Illinois had been holding State
bonds as securities for the redemption of their circulation. As these
bonds were nearly all of Southern origin, the beginning of the war
had materially affected their value. The banks found their securities
rapidly becoming insecure, and hence there was a depreciation in the
currency. This was not uniform, but varied from five to sixty per
cent., according to the value of the bonds the respective banks were
holding. Each morning and evening bulletins were issued stating the
value of the notes of the various banking-houses. Such a currency was
very inconvenient to handle, as the payment of any considerable sum
required a calculation to establish the worth of each note.

Many rumors were in circulation concerning the insecurity of a
Northern visitor in St. Louis, but none of the stories were very
alarming. Of one thing all were certain - the star of the Union was
in the ascendant. On arriving in St. Louis I found the city far from
quiet, though there was nothing to lead a stranger to consider his
personal safety in danger. I had ample material for entering at
once upon my professional duties, in chronicling the disordered and
threatening state of affairs.

On the day of my arrival, I met a gentleman I had known in the Rocky
Mountains, six months before. I knew his courage was beyond question,
having seen him in several disturbances incident to the Gold Regions;
but I was not aware which side of the great cause he had espoused.
After our first greetings, I ventured to ask how he stood.

"I am a Union man," was his emphatic response.

"What kind of a Union man are you?"

"I am this kind of a Union man," and he threw open his coat, and
showed me a huge revolver, strapped to his waist.

There were many loyal men in St. Louis, whose sympathies were evinced
in a similar manner. Revolvers were at a premium.

Some of the Secessionists ordered a quantity of revolvers from New
York, to be forwarded by express. To prevent interference by the Union
authorities, they caused the case to be directed to "Colonel Francis
P. Blair, Jr., care of - - ." They thought Colonel Blair's name
would secure the property from seizure. The person in whose care the
revolvers were sent was a noted Secessionist, who dealt extensively in

Colonel Blair learned of the shipment, and met the box at the station.
Fifty revolvers of the finest quality, bought and paid for by the
Secessionists, were distributed among the friends of Colonel Blair,
and were highly prized by the recipients.



Apathy of the Border States. - The Missouri State Convention. - Sterling
Price a Union Man. - Plan to take the State out of the Union. - Capture
of Camp Jackson. - Energy of General Lyon. - Union Men organized. - An
Unfortunate Collision. - The Price-Harney Truce. - The Panic among the
Secessionists. - Their Hegira from St. Louis. - A Visit to the
State Capital. - Under the Rebel Flag. - Searching for Contraband
Articles. - An Introduction to Rebel Dignitaries. - Governor
Jackson. - Sterling Price. - Jeff. Thompson. - Activity at
Cairo. - Kentucky Neutrality. - The Rebels occupy Columbus.

The Border States were not prompt to follow the example of the States
on the Gulf and South Atlantic coast. Missouri and Kentucky were
loyal, if the voice of the majority is to be considered the voice of
the population. Many of the wealthier inhabitants were, at the
outset, as they have always been, in favor of the establishment of
an independent Southern Government. Few of them desired an appeal to
arms, as they well knew the Border States would form the front of the
Confederacy, and thus become the battle-field of the Rebellion. The
greater part of the population of those States was radically opposed
to the secession movement, but became powerless under the noisy,
political leaders who assumed the control. Many of these men, who were
Unionists in the beginning, were drawn into the Rebel ranks on
the plea that it would be treason to refuse to do what their State
Government had decided upon.

The delegates to the Missouri State Convention were elected in
February, 1861, and assembled at St. Louis in the following April.
Sterling Price, afterward a Rebel general, was president of this
Convention, and spoke in favor of keeping the State in the Union. The
Convention thought it injudicious for Missouri to secede, at least at
that time, and therefore she was not taken out. This discomfited the
prime movers of the secession schemes, as they had counted upon the
Convention doing the desired work. In the language of one of their
own number, "they had called a Convention to take the State out of the
Union, and she must be taken out at all hazards." Therefore a new line
of policy was adopted.

The Governor of Missouri was one of the most active and unscrupulous
Secessionists. After the failure of the Convention to unite Missouri
with the Confederacy, Governor Jackson overhauled the militia laws,
and, under their sanction, issued a call for a muster of militia near
St. Louis. This militia assembled at Lindell Grove, in the suburbs
of St. Louis, and a military camp was established, under the name of
"Camp Jackson." Though ostensibly an innocent affair, this camp was
intended to be the nucleus of the army to hoist the Rebel flag in the
State. The officers in command were known Secessionists, and every
thing about the place was indicative of its character.

The Governor of Louisiana sent, from the arsenal at Baton Rouge, a
quantity of guns and munitions of war, to be used by the insurgent
forces in Missouri. These reached St. Louis without hinderance, and
were promptly conveyed to the embryonic Rebel camp. Captain Lyon, in
command of the St. Louis Arsenal, was informed that he must confine
his men to the limits of the United States property, under penalty of
the arrest of all who stepped outside. Governor Jackson several times
visited the grounds overlooking the arsenal, and selected spots
for planting his guns. Every thing was in preparation for active

The Union people were by no means idle. Captain Lyon had foreseen the
danger menacing the public property in the arsenal, and besought the
Government for permission to remove it. Twenty thousand stand of arms
were, in a single night, loaded upon a steamer and sent to Alton,
Illinois. They were conveyed thence by rail to the Illinois State
Arsenal at Springfield. Authority was obtained for the formation of
volunteer regiments, and they were rapidly mustered into the service.

While Camp Jackson was being formed, the Union men of St. Louis were
arming and drilling with such secrecy that the Secessionists were
not generally aware of their movements. Before the close of the day
Captain Lyon received permission for mustering volunteers; he placed
more than six hundred men into the service. Regiments were organized
under the name of "Home Guards," and by the 9th of May there were six
thousand armed Union men in St. Louis, who were sworn to uphold the
national honor.

Colonel Francis P. Blair, Jr., commanded the First Regiment of
Missouri Volunteers, and stood faithfully by Captain Lyon in all
those early and dangerous days. The larger portion of the forces then
available in St. Louis was made up of the German element, which was
always thoroughly loyal. This fact caused the Missouri Secessionists
to feel great indignation toward the Germans. They always declared
they would have seized St. Louis and held possession of the larger
portion of the State, had it not been for the earnest loyalty of "the

In the interior of Missouri the Secessionists were generally in the
ascendant. It was the misfortune of the time that the Unionists were
usually passive, while their enemies were active. In certain counties
where the Unionists were four times the number of the Secessionists,
it was often the case that the latter were the ruling party. The
Union people were quiet and law-abiding; the Secessionists active
and unscrupulous. "Peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must," was the
motto of the enemies of the Republic.

In some localities the Union men asserted themselves, but they did not
generally do so until after the first blows were struck at St. Louis.
When they did come out in earnest, the loyal element in Missouri
became fully apparent.

To assure the friends of the Union, and save Missouri from the
domination of the insurgents, it was necessary for Captain Lyon to
assume the offensive. This was done on the 10th of May, resulting in
the famous capture of "Camp Jackson."

On the night of the 9th, loyal parties in St. Louis supplied a
sufficient number of horses to move the light artillery necessary to
accomplish the desired object. On the morning of the 10th, Captain
Lyon's command moved from various points, so as to surround the Rebel
camp at three o'clock in the afternoon. At that hour General
Frost, the Rebel commander, was surprised at the appearance of an
overpowering force on the hills surrounding his position. A demand for
surrender gave half an hour for deliberation. At the end of that time
General Frost concluded to capitulate. The prisoners, less than a
thousand in number, were marched to the arsenal and safely secured.

This achievement destroyed Camp Jackson, and established the United
States authority in full force over St. Louis. An unfortunate
collision occurred between the soldiers and the crowd outside.
Provoked by insults terminating in an assault with fire-arms, a
portion of the German troops fired upon the multitude. Upward
of thirty persons were killed or wounded in the affair. With the
exception of this unhappy collision, the capture was bloodless.

General Harney arrived at St. Louis soon after this event, and assumed
command in Missouri. The agreement known as "the Price-Harney truce"
was immediately made. Under an assurance from Governor Jackson that
the State troops should be disbanded, General Harney promised that no
hostilities should be undertaken, and attempted to cause the dispersal
of the Union volunteers. The status of the latter had been so fixed
that General Harney was not empowered to disarm them, and he so
informed, the State authorities. His message announcing this read
nearly as follows: -

"I have ascertained that I have no control over the Home Guards.
"W. S. HARNEY, _Brig.-Gen_."

This message was received at the Police Head-Quarters in St. Louis, on
the morning of Sunday, May 15th. It was misunderstood by the parties
who read it. They inferred, from the tenor of the dispatch, that
General Harney was unable to restrain the Union volunteers.

The most frightful stories had been circulated concerning the
blood-thirsty character of these soldiers, particularly the German
portion. Visions of murder, pillage, house-burning, and all the
accompanying outrages committed by an unrestrained army, flitted
through the minds of the Secessionists. The story spread, and gained
intensity with each repetition. "The Dutch are rising; we shall all
be slain in cold blood!" was the cry, echoed from house to house. Not
less than five thousand people fled from the city on that day, and as
many more within the succeeding twenty-four hours. Carriages,
wagons, drays, every thing that could transport persons or valuables,
commanded exorbitant prices. Steamboats were chartered as ferries to
the Illinois shore or to go to points of safety, either up or down the
river. Many persons abandoned their houses, taking with them only a
few articles of value or necessity, while others carried away nothing,
in their haste to escape.

In a few days the excitement subsided and nearly all the refugees
returned, but there are some who have never been in St. Louis since
their remarkable hegira. In their determination to obtain their
"rights," they entered the Rebel army and followed its checkered
fortunes. Less than half of these persons are now alive.

For a time after the appearance of General Harney's proclamation,
there were no hostile demonstrations on either side. Governor Jackson
had promised to disband the small force of militia at Jefferson City,
but he failed to do so. The Rebel flag was flying in Jefferson
City, from a staff in front of the Governor's mansion, and over the
head-quarters of the Missouri State Guard. Missouri, through her State
officers, was in favor of an armed neutrality, which really meant
nothing less than armed secession.

The Secessionists were quietly but earnestly at work to effect their
object. They did not heed their promise to remain inactive. The Union
authorities observed theirs to the letter. The Camp Jackson prisoners
were paroled and restored to liberty. A portion of them observed the
parole, but many did not. General Frost remained on his farm and
took no part in the Rebellion until relieved from his parole, several
months later. It is proper to add, that he was of very little account
to the Rebels when he finally entered the field.

While watching the progress of affairs in St. Louis, I determined upon
a visit to Jefferson City. Though the Rebel flag was flying over the
State Capitol, and the nucleus of the Missouri State Guard (Rebel) had
its camp in the suburbs, the communication by railroad had not been
interrupted. Taking the morning train from St. Louis, on the 27th
of May, I found myself, at three o'clock of the afternoon, under the
secession banner. The searching of the train for articles contraband
of war was then a new feature.

In the early days only the outside of a package was examined. If the
"marks" indicated nothing suspicious, the goods were allowed to pass.
Under this regulation, a large number of boxes marked "soap" were
shipped on a steamboat for Lexington. So much soap going into Missouri
was decidedly suspicious, as the people of the interior do not make
extensive use of the article. An examination disclosed canisters of
powder instead of bars of soap. The discovery was followed by the
promulgation of an order requiring a rigid examination of all
packages that might be of doubtful character. This order, with various
modifications, was kept in force for a long time.

In starting from St. Louis, I left a company of Union volunteers at
the railway station. At Jefferson City I found the depot filled with
the Rebel soldiers, or "neutrals," as Governor Jackson persisted in
calling them. The particular duty they were performing I was unable
to ascertain, but they bore unmistakable signs of being something more
than a "neutral" body of men. Their camp was just in rear of the city.
The Rebel flag, which floated above the camp, was recognized as the
emblem of their neutrality.

The proprietor of the hotel where I stopped held the reputation of
an earnest friend of the Union, ready to Suffer any thing rather than
sink his principles. He introduced me to several citizens, most
of them, like himself, thoroughly loyal. We discussed freely the
condition of affairs in Missouri.

It was evident the State authorities intended war, as soon as the
necessary preparations could be made. They were not quite ready to
strike their first blow, but when they should be prepared, they would
not hesitate a moment. Governor Jackson was exerting himself to the
utmost to accumulate arms and military stores at various points in
the State, where they would be of most value. In defiance of the
truce between Generals Price and Harney, companies were being formed
throughout the State, and were drilling for service in the field. Time
was of great importance to the Rebels, and this they had secured by
means of the truce.

During my stay at Jefferson City, I met the three, men most prominent
in bringing war upon Missouri. These were Governor Jackson, General
Sterling Price, and Jeff. Thompson. Governor Jackson was elected in
the previous December, before it was thought any serious trouble would
grow out of Mr. Lincoln's election. He was not looked upon as a man
of great ability, but no one doubted his desire to promote the best
interests of the State. Those who knew him said his strength lay more
in a public than in a private direction. He had few, if any, personal
friends, and was considered dangerous when his passions were roused.
Some said he was cold and treacherous, giving all around him a feeling
of aversion. Even among the Secessionists, and those who should have
been his ardent supporters, he was never mentioned with enthusiasm.

Within two weeks from the day I saw him, Governor Jackson, by his own
act, was a fugitive from the State capital. He never returned. After
wandering in Arkansas and Louisiana, during the early part of the war,
he died at Little Rock, in 1863, in a condition of extreme poverty.

Of General Price, I heard many praises, even from those who opposed
his course. He was said to be a man of warm friendship, of fair
abilities, and quite popular among the masses of the inhabitants. He
possessed much personal pride, and his ambition for public honor was
very great. At the outset he deprecated secession, and prophesied a
devastating war as the result. He was inclined to be loyal, but his
ambition was greater than his patriotism. The offer of a high position
in the Rebel service touched his weakest point, and carried him with
the insurgents.

In the Rebel service he never obtained much distinction. His principal
successes were in saving his army after defeat. He displayed a
capacity for annoying the Union armies without doing great damage.
Though his oft-repeated promise of victory was never fulfilled, it
served to keep many Missourians in the Rebel ranks. He was constantly
expected to capture St. Louis. Some of the Rebel residents fully
believed he would do so, and kept their wine-cellars ready for the
event. Until the official announcement of the surrender of all forces
west of the Mississippi, they did not abandon hope. General Price had
given his promise, and, as they argued, was sure to keep it.

Of Jeff. Thompson little can be said. Previous to that time he had
been known as the mayor of St. Joseph, and a politician of some little
importance in Northwest Missouri. He was famous for much gasconading,
and a fondness for whisky and other material things. I could never
learn that he commanded much respect. During the war the Rebels
never trusted him with any command of importance. He made a very fair
guerrilla, and, in 1861, gave our forces at Cairo and Bird's Point
considerable annoyance. History is not likely to give him a very
prominent place in the roll of distinguished military heroes.

At this time Cairo was the most southerly point on the Mississippi in
possession of the National forces. We could have occupied Columbus
or Hickman, Kentucky, had not the sacredness of the soil prevented.
Kentucky was neutral, and declared that neither party must set foot
within her limits. Her declaration of neutrality was much like that
issued by the Governor of Missouri. The United States forces were

Online LibraryThomas W. KnoxCamp-Fire and Cotton-Field Southern Adventure in Time of War. Life with the Union Armies, and Residence on a Louisiana Plantation → online text (page 2 of 32)