People of the Civil War

Union Soldiers and the Draft

One of the most interesting facts about the American Civil War, and there are many, was the composition of the troops involved on both sides. Who were the soldiers? Who were the volunteers? Why did they join the fight? Who were some of the famous immigrants from the Civil War? There were large divisions in the country and sides were being taken. Often times families themselves were split in their loyalties.

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Civil War Sword Bayonet

In the book, The Civil War: Strange & Fascinating Facts, author Burke Davis states that the White House itself was an example of the divisions in the country. President Abraham Lincoln’s brothers-in-law wore Confederate uniforms. One was even charged with brutality to Union prisoners in Richmond Virginia.

The Union instituted a draft. The Enrollment Act, passed by the Thirty-seventh Congress in response to the need to increase the ranks of the Union army, made all  males between the ages of twenty and forty-five subject to the draft. There were exceptions of course. If you were the only son of a widow, physically impaired or mentally ill, you could avoid the draft. The biggest issue in this bill, different from drafts during the twentieth century, was the allowing of draftees to pay $300 to a substitute who served for them. It’s been written that some of the wealthier draftees paid up to $1,100 for a substitute which in that day was an enormous sum. Three familiar names who all qualified for the draft but never served were the former president, Grover Cleveland, the Cleveland merchant John D. Rockefeller and the New York lawyer George Templeton Strong.

Immigrants in the Civil War

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Union Gunboat USS Cairo on Mississippi River, 1862

Civil War statistics  show the people born outside the United States played a larger role in the war than many may realize. The vast majority of the immigrants resided in the north. The figures were about 4 million in the north compared to about 230,000 in the south. To give you an idea of the number of Civil War immigrants  in the Civil War, regiments serving the north during the war, a partial list of the regiments were as follows…

In regards to Germans, they comprised ten regiments from New York, six in Ohio, six in Missouri, five from Pennsylvania, four from Wisconsin and three in Illinois. There were more spread around the country.

The Irish had two pure regiments from Massachusetts, three others in New England and four from New York. There were also two in Pennsylvania and Indiana. In regards to immigrant participation, among the famous people of the Civil War were Colonel Franz Spigel shown in the photo below.

The south had Civil War immigrants dressed in gray as well. The south had five Generals who were born in Ireland. The south had companies composed of Germans, Poles, Frenchmen, Mexican and Spaniards. Foreign nationals served in the Confederate Army as well. A claim was made by one Canadian that some 40,000 of his countrymen fought for the south although that figure might have been largely exaggerated. One Louisiana regiment reportedly was comprised of fighters of thirty-seven nationalities.

The German Immigrants of Missouri

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Claiborne Fox Jackson, 15th Governor of Missouri

It’s very interesting to explore many of the regiments put together on the Union side. Missouri is an interesting example look at. The Missouri example highlights just how important immigrants were for the Union cause. According to the Missouri Civil War Museum, the governor of Missouri did not wish to answer Lincoln’s call for troops. In fact, Missouri Gov. Jackson preferred the State to join the Confederacy but he didn’t have the votes to back it up. What he did do however was appoint a southern sympathizer as head of the Missouri Militia.

As history notes, Missouri was the site of some of the worse atrocities to occur during the war. These included raids by the likes of Jesse James and Quantrills Raiders. Missouri had many of it’s citizens join up on both sides of the conflict. The state sympathies were heavily divided and this fact explains why some of the most violent encounters took place there.

The German community in St. Louis understood the political situation. They knew what Governor Jackson’s feelings were and watched the situation carefully. The Germans were pro Union. Eventually, German immigrants formed their own militia regiments and drilled them in secret. What they were waiting for was word from Washington to act and of course arms. They were ready, willing and able to act against the state if Jackson went ahead with plans to secede. President Lincoln through a St. Louis Congressman knew quite well what the situation was. As a result, Lincoln did give the okay for the German armed militias and sent an army captain named Nathaniel Lyons from Kansas to St. Louis.

The Breaking Point in Missouri

immigrants of the civil war

German immigrant Colonel Franz Sigel, 3rd Missouri Infantry

The tipping point with the Missouri situation occurred in May of 1861. This is when the Missouri Volunteer State Militia gathered at Camp Jackson, just north of St. Louis at the behest of Governor Jackson. Here Gov. Jackson’s forces received arms and ammunition from the Confederate Government. Many of these war supplies were stolen from the Federal Arsenal at Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Lyons rallied his forces composed of ten regiments of primarily German American, an artillery battery and two companies of U.S. Infantry (regular Army). This massive force, approximately 10,000 men was set in motion to capture the 700 man Missouri State forces at Camp Jackson situated on ground now occupied by St. Louis University. The Union forces were able to stop the secession movement in Missouri. The U.S. Infantry and the German regiments were instrumental in keeping the Unions western gateway open. Civil War immigrants, particularly German immigrants, were the key to saving Missouri from secession.

Three additional photo articles we’ve published that you’ll find interesting are The Confederate Navy and the Civil War Submarines. On our Western Trips site see the Civil War Infantry photo article.

Planned Missouri Civil War Museum

There were many interesting and diverse groups of people of the Civil War. There are also many venues to explore on the subject. Below are two sites in Missouri which will make excellent additions to your Missouri road trip planner.

The Missouri Civil War Museum is located within the Jefferson Barracks Historic Site in St. Louis, Missouri. The museum facility is located at the west side of the Jefferson Barrack’s historic grass parade grounds. This site is recognized as the oldest active military installation west of the Mississippi River. This museum is focused on Missouri during the Civil War. It is the fourth largest Civil War Museum in the nation and one of the largest Civil War research libraries in the nation. The museum’s stated purpose is to educate the public of the true aspects and history of the American Civil War and its relevance to the state of Missouri. At this museum,  Missouri’s unique Civil War story is brought to light with artifacts and exhibits. As of this writing, the museum is still being worked on.

The museum hopes to open in late 2012 .For the latest information on the museum’s opening you may want to refer to the museum website.

www.mcwm.org

Another must stop for Civil War buffs is the Carthage Civil War Museum in Carthage Missouri. The Carthage museum showcases artifacts and information about the Battle of Carthage and the Civil War in southwest Missouri. Also on display is information  on one of Carthage’s famous residents, “Belle Starr“. Carthage is about 272 miles southwest of St. Louis in the southwestern corner of the state near Joplin.

Two good books to explore the subject further are The Civil War: Strange & Fascinating Facts by author Burke Davis and Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border by Donald L. Gilmore.

(Photo of Civil War Sword from author’s collection. Remaining photos from the public domain)

 

 

Confederate Navy

 

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Confederate States Navy Jack

The American Civil War battles were waged all over the south, in the far west in the present state of Arizona and in the north at Gettysburg. One of the somewhat under publicized actions undertaken by the Confederate Navy were hostile events in the Atlantic as far north as Nova Scotia. Not only did significant action occur in the North Atlantic but damage to Union shipping was widespread. The navy in the Civil War was very active in the North Atlantic.

The CSS Tallahassee

This story’s focus is on the Confederate Navy’s ironclad coal powered steamer CSS Tallahassee and the nineteen days of raids during 1864. The Confederates named the ship after the Florida state capital. Interestingly enough, the CSS Tallahassee was able to obtain coal at Halifax. Neutrality laws applied to Nova Scotia but part of those laws required that a Civil War ship could only remain there 24 hours.The Tallahassee was originally named the Atalanta and had bee built on the Thames River in England. She was a fast vessel and very stable. With her twin screws, the Talllahassee was said to be able to cross the English Channel in 77 minutes. After the ship successfully ran the Union blockade in Wilmington several times, the Confederacy purchase her in 1864.

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Drawing of the CSS Tallahassee

The CSS Tallahassee was successful in running the Union blockade at Wilmington North Carolina on August 6th and steamed northward. The Confederate steamer was described as about one thousand tons, painted a light lead color, no bowsprit, with two smoke-stacks and a red bottom. The Commander of the CSS Tallahassee was John Taylor Wood. Wood was a relative of Jefferson Davis and a grandson of President Zachary Taylor.

The CSS Tallahassee at War

After running the Union blockade on August 6th 1864, the CSS Tallahassee under the command John Taylor Wood went on a nineteen day spree of raids along the North Atlantic seaboard. The Tallahassee was responsible for the destruction of twenty-six ships. This Confederate Navy vessel had great success finding ways to steam through the blockades.

These raids on shipping were not lost on the Union Navy. In fact, the CSS Tallahassee had two Union gunboats on her tail as she sailed northward toward Halifax Nova Scotia. When the Tallahassee entered Halifax Harbor, Wood believed that the Union war ships anchored in the sea lane just outside the port. Commander Wood was well aware that he could be in a tight situation. While in port, the Confederate vessel loaded enough coal to make it to the nearest Confederate port and did repair work to her mast. The Tallahassee skipper met with luck. After spending some thirty-six hours at Halifax because of the mast repair, Commander Wood hired at local harbor pilot to guide him past the waiting federal vessels. This, the pilot did by using another more shallow channel generally used by fishing boats. The CSS Tallahassee reached the open sea and made her way back to Wilmington North Carolina.

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CSS Shenandoah

As it turned out, there were no federal war ships waiting to intercept the Tallahassee. The first federal vessel that did arrive on the scene at the harbor entrance was the USS Pontoosuc which got there a few hours after the Tallahassee departed.

The Ship that Wouldn’t be Caught

Not only did the CSS Talahassee have a successful raiding run in the northeast in August of 1864 and then return safely to Wilmington from Halifax, but this well commanded Confederate Navy vessel continued to be very active in the Confederate war effort. The vessel took on a new name, the Olustee, and was put in command of Lt. W.H. Wood.

Again, the Olustee was successful in running the Union blockades. During the last part of October 1864 she ran a blockade and destroyed six ships off Cape Delaware. This time she did suffered damage while exchanging gunfire with federal war ships, nevertheless the Olustee did make it safely back to Wilmington.

Three additional Trips Into History articles and photos you’ll be interested in are the Jeremiah O’Brien Liberty Ship in San Francisco,…Piracy on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. and a Visit to the World War Two Submarine USS Pampanito.

A New Name and the Final Confederate Voyage

For a third time, the vessel received a new name by it’s Confederate owners. When the Olustee arrived back at Wilmington after the Cape Delaware action, the Confederacy changed her name to the Chameleon and removed her battery. Her new commander was Lt. J. Wilkinson. In late December 1846, the new Chameleon steamed toward Bermuda. Her mission was to obtain badly needed supplies and return to Wilmington.

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CSS Alabama

The problem was that when the Chameleon tried to enter Wilmington or any other southern port she found it impossible. Commander Wilkinson decided to steam in the other direction and took the ship all the way across the Atlantic to Liverpool England.

The Chameleon arrived in Liverpool on April 9th 1864. The American Civil War was essentially over. The British seized the Chameleon and sold her to the merchant shipping fleet. Interestingly enough, the United States Government filed suit to have the vessel returned. After about one year, the Chameleon (aka Tallahassee and Olustee) was returned to the American consul in Liverpool and the U.S. government took ownership of the ship.

The CSS Tallahassee and History

There are several things that make the story of the CSS Tallahassee a significant American Civil War event. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the danger to Union shipping in the Atlantic off New England by the Confederate Navy has not been an overly publicized element of Civil War history. This alone is significant. The fact that the then named CSS Tallahassee was able to raid for nineteen days and while being chased by federal war ships was able to find shelter in Halifax Harbor is another fascinating story. Add to this the fact she escaped from Halifax and safely steamed back to Wilmington is another unbelievable twist. In addition to all of the above, this same vessel under other names and other commands was able to continue running blockades and sink more Union vessels later the very same year.

The only real end to the story of the CSS Tallahassee was when she sailed to England in April of 1865 and effectively surrendered to the British government. In many ways, this vessel ended her wartime service to the Confederacy under her own terms, not by fire from a Union war ship.

Two good books on the subject of the Civil War navies are Blue and Gray Navies:The Civil War Afloat, by author Spencer Tucker and the book The Civil War at Sea, by author Craig Symonds.

(Photos are from the public domain)

 

 

 

Belle Starr

 

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Belle Starr with pistol in 1880's

Carthage Missouri was a violent place during the American Civil War. Carthage is a locale today where interested people and history buffs can learn about Belle Starr, “The Bandit Queen“, her family and the circumstances of how a young lady from an upstanding and influential family could turn into one of the most notorious females of the frontier west. The Carthage Civil War Museum located at 205 South Grant Street offers a lot of history as to just how violent the Civil War was not only in that town but pretty much all over Missouri. Also, make a note to visit the Powers Museum at 1617 Oak Street in Carthage. The Powers Museum presents rotating exhibits on local and Missouri history..   You can even see a wax figure of Belle Starr on her horse at the Historical Wax West Museum in Colorado Springs Colorado.

In many ways Belle Starr was a product of the American Civil War. Amazingly, her story is about a young woman, who after being born and raised in a prosperous and influential family, turned into probably the most infamous female outlaw of the latter 1800’s. A young lady who received a private school education and learned to play the piano quite well would spend her later days in the company of murderers, horse thieves and cattle rustlers. How and why this all came about is an interesting story.

The Civil War in Missouri was extremely violent. Missouri had a mixture of both Union and Confederate supporters and partisan violence was widespread. This was the time of Quantrill’s Raiders, a band of pro Southern guerrilla fighters who killed many and destroyed more than one town. William Quantrill‘s raiding and pillaging became so bad and so bloody that the Confederacy publicly disavowed the group. Quantrill of course continued on until finally he was killed by Union troops. It was in this atmosphere that Belle Starr, real name Myra Maebelle Shirley, came of age.

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Image of Battle of Carthage Missouri, 1861

The Shirley family originally came to Missouri from Virginia. The family like many in Missouri were southern sympathizers. In fact, the very young Myra Maebelle was suspected as being a Confederate spy/messenger. She was smart enough not to be caught carrying messages so there were never any charges. Most Belle Starr historians point to the time when Starr’s younger brother Bud was killed in the war, as a Confederate,  as the time of her transition. The story is that Belle and her father went to retrieve the body and an enraged Belle grabbed her brothers gun and tried to shoot the Union soldiers present. Fortunately, the gun caps had been removed and nothing occurred however it was an omen of things to come.

The Shirley family decided to resettle in Texas and did so just to the east of Dallas. Belle’s father set up a farm and cattle operation. His farm was also well known as a safe haven for southern sympathizers. It was while living with her family in Texas that a second, even larger transitional event, occurred. The excellent book, High Spirited Women of the West, by author Anne Seagraves, gives a good description of what transpired. It seems that the Shirley farm was visited by none other than Cole Younger and his gang. During the visit, both Belle and Younger became close and, to the chagrin of her father, Belle rode off with Younger. Never again would Belle’s life be the same.

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Gallows at Fort Smith Arkansas

Eventually, Belle Starr would have a daughter by Younger who later ended up in the Minnesota penitentiary as a result of the botched Northfield Minnesota bank robbery attempt with his friend Jesse James. The relationship was over but there would be several times after his release from prison that Younger would pay a visit to Belle.

As a side note, Belle Starr was not the only female to enter a life of crime because of infatuation, love or whatever it may have been. You may be interested in reading another short article we’ve published about Pearl Hart, the female outlaw stagecoach robber.

Our article about Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok is also a very interesting story.

The person we know as Belle Starr would marry several times in her life. Throughout, she kept the surname of Starr even though she married several times and had even more affairs. Unfortunately, the spouses she chose wouldn’t be all that different than the likes of Cole Younger. All of their job descriptions could be summed up as stagecoach robbing, horse stealing, bank robbery, cattle rustling, gun play and general theft. These were the people Belle would chose to surround herself with and sometimes marry. The former private school student and piano player would go ahead and buy pearl handled revolvers.

Belle would go on to have another child, a son. Due to Belle Starr’s hectic life, unfortunately, or possibly fortunately for the children, there would be several times that the children would be taken care of by their loving grandparents, the Shirleys down in Texas.

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"The Hanging Judge", Issac Parker

There was one period that Belle Starr and her current husband Sam Starr were arrested for horse stealing. This was 1883 and both were tried by Judge Issac Parker, the “Hanging Judge” at Fort Smith Arkansas. Both were convicted and given nine month sentences which were fairly light in relation to the crime and the judge who tried the case. Belle was released early and Sam served his full sentence. When Sam was released, he returned to their ranch at Younger’s Bend. Youngers Bend of course was named as such by Belle who still felt close to Cole Younger. The couple stayed out of trouble for a while but the lure of horse theft lured them back into the world of crime.

Some interesting facts about Belle Starr and her offspring. The only time she went to prison was for the 1883 horse theft conviction. her son Ed who had grown up being sent back and forth to live with Belle, relatives and family friends grew up to be a deputy marshal married to a Cherokee schoolteacher. In 1886 he was shot to death during a quarrel with a saloon keeper. Belle’s daughter, Pearl, had a daughter Flossie who she put up for adoption. She later turned to prostitution and ended up as a madame with a house she ran for twenty-three years. She was known as Pearl Starr.

Belle Starr herself was killed on February 3, 1889 at 41 years of age near Eufaula Oklahoma. The exact circumstances were never uncovered, in fact some even suspected her son Ed, however lawmen had a fairly good guess as to what happened. Pearl’s husband at the time, Jim July Starr, was convinced by Belle to turn himself in at Fort Smith for the charge against him of larceny. She convinced Starr that the charges were so weak that an acquittal was eminent. Belle Starr was to accompany him halfway to the Fort and Jim would continue on alone. As Belle turned around to head back to Youngers Bend, a neighbor heard a loud shot gun blast. Belle Starr was later found dead by a shotgun blast to her back. Whoever the murderer was then shot Belle twice more with her own pistol. While just about everyone suspected, Edgar Watson, a neighbor of Belle and the man who claimed he heard the blast. The relationship between Belle and Watson was never good and he was eventually tried but was acquitted. The question of who killed Belle Starr has never been conclusively answered.

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Cole Younger as a young man

Jim July Starr, who Belle had been escorting halfway to Fort Smith Arkansas in 1883, was himself killed in 1890 by a young deputy who the story says was convinced that Jim July had murdered Belle Starr and was avenging her death. Probably one of the strangest of all tales coming out of the Belle Starr story concerns the outlaw and ex-convict Cole Younger. Younger was released from his latest incarceration in 1901 and became, of all things, a tombstone salesman. He somehow received a full pardon at which time he put together the Cole Younger-Frank James Wild West Show. Frank James of course being the older brother of murdered Jesse James. Apparently the world wide success that Buffalo Bill Cody attained with his Wild West influenced people from all walks of life.

Belle Starr’s life story, as was the case with the James and Younger families just to name a few, was influenced more than anything by the Civil War and the violence, bloodshed and partisan animosity resulting from it. This animosity lasted for years. The crime sprees of the James, Youngers and Starrs lasted for years after the Civil War. Many people contend that these crime sprees were in fact a continuation of that war, just more on a personal level.