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The Regulars in St. Louis, 1861


by Bill Baehr

There were two major military installations in the St. Louis area in 1861. The most famous is Jefferson Barracks, south of the city. By 1840 it had become the largest military post in the United States. Its commander was Brigadier General William Harney, and it boasted a small permanent party of quartermasters, training cadre, doctors, and cooks. It served as a recruit depot, military hospital, and supply point. There were several companies of recruits from the 2nd U.S. Infantry, 10th U.S. Infantry and the 4th U.S. Artillery at Jefferson Barracks in the spring of 1861. A recruit company is a temporary company created to receive recruits to regiments at a central depot for initial training prior to the soldiers being dispatched to the line companies at the front (in this case, points farther west for actions against the Indians). The two infantry recruit companies were listed as “General Service Recruits” while the two artillery recruit companies were listed as “Artillery Recruits.” 1st Lieutenant Rufus Saxton, 2nd Lieutenant Warren L. Lothrop commanded the 4th&nbsp Artillery’s two recruit companies. Captain Thomas W. Sweeny commanded the 2nd Infantry’s recruit company. Captain Albert Tracy commanded a recruit company from the 10th Infantry.

The second military installation was the Arsenal, in south St. Louis. It was the fourth largest collection of military arms in the United States, and the largest collection of weapons in a slave state. It housed more than thirty-eight thousand rifles and muskets. Captain Callender was the Ordnance Officer in charge of the Arsenal in 1861. It would have had a tiny cadre of Ordnance personnel to supervise the manufacture of ammunition at the Arsenal by women, and to disburse and collect arms as required by units in its area of responsibility. The principal officers there were Captain Franklin Callender, and 2nd Lieutenant Moses Wright. By the time of the Camp Jackson affair, Saxton’s, Lothrop’s, and Sweeny’s companies had been transferred to the Arsenal from Jefferson Barracks.

In January 1861, Company B, 2nd U.S. Infantry, Captain Nathaniel Lyon, commanding, was transferred from the western Missouri border to the St. Louis Arsenal. At the beginning of July, 1861, the company rolls recorded sixty-one enlisted men. The number was probably similar early in the spring.

In early February 1861, Company F, 2nd U.S. Artillery, Captain Totten, commanding, was forced to quit its post at Little Rock, Arkansas when five thousand secessionists led by Governor Rector surrounded the Arsenal there. The Company removed to Jefferson Barracks, and was made a Light Battery, consisting of six guns (probably Model 1861 6-pounders and 12-pounder howitzers, or 12-pounder Napoleon gun-howitzers). By July, the company rolls held sixty enlisted men and one officer. This is four less than when they were forced to leave Arkansas, though it must be assumed that several of the men who left with the Company were Arsenal staff.

At Camp Jackson, Company B, 2nd U.S. Infantry, and Company F, 2nd U.S. Artillery acting as Infantry, served as a small battalion under the command of Captain Thomas W. Sweeny. Company B was led by 1st Sergeant William Griffin in the absence of an officer. They marched North from the Arsenal with the 1st Volunteer Regiment, turned West on Chouteau, looped around south of Camp Jackson, and approached from the Southwest, turning East on Olive.

Captain Saxton and Lieutenant Lothrop were also present at Camp Jackson. Whether they took their companies is uncertain, but the reported number of Regulars was 250, which would support the hypothesis that recruits were bolstering the ranks of the two established companies. Prior to Camp Jackson the reported strength of the two Regular companies was just over 60 men per company. Some Regular soldiers were left behind at the Arsenal with those companies of the 5th Volunteer Regiment which had finished forming, as well as two battalions of the Reserve Corps to provide a guard.

After the “incident” in the streets of St. Louis, the six Regular Army companies and were ordered into the city to keep the peace. Due to their countrymen’s part in the “St. Louis Massacre”, many German volunteers were the target of violence from Southern sympathizers, but the Southern sympathizers still respected the Regular Army soldiers. With the presence of the Regulars, violence died down.

On June 17, 1861, four Regular companies participated in the Battle of Boonville, Missouri. Company B, 2nd U.S. Infantry, Totten’s Battery, Sweeny’s Company of General Service Recruits (with someone else in charge), and Lothrop’s Company of Artillery Recruits (acting as Infantry), all played important roles in the battle. Company B and a section of Totten’s Battery held the left flank of the Union line at the battle. It is mentioned that Lothrop commanded both companies of recruits at Boonville, since Sweeny had since been promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers.

Tracy’s Company of General Service Recruits was sent to southeast Missouri to help secure that area at the same time. No mention is made of Saxton’s company in the reports, but they might have been joined with Lothrop’s company, since they were from the same regiment.

In July, Company E, 2nd U.S. Infantry joined Company B from Ft. Kearny, and the two Companies of Recruits to form a small battalion. Captain Steele, formerly commanding Company E, commanded the whole. Besides Captain Steele, the remainder of the battalion officers consisted solely of Lt. Lothrop, commanding his Company of Artillery Recruits (serving as Infantry). Companies B and E of the 2nd U.S. Infantry were both commanded by their respective 1st Sergeants.

Around this time, the battalion was joined by a Company of Mounted Rifle recruits (serving as Infantry) commanded by Lance-Sergeant Morine. [A lance-sergeant is a recruit who has been awarded the rank based on perceived ability or good conduct while a recruit and has no bearing with regards to pay or promotion upon arrival at the gaining unit.] The whole battalion numbered between two and three hundred men.

They fought a small battle at Dug Spring, Missouri on the 2nd of August. Company E and Morine’s Company deployed as skirmishers, supported by the other two companies and Totten’s Battery. They discovered a large number of Confederate cavalry, but were ordered to hold their ground unless attacked. At 5 p.m., they were attacked by 400 Confederate cavalry, half mounted and half dismounted. The skirmishers were forced back to the reserve, and the united battalion routed the enemy cavalry. About 800 Confederate cavalry attacked Totten’s Battery, but were driven back with artillery fire. A company of U.S. Regular cavalry arrived to help and countercharged. The Confederate loss was twenty killed, fifty wounded. The Union loss was four killed, seven wounded. Steele’s Battalion’s loss was one man wounded in the hand.

At the Battle of Wilson’s Creek on the 10th of August, Captain Steele’s Battalion was brigaded with the 1st Missouri Volunteers (the future 1st Missouri Light Artillery), and Lieutenant DuBois’s Battery. Lt. Col. Andrews of the 1st Missouri commanded the whole, known as the 2nd Brigade, Army of the West. Steele’s Battalion numbered about three hundred men at this point. At Wilson’s Creek Steele’s Battalion suffered fifteen killed, forty-four wounded, and two missing. Sergeant Morine was mortally wounded at the battle and died on the field.

[Author’s Note: Lt. DuBois’s Battery was a company of the Regiment of Mounted Rifles (3rd U.S. Cavalry), equipped as light artillery. Just to recap, the Lothrop’s company of artillery recruits was acting as infantry and DuBois’s cavalry company was acting as artillery. To make things even more confused, in the 1st Brigade, Captain Wood commanded a company of the 2nd Kansas Volunteer Infantry acting as cavalry.]

Other Regular units participated in Wilson’s Creek, having arrived from points west. Companies B, C, and D, as well as a company of rifle recruits, all from the 1st U.S. Infantry and Company D of the 1st U.S. Cavalry (later 4th U.S. Cavalry) were assigned to the Army of the West’s 1st Brigade. Company C of the 2nd U.S. Dragoons (later 2nd U.S. Cavalry) and Company I of the 1st U.S. Cavalry (later 4th U.S. Cavalry) were assigned to Sigel’s column.

[Author’s Note: The numbering of Regular Army Cavalry Regiments until September 1861 is as follows with their renumbering in parenthesis: 1st Dragoons (1st Cavalry), 2nd Dragoons (2nd Cavalry), Regiment of Mounted Rifles (3rd Cavalry), 1st Cavalry (4th Cavalry), 2nd Cavalry (5th Cavalry).]

So how were these men dressed? The regular Infantry Companies, to wit, Companies B, C and D of the 1st U.S. Infantry, and Companies B and E of the 2nd U.S. Infantry would have been issued frock coats with shoulder scales (sashes for the Officers and 1st Sergeants), dark blue trousers, and Hardee hats. They also would’ve had forage caps and unlined sack coats (fatigue blouses). For the capture of Camp Jackson, Company B, 2nd U.S. Infantry would almost certainly have been wearing full dress uniform. This is based on the following quote from the Regimental History of the 3rd U.S. Infantry. In 1861, the Regiment was evacuating Texas following the capitulation of General Twiggs. The 3rd was ordered to bypass San Antonio.

However, the old regiment was not in the habit of sneaking around by the by-ways when the main road was open, and Major Shepherd called a council of the officers; the matter was laid before them, and without a dissenting voice it was determined that the trunks and boxes should be opened and full dress uniform gotten out and put on, band instruments unpacked, and the regimental flags removed from their cases; and that we should march through San Antonio with everything that we possessed flying, blowing and beating; so that for awhile everything was in confusion, and the leeward side of every wagon in the train became an extemporized dressing-room. Thus they entered and passed through the town with “colors flying, band playing, and every man and officer as fine as brass and bullion could make him.”If a regiment could stop and get all dressed up while on a long distance march, then a company in garrison could almost certainly get dressed up to go into action where there were bound to be lots of spectators. Whether the infantry bothered to put on their full dress uniforms for battle at Boonville, Dug Spring, and Wilson’s Creek is less certain. Due to the nature of the battles of Boonville and Dug Spring (chiefly the time frame between knowledge of enemy location and the commencement of action) the infantry was probably in marching order (sack coats and forage caps), whereas Wilson’s Creek (with a long lead time between preparation and action) was probably in a dressier uniform.

Captain Totten’s Battery had undergone a change from a dismounted artillery company, to a light artillery battery. The standard uniform for artillery in 1861 was the same as for infantry (frocks trimmed in red instead of blue, dark blue trousers, and Hardee hats). The light artillery uniform was different, though. Light artillerymen wore red trimmed shell jackets with shoulder scales, sky blue trousers, shakos, and carried artillery sabers. Due to the relatively long time between the evacuation of Little Rock and the capture of Camp Jackson, Totten’s Battery would most likely have been sporting their new light artillery uniforms, but some of the older standard artillery uniforms might still have been worn. Sack coats and forage caps were also issued to men of both standard and light artillery companies, and they would have been worn on the march. Like the infantry, sacks and forage caps might have been found at Boonville and Dug Spring, but probably not at Wilson’s Creek.

The companies of recruits would have been issued recruit coats (lined sack coats) and forage caps. These would be worn while at the depot and while in transit to their regiments. Upon arrival at their regiments, the recruits would be issued their full clothing allowance of the proper type (frocks or shells plus hats, etc.). The recruits would probably have been issued dark blue trousers, though Lothrop’s and Saxton’s artillery recruits might have been issued the sky blue trousers because they were artillery. Lieutenants Lothrop and Saxton and the artillery NCOs detached from regular duty to train the company would have been wearing the uniforms of their line companies. So in that company the recruits and lance-NCOs would be wearing sack coats and forage caps, while the training NCOs would be in red trimmed frocks and Hardee hats. Since there didn’t seem to be any officers or training NCOs in Morine’s Mounted Rifle Recruits, no one wore the green trimmed shell jackets and Hardee hats of the Regiment of Mounted Rifles, and everyone, recruits and lance-NCOs alike wore sack coats and forage caps.

To review, in St. Louis in the spring of 1861, six officers led six companies of Regular Army soldiers from two branches at two posts. They wore four different uniforms, and members of every branch fought as infantry. Two of the six were line companies, while the other four were recruit companies. Some were seasoned, most were not.

If you’d like to know more, you can search the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion at http://ehistory.osu.edu/osu/sources/records/ or read about the Camp Jackson Affair at http://www.mcwm.org/history_camp_jackson.html. You can read the unit histories of the Regiments of the Regular Army at http://www.history.army.mil/books/R&H/R&H-FM.htm. The Revised Regulations for the Army of the United States, 1861, contains information about the specific piece of uniforms and equipment issued to soldiers of the various regiments, and the trim and accoutrements appropriate to each branch.

This article has been revised from what was originally published in the January-February 2011 issue of The Shrapnel, the newsletter of the Turner Brigade. For information about The Shrapnel, contact Sheila Porter, Editor.