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News of 150 Years Ago—July/August 1860


July/August 1860

As the 1860 Presidential campaign continued into the summer, the DEMOCRAT continued its coverage of the four-way race, including how local Missouri candidates aligned themselves with the national tickets. This editorial considers the affiliations of Missouri Democratic candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson and Thomas C. Reynolds.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, July 2, 1860.

The Civil War in Missouri—Reported Defection of Jackson and Reynolds.

The latest bulletins from the seat of war, are unfavorable to the Southern States-Rights Democracy. The special messenger dispatched by the Breckenridge men of this city, to Major Jackson, has returned, bringing with him an unsatisfactory answer. Claib asked time to consider. Now, the politician who hesitates, like the woman who listens, is lost; and Claib’s response, taken in connection with the dispatch in the Republican, stating that he and Reynolds had made up their minds to declare for Douglas, creates the presumption that they have deserted or will desert their colors. In that event Judge Bowlin will be nominated as the Breckinridge candidate for Governor, and Burns of Platte, brother of the United States Attorney here, the candidate for Lieutenant Governor….

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The DEMOCRAT was full of articles, long and short, about the state of the campaign, the positions of the parties, and the prospects for victory in each of the States. These are two of the shorter notices. The Liberator was the leading radical abolitionist newspaper of the pre-Civil War period.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, July 21, 1860.

It gives us great pleasure to notice that the Liberator, edited by Wm. Lloyd Garrison, and the organ of Wendell Phillips and his associates, devotes a large majority of its time and space to the most virulent attacks upon Mr. Lincoln. We hope the Liberator will be induced to continue its efforts until after the elections.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PARTIES.—The Republicans are in favor of voting slavery down in our few Western Territories; the Breckinridge party is in favor of voting it up; the Douglas party don’t care whether it is voted up or down; and the Bell and Everett party “don’t know anything about nothing.”


The DEMOCRAT covered politics in nearby Illinois as well as in Missouri, especially among the several German communities in St. Clair and other nearby counties.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, July 31, 1860.


BEARDSTOWN, ILL. July 27, 1860.

Editors of the Missouri Democrat:
Our German fellow citizens of this county, feeling that the cause of “true Republicanism” needed but to be faithfully expounded in order to insure a complete triumph in this State in November, according to notice given at a late hour, assembled in this place to listen to the Hon. Carl Schurz, on the 23d inst. The rally was made at the warehouse of Messrs. Nolte & McClure, it having been previously arranged for that purpose. The well known ability of Mr. S. is an ample guarantee that our city was thronged on that day. At one o’clock the Wide Awakes, numbering one hundred, in full uniform, under command of Capt. Tilford, marched in procession to the residence of Dr. Hoffman. Mr. S. was here, upon his appearance, enthusiastically cheered by the Wide Awakes….

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At a time when Presidential candidates did not campaign in person, the campaign biography was critical in making the candidate known to the voting public, especially when the candidate was not already well-known. The DEMOCRAT here reprinted portions of Lincoln’s campaign biography by William Dean Howells.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, July 6, 1860.


We make a few extracts, as follows, from Howell’s Life of Lincoln, a work just published:


The Lincolns continued to live in Spencer county, until 1820, nothing interrupting the even tenor of Abraham’s life, except in his nineteenth year, a flat-boat trip to New Orleans. He and a son of the owner composed the crew, and without other assistance, voyaged

“Down the beautiful river,
Past the Ohio shore, and past the mouth of the Wabash,
Into the golden stream of the broad and swift Mississippi.”…

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As the voice of the Republican Party in St. Louis, the DEMOCRAT frequently editorialized on the basic principles that differentiated the parties in 1860.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, July 11, 1860.

The Four Parties and the Two Principles.

Though four well organized and mutually antagonistic parties are now contending with one another for the Federal Government, yet the fact is apparent that but two principles are on the field. The one demands the exclusion of slavery from, and the other the establishment of slavery in, the public domain. This is the simple statement of the case. There are therefore but two living representative parties—the two which represent opposing principles on the question of slavery in the Territories. The other two, however respectable they may prove to be numerically, are in reality but mere individual agglomerations, which encumber the arena and retard the settlement of the controversy….

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Crime reporting was a staple of period newspapers, as it is today. And few stories could whet a reporter’s appetite better than mayhem in the red light district.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, July 26, 1860.



Twenty Houses of Ill Repute Sacked.


At ten o’clock last night, some forty or fifty persons simultaneously appeared on the levee near the foot of Almond street, armed with axes, crowbars, sledge hammers, and similar implements, with which, and with a rush and hurrah, they proceeded up Almond street, attracting an additional crowd as they advanced. The object of this apparently sinister, certainly ominous, and decidedly startling movement, was soon made evident beyond the slightest peradventure. It was to clean out, smash-up, tear in pieces, stave to atoms and burn to ashes whatever was cleanable, smashable, tearable, staveable, combustible, in the notorious nests of bawdy houses which cluster on Almond and neighboring streets….

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Sports news was not as common in the newspapers of 1860 as it is now, but when American boxer John C. Heenan defeated the British champion in England, he was headline news.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, July 19, 1860.


The Champion of the World at Home.


[From the New York Herald, July 18th.]

John C. Heenan, the pugilistic champion of the world, arrived in the Vanderbilt, at about eleven o’clock on Saturday night. Heenan was accompanied by his second and trainer, Jack Macdonald, whose rank in the estimation of all Heenan’s partisans is only second to that of the champion himself. The Vanderbilt anchored in the river opposite her dock, but Heenan and Macdonald disembarked in the doctor’s boat, at quarantine, according to an arrangement previously made, and took up their quarters at Tom Burns’ hotel. No one was waiting to receive them, for the most of Heenan’s friends had expected him the day before, and thought some accident had happened to the steamer; and the reception party, which had been cruising about Sandy Hook, during Friday and Saturday, had returned disappointed to New York and the Malta saloon….

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As a center of the steamboat trade, St. Louis news included considerable coverage of the comings and goings of various steamboats.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, July 11, 1860.

Arrival of the Spread Eagle from the Head Waters of the Missouri.


The steamer Spread Eagle, the “flag ship” of the Mountain Fleet which left here for the Rocky Mountains on the 3rd of May last, arrived in port at an early hour yesterday morning. The Spread Eagle succeeded in going beyond the highest point in the Missouri ever visited by a side-wheeled boat, being some three hundred miles about Port Union, at the mouth of the Yellow Stone, and some miles farther than the point reached by the El Paso some years since. The other boats of the expedition proceeded on with the troops, &c., to Fort Benton, and as much higher as they could get. They will be due here in the course of a week or two. The Spread Eagle brought down no passengers. Her cargo consists principally of buffalo robes, all consigned to Pierre Chouteau, Jr….

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In 1860 as today, the Middle East was a region in conflict. The Ottoman Empire controlled most of the area, but sectarian violence erupted periodically, reported back to America by Christian missionaries.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, July 26, 1860.


The Christians Utterly Defeated—Zahleh Captured, Plundered and Burnt—Desolation of Lebanon—Non-intervention of England—A Boy Hero—Senator Seward’s Horses.

[Correspondence of the Boston Traveller.]

BEIRUT, June 21, 1860.

Zahleh has fallen. The last stronghold of the Christians has been taken, plundered and burnt, and its surviving inhabitants are flying like sheep from the wolves that are now on the track. The Christian army has been annihilated and the Christian power, which has been for ages competing with the Druses, has been crushed. The fleet lay quietly at anchor in the harbor of Beirut, while Zahleh was besieged, sacked and laid in ruins—and the Consuls General, who have hitherto been so potent and mighty, have held daily and nightly consultations in vain. The desolation of the “goodly Lebanon” was decreed, and the besom of destruction had laid it waste….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, August 1, 1860.




[From the American Presbyterian, of last week.]

The following letters from Rev. W. A. Benton and his wife, Mrs. L. G. Benton, missionaries of the American Board at Mt. Lebanon, in the very heart of the present disturbances, have just been received b Mr. George W. Mears, the Corresponding Secretary of Western Church S. S. Missionary Society, and promptly placed in our hands for publication. They will be found equal in interest to anything as yet published on the painful subject. Mrs. Benton holds the pen of a ready writer:

BHAMDUN, Mt. Lebanon, June 6, 1860.

DEAR BROTHERS IN CHRIST: The existing hostilities between Druses and Christians of Mount Lebanon, commenced on Tuesday of last week at Beit Miri and several other points, almost simultaneously in the Metn district, at the north of our station. It was fearfully sublime, and inexpressibly painful, before morning to behold so many villages, hamlets, and isolated houses in flames and to hear the reports of their guns, and the wild voices of the assailants re-echoing around us at the midnight hour. In the course of forty-eight hours, about one hundred different places were reduced to ashes, and the sad work of war and conflagration is still raging upon the mountain….

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Accounts of local politics, in addition to national and state politics, were not neglected in the news.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, August 8, 1860.

The Election—A Glorious Republican Triumph.

The most severely contested of elections has resulted in the most decisive of victories for the Free Democracy of St. Louis. The campaign has no parallel in the history of our politics. The returns show the largest vote ever polled in the county, and the result is the election of Frank Blair and our whole ticket by about fourteen hundred majority….

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In the 1850s, William Walker had gained notoriety for organizing several private military expeditions into Central America, in order to establish English-speaking, slave-holding colonies, an enterprise then known as “filibustering.” Walker became president of the Republic of Nicaragua in 1856 and ruled until 1857, when he was defeated by a coalition of Central American armies. In 1860, he attempted a return to the area, but he was captured by the British and executed by Honduran authorities in September 1860.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, August 10, 1860.

The Nicaragua Expedition—Walker and 500 Men off Yucatan.

[From the New Orleans Picayune, Aug. 6.]

The Mexican schooner Brilliante, Capt. Espinola, arrived at this port yesterday from Sisal, with advices from Merida, the capital of Yucatan, to the 28th ult. The news is of the most important character.

Gen. William Walker, of whose departure from the island of Ruatan, on the 21st of June, we have before had accounts, arrived off the Yucatan coast en route to Nicaragua, on the 1st ult. He had with him five vessels and five hundred men, all well equipped, full of spirits, and amply supplied with arms, ammunition and provisions….

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In April 1859, Elmer Ellsworth was studying law in a Chicago law office when he was elected captain of the Chicago National Guard Cadets, a local militia company in desperate need of a dynamic leader. Ellsworth had previously studied drill and tactics and trained militia companies in Rockford, Illinois, and Madison, Wisconsin, and had already gained a reputation as a talented and inspiring drillmaster. Outfitted in the distinctive Zouave uniforms and renamed the United States Zouave Cadets, Ellsworth’s company debuted its skills on July 4, 1859, in Chicago to rave reviews. On July 2, 1860, the Zouave Cadets left Chicago on a 20-city tour, culminating in an appearance in St. Louis.

At the start of the Civil War, Ellsworth raised a Zouave regiment from the fire companies of New York City. While removing a rebel flag from a hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, on May 24, 1861, he was killed by the proprietor, becoming one of the first Union martyrs of the war.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, August 13, 1860.

The Parade and Drill of the Chicago Zouaves.

The ever wide-awake population of this excitement-loving city flowed out in holiday multitudes to the Fair Grounds last Saturday afternoon, to see the far-famed Zouaves from Chicago. Every car the Citizens’ Railroad Company could furnish was crammed and rammed almost to bursting, with the Zouave-struck people, while each of the numerous livery stables was exhausted, and nearly every vehicle elsewhere obtainable called into requisition, to convey the popular sovereigns and their regal families to the scene of interest. The fact is, St. Louisans can safely be matched against the world for a more than juvenile passion for military show, and an intensely vivid appreciation of whatever is novel and admirable….

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