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A Turner Bugler, 2004

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Immense Excitement at the Minute Men’s Head Quarters


March and April 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, March 5, 1861.





The assembling of the State Convention in this city on yesterday was, of course, an occasion of extraordinary interest. Eager crowds early flocked to Mercantile Library Hall, and waited for hours, with apparently exhaustless patience, till the session began. The beloved flag of the Union floated beautifully from a line stretched across Fifth street from the Hall, and scores of national ensigns were patriotically displayed along the thoroughfares in all quarters of the city.

The naturally incident excitement was, unfortunately, a hundred-fold intensified by the discovery at sunrise of a strange flag suspended over the street at the “Minute Men’s Headquarters,” at the corner of Pine and Fifth streets. Over the dome of the Court House was also displayed the American ensign with only one star—if such could be styled an American flag—and bearing the Missouri coat of arms. This absurd attempt to represent the sovereignty of the people of the Union, as eclipsed by that of Missouri, excited universal disgust. The ridiculous symbol had been clandestinely elevated during the night, and was speedily removed almost as soon as discovered. But the Minute Men’s flag—a crescent, cross, and single star on an oblong strip of blue—awakened an intense and almost universal indignation. Multitudes of excited citizens unwisely congregated in the street at the dilapidated headquarters referred to. Many were for demanding the instant removal of the obnoxious banner, which at that place and time, could not possibly be otherwise understood than as the flag of treason against the government of the people. Such was the obvious and necessary interpretation of the demonstration, nor was anything done to convey a different impression. The intelligence that a secession flag had been raised by the armed Minute Men, even after the said political organization had been sworn into the service of the State, spread like wildfire throughout the city. The crowd increased until in a few hours the entire street from Chestnut to Olive, two blocks, was densely filled with indignant people. The Headquarters was evidently strongly fortified by the partisan “State troops.” An abundance of State arms and munition, together with piles of bricks were gathered inside, and with these it was announced that the occupants were prepared to defend their flag and castle to the last extremity. A blatant orator harangued the crowd from the porch, bombastically pointing to the banner, and daring anybody to take it down. The brave man’s tirade was of so stunning a character that a lady, Mrs. Armstrong, living opposite, became excessively alarmed, and thought it was necessary to take measures of defense. She accordingly dispatched a messenger to a toy-shop, and purchased a child’s miniature cannon, duly mounted, and also two tiny ensigns of the true national American style! With these she valiantly stepped from her window upon the wooden awning, and planted her formidable battery and patriotic flags at the most advanced point on the said awning, dexterously pointing her cannon so as fully to command the dilapidated secession castle! Having secured this military advantage, she heroically hurled back the secessionists’ defiance, and bade them come and take her flags, if they dared! This effective hit, greeted with immense cheering and laughter, had the happy effect of putting the multitude into tolerably good humor.

The warm discussions proceeding in all quarters resulted in numerous quarrels, and not a few personal collisions. At each instance of this kind, the crowds would rush to the spot of interest, thus occasioning an indescribable and rather alarming amount of tumult, confusion and disorder. Serious apprehensions of a general and disastrous riot were entertained. The false rumor was circulated that the German Jaegers were mustering to arms, with the intention of marching up town and attacking the Minute Men’s sublime institution! An amazing quantity of defiant rhetoric was thereupon “spouted” by scores of whisky-inspired heroes, the fundamental article of whose political creed seemed to be that they were “down on the Dutch.”

Certain exemplary citizens—that is, who have set the excellent example of initiating an armed political organization in this city—now became alarmed, and concluded to give salutary counsel. Jas. H. Lucas, Esq., virtuously climbed into a furniture car and advised the people to go home. He besought them to disperse in peace to their respective places of abode, in order that no detriment might happen to the city. Certain of the people presumptuously suggested that if the unnecessary cause of the excitement, the secession flag, were removed, all danger would cease. But he the more emphatically enjoined them to return to their domicil[e]s. Some graceless wight put an untimely period to the respected citizen’s speech, by disgracefully throwing a handful of mud upon his person—on which Mr. Lucas followed up his precepts by setting the example of departure. He was followed by Mr. Hudson and others, whose sensible remarks were good naturedly received—but the crowd wouldn’t disperse. Some half drunken and worthless persons exerted themselves to the utmost to aggravate affairs, so as to produce, if possible, a general row. Their insulting taunts at last caused some zealous friends of the Union and of the elected President and Vice President to bring upon the ground two ensigns—the genuine “stars and stripes”—bearing the names “Lincoln and Hamlin,” and a picture of “Old Abe.” These were triumphantly elevated upon the awning opposite the obnoxious flag, amid the wildest enthusiasm and long protracted cheers. But certain wise friends of the Union advised to substitute for these banners, that were identified with party, the pure and simple flag of our Union, which was appropriately and most cordially done. Councilman Dreyer and others procured the superb Union ensign of Tony, at the Tivoli house, and reared it at the corner, where it remained until nightfall.

At the Club house, next north of the Headquarters, Mr. Daniel Grace and others held forth to the crowd on Southern State Rights. The assemblage considerably annoyed the feminine inmates of the establishment, at whose solicitude the place was at last left by the speakers. Not, however, till several persons had been attacked and one or two severely injured for freely expressing dissent from the opinions and disrespect for the persons of the excited declaimers.

In several instances pistols were presented in the enforcement of otherwise feeble argument, but we are gratified to learn that no firing was done. The Minute Men had a very unmilitary armed patrol of about fifteen of their number, armed with muskets, exciting the derisive wonder of the crowd. An armed sentinel was also stationed at the front door, and only persons “members of the organization,” or trusty friends of the same, were accorded admittance. “Reporters and special police” were particularly excluded! At the windows of the second story appeared appalling piles of bricks, ready to be hurled upon the devoted craniums of the “d—d Dutch,” as soon as the latter should commence the calmly anticipated hostilities.

As unanswerably the readiest and only effective mode of peaceably dispersing the crowd, many good citizens implored the leaders of the “State troops” to take down the disturbing flag; but those gentlemen were deaf to all such entreaties. To the Mayor’s courteous request, they honorably replied that the flag would shortly be removed—but it wasn’t. At a late hour last night it was still dangling from its spar, and a diminished crowd of injudicious people remained congregated in the vicinity.