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The Events of Yesterday.


May 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, May 11, 1861.


We reserve comment on the events of yesterday until our next issue. In another place will be found as full and impartial a relation of the particulars as our reporters were able, in the midst of so much excitement, to present.

The action of Gen. Lyons [sic] was, under the circumstances, highly necessary and proper, and by his admirable tactics our city was saved the horrors of a fearful conflict. The unfortunate shooting of so many innocent spectators is a sad and most deplorable feature of the day’s proceedings. The affair will undoubtedly be thoroughly investigated, and the blame laid where it rightfully belongs.

[The original newspaper copy that was microfilmed was damaged at the top and bottom. The main headlines were illegible.]



The events of yesterday will excite profound reflection in the minds of our fellow citizens. It is already well known to them that Camp Jackson was yesterday afternoon surrounded by the United States forces under Commandant Lyon, and was captured, with all its munitions and troops. The indisputably sufficient grounds on which the step was taken, can only be intimated in our columns to-day, but will soon be officially and satisfactorily made public.

Early yesterday morning the commanding officers of the various regiments at the Arsenal, Barracks, Marine Hospital, Bechtner’s, Turners’ Hall, and Yager’s, were notified to muster their forces and have them in marching order as speedily as possible. The consequent marshalling of the companies, though conducted with the strictest military secresy [sic], soon became rumored through the city, and created intense interest. Nothing transpired relative to the precise object of the movement, and curious outsiders were left much to conjecture. It was rumored that additional arms had, during the preceding night, been landed from a newly arrived steamboat, and been removed to Camp Jackson. Also, that since these were arms stolen from the United States at Baton Rouge, and since certain of the cannon at Camp Jackson belonged to the United States, Commandant Lyon had felt it his duty to demand the rendition of the property—a demand which had been defiantly refused. It was hence concluded by many that an attempt would be made to retake the stolen property by capturing the force at Camp Jackson.

The truth became evident about noon when intelligence reached the city that the First Regiment was marching up from Jefferson Barracks. Soon afterwards the Second Regiment marched from the Marine Hospital grounds, and the regiments of Colonels Sigel and Schuttner from the arsenal. The march of the columns was remarkably swift and simultaneous, first diverging so as to approach the camp from various points, and then successfully converging in the immediate vicinity of that post. The news of the movement created a deep and profound sensation throughout the city, causing a general closing of stores, and a flocking of the population in the rear of the columns. The regiments of Col. Brown and McNeil were put in motion as soon as the others arrived up town, and directed to the camp up Morgan and Market streets.

Col. Sigel’s regiment move up Olive, Gen. Schuttner’s up Market, Col. Boernstein’s out Pine, and Col. Brown’s on Morgan. From an elevated position the marching columns could all be seen at a single view, and presented a spectacle of absorbing interest to gazing multitudes upon the house tops and hills in the vicinity of Lindell’s Grove.

Each regiment took up its position so promptly and skillfully, and the arrangements had been so perfectly made, that the entire camp was speedily environed by a solid cordon of troops bristling with arms. Sixteen pieces of flying artillery were quickly posted on eight elevated sites in the vicinity.

Commandant Lyon then dispatched a final messenger to Gen. Frost, demanding a surrender, and giving him fifteen minutes in which to determine whether he would comply. Gen. Frost promptly responded, tendering an unconditional surrender of the camp, munitions and men. The intelligence spread quickly, and was received with unbounded enthusiasm by multitudes, yet with bitter execrations and the deepest mortification by the secession faction.

A battalion of United States regulars and the regiment of Col. Blair, having approached by Laclede avenue and defiled through the road west of the Camp, marched around into the Olive street road and prepared to receive the surrendered troops. The regiments of Cols. Sigel and Schuttner took possession of the Camp, with all its equipage, cannon, muskets, rifles, munitions, &c., amid immense and enthusiastic cheering, and the patriotic melodies of the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Yankee Doodle.”

Gen. Frost and staff and the two regiments of his command passed out, without arms, between the opened lines of Col. Blair’s regiment and a battalion of regulars. The bearing of the surrendered forces was that of cheerful resignation, very many of them being true at heart to the government of the American people. They bore the American flag, side by side with on of the coat of arms of Missouri.

At about six P. M. the escorting troops and the command of Gen. Frost moved down Olive street and proceeded to the United States Arsenal. The camp soldiers were assured that all of those who chose would be released upon their word of honor not to bear arms against the United States. Hundreds of them are ready not only to give such a pledge, but to enter upon active service under the national flag.

So far, the events of yesterday were felicitous, and auspicious only of the ultimate return of peace and prosperity. As such, they occasioned a thrill of inexpressible delight in many a true heart. The peaceful surrender was a relief, and the evident loyalty of many of the captured troops a guaranty of the safety of the State. Would to Heaven that we could here be permitted to close this statement! But disaster—mournful, unutterably dreadful and heart-rending—a woeful and awful tragedy, has made yesterday bitterly memorable. The fury of a disunion mob led to a reckless and destructive attack upon the United States troops, whose response laid some twenty of our fellow-citizens cold in death. Our heart chills, and expression fails as we recall the sorrowful scene, the crushing and piercing sight of death, presented last evening at Camp Jackson. Never has our profession called as to so painful a task—but the heavy tale must be told.

Company H, Captain Blandowsky [sic, who was actually commanding Co. F, see below.], of the Third Regiment, was assigned the responsible duty of guarding the western gateway leading into the camp. The surrendered troops had passed out, and were standing passively between the enclosing lines on the road, when a fierce crowd of disunionists began hostile demonstrations against Company H. Derision, insults the worst that tongue could frame, iterated and reiterated with whatever aggravation the most malignant vindictiveness could devise, were thrust upon the troops, who bore it, as duty required, with uncomplaining forbearance. The mob grew larger, fiercer, and bolder, and began hurling rocks, brickbats and other missiles at the soldiers. This style of treatment was taken as patiently as possible, the victims having no mode of defense but the dread and awful one of bullets—only to be used in a dire extremity. But the rocks fell thicker and heavier, smashing muskets, breaking limbs, and variously and dangerously wounding a number of the troops. The assailants began to discharge pistols, daring the soldiers to fire, and themselves blazing away in defiance. The companies in the vicinity had been brought into the firing order, but the attacking madmen persisted. Finally, a soldier of Corps H [sic] was shot and others were wounded, and the captain…

[As the newspaper that was microfilmed was illegible at this point due to damage to the original paper, the following account is included, taken from General Nathaniel Lyon and Missouri in 1861, by James Peckham, 1866. See http://www.civilwarstlouis.com/peckham/ch2-pt2.htm.]

Captain C. Blandowski, of Company F. (Third Missouri Volunteers), had been ordered with his company to guard the western gateway leading into the camp. The surrendered troops had passed out, and were standing passively between the inclosing lines on the road, when a crowd of disunionists began hostile demonstrations against Company F. At first these demonstrations consisted only of vulgar epithets and the most abusive language; but the crowd, encouraged by the forbearance and the silence of the Federal soldiers, began hurling rocks, brickbats, and other missiles at the faithful company. Notwithstanding several of the company were seriously hurt by these missiles, each man remained in line, which so emboldened the crowd that they discharged pistols at the soldiers, at the same time yelling and daring the latter to fight. Not until one of his men was shot dead, several severely wounded, and himself shot in the leg, did the Captain feel it his duty to retaliate; and as he fell, he commanded his men to fire. The order was obeyed, and the multitude fell back, leaving upon the grass-covered ground some twenty of their number, dead or dying. Some fifteen were instantly killed, and several others died within an hour. Several of Sigel’s men were wounded, and two killed.

[Most accounts now agree that Capt. Blandowski was actually hit by his own men, since the round extracted from his leg was a Minie ball. Continuing with the account from the DEMOCRAT:]

…A carriage was upset and several persons hurt amid the rush. We were told that a lady was dangerously hurt by a fall from a carriage on the occasion.

In this instance the rioters who fired, some six in number, were severely reproved and were degraded from the rank.

We learn that Commandant Lyon has taken steps for a thorough investigation of the fatal firing by certain of the troops. If it shall prove unwarranted, it will meet severe reprobation and punishment.