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A Frightful Panic.


May 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, May 13, 1861.



Men, Women, and Children Fleeing the City by Thousands.

“The Dutch are Going to Burn and Sack the City.”

Extraordinary and Unjustifiable Alarm.

The conflict on Saturday evening, along Walnut street, between the “Home Guards” of the 9th and 10th Wards served to alarm the citizens of the middle Wards of the city more than the occurrence of Friday evening at camp Jackson. The return of the prisoners from the Arsenal with their tales of suffering and mortification and their threats of revenge added to the flame of excitement. Saturday night was a period of sore unrest and troubled dreams to thousands. Yesterday morning came with multiplied reports of the ungovernable fury and rage of the Dutch soldiery, their officers, it was reported, having lost all control of them and that they were breathing threats of vengeance against all American citizens. These reports gathered strength and magnitude as they flew through the city, until about noon, when a panic seized upon the residents along Locust, Olive, Pine and Chestnut streets. Gen. Harney, it was cried, had lost all control of the Dutch, and Frank Blair had superseded him in command of the troops, and now Frank Blair and Boernstein could not manage them. The Dutch were coming to burn the city. Persons actually flew along the streets, ringing the door bells, and crying in to the occupants to save themselves from the Dutch.

The consternation was terrible. Carriages and vehicles of all descriptions were frantically sought after, into which the women and children were placed and driven out of the city. The hackmen took advantage of the fearful circumstances, and demanded the most exorbitant prices—twenty five dollars being asked and freely given in several cases that came to our knowledge. Hundreds of families were rushed down to the steamboats.

Capt. Dan. Able and other owners freely tendered their boats to the affrighted people, and as soon as steam could be raised, pushed away from the wharf, and conveyed them to points up and down the river. Several boats crowded with people went down the river as far as Widow Waters’s landing, and staid there all last night. The scenes along Pine and Olive streets were particularly agonizing. It was reported that the Dutch were to visit their special rage upon the Southern families, and the consternation among them was fearful. Women and children, with small packages of clothing and valuables, were hastily sent off in carriages—the men remaining behind to brave the worst. Prominent Republicans were everywhere sought for protection, the feeling seeming to be that their houses would not be molested by the Dutch.

About five o’clock, Gen. Harney’s proclamation was published, and was most eagerly seized upon and welcomed by the terrified people. Major McKinstry, the Police Commissioners with the Chief, Messrs. How, Filley, Able and others, scattered the proclamation along the streets, and did a great deal to allay the fears of the citizens.

Towards evening, the Dutch not making their appearance at all, the heads of families no doubt, sitting quietly in their homes, and…the young men lounging around their places of rendezvous, or doing duty in the Arsenal, the confidence of the citizens was considerably restored. By night many families had returned, but without doubt there were many hundreds who spent last night in exile from their homes with their minds racked with the most fearful apprehension.

The panic was utterly causeless. The German citizens and soldiery were, in fact, more quiet yesterday than on any day of last week. They have never, of our knowledge in this city, contemplated any assault upon respectable citizens, or their families or property. The whole alarm originated in the brain of some weak-minded individuals, whose judgments have not been proof against the repeated shocks of the present excitement.