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The Knapp Appointment.


September 1862

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, September 8, 1862.


A day or two ago, in alluding to this subject, we were disposed to treat it lightly—make it the occasion of a passing joke and dismiss it altogether.  We feld thus inclined, notwithstanding we regarded the appointment as highly injudicious, because we harbored no personal ill will towards the appointee.  We were willing to yield something of our opinion of propriety to a feeling of ordinary charitableness.  We supposed a little generosity could do no harm, as we did not presume there was anything positively wrong in the appointment.  We thus had no doubt of Col. Knapp’s secession sympathies in the days of Camp Jackson, and of his being consorted with the other leaders of that rebellious assemblage in a conspiracy to help take Missouri out of the Union, but we supposed that he was a good Union man now—had seen the error of his previous ways, and felt disposed to make up, by increased activity on the right side, for the wrong of his one false step.

Since that time an article has appeared in the Republican, Col. Knapp’s own paper, which, if it reflects his present sentiments, changes the whole aspect of the case, and makes it, in our judgment, the imperative duty of Gov. Gamble to revoke the appointment.  That article in Saturday’s paper, relating to this very matter, and bearing the appearance of being written by Col. Knapp himself, or with his full sanction, does not claim that he has undergone any change of views since he was the companion in arms of Frost, Bowen, McDonald, and other notorious rebels and traitors to the Government.  It leaves the unmistakable impression that his sentiments now are the same as they were then.  That he would to-day, under similar circumstances, pitch his tent at the junction of Beauregard and Davis avenues, in a camp named in honor or his rebel Excellency, Claiborne F. Jackson, and pledge his sword to the cause in which the “Minute Men” of St. Louis, his comrades and followers, were then enlisted.

His only attempted apology offered for his whereabouts at that time, is, that he marched there beneath the American flag, marched back under it, (for which there is the best of reasons,) and kept that flag displayed at his headquarters.  Now, if there was any positive virtue in the materials of that banner—if it was a charm against treason, and would neutralize and deaden the poison of the traitor’s full concoctions—then we would freely admit the sufficiency of the defence.  But unfortunately we have the history of more than one instance in this war in which rebels, in actual battle against the Union, have borne that flag, and found it a most available disguise.  It would hardly be supposed that men who were merely then plotting and preparing their plans against that flag, would be ready to show their true colors.  And if we recollect aright, while the American flag was there, as the Republican says, there was another flag there besides it—the State flag of Missouri—and which was there to be a symbolical of the idea of Missouri’s sovereignty and independence apart from the Union—an idea at that time industriously disseminated, which was, in fact, the doctrine of secession, and on which her traitorous rulers hoped to carry her out of the Union.  There they waved, side by side, the emblem of indissoluble union and the adopted badge of separation, without one word of protest, so far as we know, being uttered by Col. Knapp against the unnatural and unholy alliance.

The only explanation tendered by the Republican for Col. Knapp’s going to Camp Jackson at all is, that he had long been a member of the St. Louis military, and as such was required by an old law of the State to attend public muster once a year, and was there at the time in obedience to the commands of superior officers.  We well know that such was the pretext under which Frost, Bowen, Williams, and all of them congregated at that unusual and highly suspicious gathering.  We do not understand, however, that it was positively obligatory upon Colonel Knapp to continue to occupy a position which devolved upon him the necessity of obeying such commands.  He might have followed the example of Col. Schaeffer, Col. Andrews and many others of his companions in arms, who, because they were Union men, preferred to lay down their commissions to holding any such equivocal position.

And again—if Colonel Knapp’s sense of obedience as a subordinate officer compelled him to follow Gen. Frost to Camp Jackson, would it not have compelled him to follow him to the St. Louis Arsenal, if he had moved upon it with a view to its capture, as we have no doubt he intended in due time to do?  The irresistible conclusion from the Republican’s argument is, as it strikes us, that Colonel Knapp would have done so.

The Republican’s article, as we said, changes the whole aspect of the case.  It precludes the idea of Colonel Knapp having undergone a change of views since the days of Camp Jackson.  It makes him to-day as good a Union man—and no better—than he was then.  It renders his appointment now, as much of an indignity to the Union sentiment of St. Louis, as it would have been on the day he marched through the streets of St. Louis a prisoner of war to the Union armies.

It seems useless now, and always has to us appeared ridiculous, to contend that Camp Jackson was anything else than a treasonable gathering.  The character of the men composing and controlling it—the most of them now being in arms against the Government including two Generals, and many Colonels, Majors and other officers of high grade in the rebel service—the presence there of arms stolen from United States Arsenals, clandestinely and unlawfully introduced—the preference shown in christening the streets to the names of Davis and Beauregard—the frequent cheers which were heard for those arch-traitors—the expulsion of uncompromising Union papers like the DEMOCRAT and News, and their reporters from the grounds, while sheets of undefined position, like the Republican and Tucker’s Journal, were freely admitted—the name of the camp itself, in honor of a traitor Governor, then in open rebellion against the requirements of the President, and busy plotting the withdrawal of the State of the Union, told the tale of that assembly’s object and the spirit which actuated it, much better than the flag which happened to wave over it.  Equally absurd does it reasonably seem to us to conclude, that Col. Knapp, commanding one of the two regiments on the ground, could have been ignorant of the designs and sentiments of that camp.  If so, he understood less of what was going on beneath his own eyes, than was generally at the time well known and talked of on the streets of St. Louis.

Entirely gratuitous and futile is the Republican’s intimation, that those who demur at Colonel Knapp’s appointment are opposing the enrollment, and its implied threat that they may be thus regarded by the military authorities. The opinions of loyal citizens, we beg leave to say, are, in our judgment, entitled to some deference in the selection of their commanders.  They have the right to make their voices heard in respectful remonstrance against appointments in which they are directly interested, and which, in their judgment, are not “fit to be made;” and our rulers are, we think, under some obligation, even in the exercise of their exclusive prerogatives, to pay a respectful regard to their reasonable wishes.  Even in times like these, when it especially behooves all good citizens to refrain from captious complainings and yield a ready obedience to all lawful orders, we are not prepared to surrender wholly that highest privilege of our representative system, the right of remonstrance and petition.  And we do think the loyal people of St. Louis have reason to remonstrate against the appointment to high military command over them a man recently taken in arms against the government.

So far as the DEMOCRAT is concerned, the Republican’s insinuation, if any such was intended, that we opposed the enrollment, is wholly without justification.  We have favored it from the first, and given it our most hearty commendation, and do now.  We have enrolled ourselves and every one in our employ.  But at the same time, we think we still have the right of entertaining and expressing our honest convictions of the mode in which it may be conducted; provided, always, that such convictions are not calculated to oppose efficient organization, and none such do we expect to entertain.

Still more idle is the Republican’s transparent attempt to make it appear that we are opposed to Gen. Schofield—that Gen. Schofield may be opposed to us, we suppose—in alluding to a certain secret meeting, at which the Republican asserts one of the proprietors of the DEMOCRAT was present, the object of which was to secure the removal of Schofield from his present command.  In the first place, we have no knowledge of any proprietor of the DEMOCRAT being present as such meeting, and in the next place we don’t see what that has to do with Col. Knapp’s appointment in any event.  We have neither been the organ nor opponent of Gen. Schofield.  When he has in our best judgment done wellm we have commended him.  When he has in our judgment committed errors, as all men are liable to do, we have so candidly stated without fear or favor.  In the matter of the enrollment, we think he is doing his duty most manfully, and we have so freely and repeatedly stated.  We never have said, nor dreamt of saying, a tithe of what the Republican has openly said against Gen. Schofield.  We never, as the Colonel proprietor of the Republican did, joined in a publication denouncing Gen. Schofield, then Major of Col. Blair’s regiment, together with all others participating in the capture of Camp Jackson, as “a mob.”  We never have, as the Republican has in substance done, characterized Gen. Schofield and those connected with him in that capture, including the Republican’s “responsible accuser” and now its apparent political idol, Gen. Blair, and that most brave and true man, Gen. Lyon, as causeless murderers of women and children and inoffensive citizens on that day to which it has so often referred as “Black Friday.”  We never have broken a sword across a fence rather than submit in yielding it up to Gen. Schofield, he being the one appointed to receive the surrendered swords of the Camp Jackson officers.  We never have sought to wear a Colonel’s sword under Gen. Schofield.  We, therefore, in this matter, have neither friends in reward nor enemies to punish.

What we have done has been simply to give a fair expression to the real sentiments of the loyal citizens of St. Louis.  That there is great dissatisfaction with the appointment of Col. Knapp, we have the evidence in our possession in numerous communications from responsible parties against it.  These we have not published, for the reasons we have already given, for not desiring to be involved in the controversy.  We would have had no further participation in the question but for the hasty, injudicious and bilious article of the Republican, in which we are directly and, as we deem, unjustly alluded to.