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News of 150 Years Ago—January/February 1863


January/February 1863

The new year of 1863 brought news of a major battle in Tennessee. Union Gen. William S. Rosecrans Army of the Cumberland met Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at Stones River, near Murfreesboro, on December 31. Desperate fighting forced the Union line to bend but not break, and, after being repulsed in a final attack on January 2, Bragg withdrew from the field.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, January 3, 1863.





Gen. Thomas Breaks the Enemy’s Center and Drives Him a Mile.

Generals Cheatham and Rains Killed.

Gens. Stanley, Rousseau and Palmer Wounded.

Mortality Among Field and Company Officers Heavy./h5>
&c., &c. &c.

NEAR MURFREESBORO, Dec. 31.—Our whole line suffered terribly this morning. Four regiments of regulars lost half their men and all their commanding officers. Anderson’s troops suffered severely. Majors Runegantan and Ward killed; Generals Stanley, Rousseau, and Palmer wounded.

TWO O’CLOCK, P. M.—Gen. Thomas breaks the centre and drives the enemy a mile….

Click here to read the complete article.


From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, January 5, 1863.


The Battle of Stone’s River.




[Special Correspondence Cincinnati Commercial.]

NASHVILLE, January 1.

I have just arrived from a terrific battle, on Stone’s River, in front of Murfreesboro on the west side of that town. It has raged with unremitting fury two days, and at last report was not yet decided. It is one of the most ferocious of modern times, sustained by both sides with splendid determination.

Gen. Rosecrans marched from Nashville last Friday, with about 45,000 effective men and 100 pieces of artillery, and skirmished all the way to the battle-field, the enemy resisting bitterly. The whole of Tuesday was spent in reconnoitering. The enemy was found strongly posted with artillery in a bend of Stone’s River, his flanks resting on the west side of Murfreesboro….

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On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect. The Proclamation was printed in full in the newspapers, including the DEMOCRAT.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, January 3, 1863.




Proclamation of the President.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 1, 1863.


WHEREAS: On the 22d day of September, in the year of Our Lord, 1862, a Proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing among other things the following, to-wit: That on the 1st day of January, in the year of Our Lord 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated parts of a State, the people thereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then henceforth and forever free, and the Executive Government of the United States, including the naval and military authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them in any effort they make for their actual freedom….

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With the implementation of the Proclamation, discussion was renewed over the enlistment of African-American troops into the Union Army. Of particular interest was the case of the 1st Kansas Volunteer Infantry (Colored), formed August 4, 1862, by James H. Lane. This was the first African-American unit to fight in combat with white soldiers in the Civil War, in western Missouri. They were mustered into Federal service on January 13.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, January 17, 1863.


The celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, &c., &c.

FORT SCOTT, Kansas, January 5, 1863.

Editors Missouri Democrat:

For some time past little has been said pro or con with reference to our regiment, or its recognition by the government. Thus we have passed far into that obscurity so congenial to the nature and complexion of our men, and many are doubtless anxiously watching our destiny.

To all such I would say, that in spite of all the efforts that have been made to crush our little band, we are all here and able to eat our rations. For five months we have served our government faithfully, guarding her prisoners, protecting her forts and fighting her enemies. And while we have been doing all this, and much more, at the cost of life, blood, and suffering to our brave men, the Government has thus far refused to appreciate our services or fully recognize our organization. But we feel that the day star of our success is rising. Abe Lincoln has stuck to his proclamation, and the black man feels that his rights are being vindicated….

Click here to read the complete article.


Besides the celebrations at the 1st Kansas, observances were held across the North to welcome the Emancipation Proclamation into force. In St. Louis, there were “watch nights” at churches on December 31. A large rally was held in St. Louis on January 28 in support of the Proclamation. The DEMOCRAT strongly promoted it.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, January 28, 1863.


Again we say to the friends of the Proclamation, come out and give the weight of your presence and countenance to this great measure for our country’s salvation. You may not be able to march to the battle field to fight the enemies of the Union, but you are able to go to Turner’s Hall to-night and give your voice in support of the means employed by a faithful Executive to put down the rebellion. It is a grand mistake to suppose that the present war is to be fought only with the bayonet and sword and cannon ball. The rebels in arms down in Dixie may probably alone be reached in that way, but the traitors who are working for the same end over in Illinois, and Indiana, and Ohio, and New York, and here in St. Louis, may perhaps, yet be reached by other means. It is idle to suppose that our political rebels don’t fear the moral power of the people’s will….

Click here to read the complete article.


The legality of the Emancipation Proclamation was a topic of heated discussion. One of its first court tests occurred in St. Louis.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, January 30, 1863.


First Decision Under the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln.

Judge Clover, of the Criminal Court, Decides a Fugitive Slave from Arkansas to be a Free Man.




Benjamin Williams, a black man, was, at the January term of the St. Louis Criminal Court, indicted for the offence of grand larceny, for the stealing of various articles of personal property, as well as money, the property of Melinda Ellis….

The case was brought to trial on the plea of not guilty pleaded, and the prisoner was duly…convicted of the offence….

[I]f the prisoner be a slave, the Court must sentence him to receive on his bare back any number of stripes not exceeding thirty-nine; if he be a free man the Court must sentence him to be to imprisonment in the penitentiary for a number of years.

The Court must determine the status of the prisoner and declare whether he be bond or free, so that the proper punishment designated by the law may be meted out to him; and in this the Court has no discretion except as to the quantity of the punishment, none as to the quality of it. I am therefore called upon to pronounce upon the condition of the prisoner, whether he was a free man or whether he was a slave at the time of the crime committed, and which from the undisputed testimony of witnesses was on the 6th day of January of the present year….

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Confederate forces under General John S. Marmaduke staged a raid into Missouri in January 1863. Col. Joseph Porter led his Missouri Cavalry Brigade into Hartville, Missouri, capturing a small Union garrison there and moving on toward Marshfield. Union Col. Samuel Merrill led a column to Hartville’s relief, ultimately taking a strong defensive position on high ground very near the town. Units under Porter and Jo Shelby assaulted Merrill’s position but were repulsed. Significantly outnumbered, Union forces withdrew after dark.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, January 20, 1863.


Results of the Hartsville Fight – The Federal and the Rebel Losses – The Rebels Leaving the State.

[Special correspondence of the Missouri Democrat.]

HOUSTON, MO., January 15, 1863.

Since writing you on the 13th the smoke has sufficiently cleared away from the battle field of Houston to enable us to judge with accuracy of the results of that most glorious little fight. Take it for all in all there has been nothing like it in the annals of the war in Missouri. Remember that our little command numbered but a scanty thousand, divided equally into infantry and cavalry, with only one section of artillery….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, February 3, 1863.


Honor to whom Honor is Due.

ST. LOUIS, Jan. 31, 1863.

Editors Missouri Democrat:

Several letters have appeared in your paper, referring to the Hartsville fight. One to-day, signed by Lieut. Col. Dunlap, one on the 27th instant, signed “Staff,” and one previously, signed “Hartsville.” There seems so close and identity in language and scope between the two latter, as to induce suspicion of their emanating from the same source; while the explanatory letter from Lieut. Col. Dunlap, apart from facts well known and opinions current in the 21st Iowa, points very directly to that source. Why did not the Lieutenant-Colonel, in making his corrections, manfully repudiate the cowardly insinuations thrown out by “Hartsville” against the Colonel commanding, in regard to, first, “the order to retreat,” the necessity for which was well known to him; and, second, the point of time at which it was given, as expressed in the length of time the 21st is said to have remained on the field, after brigade had moved, 3½ hours, and the false and rediculous [sic] statement of desperate charges repulsed by the 21st as it occupied it solitary position? It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that he was willing these misstatements should remain unchallenged….

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John M. Wimer served as Mayor of the City of St. Louis from 1843 to 1844 and again from 1857 to 1858. A native of Virginia, when the Civil War began, he supported the secessionist cause in St. Louis. As a result, he was arrested and held in the Gratiot Street Prison and then the Alton Penitentiary, from which he escaped in December 1862. Joining Confederate forces in southwest Missouri, he was killed in the fight at Hartville, Missouri, January 11, 1863. Emmett MacDonald was a captain in the Missouri State Guard at Camp Jackson in May 1861. Captured by Lyon’s forces, he alone refused parole. After a trial court found in his favor, MacDonald was released and left St. Louis to join Confederate forces. He served under Price and Marmaduke in southwest Missouri, participating in actions at Wilson’s Creek, Lexington, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove. MacDonald was also killed at Hartville. The DEMOCRAT editorialized at news of their deaths.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, January 26, 1863.


We hear that the family of John M. Wimer and the brothers of Emmett McDonald have obtained passes beyond the Federal lines, for the purpose of recovering their bodies and bringing them to this city for interment. These passes, we learn, were not issued until the applicants for them gave the military authorities here reasonable satisfaction that they were asked for in good faith, and for the purposes stated.

There is now little room for doubt that both these unfortunate men, once prominent and respected citizens of St. Louis, have fallen victims to the evil spirit of unholy rebellion.


John Wimer was not the only former mayor of St. Louis to die that month. William Carr Lane was the first mayor of St. Louis, serving from 1823 to 1829 and again from 1837 to 1840. A physician by profession, Carr Lane had been an Army surgeon from 1816 to 1819. As mayor of a growing town of 4,000 inhabitants in 1823, he oversaw several important public improvements, including the construction of a new town hall. The DEMOCRAT reported the city council’s memorial resolution.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, January 9, 1863.


In compliance with the request of his Honor, the Mayor, calling the Common Council together, in order to take incipient steps towards attending the funeral of the Hon. Wm. Carr Lane, and passing such resolutions as would be appropriate, an informal meeting was held in the chamber of the Common Council, Wednesday morning, at 9 o’clock….

Click here to read the complete article.


Almost one year after the Confederacy instituted a draft, the U.S. Congress passed a conscription act, which President Lincoln signed on March 3 1863. The DEMOCRAT approved.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, February 26, 1863.


The telegraph informs us that the conscription bill, which was adopted by the Senate several days ago, has passed the House by the handsome vote of 119 to 49. Here is something which will test the metal [sic] of the Copperheads, particularly of Connecticut and Illinois, who, according to the Sprin[g]field Register, “stand shoulder to shoulder.”…

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From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, February 27, 1863.


The passage of the Conscription bill by Congress turns over a new leaf in the history of the war. Heretofore its prosecution has depended upon voluntary effort, with the exception perhaps of some half dozen regiments of drafted men, but few of whom have yet taken the field. So long as the system of volunteering was relied upon to furnish the material for continuing the war, there could not be otherwise than a serious doubt entertained of its success. The chief reliance of the rebels in the South, and their sympathizing friends in the North, has rested upon the hope of its cessation from the exhaustion of men willing to give their services to its prosecution. To bring about this result, the “Peace” men of the North have, almost from the hour that the war broke out, been engaged in endeavoring to make it odious in the minds of the people, by publishing discouraging accounts of its progress, by magnifying the dangers and hardships to which our soldiery are exposed, and sowing the seeds of discontent wherever soil could be found ready to receive them, all in the hope of stopping the war by discouraging the voluntary efforts of the citizens in its behalf. This hope has been suddenly blighted, and all their persevering labors brought to naught by the determination of Congress and the Administration, as exhibited in the conscription act….

Click here to read the complete article.


In December 1862, Union General Ulysses S. Grant, in his capacity of commander of the military district including Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky, issued General Order No. 11, expelling Jews from the district. The order was part of a campaign against a black market in Southern cotton, which was supplying badly-needed currency to the Confederacy. It provoked a negative response, like this letter to the DEMOCRAT.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, January 5, 1863.

General Grant and the Jews.

Editors Missouri Democrat:

I hope that the order of General Grant against “the Jews as a class,” will receive your earnest condemnation—not merely a lukewarm notice á la Missouri Republican. Your noble stand in the cause of freedom, will not permit you, I trust, to smile at such an unprecedented outrage….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, January 20, 1863.

Why Gen. Grant Issued His Order Expelling Jews from His Department.

[From the Cincinnati Commercial, Jan. 19.]

EDS. COM: In your paper of this morning I noticed an article headed “General Grant and the Jews,” copied from the Israelite, of Cincinnati, and purporting to have been written by the editor of that paper from Washington, and to detail the conversation and action of the president, the Secretary of War and Gen. Halleck, on that subject.

I think the order was wrong, and ought never to have been made….

Click here to read the complete article.


After the failure of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s December offensive against Vicksburg, Gen. John A. McClernand began another advance toward Vicksburg in early January, adding Gen. William T. Sherman’s XV Corps to his own newly organized XIII. They began movements against Fort Hindman at Arkansas Post, Arkansas in early January. Early reports were rather too optimistic.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, January 5, 1863.


Gen. Steele and Gunboats Attack Rebel Batteries on the Yazoo.



[Special Correspondence to the Missouri Democrat.]

HELENA, ARK., Dec. 27, 1862.

The Rocket, sent down last week with dispatches from General Curtis to General Sherman, has just returned. General Gorman sent a guard with the boat, commanded by Captain Cairn, of the 11th Indiana volunteers. Lieut. Dickinson was the bearer of dispatches from General Curtis, and seems to be a man who would face danger fearlessly.

It appears that the Federal fleet ascended “Old river” eight miles to the mouth of the Yazoo, and advancing up the Yazoo three miles, debarked immediately in the rear of Vicksburg. General Sherman opened the attack on Saturday, driving the rebels before him for some distance. A bayou and swamps intervening, about one mile and a half from the town, somewhat delayed our advance, but pontoons were prepared and the attack was renewed with great spirit on Sunday morning. Lieut. Dickinson reports that as the Rocket descended the river on Sunday morning the fire of musketry and cannon was incessant. It commenced as early as four o’clock and continued as long as the boat remained within hearing. It is believed that Gen. Sherman succeeded in entering the town on Sunday….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, January 5, 1863.







Ten Guns and 700 Prisoners Captured.

Interesting River News.



500 Prisoners, 6 Pieces Artillery, Small Arms, &c., Captured.

Etc., Etc., Etc.

[Special Dispatch to the Missouri Democrat.]

CAIRO, Jan. 4.—The steamer Swallow has just arrived from Memphis, direct from Vicksburg, bringing important news.

General Sherman commenced the attack Wednesday, and up to Monday morning, at the time the Rattler left, had captured three lines of the enemy’s works, and the attack on the fourth and last line of defence, which was on the Jackson and Vicksburg Railroad and two miles from town, had ceased, and the indications were that the rebels had surrendered. After this last work there was nothing between Sherman and the city but the trestle work of the railroad.

There is no doubt here but Vicksburg is ours….

Click here to read the complete article.


Meanwhile, reports were coming in from participants in the Chickasaw Bluff expedition, and they were not complimentary.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, January 15, 1863.


Succinct and Graphic Account of the whole Expedition.



The Disastrous Repulse of the National Forces.



Incidental Matters, &c.

[Special correspondence of the Missouri Democrat.]

MILLIKEN’S BEND, LA., January 3, 1863,

Twenty-five miles above Vicksburg.

We have met the enemy and they are not ours, but, on the contrary, quite the reverse. It was a favorite axiom of Sam Patch that “some things could be done, as well as others;” but that is a rule that has many exceptions, and Gen. Sherman’s expedition is one of them. Veni, vidi, vici-–in a horn. In other words, we came, we saw, and did not conquer. Having failed to take Vicksburg, the next best thing was to prevent being taken ourselves, and we did it nobly….

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Letters from troops in the field were popular items in the newspapers, and the DEMOCRAT was no exception. This letter from an Iowa regiment camped at Van Buren, Missouri, exhibits the enthusiasm of troops who have not yet seriously engaged the enemy.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, January 7, 1863.

Another Letter.

VAN BUREN, MO., Dec. 28, 1862.

Editors Missouri Democrat:

Since I last wrote you we have slightly changed our location, and now our little army of Southeast Missouri, is camped on the bank of the Current river, in a hilly, heavily wooded country, inhabited by butternuts, mainly of traitorous proclivities. Most of them are playing the old stereotyped farce of “strong Union” while the army is at their doors, but the soldiers who came out to crush rebellion think this threadbare comedy is about “played out” and the whining hypocrites find little favor at their hands.

There are a few guerrillas hovering around us, but probably no force sufficient to hold a single regiment in check within forty miles of us. I suppose these roving cut throats will pounce on our trains occasionally when they happen to be five times as strong as the escort; but they take good care to keep out of single range of our boys unless they outnumber them in about that ratio….

Click here to read the complete article.


The U.S.S. Monitor ironclad, though lost in a storm on December 31, 1862, had proved itself at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and additional ironclads based on her design were ordered. This article identified several improvements to the original design that were incorporated into the newer vessels.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, January 9, 1863.

Difference Between the Monitor and her Successors.

But there were some very important matters connected with her construction which are not, by any means, so well understood. In the first place, she was not exactly like the nine vessels that have been built upon the same general theory, many persons suppose, from the fact of these later ships having been so frequently described as in every particular the copy of—each other, unless some accident occurs which has no more to do with the principle or their construction than the foundering of the Persia, with the plan of her model. What this accident has been remains to be learned. Not being needed for any such pressing business as their “progenitor,” there was no necessity for making seagoing requirements secondary to mere fighting efficiency. The great point of their similarity beside belligerent attributes, is this—that notwithstanding the disaster to the Monitor, both the old and the new vessels are perfect life-boats at sea, which cannot possibly founder….

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After his disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg and the failure of the January “Mud March”, Union General Ambrose E. Burnside was destined to be replaced as commander of the Army of the Potomac. The news came near the end of January.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, January 27, 1863.



Burnside Has Resigned.

Hooker Appointed in His Place.

BALTIMORE, January 26. – The Washington National Intelligencer is just received. It states that Burnside has resigned the command of the Army of the Potomac, and Hooker has been appointed in his place.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, January 26. – This morning Burnside turned over the command of the army to Gen. Hooker.

As soon as the change was known, the principal officers waited on Burnside and took leave of him with regret….

Click here to read the complete article.


From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, January 28, 1863.



HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, January 27. – The following has just been published to the Army:

CAMP NEAR FALMOUTH, January 26, 1863.

General Order, No. 1.]

By direction of the President of the United States, the undersigned has assumed command of the Army of the Potomac.

He enters upon the discharge of the duties imposed by this trust, with a just appreciation of their responsibility. Since the formation of this army he has been identified with its history. He has shared with you its glories and reverses, with no other desire than that these relations might remain unchanged, until its destiny should be accomplished….

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The DEMOCRAT was unconcerned about the change.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, January 28, 1863.


Some of the friends of the Union are inclined to despondency on account of the recent changes in the army of the Potomac. Such may derive a little comfort by looking to the rebel side and seeing what course the Confederacy has pursued. The rebels in the East have changed their military leaders as often as we. First Beauregard held command. He gave place to Jo. Johnson [sic], who was succeeded by Lee. This is equal to Burnside succeeding McClellan and Hooker succeeding Burnside. If we look to the commanders of divisions in the rebel army we will find quite as much mutation as in our own. Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet, and the Hills – although in the service – not one of them held the rank he now holds for a considerable period after the war began….

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While the war continued, work on the U.S. Capitol building continued.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, January 28, 1863.


Crawford’s great bronze statue of liberty is to be placed on the dome of the Capitol, next 4th of July. No speaker has yet been secured for the occasion, and the selection of one seems to embarrass those having the matter in hand.


Among the many statistics to be generated by the Civil War, these are interesting to consider.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, January 28, 1863.

Stature of American Soldiers.

Surgeon General Hammond, in his forthcoming work on “Hygiene,” gives the following curious statistics relative to the superior height of American soldiers over those from other countries:

“The great stature of the American, when compared with that of the English and French soldiers, is made apparent from the following statistics, gathered by the medical department:…

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On the home front, St. Louisans formed a relief organization for newly-freed slaves.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, February 5, 1863.


An Appeal to our Charitable Citizens.

Numerous representations having been made of the destitution and suffering existing among the “Contrabands,” both here in our city and elsewhere, a number of ladies have united in an effort to afford them some assistance. For this purpose they have organized a society known as the “Contraband Relief Society.” The following ladies have been elected to serve as officers and managers:

President – Mrs. Washington King.
Vice President – Mrs. S. Rich.
Secretary – W. S. Hazard.
Treasurer – Mrs. H. Kennedy…

Click here to read the complete article.


At the outbreak of civil war, the officer corps of the Old Army split generally along sectional lines, with many West Point-trained officers leaving for Confederate service. Southern-born officers who remained in Union service were often suspected of disloyalty. This subject was objectively analyzed in the following article.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, February 7, 1863.

Are the West Point Graduates Loyal?


It is the design of this paper to give publicity, with as little comment as possible, to certain statistics which have been prepared by the author with much painstaking and labor, in reference to the loyalty of the graduates of the Military Academy at West Point, a subject which has been under discussion often during the progress of this rebellion.

The effect of the secession movement upon the army of the United States was shown by the unusual number of resignations of officers which followed immediately the election of Mr. Lincoln, and were continued, in some degree, throughout the year 1861. An analysis, therefore, of the resignations and dismissals from the army of graduates of the Military Academy, which occurred during the period from November, 1860, to the end of the year 1861, will give a fair estimate of the comparative loyalty of the graduates….

Click here to read the complete article.


Pro-secession Missouri Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson was driven from the State Capitol in Jefferson City by Union forces in mid-1861, his administration replaced by a pro-Union provisional state government installed by the state convention that had been called into session by Jackson to consider secession earlier in the year. Secessionist members of the legislature fled with the Governor to Neosho, Missouri, where, on October 28, 1861, this rump legislature passed an ordinance of secession. Proceeding to Little Rock, Arkansas, in November, Jackson planned for a Confederate campaign to retake the state, but he succumbed to cancer on December 6, 1862, before a serious effort could be mounted. Jackson’s Lieutenant Governor, Thomas C. Reynolds, claimed succession to the governor’s chair in a published letter to the state. The DEMOCRAT found the statement laughable.


January and February 1863

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, February 27, 1863.


The most readable item in our paper of this morning is the message of Gov. Thomas C. Reynolds, taken from a late Richmond paper. The recommendations of his Excellency will be duly considered by all those persons who “support the rebellion in Missouri headed by HAMILTON R. GAMBLE.” Can any comment do this buffoonery justice? We think not. We may be pardoned, perhaps, if we apply one single word. [T]hat word is – sublime….

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