During the Civil War in Missouri and eastern Kansas, in addition to killing prisoners, both the Jayhawkers of Kansas and the Bushwhackers of Missouri murdered and robbed civilians as well as soldiers which was and is commonplace in any guerrilla war. The following correspondence describes a “Guerrilla” attack on Lamar, Mo., and the “Union” response from Fort Scott. Both documents are located on Pages 348 and 352-354 in Series I, Vol. 13 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

“Lamar, Mo., November 6, 1862.

Sir: I have the honor to report that I was attacked last night by a band of rebels, numbering 200 or 300. I fought them some two and a half hours from houses and every way. The rebels rushed in and burned about one third of the town. They killed three of my men and wounded three mortally, I think. We held the town and still hold it. We killed five or six of the rebels. I shall stay here until I hear from you. We would like to have some men in this part of the country. Three squads have passed through this country within the past week, numbering in all about 1,000. They are going south. If I had 150 more men here, I think I could capture the squads that are passing through this country. I am not strong enough to organize the militia in Jasper County.

Yours with respect,

M. BREEDEN,Captain.”


“Headquarters, Fort Scott, Kan., Nov. 11, 1862.

General: I have the honor to report that on the morning of the instant I received a dispatch from Capt. Breeden, dated Lamar, at 9 p.m. the night before stating that he had been attacked by about an hour before by 400 men under Quantrill that they were still fighting and asking for assistance. I immediately sent Capt. Conkey with 80 men and Capt. Coleman with 30 men; they leaving here at 4 o’clock a.m. Thursday morning.

At 9 o’clock I learned that Captain Morton’s (wagon) train was at Carthage the same night and being fearful that he would run right into the enemy I dispatched a messenger to Capt. Conkey, stating these facts and directing him to follow on and if necessary to fight his way through to the train.

Capt. Conkey did follow on and got after the enemy and killed one of them and learned that the train had passed west in safety. On the night following, the train arrived here, having made a forced march.

The next morning about 3 a.m., a messenger reached me stating that (Confederate guerrilla) Livingston with 100 men was on the Dry Wood about two miles above Redfield murdering and robbing and that he was working up stream. I immediately ordered Capt. Mefford to take about 75 men and make a crossing at Morris Mill, but owing to his men being very tired and his scouts worn down, he did not get started until about 6 o’clock and in the mean time messengers continued to arrive with information of Livingston’s movements, passing up stream above Morris Mill and the military crossing at Endicott’s, so that by the time Mefford was ready he made direct for Cato and there struck his trail about one hour behind him and pursued him about 25 miles to Cow Creek and overtook him, making a running fight and wounding one of Livingston’s men and recovering some prisoners. As his stock (horses) was badly used up and the enemy well mounted and scattered Captain Mefford returned to this post and I am glad to say he did as well as he could considering the condition of his horses.

In the meantime, I had dispatched a messenger to Capts. Conkey and Coleman, who had encamped at Morris’ Mill, on the direct road to Carthage to make for Sherwood (Mo.) and to intercept them there. The messenger reached them in good time and they started for Sherwood, but as it grew dark before they reached that place and having no one with them familiar with the country, they were obliged to encamp until next morning.

The command then separated, Capt. Coleman on the south side of Spring River and Capt. Conkey on the north side and worked down toward Sherwood and Capt. Coleman being in the advance came upon the enemy and charged them, killing four or five and taking four prisoners, including the notorious Capt. Baker, who was taken by Capt. Coleman himself.

Take it all in all, I think the pursuit a decided success and that the enemy will be more cautious hereafter. If I had a respectable number of well-mounted men I would punish their impudence. On the night of the 10th instant I sent Lieutenant Cavert of the third Wisconsin with 16 men to Lamar, with dispatches for Capt. Breeden and they reached there at a.m. yesterday the 11th instant and found that Quantrill had left just after burning most of the town that had been spared by him before. I am satisfied that Quantrill is waiting for a train and I shall be compelled to send all of my cavalry with it which will weaken the post so much that he may feel like making an attack upon us. There is, as I learn from proper officers about $2,000,000 worth of government property at this post and vicinity and it does seem to me as if our force is hardly sufficient. I learn also that the trains passing from Springfield have a very strong guard most of the time a full regiment and it certainly is not as dangerous as our route.

If you are inclined to send a large cavalry force it would please me to have Capts. Earle and Coleman of the Ninth Kansas with their companies if it would suit your pleasure.

The whole transportation belonging to this post is engaged in carrying commissary stores to the command, but we are expecting 100 more teams from Fort Leavenworth the coming week. After this train shall start, the enemy can approach very near and laugh at us, as I shall have no cavalry to send after them at any time since I have been here and the only way that I have been able to keep them from doing more mischief is by having small scouting parties on the move in their country all the while and that has told on our horses.

In these expeditions, my men have been very successful losing none and having only a few wounded and have killed quite a number of the enemy and frightened them awfully. I have just learned that the citizens on Dry Wood are leaving with their families after asking for a force which I could not give them and Squire Redfield has also asked for a force in his vicinity as the inhabitants are very much frightened.

I am General, very respectfully, you obedient servant,

B.S. HENNING,
Major, Third Wisconsin Cavalry, Commanding Post.”

It appears by this letter that Maj. Henning was very concerned, as he should have been, about the minimal numbers of troops stationed at Fort Scott to protect the post and provide protection for the transient wagon trains and the citizens of the area. This was a problem that plagued all of the Union commanders at Fort Scott throughout the war, but it did not stop them from sending relief columns to the towns in the surrounding area, including towns in Missouri such as Lamar when they were threatened or attacked, and of course, the war went on!

During the Civil War, especially in Missouri and Kansas, there was a fine line between soldiers simply following orders or letting vengeance or retribution take over. As bushwackers continued to stymie Union forces in the state and both sides embracing the “no quarter” philosophy (that is, not taking prisoners, but upon capture, the prisoner would be executed), both sides were determined to break the other. Such is the story of Confederate Major John L. Owen. Owen had been a Major in the Missouri State Guard under the command of General Sterling Price and his actions in Missouri vary depending on whose account is told. However his capture and death also balance between getting what he deserved by the rules of the military or being murdered.

Owen’s wife, Mary submitted her account of events, as well as detailing Owen’s military service and his motives:

About the 1st of September my husband, John L. Owen, then captain of a company of six-months’ men (sworn into the State service about the middle of June), started to General Price. He was promoted to major and returned home the 6th of December. Since that time to my certain knowledge he has had no company nor part of company; neither has he been connected in any way with a company. And I do know and can say with truth that he never either before or since his return from the arms has been engaged in what is termed bushwhacking and that he has never shot into the cars. On the contrary I known he was always opposed to that kind of warfare. I have frequently heard him speak on the subject, therefore I know his opinion…

On the 8th day of June before we had risen in the morning we were surrounded by Federal troops knocking at the doors for admittance. My mother, her two sons who live with her, Amsley and William, myself and child were all who were in the house. The soldiers came in, searched the house, took both Amsley and William prisoners and took them away, while others came and surrounded the place. Persons who saw them estimated their numbers at about 300. They had their pilots with them. They dashed through the fields like so many fiends, and into the meadow where my husband had slept the night before (and no doubt he had been watched to his sleeping place), and oh, they found him in a little cluster of bushes not more than 200 or 300 yards from the house and in plain view of the house. They found him alone, unarmed and defenseless; one poor man, without any resistance at all, gave himself up to his savage captors. Resistance would have been vain and he knew it. Oh, the savage yells they sent up when they found him; they ret.

They brought him to the house. We saw them coming. I was greatly troubled to think they had him prisoner; but oh, I could not conceive that persons calling themselves men and Christian men could have hearts cruel enough to murder him in the brutal manner in which they did. They all halted at the fence and got water. While here they questioned him as to who stayed with him, and several other questions, among the rest where was his company. He told them he had no company. His mother and myself told them the same. They called us all liars and said they knew he had a company for they had been told so, and that he had to tell where it was. We all assured them that he told the truth, but they would not believe us. They said, “Take him away from these women, and if he does not tell us we will hang him. ” He said just as they started from the house if they would treat him as a prisoner of war and according to the honors of war he had no fears.

I feared from their savage appearance that they might abuse him or do him some harm, and I followed them about a quarter of a mile entreating them to spare his life; that he was innocent of the charges they had against him, and not to take an innocent man’s life. They assured me they would not kill him, and told me to go back home now and come down to Palmyra the next day and see him. That satisfied me. I turned and came home.

They did not go over half a mile farther till they killed him.

A letter in the Quincy Whig in 1862 claimed to hold the facts to Owen’s case and disputed his wife’s account. This was written by the Provost-Marshal of Palmyra, Missouri, William R. Strachan, an ardent supporter of the Union. The letter begins with,

SIR: I am led to thank you for your happy answer to a letter purporting to have emanated from Mrs. J. L. Owen describing the manner of the death of her husband. Whilst every person can sympathize with the wife in her affliction and regret she was so unfortunate in having so guilty a husband, still every loyal right-minded citizen must be satisfied with the merited punishment of so notorious a traitor as John L. Owen.

I wish to give points in the career of this “Major ” John L. Owen which may expose the outrage of publishing such a letter as that in the Herald. J. L. Owen was the first man who inaugurated bushwhacking in this portion of the State of Missouri. His company by his orders burned some eight or ten passenger coaches on the Hannibal and Saint Joseph Railroad, burned a depot building at Monroe Station, tore up the railroad track, destroyed culverts and fired into passenger cars. On one occasion they met a man by the name of Hotchkiss who never had carried arms and was particularly inoffensive, being engaged in trading with the farmers in the vicinity of Monroe City for butter, eggs, &c., and in return delivering them coffee, sugar, cotton, &c. He had never committed any higher crime than that of voting for Abraham Lincoln, yet this man while watering his horses was deliberately shot down; eight balls were put into him and he was left for dead. The man, however, was taken care of by the Sixteenth Illinois’ surgeon and I believe is now alive in Hannibal.

He continues,

Again, John L. Owen has been hiding from justice since Christmas, lying concealed, sleeping in the brush, and was found in his bed in the brush, and armed.

General orders from headquarters are imperative that this class of men caught under arms in this part of the United States are to be shot on the spot. These orders have been published to the world. Mr. Owen was not shot in the presence of his family, he was not tied, he was not abused; but the general orders that commanded him to be shot were read to him, and he was regularly executed in accordance with military usage.

However, another version clearly presents a case where there is some discrepancies in the actual shooting of Owen. Joseph Mudd was an unapologetic secessionist, slave holder and served with the Army of Northern Virginia later in the war. During his time with Colonel Joseph C. Porter in northeast Missouri, Mudd was witness to the events surrounding Owen’s death. In his book With Porter in Northern Missouri, he tells the story of the event as such,

On the 8th of June a scouting party of the Eleventh Missouri State Militia, commanded by Captain W. W. Lair, made a prisoner of Major John L. Owen, who lived near Monroe City, in Marion County, and shot him… Returning home in December, 1861, he found an indictment for treason hanging over him, and so he could not come in and surrender. He continued to hide out until he was captured… Captain Collier and the Shelby County company made him prisoner and took him to his family. Here they assured his wife they would take him to Palmyra and would not harm him. Half a mile from his house they set him on a log against a fence and put eight bullets through him-caliber 54… Captain Collier states that when he left Palmyra, he had strict orders to enforce the terms of General Schofield’s ‘Orders No. 18,’ enjoining the ‘utmost vigilance in hunting down and destroying’ all bushwhackers and marauders, who, the order said, ‘when caught in arms, engaged in their unlawful warfare,’ were to be shot down ‘on the spot.

Newspapers were also guilty of either supporting southern sympathies or supporting the Union. The following is from the Hannibal (Mo.) Hearld of June 10:

Information was brought into camp at Palmyra on Saturday last that Colonel John L. Owen, a notorious rebel who has made himself conspicuous in burning bridges, cars and depots, firing into passenger trains, last summer and fall, was secreted at or near his farm in Monroe. A detachment from Company A, Eleventh Regiment Missouri State Militia (Colonel Lipscomb), under command of Lieutenant Donahoo, was immediately sent out from Palmyar to hunt the outlaw. On approaching the farm of Colonel Owen on Sunday about 12 m. the squad discovered a negro running rapidly from the house toward a piece of brush. The lieutenant and his company immediately started for the brush and going into it discovered the game and soon bagged it. At first the colonel showed a determination to resist his capture, but finding such a proceeding useless he yielded. Preparations were made for his execution. He begged the soldiers to take him prisoner. They informed him that “Taking prisoners” was played out. They then placed him upon a stump in front of a file of soldiers and at the word of command eight bullets pierced the body of the rebel, killing him instantly.

Thus has ended the career of a notorious bushwacker and outlaw. He has met the just retribution of his damning crimes.

This leads us to try and determine what really happened with John L. Owen and presents a case that historians struggle with when trying to piece together an event from primary sources, that is, it all depends on who you ask. The facts that are readily clear are that Owen was indeed a southern sympathizer, he did take up arms against the Union while under Price’s command, and he was killed by Union soldiers after being captured. The details, however, will always be at the mercy of the historian piecing together the tale. Was he innocent? Was he indeed unarmed? Was a promise to keep him as a prisoner given and then reneged on?

The list goes on, and the truth is left to the minds of those who attempt to piece the puzzle together, knowing there will always be missing pieces and a true picture is nearly impossible to find.

During the mid-nineteenth century the world was in an uproar. Many countries in Europe were struggling with revolutions. In Prussia, the idea of combining the German states into a unified, single Germany, was part of the revolutionist’s plans. But because of the failed reforms, many of these revolutionaries – most of who were highly educated, politically astute and militarily trained – fled to the United States in a search for a new life. Called “Fourty-Eighters” because of their involvements in the revolutions of 1848, many of these Europeans arrived in America and became not only prominent citizens, but also contributed to and invested in their new homeland.

German immigrants also enlisted, some voluntarily and other not so voluntarily, in the United States Army. With the threat of secession of the southern states and what looked like a civil war brewing, many of these Germans sided with their new found country in the effort to maintain the Union, and some, to fight against the southern support of slavery. With a rise in German immigrants, there were German officers appointed to spur these immigrants towards enlistment. This is a brief look at one such German that, by circumstances or fate, fell into obscurity behind his famous General brother and has been lost to the passage of time.

Colonel Albert SigelColonel Albert Sigel was born in Sinsheim, Rhein-Neckar-Kreis, Baden-Württemberg, Germany on November 13, 1827. He was the third child Franz Moritz Sigel (1788 – 1864) and Anna Marie Pauline Lichtenauer, both of Germany, along with his brother, the famed Civil War General Franz Peter Sigel (1824 – 1902), and his other siblings Laura, Theresa, Emil and Karl Sigel. Colonel Sigel immigrated to the United States in 1851 along with many other Europeans, including his brother Franz, who were called “Forty-Eighters” in reference to their participations in the failed European revolutions of 1848. He was naturalized in New York, NY on October 24, 1860.

Colonel Sigel married Rosa Fischer (1844 – 1939) of St Louis, Missouri on March 26, 1863 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Sigel’s had six children, Amalia (1864 – 1953), Moritz (1866 – 1933), Anna (1867 – 1951), Lena (1870 – 1967), Emma (1872 – 1966), and Albert (1878 – 1880).[1] Of the six Sigel children, only Amalia ever married (to Robert G. Bremerman) and they had no sons. The other Sigel children had no children of their own and lived with their mother until her death. Earel Albert Sigel died of meningitis at the age of 1 year, 10months and 6 days, thus ending any direct male lineage from Albert Sigel. Col. Sigel’s wife Rosa, along with Amailia, Moritz, Anna, and Lena were all cremated at the Missouri Crematorium in St. Louis.[2]

Sigel enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 28, 1861 in New Jersey and commissioned a captain of Company D, New Jersey 2nd Infantry Regiment. He mustered out of this regiment on December 14, 1861. Sigel was given the rank of Colonel on May 19, 1862 and commanded the Booneville State Militia Cavalry Battalion (“Epsteins”) which was organized at Booneville, MO. March 24, 1862. This militia unit saw a few skirmishes in central Missouri until it was re-organized as the 13th Regiment Missouri State Militia Cavalry.

On October 18, 1861, while commanding the 13th MSM Cavalry, Col. Sigel was involved in an investigation of the killing of rebel prisoners in Waynesville.

The 13th MSM Cavalry was involved in an engagement at the California House in which Col. Sigel gave the following report;

OCTOBER 18, 1862. – Skirmish at California House, Mo. Report of Colonel Albert Sigel, Thirteenth Missouri Cavalry (Militia). HDQRS. 13TH Regiment CAV., MO. S. M., Waynesville, Mo., Oct. 18, 1862.

COLONEL: In compliance with your dispatch, received last evening that 200 rebels had crossed the Missouri at Portland the night before and tried to make their way south, I thought it best to let them come near our post, so as to be able to intercept them whenever they tried to cross our line. I therefore ordered Captain Murphy, after midnight, with portions of four companies, numbering 75 men, toward the Gasconade, while I had another force of about 100 men ready to throw on them whenever I could get information where they intended to cross.

At about 10 o’clock this morning I received a report that Captain Murphy had not only found their trace, but was in hot pursuit of them. It was also reported that they had turned southwest, and it was now certain to me that they would cross our line 7 miles west from here, near the California House. I immediately started there with the force already mentioned, and we were scarcely ten minutes near the California House when they drove in our advance guard, under Lieutenant Muller, of Company A, who fell back and brought them into the line of Lieutenant Brown, of Company F, whose men were dismounted. We now pitched into them from all sides, and in a few minutes they ran for their lives. Captain Murphy was also nearly up at that time, and drove a portion of them before hi, scattering them in all directions.

The estimate of the rebels killed is 20, among them Lieutenant Tipton, and as many are wounded. We captured a secesh [sic] flag, 2 roll-books, some horses, and some shot-guns and Austrian rifles; made 3 prisoners, and liberated 2 Union men, who they had prisoners. We had only 1 man slightly wounded. I ordered the secesh [sic] population of the neighborhood to bury the dead and to care for the wounded rebels.

The rebels were well armed and equipped and 250 to 300 strong. They were commanded by Captain Ely, Captain Brooks, and two captains both with the name of Creggs, and were a part of Colonel Porter’s command, who did not cross the Missouri with them, but promised to follow them with a large force.

All our officers and men behaved well. Captain Smith (Company H) has not yet, at 8.30 p. m., come back from pursuit the rebels.

I remain, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

ALBERT SIGEL, Colonel, Commanding Thirteenth Regiment Cavalry, Mo. S. M. [3]

He again assumed command as Colonel of the 5th Regiment Missouri State Militia Cavalry when it was reorganized from the 13th Missouri State Militia Cavalry on February 8, 1863.[4] The 5th MSM Cavalry was attached to the District of Rolla, Department of Missouri up until June 1863 where it was then assigned to the District of the Border, Department of Missouri up until October 1863 then reassigned back to the District of Rolla until the regiment mustered out on July 8, 1865.

The 5th MSM Cavalry saw most of its action in and around the area of Waynesville, MO. where the headquarters was located atop a bluff overlooking the town as well as the Wire Road, a main supply route from St. Louis to Springfield, MO. Most of this action involved skirmishes and scouting missions against Missouri bushwhackers who were southern sympathizing, irregular forces.

On March 25, 1864, Brigadier General Odon Guitar, commander of the District of Rolla and Col. Sigel’s commanding officer, was relieved of command and Col. Sigel, in accordance with General Order #25, was directed to assume command of the District of Rolla, in which Col. Sigel responded that he would indeed fulfill this role. In November 1864 he continued this role as commander of the Rolla District and after the evacuation of Fort Davidson in Pilot Knob, MO, awaited the arrival of Brigadier General Thomas Ewing.[5] In a report given by Brigadier General John McNeil, Col. Sigel received praise for setting up a secure defense in anticipation for the continuing threat of Confederate General John S. Marmaduke and General J.O. Shelby General McNeil stated that, “By the 3rd of October, so assiduously and faithfully had the working parties performed the tasks allotted, for which too much praise cannot be given to Colonel Albert Sigel, Fifth Missouri State Militia Infantry, commanding the post.”[6]

After the Civil War, Col. Sigel served as Adjutant-General of Missouri and as a notary public.

Colonel Sigel died on March 16, 1884 at the age of 56. The St. Louis Republican newspaper printed the following obituary of his passing:

BURIAL OF COL. ALBERT SIGEL. From the St. Louis Republican, March 18.

Col. Albert Sigel, Adjutant-General of Missouri under Gov. Brown, was buried yesterday. There were few persons in attendance and no services at the house or grave. Col. Sigel was the brother of Gen. Franz Sigel, and was a native of the Grand Duchy of Baden, having been born at Sinshein, Baden, Nov. 13, 1827. He had a military education and saw some service before coming to this country. Col. Sigel during the war was in command of the Fifth Regiment Cavalry, Missouri State Militia (formerly the Thirteenth.) He was appointed Colonel of the regiment May, 19, 1862, and was mustered out with the regiment at the expiration of its term, Jan. 7, 1865. The regiment aggregated 1,100 men, was well mounted, and the condition of the horses was as good as that of the horses of any mounted regiment in the Missouri Department.[7]

Map of South St. Louis in 1885 with overlay of modern featuresAt the time of his death, Col. Sigel lived at 1853 or 1929 Linn Avenue in South St. Louis, which today would be located at the I-44/I-55 interchange, southeast of Lafayette Park. Many of the streets no longer exist (including this section of Linn Ave.) and quite a few others now have different names.

The St. Louis Death Registry shows that Col. Sigel is buried at “New Picker’s Cemetery” which was seized by the City of St. Louis and renamed Gatewood Gardens Cemetery. Unfortunately, the records from 1861 to 1891 are missing and all that is left is a handwritten transcription of the log, with Col. Sigel not found. So he is most likely buried in an unmarked grave at the cemetery, lost to time.

Colonel Sigel has been mostly forgotten in the shadow of his brother Franz, by children that left him no heirs, and the march of time. However, history shows him as a dedicated soldier and commander for the United States, a public servant to the state of Missouri

 

Works Cited

National Park Service. The Civil War Soldiers and Sailor’s Database: Battle Units. n.d. http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=UMO0005RCY2 (accessed January 6, 2015).

New York Times. “Burial of Col. Albert Sigel.” New York Times Obituary, March 21, 1884.

The Union Army: A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal States 1861-65 Records of the Regiments in the Union Army-Cyclopedia of Battles-Memoirs of Commanders and Soldiers. Vols. V Cyclopedia of Battles A – Helena. Madison, WI: Federal Publishing Company, 1908.

United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1901.

Wood, William D. Report of the Adjutant General. St. Louis: Headquarters State of Missouri Adjutant Generals Office, 1863.

 

[1] Year: 1880; Census Place: St. Louis, St. Louis (Independent City), Missouri; Roll: 721; Family History Film: 1254721; Page: 637C; Enumeration District: 100

[2] Missouri Secretary of State, “Missouri Digital Heritage” Missouri Death Certificates, 1910-1963. http://www.sos.mo.gov/records/archives/archivesdb/deathcertificates/Default.aspx

[3] United States War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1901. Serial 019, Page 0321, Chapter XXV.

[4] Wood, William D. Report of the Adjutant General. St. Louis: Headquarters State of Missouri Adjutant Generals Office, 1863, p. 483.

[5] Ibid., Serial 086, Page 0707, Chapter LIII.

[6] Ibid., Serial 083, Page 0375, Chapter LIII.

[7] New York Times. “Burial of Col. Albert Sigel.” New York Times Obituary, March 21, 1884.