General William Tecumseh Sherman is one of the best known Union generals of the Civil War. His famous “March to the Sea” was the death knell for the Confederate States. His services prior to the war were as the superintendent of the Alexandria Military Academy in Louisiana. With the pending secession of Louisiana, Sherman submitted his request to be relieved of command of the academy on the grounds that if “Louisiana withdraw from the Federal Union, I prefer to maintain my allegiance to the Constitution as long as a fragment of it survives; and my longer stay here would be wrong in every sense of the word.”

He then moved his family to Lancaster Ohio and had an occasion to the meet President Abraham Lincoln with his politician brother John Sherman. He came away adamant on staying out of the hostilities that were coming, instead preferring to dedicate himself strictly to his family. He relates in his memoirs that,

I was sadly disappointed, and remember that I broke out on John, damning the politicians generally, saying, “You have got things in a hell of a fig, and you may get them out as you best can,” adding that the country was sleeping on a volcano that might burst forth at any minute, but that I was going to St. Louis to take care of my family, and would have no more to do with it. John begged me to be more patient, but I said I would not; that I had no time to wait, that I was off for St. Louis; and off I went.

Sherman resided in St. Louis on Locust Street between Tenth and Eleventh streets at the time South Carolina seceded in 1861 and was employed by the St Louis Railroad Company. After the bombardment of Ft Sumter, he was offered the position of chief clerkship of the War Department, which he declined, stating that,

Hon. M. Blair, Washington, D. C. I received, about nine o’clock Saturday night, your telegraph dispatch, which I have this moment answered, “I cannot accept.”

I have quite a large family, and when I resigned my place in Louisiana, on account of secession, I had no time to lose; and, therefore, after my hasty visit to Washington, where I saw no chance of employment, I came to St. Louis, have accepted a place in this company, have rented a house, and incurred other obligations, so that I am not at liberty to change.

I thank you for the compliment contained in your offer, and assure you that I wish the Administration all success in its almost impossible task of governing this distracted and anarchical people.

Yours truly, W.T. SHERMAN

The letter, Sherman tells, was told that it gave offense and that the President’s cabinet felt Sherman would “prove false to the country.” Even his friends were a bit skeptical of Sherman’s political position, so Sherman addressed a letter to the War Department, showing his allegiance to the Union, but only to a certain extent:

Office of the St. Louis Railroad Company, May 8,1861.

Hon. S. Cameron, Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.

Dear Sir: I hold myself now, as always, prepared to serve my country in the capacity for which I was trained. I did not and will not volunteer for three months, because I cannot throw my family on the cold charity of the world. But for the three-years call, made by the President, an officer can prepare his command and do good service.

I will not volunteer as a soldier, because rightfully or wrongfully I feel unwilling to take a mere private’s place, and, having for many years lived in California and Louisiana, the men are not well enough acquainted with me to elect me to my appropriate place.

Should my services be needed, the records of the War Department will enable you to designate the station in which I can render most service.

Yours truly, W. T. SHERMAN.

However, he was present and witnessed the events at Camp Jackson and the discontent the people held for the Union, hurrahing Jeff Davis, and eventually shots being fired. He realized that he could no longer hold back his desire to avoid getting involved. He received a dispatch from Washington telling him he had been appointed Colonel of the Thirteenth Regular Infantry. He had originally believed he would come back to St. Louis to raise his own regiment at Jefferson Barracks, however, he notes in his memoirs that “the Government was trying to rise to a level with the occasion. Mr. Lincoln had, without the sanction of law, authorized the raising of ten new regiments of regulars, each infantry regiment to be composed of three battalions of eight companies each; and had called for seventy-five thousand State volunteers.”

His stay in St. Louis of two months ended. He stated that

…satisfied that I would not be permitted to return to St. Louis, I instructed Mrs. Sherman to pack up, return to Lancaster, and trust to the fate of war. I also resigned my place as president of the Fifth Street Railroad, to take effect at the end of May, so that in fact I received pay from that road for only two months’ service, and then began my new army career.

When the war ended Sherman remained in the military, rising to General in Chief of the Army from 1869 to 1883. During that time, he moved his headquarters back to St. Louis. When he retired from the Army he moved to New York City and died on February 14, 1891 at the age of 71. At his request, Sherman was transported back to St Louis and buried in Calvary Cemetery.

After the beginning of the Civil War, the arsenal in Liberty, MO had been attacked by pro-Confederates and a large number of rifles and muskets were taken. The arsenal in St. Louis was by far much larger than the one in Liberty, with as much as 40,000 rifles and muskets. Fears that the pro-Confederates would attempt to seize the St Louis arsenal, a militia was raised under the command of Captain Nathaniel Lyon to protect the arsenal. Lyons militia was largely composed of German immigrants and members of the Wide Awakes organization.

Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson ordered the Missouri Militia for maneuvers just outside of the arsenal in what was known as Camp Jackson. The governor at this point was considered neutral, but had strong leanings towards the South.

On May 10, 1861, Lyons would force the surrender of the militia, but the men refused to take the oath of allegiance and Lyons marched the men to the arsenal through the streets of St Louis, guarding them with members of the German Home Guard. This sparked outrage with the citizens and they began to hurl rocks and pavement at the Union soldiers, particularly aiming at the Germans. A shot was fired and then Germans opened fire into the crowd, killing at least 20 civilians and wounding at least 50 more.

Rioting ensued and many more citizens and soldiers were beaten and mistreated. Eventually, Federal regular Army troops arrived and martial law was enacted. The relief of the Germans however, abated the situation and the rioting ended.

The Camp Jackson Affair would be an event that further provided proof of division in the country, and in the state of Missouri. It would also be one of the deciding factors in forcing most Missourian’s to pick a side as issues of the day such as nativism, slavery, and state’s rights were now thrust upon them. It would also be the catalyst in Lyons promotion to Brigadier General and replacing General William S. Harney as commander of Union forces in Missouri and for solidifying Governor Claiborne Jackson’s and former governor Sterling Price’s pro-Confederate position.

Price, Jackson, Lyons and Frank P. Blair Jr. would meet at the Planter House Hotel in St Louis to try and come to terms with the situations in Missouri, but Lyons would basically declare war and would then begin his pursuit of the pro-Confederates across the state, sparking many of the battles that would dot the countryside.