|San Luis Militia (colonial) see
Note: At the present time, the author could not find much information on the territorial militia units.
** units present at Camp Jackson, May 10, 1861
++ units used to put down the 1854 "Know-Nothing" Riots
Continental Rangers ++
Emmett Guards** (Predominantly Irish)
Minute Men **
Missouri Videttes ** (two companies)
Pioneer Corps ++ (German)
St. Louis Greys (or "Grays")** ++
St. Louis National Guard ** ++ (two companies)
Sarsfield Guards **
Southern Guards **
Washington Blues ** (Predominantly Irish)
Washington Guards ** ++ (Predominantly Irish)
Cavalry (three squadrons)**
These secret units were drilled in buildings with floors "strewn
with sawdust" to muffle
the sound of marching. They major function was to "sustain the government of the Union
and to protect Union men in St. Louis" as well as to protect the U.S. Arsenal
from being captured by Missouri State forces. These militia units eventually were
incorporated into Gen. Lyon's U.S. Volunteers and U.S. Reserve Corps
that took part in the capture of Camp Jackson.
|Capt. Blair's Company
Union Club (East Division)
Union Club (West Division)
Union Black Rifles (Fourth Ward)
Union Club (Fifth Ward)
Union Guard (Third Ward)
Union Guard (Seventh Ward)
Union Guard (Tenth Ward)
Black Rifles (four companies)
Union Guard (Company No. 5)
Citizen Guard (two companies)
Mounted Citizens' Guard
The St. Louis Greys, founded in 1832, were the city's oldest volunteer militia. The founders being Samuel Willi, James S. Thomas and Capt. Martin Thomas. Frederick L. Billon was1st Lieutenant with John P. Riley as ensign. Since Samuel Willi was in the tailor business, he designed the militia's gray uniforms. According to Charles van Ravenswaay, author of Saint Louis, An Informal History of the City and its People, 1764-1865, "Privates wore swallow-tailed coats with black facing on the skirts, black collars and cuffs, silver braid trim, silver-plated buttons, and white-fringed epaulets. Particularly eye-catching were their tall, bell-shaped, black patent leather hats, ornamented with gilt eagles, white feathers, and chin straps with silvered scales." About the officers, Ravenswaay writes they wore, "double-breasted coats, morocco leather belts, and red silk sashes."
The Greys were a favorite attraction for area residents. In addition, the militia was a regular feature to parades and on special occasions. When Gen. William Clark died in St. Louis on Sept 1, 1838, the St. Louis Greys escorted the famous leader's body in the funeral procession. In July 4, 1851, they were part of the grand parade marking the construction of the trans-Mississippi Pacific Railroad groundbreaking event.
The St. Louis Greys were instrumental in putting down
the "Know-Nothing" riots in August of 1854. Crowds attacked immigrant
communities, especially the Irish and Germans in a drive for "pure Americanism".
The 63 man police force was augmented by 500 militia men (including the
St. Louis Greys, St. Louis National Guards, Continental Rangers, the German
"Pioneer Corps" and the Irish "Washington Guards"). These units all working
together saved St. Louis University, and the Anzeiger Des Westens
(German language newspaper) office from destruction by the mob.
Eventually another temporary militia, referred to as a "volunteer special force" (commanded by Major Meriwether Lewis Clark) composed of seven hundred men was raised to assist the established militias in keeping order.
Being a member of the elite St. Louis Greys was no easy task. These were very prominent men of the community, both socially and in business. One of these was Captain George Knapp. He is recorded as having entered the unit at age twenty-one. When the Mexican war broke out, he was one of the first to volunteered for service. He was also the owner/editor of the pro-Union Missouri Republican newspaper.
The St. Louis Greys was one of the volunteer Missouri
militia units called into muster at Camp Jackson in May of 1861.
At this encampment, it was designated as Co. A of the 1st Regiment of Missouri
Volunteer Militia. This regiment was composed of ten companies, each company
being a separate militia unit. The Greys at this time were commanded by Capt. Martin Burke.
The regiment being commanded by former officer of the Mexican War, Lt. Col. John Knapp, brother of George Knapp mentioned above. Eventhough Union Gen. Lyon captured the Missouri militia units at Camp Jackson, with the suspicion of them being disloyal to the Federal government, it would be a mistake to assume that the majority of the men at Camp Jackson were seccessionist, at this point in time. For instance, John Knapp, second in command, would later serve as a Colonel in pro-Union 8th Enrolled Missouri Milia, and 13th Provisional Regiment during the Civil War. Several other men would also serve the Union loyally.
The men of the St. Louis Greys, along with the other
Missouri State militia companies were captured, humiliated, and inprisoned
by Gen. Lyons forces on May 10, 1861. The associated massacre of civilians
made matters even worse. This illegal and extreme action naturally
provoked widespread anger in St. Louis. Even Union men were outraged by the careless
and heavy handedness of the delicate situation. We may never know what the future of
the St. Louis Greys would have been if Lyon never would have taken action. We can be
certain that the experience played a major decision making roll for the majority of the Greys, which cast their lot with the South and opposed Federal operations in the State of Missouri.
When it was time for the Missouri State Guard to decide to enter regular Confederate service,
most of the men of the Greys mustered into Company D of the 1st Missouri Infantry CSA.
Here they carried their name into battle, fighting with valor, however most would never
return alive to see their beloved St. Louis again.
Below is a historical lithograph depicting the St.
Louis Greys in a parade down Fourth Street.
It is taken from the cover of sheet music of the "St. Louis Greys Quickstep", written by
Joseph W. Postlewaite, a free black composer of St. Louis.
The St. Louis Greys Militia marching down Fourth Street
Lith. by Schaerff & Bro.; Wm. B. Crombie.
University Lester S. Levy Collection.
Midi File courtesy of Benjamin
While the St. Louis National Guards were an "Engineer Corps" they were just as polished on parade as the St. Louis Greys. The unit was founded in August of 1852, by Capt. Robert M. Renick, 1st Lt. J.N. Pritchard, and 2nd Lt. E.S. Wheaton. It was one of the units called
upon to combat the 1854 "Know-Nothing" Riots in St. Louis. In 1861 at Camp Jackson,
the National Guards were under the command of Capt. William B. Hazeltine. There they
and a newly formed second company were incorporated into the 2nd Regiment of Missouri Volunteer Militia, which was commanded of Col. John S. Bowen (later to become leader
of the famed "Bowen's Brigade" of Missouri Confederate troops). An account by one
member of the National Guards can be found in the book, "Missouri Brothers in Gray:
The Reminiscences and Letters of William J. Bull and John P. Bull", edited by
Michael E. Banasik (1998, Camp Pope Bookshop, Iowa City, Iowa).
Midi File courtesy of Benjamin Tubb
This webpage by Scott K. Williams of Florissant, Missouri. Copyright 1999, All Rights Reserved.