Researched & Written By:
Esther M. Ziock Carroll 



Washington County is located in southeast Missouri and is adjoined by Jefferson, Franklin, Crawford, Iron and St. Francois counties.  It's county seat, Potosi, is approximately 70 miles south of St. Louis.  The principle industry in Washington County was the mining of lead.   During the Civil War this lead was used in the making of ammunition.  The furnaces which smelted the lead were frequently the target of raids by Confederate guerrillas.

In early May of 1861, the citizens of Washington County, not wanting to take up arms against their southern brethren, held a meeting at the courthouse in Potosi.   It was addressed by Hon. Geo. B. Clark and others who strongly favored neutrality and were willing to maintain it by force of arms.  An attempt was made to organize a company for this purpose, under command of Capt. John Casey.  A muster roll was opened and 60 men enrolled but before organization of the company was completed, Federal soldiers took possession of Potosi.


In mid May Union citizens complained of harassment by southern sympathizers and requested an army for protection.   On May 16 Capt. Nathan Cole and a detachment of 176 men came down from St. Louis and surrounded Potosi before dawn with loaded guns and bayonets ready for use.    The houses of the threatening parties were searched for weapons and more than 56 men were taken to jail in St. Louis then released about a week later.  Two smelters and the railroad depot were also visited and hundreds of pigs of lead were confiscated and so channeled away from Confederate guns.  The Missouri Republican told about the release of the prisoners:  "The remaining prisoners who were captured at Potosi were released from the arsenal yesterday.  Their names are given below.  Four of the prisoners were released on Saturday on parole and the remainder were dismissed yesterday unconditionally.  The names of those released on Saturday are: Wm. Mathews - clerk Circuit Court, Washington County; E. D. Smith - Jefferson County steam boat pilot; Stephen P. Dunklin - farmer; Joseph H. Dunklin - farmer.  Those released yesterday are: Dr. John Wiatt - Jefferson County, Geo. B. Clarke - lawyer, L.W. Casey - livery stable keeper, Patrick Doyle - livery stable keeper, Ed Willoughby - miner, N.B. Buck - editor Potosi Miner, Wm. J. Slater - lawyer, John Dean - smelter and farmer.   It may well be to state in this connection that not one of the above named parties had anything to do with threatening Union men in Potosi.  The only threats of that character which were made were confined principly to one individual, who left before the arrival of the troops.  He was not captured."  This action by the Federal authorities put an abrupt halt to all efforts to maintain armed neutrality.   Men had to "chose up sides" either for or against the Union or try to maintain individual neutrality as best they could.

By August 1861 a reign of terror had prevailed for some time with secessionists threatening Union sympathizers and following through by murdering some of the citizens.  On Friday evening, August 9, six miles east of Potosi in St. Francois County, a shot was fired from the bushes hitting Abraham Ringer, a 65 year old man sitting on his porch.  He lived about 3 hours.  On Saturday morning Billy Vineyard, aged 70, and a Mr. Ramsey, both of Bellevue Township in Washington County, were fired upon.   Mr. Vineyard was mortally wounded, Mr. Ramsey escaped unhurt.  Others who had been threatened took their families to St. Louis for safety.  Among them, Mr. McGready, Dr. Bell, and John Evans proprietor of the Hopewell furnace and other Union men.   After making their families secure, the men returned to Washington County.

(Revised & published in the Independent Journal, Aug. 6, 1998)

POTOSI, MISSOURI - AUGUST 10, 1861: During the first few months of the Civil War the Home Guards were organized and consisted of seventy-five men.  They were mostly miners and a floating population.  They were under the command of Captain George French, First Lieutenant Irwin K. Walker and Second Lieutenant Thomas Macklind.  They kept their guns in Douglas Hall at the upper end of High Street where they made their headquarters.  They called it the "arsenal".

On Saturday morning, August 10th, 1861 Confederates had been hovering in the vicinity of Springfield Furnace, about six miles south of Potosi.   They were commanded by Captain White of Fredericktown and the notorious Benjamin Talbot.  Many citizens thought from various indications that an attack on Potosi would be made Saturday night while inhabitants were in bed.  Instead, a charge was made before dark at cavalry5.gif (39269 bytes)about 6:00 P.M.  Captain White strategically chose this time to attack while most of the Home Guards were at supper and others were out protecting the bridges.  This left about twenty Union men guarding the arsenal.  Captain White and his band of approximately 120 soldiers charged down the main street of Potosi, screaming the rebel yell!!!  They halted at Douglas Hall and fired upon it, wounding several of the Home Guards.  Those who were at supper fled for safety.  Captain White failed to capture the arsenal, however, as the Home Guards returned fire sending three volleys and wounding several of the rebels.  The Confederates then fled in the direction of the depot with the Home Guards, even though greatly outnumbered, giving chase and firing upon them again.  A number of the rebels then fled north in the direction of Liberty Township and part south toward Bellevue Valley.  The entire episode lasted about twenty minutes.

That small group of courageous Home Guards managed to kill two Confederates, one of them being William Holloman, wound three, including Dr James Hill, and captured several of them - William Mathews and Mike Lynch.  One of the rebel horses was killed and several others were wounded.  The Home Guards also captured fifteen to twenty rifles, three navy revolvers and several Arkansas Bowie knives that had been left on the field.  Of the Home Guards, one, Andrew Kearns, was mortally wounded.  He was shot through the shoulder.  Alexander Fortune and Mr. Wilson were shot in the thigh.  Ben Kendall, Mr. DeKalb an Thomas Renfro were also wounded.

Troops were quickly sent to reinforce Potosi and other areas of Washington County.  The next day, August 11th, General Ulysses S. Grant, who was at that time stationed at Ironton, sent a company of Union soldiers toward Caledonia as marauders had been reported in Bellevue Valley taking all the horses they could find.   Two companies were sent for protection of the railroad and four companies to Potosi.

On August 12th, General Schaefer, with a detachment of 600 soldiers, came down to Potosi by train from St. Louis relieving the other soldiers who then left to rejoin their regiment taking seventeen prisoners with them.  General Schaefer placed Potosi under martial law and reproted that the town was quiet and the old stars and stripes was still waving over the courthouse - - for the time being.............

    usflag1.jpg (1277 bytes)  Soon after the attack at the arsenal the Home Guards disbanded and four other companies were organized.  They mustered into state service approximately September 1861.  One of these companies was mounted and headquartered at Potosi.  It's commander, Capt. T.D. Castleman performed his duties by sending out scouting detachments to observe the movements of the enemy.   The other three companies were infantry.  Capt. Hulsey's company was quartered at the courthouse and did post duty.  Capt. Stephen Page held his headquarters at the Breton Hotel and divided his company into detachments guarding bridges along the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad.  Philip R. VanFrank's company headquartered at Hopewell and also guarded railroad bridges south of that place.   These four companies were mustered out in December before the expiration of their term and their places occupied by troops belonging to the United States Army.

    confed1.jpg (1362 bytes)  Capt. John Casey organized a company of Confederate soldiers in September 1861 from Washington, St. Francois and Iron counties.  More than one half of the recruits were from Washington County with Richard Berryman, Mack Cook and Samuel Long as lieutenants.  This company joined the State Guards and was at first attached to the 7th Arkansas Cavalry.  In October 1861 it joined another company from Washington, St. Francois and Reynolds counties with only a few being from Washington.   It was completed in August 1862 and the lieutenants were Frank Clark, Seth Farris and James B. Crowder.  It joined Col. Green's regiment of cavalry.  They participeted in the battles of Springfield, Hartsville and Cape Girardeau, Missouri.   In 1863 they moved to Pilot Knob, Missouri then to Kansas, through Indian territory to Clarksville, Texas.  They then went to Lisbon, Louisianna remaining till the close of the war when they went to Shreveport and surrendered.


On October 14, 1861 Confederate Gen. M. Jeff Thompson, nicknamed "The Swamp Fox", began recruiting efforts by issuing a proclamation from his headquarters in the field: 

"Patriots of Washington, Jefferson, Ste.Genevieve, St. Francois and Iron Counties.  I have thrown myself into your midst to offer you an opportunity to cast off the yoke you have unwillingly worn so long.  Come to me and I will assist you, and drive the invaders from your soil or die with you among your native hills.  Soldiers from Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois go home!   We want you not here, and we thirst not for your blood.  We have not invaded your States, we have not polluted your hearthstones, therefore leave us and after we have wiped out the Hessians and Tories, we will be your friendly neighbors, if we cannot be your brothers."

At daybreak on October 15 Gen. Thompson and 400 cavalry fought two brief skirmishes in the vicinity of Blackwell Station about six miles above Mineral Point on the St. Louis, Iron Mountain Railroad.  Blackwell, in northwest St. Francois County, is located on a narrow strip of land between Washington and Jefferson County.  It was being guarded by approximately 45 soldiers of the 33rd Illinois regiment who were recruits from the Illinois State Teachers College, under command of Capt. Elliot.  They awoke to the sound of gunfire and emerged from their tents with bullets whistling around them!   The Confederates quickly captured the Union soldiers but did them no harm.   One Union officer, however, refused to relinquish his sword.  Gen. Thompson was summoned but the officer still refused.  Thompson called up his Indian orderly named Ajax.  Ajax dismounted and started for the officer with his tomahawk and the officer, upon threat of being murdered and scalped, ran to Thompson offering to turn over his sword!  The prisoners were released upon taking the oath not to serve during the war unless exchanged.  The rebels also burned the huge three span Big River Bridge by piling up fence rails and getting fire from the Union camp.  That night they slept at the house of Col. Jack Smith and the next day started down the railroad toward Potosi with intentions of destroying as many culverts and bridges as they could along the way.   Thompson soon received information that there was 1200 cavalry at Potosi so he changed his plans and went to Farmington and a few days later fought the "Battle of Fredericktown" in Madison County.  He continued to fight Civil War battles until he was captured in 1864.

usflag1.jpg (1277 bytes)  Wm. T. Hunter organized a company of Union cavalry and mustered into United States service in May 1862 as Co. H, 12th Cavalry, Missouri State Militia.  Thomas Macklind and Jesse Corum were 1st and 2nd lieutenants.  The company served with this regiment until it broke up in February 1863 and was distributed to other regiments.  It then consolidated with Co. M of the 3rd Cavalry (originally the 10th) and served to the close of the war, nearly all of the time on out-post duty in Missouri and Arkansas.  The regiment mustered out, with the exception of recruits, January - March 1865.  The recruits consolidated into Co. A and Lt. Macklind became Captain.  They mustered out in July, 1865.

usflag1.jpg (1277 bytes)  Capt. Wm. H. Evens raised and organized a Union company in Washington County in the summer of 1862 and mustered into service as Co. C, 31st regiment, Missouri Volunteer Infantry.  This regiment was organized in St. Louis, Missouri on the 7th of October and then moved to Ste. Genevieve and from there to Helena, Arkansas and went into camp on the Mississippi side of the river and there became part of Gen. Blair's brigade.  It served under the distinguished leaders Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. Wm. T. Sherman, otherwise known as "Sherman's Raiders".   They were at the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi and took part in Sherman's historic "March to the Sea."  Following is a brief list of principle battles and skirmishes in which they participated:  Arkansas Post, Arkansas, Vicksburg and Brandon, Mississippi;  Cherokee and Tuscumbia, Alabama;  Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, Tennessee.  In Georgia - Ringold, Buzzard's Roost, Resaca, Dallas, Kenesaw Mountain, Nickajack Creek, siege of Atlanta, Jonesboro, and Lovejoys.  Taylor's Gap, Alabama.  They then consolidated with the 32nd regiment Missouri Volunteer Infantry in November, 1864.  Griswold Station, Georgia, Ogeechee River and siege of Savanah.  In South Carolina - Combahee River, Salkehatchie and Columbia, then Bentonville and Neuse River, North Carolina.  The portion of the regiment that enlisted prior to October 1st, 1862 mustered out at Washington, D.C. on the 13th of June, 1865 and the remaining part at Louisville, Kentucky on July 18th, 1865.   The regiment traveled 1,200 miles by railroad, 2,500 miles by water and marched over 3,000 miles.  They fought in 7 Confederate states, marched through 11 states in rebellion, and were engaged in 29 battles, skirmishes and sieges making a total of 166 days under fire.  They served with distinction till the close of the close of the war and their complete history would fill a volume (or more).

confed1.jpg (1362 bytes)  Capt. James Carson, of Caledonia, riased a company of Confederate soldiers in August, 1862 in Washington and Iron cunties.  The lieutenants were Richard Berryman,     ?  Neely and Rufus Beard.  It joined White's regiment of Missouri Volunteers in Parson's brigade and served until the close of the war.

confed1.jpg (938 bytes)  Approximately the same time that the previous mentioned company was organized Capt. Wm. Talbert and Lt. John Ross of Washington County organized a company of Confederates from Washington, Iron and Reynolds counties.   They joined White's regiment and served to the close of the war.  It is estimated that a total of 125 Washington County men served from first to last in the Confederate army.

usflag1.jpg (1277 bytes)  The 32nd Enrolled Militia (Union) was raised and organized in Washington County and principally kept peace and order at home but saw some active service during Price's raid in 1864 during which 3 men were killed:  Lt. Col. Irwin K. Walker, Lt. Henry Beckett and Capt. Andrew Harris.

usflag1.jpg (1277 bytes)  The 50th Regiment, Missouri Volunteers was not organized until after Gen. Price made his raid into Missouri.  Company E [was raised in Washington County in the summer of 1864] and was stationed at the courthouse in Potosi but had not yet mustered into United States service.   Capt. Cook, of Old Mines, was in command when they attempted to resist the rebels when Gen. Shelby captured Potosi.  They were taken as prisoners-of-war and some were executed.  Later the prisoners were released on parole of honor not to take up arms against the Confederate government until exchanged.  They returned home and considered their paroles binding until Gen. Rosecrans issued an order repudiating and ignoring all paroles of such kind.  The men then reported and mustered into United States service.  Capt. Cook, who was confined to his bed with illness at the time, was replaced by another officer.  The officers for Co. E were Capt. H. Hannahs and Capt. Arthur Wilkinson, 1st Lt. Wm. Woran.  More details are provided in the account of "The Battle of Potosi".

usflag1.jpg (1277 bytes)  Co. F of the 50th regiment was raised in Iron County but had some recruits from Washington County.  Robt. L. Lindsay was captain and Henry O. Clarke and Wm. J. Counts, lieutenants.  Before Company F was mustered into United States service, it participated in the Battle of Pilot Knob.   After the battle, the company reassembled at Pilot Knob and was mustered into service.  Several companies composing this regiment performed service in the vicinity of their respective counties until June 1865.  They then concentrated at St. Louis for reorganization.  Part of the regiment mustered out with the remainder staying at Camp Lincoln doing garrison and guard duty until August 1865 when it mustere out of service.

usflag1.jpg (1277 bytes)  A few men from Washington County also served in the 1st Missouri Artillery, 11th and 14th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry, 33rd Infantry Missouri Volunteers and 1st regiment Missouri State Militia.

usflag1.jpg (1277 bytes)  A few Washington County citizens were drafted into the United States army in the fall of 1864.  Another draft was ordered in the spring on 1865 but citizens were relieved from it's enforcement by an order of the county court to give a bounty of $100 to each volunteer who should enlist for the purpose of relieving the county from the pending draft.  56 volunteers immediately enlisted saving the county from enforcement of the draft.

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