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The History of Washington, Missouri

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In the years preceding the Civil War there was much dissension in Washington about slavery and related political questions.  Here, as elsewhere, families were divided on these controversial issues.

The old American pioneers were largely from the south, and many of them were slave owners.  Most of the German settlers had joined the Democratic Party because they were strongly in sympathy with the principles it affirmed.  Slavery was abhorrent to them, however, so the majority eventually sided with the South.

This shift is readily apparent in the balloting for presidential elections.  In 1860, the county was strongly Democratic, and Lincoln received 494 votes to 888 for Douglas.  In 1864, however, Lincoln received 1717 votes, more than four times the total for McClellan.

In 1860 the Missouri State Legislature voted to call a convention on February 28, 1861 to determine whether Missouri should join the Southern Confederacy.  The counties of the State were to elect delegates to this convention on February 18.

A mass meeting to sound out the voters’ sentiments was to be held in Washington, on February 11.  In began on time, but nothing was accomplished except the introduction of two resolutions, one in favor of secession, and the other against it.

On the next day another meeting was held at Union, and the wrangling began again.  The secessionist element was extremely active, and while some of the leading Republicans were at dinner, they organized a meeting, selected Edward J. Goode, a Southern sympathizer as chairman, and appointed twelve others of like views as a committee on resolutions.

When the absent Republicans learned of this action, they came into the courthouse, and four Republicans were added to the committee.  After a stormy session of two hours, a resolution was tendered in favor of secession, but a ringing minority report in favor of the Union was given by Sheriff A. W. Maupin.

The vote on the resolutions was so evenly divided that the chairman called for those in favor of the Union to go to the west side of the room, and those for dissolution to the east side.  At this critical juncture, James White, an office boy at the courthouse, jerked a small flag from a door, and running back up the stairs, handed it to Sheriff Maupin.

The Unionist greeted the banner with loud “Hurrahs!”  From the Secessionists came shouts of “Down with the flag!” – “Take the flag away!”

Sheriff Maupin, grasping the flag in his left hand and a cocked revolver in the right, told the Secessionists to come and get the flag if they wanted it, but that the first man to lay a hand on it would be a dead man.  No one tried it.

Evening came on, and many more men, called by Maupin’s friends to help, arrived to take their place around the flag and its custodian.  The Secessionists grouped themselves on one side of the room, the Unionists on the other, the space between being “Neutral Ground.”

Then this call came from the Unionists:  “Whoever is not a traitor, and wants to remain loyal to our flag, come to our side.”

Men who had been timid and irresolute came over to the Union side, and only a few determined leaders of the Secessionists remained steadfast.

In the election held on February 18, this district gave an overwhelming victory to the Union ticket.  The state convention met at Jefferson City on February 28, and later adjourned to St. Louis.  After a debate lasting for several months, Missouri decided to stay out of the Confederacy, the only “slave state” to remain loyal to the Union.

Squads of Secessionists and Union sympathizers began drilling in Franklin County at the beginning of 1861.  In the middle of April, Union men were advised that the arsenal in St. Louis was in danger.  In a few hours a company of men, under Captain David Murphy, took the train at Washington, and by special arrangement with the conductor, the train was stopped at Twenty-second street.  The company stole their way, one by one, until they reached the arsenal unobserved, and were the fourth company in the state, outside of St. Louis, to reach the arsenal.

A regiment was formed, and placed under the command of Colonel James W. Owens, whose residence on the bluffs near Washington was used for headquarters.[1]  They drilled secretly for some time, and then Colonel Owens and A. W. Maupin applied to St. Louis for arms and ammunition.  Two hundred and fourteen muskets were sent out to Washington on the night of June 11, and with these, two companies were armed.  One, under the command of Captain Francis Wilhelmi, immediately took possession of Washington, and the other, led by Captain Maupin, marched to Union.

Very little of the actual suffering and privation of the Civil Was was felt in this part of Missouri, but many citizens of Franklin County were in the Confederate and Union armies.  It is estimated that about 600 served with the Southern forces, and more than 3,000 in the United States Army, including members of the Home Guard and the Missouri Militia.

The Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth regiments of the Militia were raised in Franklin County.  The twenty-four companies had a roster of 2,200 men.  They became United States forces by an order of 1861, but they were organized for state defense, and were not mustered into military service of the United States.

The twenty-Sixth Regiment of Infantry of the United States Army was composed in the  main of Franklin County recruits, as were Companies C and K of the Eleventh Regiment, G and H of the Thirteenth and B and D of the Forty-Seventh.  Men from this locality served in many other regiments, also, such as the Thirty-First, Thirty-Third and Fortieth Infantry.

At one period during the war several companies of the Home Guard were encamped in the meadow north of Main Street, between Jefferson and Lafayette.  Some veterans of the battle of Shiloh were quartered in the Boley Building on Jefferson Street for a time, and local Southern sympathizers were also imprisoned there.

Washington’s most exciting event of the war was the Confederate raid in 1864.  Although it was known as “Price’s Raid,” there is no evidence that General Price himself ever entered the town of Washington.

In the late summer of that year Generals Marmaduke, Price, Shelby and Caball led a wing of the Confederate Army from Arkansas into Missouri.  They camped at Sullivan on September 30, and the citizens of Washington were warned of their approach.  Breastworks were hastily thrown up along the ridge near Fifth street, but since the Confederate forces were numerous and well equipped, it was evident that the company of Militia at Washington could not hope to defend the town.

The people made frantic preparations for the raid.  Valuables were buried, or hidden in cisterns and under refuse of various kinds.  Some of the women baked bread and pies and left them for the raiders.  Most of the residents were loaded into farm wagons, and were ferried across the river, where they were cared for by the farm families in that locality.  The members of the militia, under the command of Colonel Dan Gale, were also ferried to the other side of the river, and the two ferryboats were taken to St. Charles.

Some of the refugees huddled in the old covered bridge, at “Quackenbrueck,” as it was called.  The Confederates fired at them, and some of the bullets lodged in the bridge, but no one was injured.  They could see the burning stations at Washington and South Point, and doubtless expected to find their homes in ruins on their return.

The raiders ransacked stores and homes.  They helped themselves to food, and clothing, and it was said that they went marching down the street with the hair ribbons they had purloined from the stores tied to their bayonets.  They even took such bulky articles as spinning wheels and destroyed much food, clothing and furniture either through maliciousness or in their frenzied search for valuables and gold.

Fortunately the Confederates stayed in Washington but a single day.  The damage to property was great, almost, every sound horse in the community was confiscated, and two lives were taken – one a man named Uhlenbrock, and the other young boy name Bartsch.  The youngster was shot down when he turned and started to run away to tell his parents of the approach of the Army.

A very interesting account of this raid was discovered by the late Herman Kiel, in the report of Brig. Gen. John Clark, Jr:

            “We arrived at Union, Franklin County, Oct. 1; found a small body of the enemy, some 200 strong, posted in the town to dispute our entrance.  Dismounting my command, and opening my artillery, I moved forward rapidly to the attack, routing the enemy, killing 32, and capturing seventy prisoners.  At twelve o’clock that night, Lawther’s regiment of my brigade was sent forward in the direction of Washington as an advance.  I was ordered to join him with the remainder of my command, and did so at 8 o’clock the next morning, one mile from Washington.   The enemy having fled the night before, took possessions of the town without opposition, destroying a bridge on the Pacific railroad, two miles below town.”

            ”On the 3rd of October, captured a train at Miller’s Station” with[2] a large amount of clothing and 400 Sharp’s rifle.  Same evening captured Hermann after a slight engagement with the enemy, Green’s regiment in advance, which captured one 12-pounder gun.  The train captured at Miller’s Station was run up to Hermann, where stores, arms, etc., were distributed.”

On the day when Confederates were in Washington, General Clark wrote the following brief dispatch:

Headquarters Marmaduke’s Brigade,
October 2, 1864, 8:15 a. m.
Maj. Ewing, Assistant Adjutant General.
Major:  My troops have just taken possession of Washington.  The enemy crossed the river.  The ferryboat was sent to St. Charles last night, the citizens say.

                                            JOHN B CLARK, JR.

The following account of the “Washington Navy” was given by Colonel James W. Owens, who signed his report as “Judge Owens”:

St. Charles, October 2, 1864.
Maj. Gen. Rosecrans:

            I left Washington, Franklin County, Mo., this morning at daybreak, in charge of two ferryboats; arrived here 4:30 o’clock.  Colonel Gale with his command was ferried across the river last night, as he was unable to defend the town or railroad.  H has bout 600 men, well armed, but with no commissary stores.  He intends marching to St. Charles.  As we passed South Point, two miles below Washington, rebel cavalry fired into us about 75 shots.  Fortunately, only one man was wounded.  We could see the depot at South Point and Washington in flames.  From the best information I could get they have about 1500 in Franklin County; five pieces of artillery.

                                                JAMES E. OWENS,[3]
                                                        Judge of Ninth Circuit.

Captain John Maupin was stationed at Augusta at this time, and reported hearing heavy cannonading in the direction of Hermann.  He estimated Price’s forces at from 10,000 to 15,000 cavalry, and six batteries of artillery.  He reported that six men of the Militia, including Major Wilson, were shot or hanged near Union by the Confederates.

Washington was alarmed at other times by reports that Indians or the dreaded “Bushwhackers” were coming, but the town was not further molested during the war.

[1] James W. Owens was the only son of William G and Lucinda Owens.  His house is now occupied by F.  W. Kamp.  In the large oak that stands near it may be seen the iron ring that was used to raise the United States flag during the Civil War.

[2] New Haven

[3] Probably a misprint in the record.  It should be James W. Owens.

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