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Oakwood Confederate Cemetery Dedication, May 30, 1895

In 1863, prominent pro-Southerners are banished from St. Louis

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A street battle erupted between Union soldiers and Southern-sympathizing civilians on May 10, 1861, on Olive Street near Garrison Avenue. It was the bloodiest of three violent clashes in the city on May 10-11, which ripped open the city's deep division at the outbreak of the Civil War. In the end, St. Louis backed the Union, and some prominent citizens with pro-Southern sympathies were put out of the city in 1863. Missouri History Museum image

ST. LOUIS • A wagon escorted by Union soldiers pulled up to a fashionable home on Chestnut at Seventh streets. Ten women climbed on board for a clattering ride to the steamboat landing.

Among them were the wife of a Confederate general and the lady of the house, which had been converted into a prison for women accused of being disloyal. By Union decree, they were being banished to the Confederacy.

At the landing, soldiers marched them and 13 like-minded men onto the packet Belle Memphis on May 13, 1863, for a trip down the river. One month before, President Abraham Lincoln approved instructions for banishing civilians whose public sympathies were too comforting to the rebel cause.

Since before the Civil War, St. Louis, a city in a slave state, had been a stew of opposing political passions and armed marching societies. Union forces prevailed, but only after bloody street clashes and the jailing of some pro-Southern citizens. Many prominent St. Louisans traced their heritage to Southern culture and bitterly resented the Union officers and German immigrants whose muskets had preserved the city for Lincoln.

Rebel sympathizers sometimes ended up in a medical college renamed the Gratiot Street Prison or in Bernard Lynch’s former slave pen. The house on Chestnut was a recent addition to the political penal system.

It was the city home of Margaret McLure, whose politics became fearless after her son was killed in Confederate service in 1862. Union leaders suspected that Pine Lawn, her country estate on Natural Bridge Road (and inspiration for the suburb by that name), was a communication post for rebels. McLure was put on the Belle Memphis.

With her was Eliza Frost, well-to-do wife of rebel Gen. Daniel Frost. Two years before, he had surrendered the pro-Southern Missouri militia in St. Louis to Union Capt. Nathaniel Lyon on the site of today’s St. Louis University. Moments later, 28 civilians and seven Union soldiers were killed in a riot on Olive Street. Frost headed south.

Also on the Belle Memphis was Lucie Nicholson, a proud secessionist who wrote, “God only knows what is before us, but the minds of all Southerners are made up to endure everything with cheerfulness, except defeat.”

The Missouri Democrat, a pro-Lincoln local newspaper, published her words on banishment day. It also praised the forced removal of prominent people “who have persisted in cherishing the most bitter hostility to the Government.”

The banished ones debarked at Memphis and were taken to the Confederate line at Holly Springs, Miss. They rode in Union ambulances stained by blood.

After the war, McLure returned to St. Louis and became a founding leader of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The Frosts also came home, but Eliza died in 1872. Frost remarried and had a daughter, Harriet, who donated $1 million to St. Louis University in 1960.

That same year, a statue of Capt. Lyon was banished from what became the university’s “Frost Campus” east of Grand Boulevard. The statue is now in Lyon Park, near the Anheuser-Busch brewery.

From: STL Today

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