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150 Years Ago: Saturday, May 11, 1861

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Daily Highlights/Updates:
  • Benjamin McCulloch, Military Leader, CSA 
  • Edwin F. Jemison, Military Private, CSA (to be posted 5/16 PM)
  • Robert Gould Shaw, Military Leader, USA, CSA (to be posted 5/16 PM)
  • William Harney, Military Leader, USA (to be posted 5/16 PM)

One witness to the actions taken yesterday in St. Louis was William T. Sherman. Today he writes in great detail to his brother John, a Senator in Washington. By 3pm the whole city was in chaos and initially Sherman had no interest in witnessing what he thought was a battle. But friends he dined with had other ideas, so Sherman went back to his house for his son Willy and walked toward the action so they could view the Union soldiers marching back from what they heard was a victory. Soldiers marched down the streets around 5:30pm with men, women and children watching them. 

Suddenly Sherman heard a few shots, then saw the militia firing into the crowd. “Hearing balls cutting the leaves of trees over my head, I fell down on the grass and crept up to where Charley Ewing had my boy Willy. I also covered his person. Probably a hundred shots passed over the ground, but none near us. As soon as the fire slackened, I picked Willy up, and ran with him till behind the rising ground, and continued at my leisure until out of harm’s way, and went home.
He states that some dozen men were killed, along with a woman and little girl. Sherman guesses there had been provocation, though he did not recall witnessing any; he had only heard some cheering for the Union troops and some “hallos” for Jefferson Davis. Sherman closes with a statement about country vs. state, which one could say summarizes the a key issue in why the U.S. is currently divided: “And this brings up the old question of State and United States authority. We cannot have two kings: one is enough; and of the two the United States must prevail. But in the South, and even here, there are plenty who think the State is their king.

Meanwhile the riots in St. Louis have continued through the night and into today. Mayor Daniel Taylor orders saloons to be closed for fear that alcohol would only add to the chaos. Under the command of Colonel Charles Stifel, the Fifth Regiment of the U.S. Reserve Corp returns from the arsenal to their camp. Along there path they are attacked by a mob of secessionists who fire upon them. The Regiment returns fire, resulting in the death of ten citizens and two soldiers.
Newly reinstated Union General William Harney arrives on the scene from Washington, immediately greeted by the gunfire. Having been relived of duty on April 21, he had went to Washington to convince the War Department to reinstate him. Back in command, his friends immediately fill him on on the events of the last several days. Though many people are furious at Captain Nathaniel Lyon and blame him for the mobs and deaths over the past two days, Harney decides to keep Lyon. Harney hopes he can rein in this enthusiastic, yet dangerous, leader.

In Louisiana, Edwin F. Jemison ejemison.jpg(shown here, Source: Library of Congress) is mustered into Company I, 2nd Louisiana Infantry, for a one year term. Both of Jemison’s parents are educated and considered to be a part of the Southern aristocracy. He is only 16, with his 17th birthday still seven months away. Though his story is unknown to many, his face is often recognizable today as a representation of so many young boys on both sides who entered the conflict.

Benjamin McCulloch, a man who had moved to Texas at the age of 24 with a group that included Davy Crockett, receives a commission as Brigadier General in the Confederate army. It is well deserved, as he had recently led a group of men in San Antonio to successfully force the surrender of Union troops stationed there. McCulloch is placed in charge of troops in Arkansas.   

In Washington, Robert Gould Shaw meets with Secretary of State William Seward in an effort to obtain a permanent commission. Shortly after Lincoln’s election, the 23-year-old son of prominent Boston abolitionists had enlisted with the 7th New York State Militia in the hope that he would see action if there was a battle. After Fort Sumter his regiment was stationed in Washington and is currently housed in the Capitol building. Shaw had the fortunate opportunity to meet Seward and President Lincoln since his arrival. With his regiment only enlisted for 90 days, he voices his wish to remain in service. Today he is granted his request and is commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry. 

Carl Schurz, U.S. Minister to Spain, visits U.S. President Abraham Lincoln at White House while the Marine Band performs on the fresh lawn with newly leafed trees surrounding the premises. Prior to the concert a few soldiers go up to the President to shake his hand. A little girl who followed them walks up to Lincoln, holds up her head and “puts up her lips.” The President salutes her with a fatherly dignity. Observing this, other girls – mostly young, along with some older ones – rush towards the President so that they may also receive the same attention and affection. It’s said that “For fifteen minutes the President had as much on his hands as one man might desire.” At one point Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay, offers an attempt to get the President away from the role of “handshaking” but surprisingly learns that Lincoln enjoys it. After the concert Lincoln and Schurz have tea to discuss the potential for Schurz to obtain a military leadership role, which he so eagerly desires. 

The city of Philadelphia gives a grand celebration at Independence Hall, where the guest of honor is Major Robert Anderson. Afterwards Anderson, Mary Lincoln, her cousin Elizabeth and government worker William Wood travel on to New York City. Around 6:30pm Mary checks into a suite at the Metropolitan Hotel and, according to workers, “appears to be in the best of spirits.” Major Anderson chooses to stay at the the historic and famous Brevoort Hotel on Fifth Avenue.

From his desk in Richmond, Robert E. Lee again writes his wife Mary to “Complete your arrangements and retire further from the scene of war.” He reminds her that the Union could overtake the house at any time, as sad as it was to think of such an occurrence. “But God’s will be done. We must be resigned.” 
Though the country is in a state of war everyday life continues. It is not necessarily encouraged, especially by those who can feel the great risks surrounding them. In a letter, Mary Custis Lee admonishes her daughter Mildred, who is attending school in Winchester. 
I must confess I was both hurt and mortified that a daughter of mine, at a time when her Father’s life is in peril, her home in danger of being trampled over by a lawless foe, if not leveled to the ground, should allow a disappointment about a bonnet to be so deep in her mind.

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