Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Civil War Reminiscences Of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.: Part Four

3rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry
Mayor Oliver Dwight Filley is in the back row at the far left.

General Frost came to the headquarters and said that he thought we had been imprudent, but that he would advise no concession to the demands of the mob.  He also said that the militia would endeavour to keep the peace and prevent aggression by either side.  Soon afterward I was visited by a deputation composed of the Hon. O.D. Filley, the mayor, Col. Samuel Churchill, and Messrs. Thomas S. Snead, James Lucas, and Ferdinand Kennett.  I knew these gentlemen well and held them in the highest respect, as did all the community.  Mr. Snead, afterward chief of staff to General Price, and Colonel Churchill did not seem to be especially desirous that the flag should be removed, although they advised it.  Mr. Kennett, perhaps to the surprise of his colleagues, offered what might have been termed a minority report, or dissenting opinion.  "Duke," he said, "I rather think you acted like a fool when you hung out that flag, but you'll act like a coward if you take it down."  The mayor and Mr. Lucas very earnestly requested me to have it taken down.  They called my attention, although I had already observed it, to the violent excitement and resentment which its display had occasioned, urged that the feelings of the Union men ought to be respected, and that nothing should be done, during a period of such political passion, to offend or anger any class of citizens.  I temperately and respectfully represented that the Union men ought not to be so sensitive.  I pointed out that a convention was, at that very hour, sitting in St. Louis to discuss and decide whether Missouri should remain in the Union or secede.  I suggested that the question, therefore, was one on which a citizen had a right to take either side; and that each side had an equal right to exhibit its insignia, and in any way or by any device define its contention.  "There is not a man among us, Mr. Mayor," I said, "who would think of protesting against the display of the stars and stripes; why, therefore, should the Union men object to our floating a Southern banner?" 
He said he couldn't explain it, but that the Union men certainly were objecting, and that he would be greatly pleased if I would remove the objection and permit the crowd, which was constantly growing larger and more noisy, to disperse.  Champion then suggested that the major should call on his fire department and turn out the engines to throw water on the crowd, which he, Champion, thought would certainly cause it to disperse; but for some reason the mayor would not consent to do that.  I finally said that I would very gladly do anything-except the specific thing asked-to help him allay the tumult, and suggested that if he or Mr. Lucas would make a speech to the crowd much might be accomplished.  Mr. Lucas accordingly climbed into a small donkey cart belonging to an Italian fruit seller, which had somehow become wedged into the press, and began an impressive address, imploring the people to be calm and to go home.  But the donkey, suddenly taking fright either at the eloquence of the orator or at the shouts of the crowd, kicked and plunged violently and tried to run away, so that Mr. Lucas was prevented from fully presenting his case. 
Several abortive rushes were afterward made by the mob, and one or two more serious demonstrations, easily repulsed, however, and with little damage to either faction; and then our friends began to rapidly assemble.  After some rough and tumble fighting in the streets it became apparent that our side was the stronger. 
But the opportunity we had hoped and striven for did not occur; and we could not afford to attack the arsenal without having been ourselves assailed.  Our instructions were explicit to commit no aggressive act.  On more than one other occasion it became manifest that in the event of actual collision the Southern sentiment would be thoroughly aroused and would predominate; but as time wore on our opponents made more complete preparation, while we made little, if any.
-The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.

And thus the flag affair ended with a bit of a whimper rather than the bang that Duke had hoped for.  The ironic thing here is that Duke's actions in March of 1861 led directly to Federal forces breaking up an Empire Club game in August of that year, when the club was suspected of flying a secessionist banner over their refreshment tent.  I don't think Federal forces would have been so sensitive about the Empire Club's banner if not for the events of March 4.

The James Lucas that Duke mentions, by the way, was the father of Robert Lucas, who played for the Union Club, J.B.C. Lucas, who would become the president of the Brown Stockings, and Henry Lucas, founder of the Union Association and president of the Maroons.

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