Saturday, May 19, 2012

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

Camp Jackson, May 1861

Early next morning I was awakened by a noisy and angry colloquy going on in the saloon, just in front of my door.  Some one was fiercely threatening the guard for refusing him entrance to my room.  I thought I recognized the voice, and on looking out, found that I was not mistaken.  The angry man was Doctor Leonard, a friend of mine, who lived in New Madrid, but frequently visited St. Louis.  I had inquired for him immediately on reaching the place, and learned that he was absent on business.  He was also a member of the vigilance committee, and having gotten home that morning, was told what had been done with me.  His indignation was extreme, and he expressed a strong desire to shoot the chairman, which would have been, of course, out of order.  he started instantly for the wharf-boat to offer me aid and consolation.  I was very glad to see him, but had some difficulty in reducing him to a quite state of mind and pacific disposition.  He said that he had not "helped to organize the ------- committee for the purpose of hanging his own friends." 
I finally persuaded him not to attempt my rescue y force, but to propose to the committee that I should be released upon his becoming responsible for my return to custody if it should be necessary.  He easily effected such an arrangement, and I was permitted to go at large in his company.  Late that afternoon the Swan arrived, and I lost no time in getting aboard her.
The Swan had already lost some time, and her captain was determined to make it up, appreciating as thoroughly as Greene and I did, that events were moving too rapidly to permit of his boat going slow.  He entered heartily into the spirit of the enterprise, for he was a gallant man and his sympathies were cordially with us.  Even the crew, although, of course, not informed of the nature of the cargo on board, and the necessity of getting it to port as speedily as possible, seemed to realize that something unusual was to be done, and shared our excitement as the big boat, with her furnaces crammed full, the smoke roaring out of her funnels, and the steam hissing and snapping from her escape pipes, flew along at a racing rate.  We reached Cairo about ten o'clock at night, but did not venture to run past without landing.  The inspection, as I had anticipated, was careless, and nothing was detected. 
We reached St. Louis on the morning of May 9th and turned over the guns and munitions to Major Shaler, sent by General Frost to receive and take them to Camp Jackson.  Blair and Lyon were doubtless almost immediately informed in some way of their arrival and the disposition made of them, for the latter promptly prepared to seize them. 
On the evening of the 9th the board of police commissioners became convinced, by a report of the chief of police, that a movement against the camp was imminent.  The chief reported that the regiments into which the Wide Awake companies had been organized were mustering at their respective points of rendezvous, and that ammunition had been distributed to them; also, that a number of horses had been taken into the arsenal for the purpose, he thought, of moving artillery.  I went to the camp that night, notified General Frost of this information, and urged him to prepare for an attack, which I believed would be delivered early the next morning.  He, however, did not apprehend such danger or was unwilling to make any disposition to meet it.  I saw him again about seven o'clock in the morning, but could learn nothing whatever of his intentions.  As my rank in the state guard was only that of captain, he felt, perhaps, that there was no reason why he would inform me of his plans.  But I was also a police commissioner, and had been deputed y the board to confer with him on their behalf.  I soon became convinced that he had not decided on any line of action. 
Greene and I, therefore, determined to proceed at once to Jefferson City, whether we had to go, at any rate, to make our report to the governor...While we were discussing [the situation in St. Louis with the governor,] news was received that Lyon had delivered his blow and that Frost's entire command had been surrendered.
-The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.

With Union forces in control of St. Louis after Camp Jackson and it becoming evident that Missouri was not going to secede from the Union, Duke made plans to return to Kentucky, where he would take up with John Hunt Morgan.  However, before returning to Kentucky, Duke wanted to return to St. Louis to put his affairs in order.  Upon learning that he had been indicted for treason, due to the Swan affair, he wisely decided against returning to the city.  To the best of my knowledge, Basil Duke, pioneer baseball player and a member of the first club in St. Louis to play the New York game, never again set foot in St. Louis.

And thus endeth the excerpts from The Civil War Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, C.S.A.  I hope you enjoyed it.

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