Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Questions Of Loyalty

This may be one of the coolest things I've ever found.  Pictured above is a copy of a loyalty oath signed by Cyclone Club member Ferdinand Garesche.  Garesche was captured at Camp Jackson in May of 1861 and was forced to sign a loyalty oath at that time before he was paroled.  This particular document appears to be dated April 1, 1867 and Garesche needed to sign it in order to comply with provisions of the new Missouri constitution that had been adopted in 1865.  I also found a copy of a loyalty oath signed by Edward Farish, another member of the Cyclone Club, that was dated October of 1865.

Interestingly, there are references in the papers of the St. Louis Provost Marshall dating to May and June of 1863 with regards to the loyalty of Garesche and Farish's clubmate, Charles Kearney.  It appears that Kearney was accused of being "disloyal" in May 1863 and the next month it appears that Kearney refused to sign a loyalty oath.

The fact that Farish and Kearney were not particularly pro-Union is important information.  We already knew that, among the Cyclone Club, Basil Duke, Ed Bredell, Gratz Moses and Ferdinand Garesche either served in the Confederate army or had pro-Confederate sympathies.  We also know that Merritt Griswold, Orville Matthews, Frederick Benteen, Joseph Fullerton, John Riggin, Alexander Crossman, Griff Prather and Willie Walker either served in the Union army or had pro-Union sympathies.  This division within the club is important because we have several sources stating that it was these specific political divisions that led to the breakup of the club in 1861.

If you've been reading the parts of Duke's memoir that I've been posting, you can get a feeling for the political stresses that these gentlemen were living under.  It's almost impossible to imagine Duke and Orville Matthews, a United States naval officer, sitting together in the same room in the spring of 1861.  It's almost impossible to imagine Griswold and Bredell being friends.  But, prior to the outbreak of the war, these men were friends and clubmates.  These men enjoyed each others company and played together on the baseball field.  But, by the summer of 1861, the stress and the pressure of the war was too much and, just as the nation had torn itself apart, the Cyclone Club splintered along political lines and dissolved.

Again, this is all about context.  It's about putting these men, this club and this era of baseball history in the proper context.  I think that it's easy to think of the Civil War as an abstraction, as something remote and removed.  But it was the reality of men like Ferdinand Garesche, who claimed, after Camp Jackson, that he was not pro-secession and that he was only visiting the camp when the attack took place.  Regardless of the fact that he was most likely a conditional Unionist and never took up arms against the United States, he was forced, twice, to sign a loyalty oath and forever lived with the stigma of being disloyal.  This was the man who turned the first unassisted triple play in St. Louis baseball history.  He was a pioneer of the game in St. Louis and a member of the city's first baseball club.  But the loyalty oath at the top of this post is tangible evidence of the effect the Civil War had on his life.        

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