Born in Kentucky in 1838, Basil Wilson Duke attended Georgetown College and Centre College before obtaining a law degree from Transylvania College in 1858. After graduating from law school, he moved to St. Louis where his cousin, also named Basil Duke and also a lawyer, had a thriving practice. In St. Louis, Duke became one of the leaders of pro-Southern St. Louisians and a member of the Minute Men, "their paramilitary organization." Originally a conditional Unionist, after the arrival of Federal troops in St. Louis Duke became an ardent Secessionist.
Upon the outbreak of the war, Duke was sent by Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson to Montgomery, Alabama, to obtain material support from the Confederacy. Successful in his mission, Duke returned to St. Louis on May 9 aboard a steamboat loaded with siege guns and howitzers which he promptly delivered to the Missouri Militia at Camp Jackson. It's arguable that it was the delivery of these weapons that precipitated the Union attack on the camp.
Returning to Kentucky, Duke joined the Second Kentucky Cavalry under the command of his brother-in-law, John Hunt Morgan. Twice wounded in battle, Duke was captured during a raid on the Indiana-Ohio border in 1864 but was exchanged. After the death of Morgan, he was promoted to brigadier general and was given command of "Morgan's Raiders."
After the war, Duke settled in Louisville where he became head of the law department of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company. For twenty years, he served as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives. Duke also was involved in several Confederate veterans associations and wrote two histories of the Civil War.
Basil Duke died on September 16, 1916, "due to shock resulting from the removal of one of his legs."-Base Ball Pioneers, 1850-1870
This is the brief biography of Basil Duke that I wrote for Base Ball Pioneers and it's included in the section on the Cyclone Club. Putting aside the stuff that I wrote, Base Ball Pioneers is a great book and I can't recommend it enough. If you're interested in 19th century baseball, you'll love the book. And if you're interested in 19th century St. Louis baseball, I think it's a must have.
Not to be too shameless in promoting the thing but it has essays on the Cyclones, the Morning Stars, the Unions and the Empires as well as brief biographies of most of the known members of those clubs. And there is an introductory piece that gives a nice overview of the development of the game in St. Louis. If you read this blog, I guarantee that you're going to want to read this book.
Tomorrow, we'll head back into Duke's Civil War memoirs and look at his time in St. Louis as the nation headed towards war.