Written by Kent Worley
Genealogy is often referred to as detective work. And it is often hard work at that because there are scant records to answer the common questions of when, why, or how. In many cases, there is little or no oral history to provide clues, and in some cases no records where made other than on a fly sheet of a family Bible which has long since disappeared or some tragedy has beset the records in a church or courthouse like flood or fire.
This was my dilemma when I tried to understand why my great, great grandfather Corporal Frederick Burhorn served with the Missouri Union Infantry when other relatives served with Union Infantry in Illinois. The case grew more interesting as Frederick was from Breese and I could not find him on the Clinton County Civil War Rosters but his tombstone showed that he was a corporal in a Missouri unit of the Union Army.
I first thought that he served with the Missouri troops because he often hiked and camped the nearly forty miles from Breese to downtown St. Louis to sell goats, ducks, rabbits, furs, and cheese at the St. Louis markets. As a young child my grandmother Olivia Burhorn Worley often told me of him walking through the heat and snow to sell his goods. Apparently he liked the winter trips as he could walk across the frozen Mississippi and save a nickel by not using the steam powered ferry. In my mind I could imagine Frederick carrying the ducks or rabbits in cages on his back and pulling along a string of reluctant goats behind him. In the rafters of my grandmother's garage, I even saw evidence of one of the faded green cages made of scrap wood with a well-worn brown leather strap.
After a bit of reading and some lucky detective work, I found out why I think he and several other Clinton County men joined a Missouri unit and in the process learned about some significant history that influenced Missouri's role in the Civil War.
Many of the early immigrants from Germany, like Frederick, spoke mostly German, read mostly German books and newspapers, and belonged to mostly Germanic groups such as, "The Turners."
The Turners were originally German athletic clubs. For instance, in nearby Belleville, IL there was a Turner's Swimming Pool (later to become the Belleville City Pool) and The Turner Building (later to become the YMCA). The Turners ultimately morphed into a social and political organization for German immigrants who were often isolated from the xenophobic English-speaking settlers.
One offshoot of the Turners was the, "Wide Awakes," who became a quasi-military group that was closely linked with the Republican Party in 1860. The Wide Awakes supported the platform of the Republican Party and made certain that Republican candidates, their speeches, elections and polling places, and anything Republican were well protected and were free of outside influences of competing groups. The Wide Awakes was a nation wide group and was organized into state and local chapters. The chapters quite often had simple uniforms but had elaborate public marches to make their presence known.
At the outset of the Civil War, the Wide Awakes, and presumably Frederick Burhorn volunteered to join and protect the Union arsenal in St. Louis against groups sympathetic to the Confederates in an ambivalent and fragile political state. Missouri had overwhelmingly voted to support the Union even though it was a slave state, but had pledged to not supply men or troops to either side of the war effort.
Shortly thereafter a flash mob erupted at a weapons arsenal at Liberty, Missouri when Confederate groups stormed the weapons cache and sent them to Confederate soldiers in neighboring states. Fearing a similar event at the larger arsenal in St. Louis, the Wide Awakes under the command of Union Captain Nathaniel Lyon and the orders of the War Department formed a regiment to guard and move the weapons to Illinois. Approximately eighty percent of that regiment was German troops.
The newly elected Missouri Governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, who leaned towards the Confederacy, called out a state militia with a pro-Southern bent. Naturally, the two politically charged groups clashed in a riot near an encampment the state militia dubbed, "Camp Jackson." The Missouri militia had removed some of the weapons from the Union arsenal, which sparked an immediate Union response.
The Union then added other Federal troops to the German contingent and captured approximate seven hundred of the Missouri militia and marched them through the streets before giving them a parole. This did not sit well with either the Missouri militia and civilian population. Both groups viewed the Germans with hostility and somehow the crowd erupted.
The ensuing riot resulted in nearly thirty killed and over one hundred wounded. Anti-German feelings swept the city and the riots continue for several days until the Federal Regulars quelled the insurrection and implemented martial law.
The "Camp Jackson" affair caused Governor Jackson to pass a bill that changed Missouri from a pro-Union, neutral state into an active battleground between the North and the South.
For further information, please see the following additional cites:
Turners - Wikipedia (external link)
Camp Jackson Affair- Wikipedia (external link)
Wide Awakes - Wikipedia (external link)
First Infantry. -- Col., Frank P. Blair, Lieut.-Col., George L. Andrews; Maj., John M. Schofield.
The first three companies of this regiment were organized in response to the president's call for volunteers, and were composed almost entirely of German Turners of St. Louis. The officers tendered their commands to Gen. Harney, who refused to accept them, and they were mustered into service under the president's order to Capt. Nathaniel Lyon.
They were the first U. S. troops to enter the St. Louis arsenal on April 22, 1861, and a few days later other companies came in, so that the regimental organization was completed on the 27th, with 1,020 officers and men. Part of the regiment, under Capt. Harry Stone, was engaged in guarding the removal of arms and ammunition to Springfield, IL, and on May 10 the entire regiment participated in the capture of Camp Jackson.
On June 10, a-month before the expiration of its term of enlistment, it was mustered into the three years' service, and on Sept. 18, was made the 1st artillery, under which its subsequent history will be found.
Source: The Union Army, vol. 4, p. 257