The Civil War in Missouri

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The Artifact Gallery was made possible by a generous gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee.


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Pocket Watch of Archer Alexander

1822-1839
MHM Collections

Archer Alexander was born into slavery in Virginia. He moved to Missouri with his master and was sold to James Hollman, who had a farm on the border of St. Charles and Warren counties. During the Civil War, Alexander escaped and fled to St. Louis, where he was befriended by William Greenleaf Eliot, a Unitarian minister and the founder of Washington University in St. Louis. Eliot secured a 30-day permit from local authorities to keep Alexander himself. In the meantime Eliot sent an appeal to Hollman to sell Alexander to him for $600. Hollman refused and tried to reclaim Alexander, but Eliot managed to keep him hidden away until January 1865, when all slaves in Missouri were manumitted. Alexander presented this watch to Eliot's son, Christopher Rhodes Eliot, sometime before his death in 1879. Alexander served as the model for the newly emancipated slave kneeling before Lincoln in the sculpture Freedom's Memorial in Washington, D.C. The sculpture was erected by the Western Sanitary Commission, which Eliot helped organize during the war.