The Artifact Gallery was made possible by a generous gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee.
This presentation-grade officer’s sword was given to John Knapp by the pre-war volunteer militia company known as the St. Louis Grays on June 29, 1860, upon his promotion to lieutenant colonel. Knapp had the sword with him on May 10, 1861, during the state militia’s encampment known as Camp Jackson.When that openly secessionist gathering was surrounded and captured by Union troops led by Captain Nathaniel Lyon, Knapp broke the sword in protest of what he believed was an illegal action taken by Federal troops. Knapp’s defiance inspired other officers to break their swords as well. Following his parole Knapp received praise from the secessionist lieutenant governor Thomas Reynolds, who praised Knapp’s “chivalric conduct in breaking [his] sword rather than surrender it” and made note of Knapp’s “well known devotion to the Union.” In fact, Knapp, an editor of the conditional Unionist newspaper, the Missouri Democrat, did support the Union and was later given command of one of the regiments of the Enrolled Missouri Militia (Union).