The Artifact Gallery was made possible by a generous gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee.
This letter from “G.W.” to his brother, dated May 9, 1861, and its envelope in the design of the Confederacy’s first national flag, were retrieved the day after, at the capture of Camp Jackson. There, Union troops arrested hundreds of secessionist members of the Missouri Volunteer Militia. The content of the letter is representative of the feelings of most of the men encamped there who wished to bring “the Union men or black Republicans into our terms, or force them to leave the state.” References to activities at Fifth and Pine streets indicate that the author, G.W., was a member of the Minute Men, whose headquarters were in the Berthold Mansion at that location, and which prominently flew a secessionist flag. G.W. learned that Union troops under Captain Nathaniel Lyon planned to attack the following day, but his confidence that Lyon would be “whipped” proved false. The capture of Camp Jackson secured Federal control of St. Louis, and the city and the state of Missouri would remain primarily in Union hands for the length of the war.The identity of G.W. is not known, but a roster of those captured includes very few men with those initials. The writer may have been Captain George West, whose Missouri Guard was mustered into service at Camp Jackson as Company G of the state’s volunteer militia.