The Civil War in Missouri

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Saint Louis Turnverein

Lithograph by Alexander McLean, from a rawing by Adolph Bottger, St. Louis, 1860
MHM Photographs and Prints

Originally established as a gymnastic society with a focus on physical fitness, the national Turnverein became a social and political club for German immigrants. The St. Louis branch organized in 1850. As this illustration shows, the club also had a military bent. Armed with Jaeger rifles and bayonets, they conducted military drills and practiced shooting. As the impending war approached, St. Louis’s German community comprised a strong core of Union support within the city. Members of the Turnverein, or Turners as they were called, met at Turner Hall, their meeting place on Tenth Street, and resolved to “stand fast by the Union, endorse the present administration in its attitude against secession and…defend the flag with their life’s blood.” They used Turner Hall to store arms and recruit members into Home Guard units.