The Civil War in Missouri

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Confederate Pike Used by the Vinegar Hill Irish

ca. 1861
MHM Collections

This pike was reputedly used by a band of secessionists known as the Vinegar Hill Irish. It was found after the war with about three dozen others in the old Jackson School near the Irish neighborhood called the Kerry Patch. Nothing specific is known about this secessionist group. It probably took the name Vinegar Hill Irish in reference to the martyrdom of Irishmen at the Battle of Vinegar Hill in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. It is believed that the group used these pikes, which originally would have been about eight feet long, in preparatory drills for the outbreak of the Civil War. They hid them under the floorboards of the school to avoid detection by the St. Louis Committee of Safety, which monitored secessionist activities.Secretive military training by supporters of both sides was not uncommon given the tense atmosphere that saturated the city. James Broadhead, one of the members of the Committee of Safety, later recalled that he himself drilled with a Unionist German company at Winkelmeyer’s Brewery on Market Street. In addition, disciplined and highly visible organizations on both sides of the conflict—Wide Awakes and Turners for the Union, and Minute Men for the Confederacy—all displayed a paramilitary character.