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During the Civil War, Missouri was in constant turmoil from raids by heavily armed bands of marauders loosely affiliated with the Confederate army. Federal troops fought more than 1,000 battles in Missouri – mostly with guerrillas. But these numbers mask the level of violence because they do not include attacks on civilians. Ordinary persons felt the dread of uncertainty when riders approached their homes. Were they Union soldiers or guerrillas in blue coats taken off soldiers they had ambushed? Sometimes it did not matter. Either side might kill the men, and burn their buildings if dissatisfied with the response to their demands for information, food or horses. Entire counties were reduced to ruins. Guerrilla war is perhaps the most brutal of wars. This was Missouri’s war: a war of revenge, retaliation, scalping and mutilation of the dead, and few prisoners.

   The guerrillas who terrorized Missouri during the Civil War were colorful men whose daring and vicious deeds brought them a celebrity never enjoyed by the Federal soldiers who hunted them. Many books have been written about William Quantrill, Bloody Bill Anderson, George Todd, Tom Livingston, and other “noted guerrillas.”

  You have not heard of George Wolz, Aaron Caton, John Durnell, Thomas Holston, or Ludwick St. John, They served in Union cavalry regiments in Missouri. It was a hard life, and over three years of the war these boys, for most were in their teens and early twenties, became hard men. Combat, when it came, was often short, sharp, brutal, and unforgiving. In Missouri neither side showed mercy for defeated foes.   

   These are just five of the anonymous thousands who, in the end, defeated the guerrillas, and who have been forgotten with the passage of time. This is their story..

St. Charles, Missouri - A Brief History

Louis Blanchette came to Les Petites Côtes (the Little Hills) in 1769. The little village, later dubbed San Carlos del Misury by the Spanish and St. Charles by the Americans, played a major role in the early history of Missouri. 
It launched Lewis and Clark's expedition, as well as countless other westbound settlers. It served as the first capital of the new state. Important politicians, judges, soldiers, businesspersons, educators and even a saint all called St. Charles home. Despite its rapid growth from a sleepy French village into a dynamic city amid one of the fastest-growing regions in the country, St. Charles never forgot its history.

   Missouri was a battleground – over 1,000 engagements were fought in the state (third most during the Civil War) – but it was also a home front where people lived. No one could feel safe there. In the countryside, women who had been left behind when their husbands and sons went to war had to cope with marauders from both sides. Children saw their fathers and brothers beaten, hanged or shot. In the cities a cheer for Jeff Davis could land a young boy in jail, and a letter to a sweetheart in the Confederate army could get a girl banished from the state. Women volunteered to care for the flood of wounded and sick soldiers. Slavery crumbled and created new opportunities for black men to serve in the Union army, but left their families vulnerable to retaliation at home. The turbulence and bitterness of guerrilla war was everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

James W Erwin

​Author