published in “Thoughts about St. Louis”, 1854 – 1859, by John Hogan

submitted by Dennis Northcott, Reference Archivist, Missouri Historical Society Library

St. Louis can take considerable pride in her public organizations. Our citizen soldiers, whether we regard the variety of their uniforms, their martial appearance;: their great numbers in proportion to population, the excellence of their music, or the alacrity with which they turn out on any public occasion, demands the commendation of the people.

The present array of companies is mainly of recent origin, but through one intermediate link “The St. Louis Grays,” (now company A) we connect the present with the past, and are able to detail the history of these volunteer associations in our city. Company A, St. Louis Grays, is the oldest company in the city, although possibly not the first volunteer company formed in. the city. Yet it has maintained its organization, while those who preceded it have been disbanded, and are no longer remembered. “The St. Louis Grays” were organized in 1832. At that time, what is now Iowa and Northwestern Illinois, was in commotion in consequence of the “Black Hawk War.” It was expected that St. Louis would be called on for volunteers, to aid in driving off the Indians, and this company was organized for that purpose. Southern Illinois, however; poured forth its hardy sons, and drove the Indians from Rock Island and the surrounding regions.

The “Grays” were not called into service; but they kept up their organization, and became the “nucleus” of a military guardianship for the city.

On the 8th of January, 1833, the city was enlivened by the strains of martial music, and the Grays had that day their first public parade, under the direction of Alton R. Easton, Captain; James S. Thomas, First Lieutenant; and John P. Riley, Ensign.

With a few slight changes in some of the officers, the Grays retained their organization and sole possession of this field, until about 1842, when other companies were formed, and constituted, in an organization, the first Regiment of the “St. Louis Legion.” The Legion was composed of the following companies, viz:

St. Louis Grays Alton R. Easton, Captain; Jos. W. Dougherty, First Lieutenant; Auguste R. Chouteau, Ensign.
Boon Infantry Alexander Riddie, Captain.
Native American Rangers Wm. S. Stewart, Captain; Philander Salisbury, First Lieutenant.
Montgomery Guards Patrick Gorman, Captain.
Morgan Riflemen Henry J. B. McKellops, Captain.

These companies continued thus organized until the war between the United States and Mexico, in 1846, when they were brought into active service. Everyone remembers the painfull feelings when it was announced that General Zachary Taylor, and the brave little band with him on the Rio Grande, was in imminent danger of being cut off by their enemies. Soon a General Gaines announced the fact, and called on the several States of the South and West to come to the rescue, the “St. Louis Legion,” although farthest from the seat of war, were among the first to respond to their country’s call, and so prompt was their action, that, except perhaps for some troops from New Orleans, they were the first to reach the point of danger.

Soon as the Legion determined as a body to volunteer in the service of their country, their ranks were not only filled up, but more companies were added, which were mustered into the service of the United States on the 18th of May, 1846, by Col. W. Davenport, of the United States Army, then stationed at Jefferson Barracks. The officers and companies composing the Legion, as mustered into service and inspected, are follows:
Alton R. Easton, Col, Comd’g; Ferdinand Kennett, Lieut. Col.; G. Shoenthaler, Major; Henry Almstedt, Adj’t; George Johnson, Surgeon; R. H. Stevens, Assistant Surgeon; Geo. Knapp, Act’g Quartermaster and Com.

  • Company A, (St. Louis Grays) Stephen O. Colman, Captain; George W. West, First Lieut.; George Knapp, Second Lieut.; Rank and File, 91 men.
  • Company B, (Native American Rangers) Philander Salisbury, Captain; Wm. A. Barnes, First Lieut.; Henry L. Ross, Second Lieut.; Rank and File 91 men.
  • Company C, (Boone Guards) John Knapp, Captain; Thos. H. McVicker, First Lieut.; James Brown, Second Lieut.; Rank and File 57 men.
  • Company D, (Montgomery Guards) John Watson, Jr., Captain; Patrick Deegan, First Lieut.; Thomas Mars, Second Lieut.; Rank and File 76 men.
  • Company E (Missouri Fusileers) Nicholas Wochner, Captain; Alexander Kayser, First Lieut.; Christian Breidecker, Second Lieut.; Rank and File 62 men.
  • Company F, (Missouri Riflemen) Frederick Schaefer, Captain; Ferdinand Stoevener, First Lieut.; Jacob Riseck, Second Lieut.; Rank and File 85 men.
  • Company G, (Morgan Rifleman) Henry J. B. McKellops, Captain; James Moore, First Lieut.; George N. Miller, Second Lieut.; Rank and File 72 men.
  • Company H, (Texas Free Corps) Henry Koch, Captain; Lewis Geis, First Lieut.; Herman Kroskel, Second Lieut.; Rank and File 81 men.

Making with officers, non-commissioned officers, and musicians, a total of 670 men mustered into service, with ten who joined afterward, made 680 volunteers who went from St. Louis southward to Mexico.

To show the alacrity with which these citizen soldiers responded to the call of their country, in their endeavors to rescue or relieve those in peril, having on the 10th of May heard the alarm, they had volunteered and were ready to be mustered into service on the 18th, were inspected and received on the 20th and 22nd of May, and the whole command departed from the wharf at St. Louis on the 23rd day of May, on the steamboat “Convoy” except Capt. Schaefer, who, having been accidentally injured between Jefferson Barracks and the city, had to follow after his command.

May 28th the Colonel reported his command to Gen. Gaines, at New Orleans, and asked to be forwarded to the seat of war; but there being some difficulty in procuring suitable vessels, they did not get off for some days; thereafter, yet, on the 11th of June they are reported on the Rio Grande to Gen. Taylor, as ready for such services as he may require. Thus, in a short time we find these men reaching the distant field of their operations, in a sickly, hot climate, ready to do battle-for their country; and, as before remarked, although residents of the most distant North-western State, next to the first to report themselves for duty.

After the return from Mexico, in August, 1846, owing to sickness and other causes, most, perhaps fill, these companies disbanded, except the Grays, who, maintaining their organization, kept alive the military spirit among the people. Captain Coleman resigned, and George W. West was elected captain. He also resigned in 1850, and George Knapp was elected captain, and thus through war and pestilence, this company remained, and has been again the nucleus around which our present organization has gathered; at once the most beautiful, complete and extensive we have ever had. In September or October last, the first battalion of the St. Louis Legion was organized, consisting of the following companies and officers, as I find them reported in the St. Louis Directory for 1854, viz:

First Battalion St. Louis Greys St. Louis Grays
George Knapp Lieutenant Colonel Company A Henry Prosser, Captain
George Johnson Surgeon Company B Ezra O. English, Captain
John J. Anderson Paymaster Company C David I. Morros, Captain
Fred M. Colburn Quartermaster Company D John W. Will, Captain
John Ruedi Commissary Company E Jasper Benecke, Captain
John Knapp Adjutant Missouri Light Battery
David Bayles Sergeant Major Henry Almstedt, Captain
Carondelet Grays Young Riflemen
Company F Madison Miller, Captain Lewis Frey, Captain
Young Americans do St. Louis Mounted Rifles
Company G Benjamin E. Walker, Captain Fred. Schaefer, Caotain

Attached to this Battalion is the “Grays” Band, composed of some twenty-five musicians, uniformed as the other Grays, except the caps; and I do not hesitate, but say, that as a Band they have few equals-perhaps no superiors in the United States. They have practiced long together-have often discoursed sweet music in our streets-but on last Fourth of July-our “National Day”-they seemed more than usually inspired, and were instrumental in adding much to the hilarity and patriotic feeling of our citizens, in celebrating that glorious day. Other bands also aided on that. as on other festive occasions when the Battalion and Regiment have been out, and I would not detract from their merit or performance, while specially mentioning the splendid Gray’s Band.

Besides the various companies mentioned above, as constituting the first Battalion of the Legion, there were at that time several companies, which constitute what is called “the First Regiment of the St. Louis Legion.”

This regiment was formed in December or January last by the election of the following officers, viz:

Robert M. Renick Colonel Commanding Dennison J. Sanger Quartermaster
John W. Crane Lieutenant Colonel John Shore Surgeon
John L. Smith Major William D. Wood Assistant Surgeon
John C. Brinckman Paymaster George W. West Adjutant
Moses B. Stickney Commissary

This Regiment is composed of the following companies, viz:

Continental Rangers Church H. Blackurn Captain
Washington Guards Daniel M. Frost Captain
National Guards John N. Pritchard Captain
St.Louis Light Guards Daniel Byrne Captain
Black Plume Rifles, Company A Edward C. Allen Captain
Black Plume Rifles, Company B Eugene Alcan Captain
Missouri Riflemen Bernhard Laibold Captain
Missouri Dragoons Henry Henkel Captain
Governor’s Guards (Lancers) ______ Wolfe Captain
Mound City Guards John R. Barrett Captain

Thus, there is constituted almost an entire brigade of citizen soldiers, who, for the varied beauty of their uniforms, their soldier-like appearance, their thorough drill and martial bearing, will favorably compare with any similar number of companies and men any where. Although mostly formed in the last three years, they march and look like veterans-while the promptitude and pleasure with which, in a moments warning, they rally on the call of the civil authorities, give ample assurance that, in any emergency, our beloved city or State will find in them efficient protectors. Some slight evidence have been had of their efficiency-of their ability to protect if necessary, and of their readiness to quell any sudden outbreak of a riotous character; but while in the cases referred to we have had these evidences, our hope is that their services may never again be so required. Turbulent spirits, if any such there are among us, (and unfortunately all large cities are more or less infested with such) may take warning from the past, and be assured that if they ever attempt the disturbance of our city’s peace, they will meet with a prompt and thorough rebuke at the hands of these brave, and honorable, and efficient citizens!, thus banded for their country’s protection and glory. But although ready-“armed and equipped”-to invasion or put down riot, or to meet their country’s foes upon the “tented field” their chief delight is in the peacetbi parade on the “great gala days,” or the still more interesting, pleasant duty of suitably receiving and honoring our city’s guests.

Last modified: 04-Jul-2016 00:02