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OFFICE ST. Louis RAILROAD Co.,
Dear Brother : Very imprudently I was a witness of the firing on the people by the United States Militia at Camp Jackson yesterday. You will hear all manner of accounts, and as these will be brought to bear on the present Legislature to precipitate events, maybe secession, I will tell you what I saw.
My office is up in Bremen, the extreme north of the city. The arsenal is at the extreme south. The State camp was in a pretty grove directly west of the city, bounded by Olive Street and Laclede Avenue. I went to my house on Locust, between Eleventh and Twelfth, at 3 P.M., and saw the whole city in commotion, and heard that the United States troops were marching from the arsenal to capture the State camp. At home I found Hugh and Charley Ewing and John Hunter so excited they would not wait" for dinner, but went out to see the expected battle. I had no such curiosity and stayed to dinner, after which I walked out, and soon met a man who told me General Frost had surrendered. I went back home and told Ellen, then took Willy to see the soldiers inarch back. I kept on walking, and about 5.30 P.M. found myself in the grove, with soldiers all round, standing at rest. I went into the camp till turned aside by sentinels, and found myself with a promiscuous crowd, men, women, and children, inside the grove, near Olive Street. On that street the disarmed State troops, some eight hundred, were in ranks. Soon a heavy column of United States Eegulars followed by militia came down Olive Street, with music, and halted abreast of me. I went up and spoke to some of the officers, and fell back to a knoll, where I met Hugh and Charley and John Hunter. Soon the music again started, and as the Kegulars got abreast of the crowd, about sixty yards to my front and right, I observed them in confusion, using their bayonets to keep the crowd back, as I supposed. Still, they soon moved on, and as the militia reached the same point a similar confusion began. I heard a couple of shots, then half a dozen, and observed the militia were firing on the crowd at that point, but the fire kept creeping to the rear along the flank of the column, and, hearing balls cutting the leaves of trees over my head, I fell down on the grass and crept up to where Charley Ewing had my boy Willy. I also covered his person. Probably a hundred shots passed over the ground, but none near us. As soon as the fire slackened, I picked Willy up, and ran with him till behind the rising ground, and continued at my leisure out of harm's way, and went home.
I saw no one shot, but some dozen men were killed, among them a woman and little girl. There must have been some provocation at the point where the Regulars charged bayonets and where the militia began their fire. The rest was irregular and unnecessary, for the crowd was back in the woods, a fence between them and the street. There was some cheering of the United States troops and some halloos for Jeff Davis.
I hear all of Frost's command who would not take the oath of allegiance to the United States are prisoners at the arsenal. I suppose they will be held for the orders of the President. They were mostly composed of young men who doubtless were secessionists. Frost is a New Yorker and was a graduate of West Point, served some years in the army, and married a Miss Graham here, a lady of great wealth and large connections. He was encamped by order of the Governor ; and this brings up the old question of State and United States authority. We cannot have two kings: one is enough; and of the two the United States must prevail. But in all the South, and even here, there are plenty who think the State is their king.
As ever, yours affectionately,
- William Sherman