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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Christ Muengemeyer (MIncemeyer) in the Civil War

   My great grandmother, Lesetta Mincemeyer Kleager, told a story she remembered even into old age.  She was about 5, outside the family farm house with some brothers and sisters, and saw a man who was dirty and scruffy coming across the field towards them. The children were scared, and "ran to Mama", trying to hide because they did not recognize him.  Turns out it was their father, Christ Mincemeyer, returning home from serving during the Civil War.

   LaRue Kleager Bryant, who grew up with her grandmother Lesetta living in their home, told me that story in July, 2011.

   My great-great grandfather, Christian "Christ" John Muengemeyer (Mincemeyer), served in Company C of the 54th Enrolled Missouri Militia from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15, 1864.  His commander was Lt. Col John T. Vitt.

   What does that mean, and what did he probably do in the war?

   What he may have done,  around October 1st, 1864, was to hastily enroll, and eventually get on a boat  and cross the Missouri River in retreat.  Well, not maybe exactly retreat, more like evasion of engagement.  Let me explain.

   The town of Washington, Missouri and the surrounding Franklin County, was a divided community as was the State of Missouri during the "War Between the States".  Missouri was the only slave state that remained in the Union.  Early settlers to the area had come from southern states, and several were slaveholders.  Later settlers included a large influx of German immigrants, (defined as German speaking, from several areas) - like all my ancestors.

   Many of the Germans immigrated to escape tyranny and seek freedoms that didn't exist in their home lands, and they had no sympathy for slaveholders or the cause of succession from the Union.  According to Ralph Gregory: "Some persons were biased against them as foreigners and some were jealous of their practical success.  The Germans risked much by their unconditional stand for the Union...." As a result, there were neighbors of competing loyalties, and at times that difference was very damaging and dangerous.

   During the conflict, Missouri was terrorized by guerrilla bands loosely associated with the Confederate cause who roved all over the state killing, destroying homes and crops, and robbing.  There were also some Confederate groups trying to recruit (force) soldiers for the southern cause and to harass and damage Union positions.  There were some Unionists also roaming in bands seeking revenge on southern sympathizers.  It was a terrible time of not knowing who to trust, fear, and panic on both sides.

   The Enrolled Missouri Militia (E.M.M.), of which Christ was enrolled, was organized partly in response to these "bushwackers", guerrilla groups, and Confederates who were so feared in the area.  The E.M.M. was a state paid and state serving militia.  The 54th and 55th Regiments of E.M.M. were organized in Franklin County.  Much of their duty was to guard the railroad and bridges.

   There was an actual invasion of Washington, Missouri in the fall of 1864.  The invaders were a Confederate army led by General Sterling Price.  The city of Washington was notified by telegraph of the approach of the army of about 10,000 men.  Panic ensued.  At first,  the 600 poorly trained Enrolled Missouri Militia were instructed to put up breastworks, and all able men in the city and area were to prepare to defend the city.
   In the end, the local commanders decided the number of the enemy was much too large to engage, and troops and civilians ferried across the Missouri River to the north.  Townspeople hid food and precious things, or took them with them across the river.

  There were 2 ferries operating out of Washington; the "Bright Star" and the "Evening Star." They were steamboats, that the Confederates wanted to capture for their own use.  The steamboats, plus little skiffs, were used to carry the E. M. M. and citizens across the river to Augusta.  Some went farther down the river to St. Charles.  The thought was, that without resistance, the city could avoid shelling, the outnumbered militia would be safe, and the ferry and other boats would be secure from the Confederates stealing them.

   By the time Price's Army got to Washington, the defending militia was gone, but many townspeople remained.  According to Ralph Gregory: "Washington's small military force returned to the town October 5.  The town was not greatly damaged, but almost every sound horse had been taken, much food carried off and a lot destroyed.  The railroad depot was burned an the track torn up for a short distance."

   I can't find what the 54th Enrolled Missouri Militia did for the rest of October, and the first part of November, the rest of the time Christ was enrolled.  But, apparently, he spent time away in his service, long enough for his children to not recognize him when he came home!


 Bibliography for this post:
Gregory, Ralph. Washington, Missouri--The Civil War Years.  1962.
Siddali, Silvana R (editor). Missouri's War The Civil War in Documents.  Athens: Ohio University Press, 2009.
Kiel, H. G.  The Kiel Files.  Washington, Mo.:  Four River Genealogical Society Library.  Binders of files compiled from various sources, from the Civil War binder under surnames beginning with letter "M".

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