The Missouri Civil War Museum opened to the public on June 29, 2013, in Jefferson Barracks’ red Post Exchange Building. Jefferson Barracks became a National Cemetery in 1826, the year that Thomas Jefferson died. It was an active military post until 1946, making it the oldest operating military installation west of the Mississippi. Jefferson Barracks is now called “the place where the generals once rode” because Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, etc. were among the 200 generals who passed through. A military hospital that treated 18,000 men from both sides during the Civil War opened here in 1863. 16,000 Civil War vets are buried in its cemetery. Had history taken slightly different courses, West Point and/or The United Nations would be here. The world’s 1st parachute jump in the Unites States from a fixed-wing aircraft occurred at Jefferson Barracks on March 1, 1912.
The excellently restored Post Exchange Building was almost razed in 1946 and then abandoned until its rehab commenced in 2003. Its salvation was the dream of 2 men, Mark Trout, a former Kansas City police officer, and Jim Hubbard. Both have ancestors who fought in the Civil War. The entire project was done with private funds.
All 5,000 Civil War artifacts on display were donated, and MCWM.ORG contains a big plea for Civil War clothing, photos, weapons, medals, etc. to add to its growing 5,000 item collection. As Ruth and I talked to John Maurath, Director of Library Services, a man approached him and said he had found a Civil War hat and drug container in a wall while remodeling his house. He wanted to donate both.
Downstairs, I found some excellent old flags and a film about Missouri’s considerable involvement in the Civil War. Over 1,000 battles and engagements occurred here including the relatively unknown battles of Athens, Boonville, and Carthage that occurred before summer’s end, 1861. The previous March, delegates to Missouri’s Constitutional Convention voted 89 to 1 against secession. Missouri had already been a State for 40 years. Clearly divided by this attempt to divide the nation, Missouri supplied the Union Army with 110,000 troops and the Confederacy with about half that number by its end.
The Missouri Civil War Museum stimulates the brain with each step. The Civil War cost between 6 and 8 billion dollars. In today’s currency, that would be over 100 billion. I learned that the last Civil War veteran, Walter Washington Williams, died in 1959 at age 117. Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 Presidential election even though he was not on the ballot in 10 southern states. I studied at length what I assumed was a copy of the reward poster that was issued to help catch the murderer of Abraham Lincoln. I ogled Belle Boyd, Confederate spy, who looked like a Gone With the Wind character.
The Missouri Civil War Museum is already a 4 Compass addition to St. Louis’ tourist attractions and is well on its way to a 5.