Civil War history

Perry County Military History Museum Curator Carlene Rauh, State of Missouri Conservator Erin Kraus and Senior Conservator Lisa Fox holding the 1864 Civil War document housed at the museum.

Civil War history preserved

By Crystal Lyerla

The Missouri Secretary of State’s office recently sent conservators to Perryville to treat historical documents from the Civil War era. The 1864 military roster of Captain Nicholas Guth, company C of the sixty-forth regiment of enrolled militia of Missouri is currently housed and on display at the Perry County Military History Museum.

Gene and Larry Smith, brothers, who found the documents between two pieces of cardboard following the death of a family member, donated the documents to the Perry County Military History Museum. 

The documents were deteriorated, dusty and had several holes. Perry County Military History Museum representative John Rauh contacted the state about the document and they sent Records Preservation Senior Conservator Lisa Fox and conservator Erin Kraus to restore the documents. 

The pair mechanically removed hair accretion, cleaned the surface to reduce surface oil, mechanically removed newer tape and older tape carrier, reduced adhesive stains with ethanol and ethyl acetate using a suction disk, washed it in baths of deionized water, repaired tears and filled losses using Japanese tissue and encapsulated in transparent polyester film. 

The eight-page document lists the names, enrollment dates, actual number of days in service and the valuation of clothing issued to each member, with most averaging $1.67 or slightly more. That is in stark contrast to the recent announcement by NBC that the military spent $5 billion dollars on uniforms in the last eight years and stand to spend $4 billion more as part of a uniform redesign. 

The Missouri State Militia was a federally funded state militia organization of Missouri conceived in 1861 and beginning service in 1862 during the American Civil War. It was a full-time force whose primary purpose was to conduct offensive operations against Confederate guerrillas and recruiters as well as oppose raids by regular Confederate forces. The MSM at one time numbered more than 13,000 soldiers, but this force was reduced to 10,000 soldiers, by the United States government.

As the Missouri State Militia began organizing and training in early 1862, the warming weather also increased guerrilla activity. Confederate recruiters infiltrated the state and began organizing new commands to be sent south. This accelerated the learning curve for the new militia cavalry. Despite setbacks and a surge in Confederate activity even north of the Missouri River, the militia cavalry proved to be an effective offensive force in confronting guerrillas, recruiters, and raiders within the state during the Summer of 1862. By fall the recruiters had been driven from the state. Guerrilla activity would remain a constant nuisance in much of the state, and raids would continue south of the Missouri River, the militia cavalry established Federal control of Missouri throughout the remainder of the war.

There were three unusual aspects of the militia cavalry compared to conventional cavalry. The first was the frequent integration of light artillery into regimental or battalion level actions. The additional firepower was often effective against guerrillas or raiders with no artillery of their own. The second was that cavalry soldiers were required to provide their own horses, and were paid for this periodically. Thirdly, the militia served primarily in their own state, aside from limited periods in Arkansas and Kansas.

Governor Hamilton R. Gamble, praised the Missouri State Militia as “very efficient.” In speaking of the Missouri State Militia, General John M. Schofield claimed that “these troops will compare favorably with any volunteer troops I have seen,” specifically complimenting the Missouri State Militia in regard to drill, discipline and efficiency. Schofield subsequently became General-in-Chief of the United States Army after the war.

Militia cavalry units participated in most of the significant engagements in the state of Missouri from 1862 to 1864. They were eligible for re-enlistment and, unusually for militia, were eligible for Federal pensions. The Missouri State Militia participated in the Battle of Westport, one of the largest battles west of the Mississippi, and the Battle of Mine Creek, the largest cavalry battle west of the Mississippi river, involving approximately 10,000 troops.

In 1864, a large number of soldiers in the Missouri State Militia were recruited to US cavalry regiments, with bonuses given for their enlistment. This greatly reduced the number of soldiers in the ranks, from 9809 in January 1864 to 8000 in November of 1864.

On June 23, 1865, orders were given that all remaining troops and officers of the Missouri State Militia would be mustered out.

To view this important piece of Civil War history visit the Perry County Military History Museum located on the 2nd floor of the Perryville Higher Education Center at 108 S. Progress Drive in Perryville or call Museum Curator Carlene Rauh at (573)-517-2463.

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