Holmes Brigade re-enactors will relive Union takeover of Jefferson City

An attempt to overtake a federal arsenal in St. Louis failed. Subsequently, Union troops fired upon citizens rioting there after southern-sympathizing militia were arrested.

By May 1861, the Missouri legislature had formed the Missouri State Guard with Jefferson Citian Sterling Price as major general. Price soon reached an informal truce with the Union Gen. William Harney.

Unfortunately, the peace was short-lived because President Abraham Lincoln replaced Harney with Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon.

With that, Gov. Claiborne Jackson and Gen. Price fled St. Louis to Jefferson City intent on making it a southern-supporting stronghold. The leaders soon realized the German and pro-Union sentiments in the Capitol City were too much for them.

They took the state seal and other documents with them to establish a Capital-in-exile. Lyons arrived in Jefferson City with three steamboats of troops, too late to capture the growing opposition.

Before sending the bulk of his forces in pursuit of Jackson and Price at Boonville, Lyons secured the Capitol and the Missouri State Penitentiary and placed the city under Union occupation.

That key moment in Missouri history, when Union control was made certain, will be commemorated at 11 a.m. Saturday on the southlawn of the Capitol.

“This was one moment in time at the start of the Civil War here in Missouri,” said Chuck Thompson, a member of the Holmes Brigade.

The re-enactment group is styled after a federal infantry unit posted in Missouri during the Civil War. They participate in most of the major Civil War re-enactments and events in Missouri.

Members of the Central Missouri-based group decided to recognize this unique moment in history with a flag-raising ceremony.

“It’s important to commemorate the event when the proper flag was raised again,” said re-enactor and organizer Charlie Straatmann.

From 1861 newspaper descriptions, Kip Lindberg reproduced two flags which will be part of the Saturday event.

The Third Missouri Volunteer Infantry Regiment flag represents Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon’s colorguard, which was nearly 100 percent German immigrants or first-generation German Americans.

The Confederate First National flag pattern on the second represents the flag presented by the secessionist women of Audrain County to the first secessionist company raised for service with the Missouri State Guard.

The flag ceremony is entirely symbolic.

But the Holmes Brigade is valued for its priority for authenticity. So everything Saturday will be as close as possible to what June 16, 1861, may have looked like at the Capitol.

Spectators expect to see the quintessential Union uniform — dark blue jacket, light blue pants and shiny weapons, Thompson said.. But the soldiers in Missouri at that time had a much more rugged, utilitarian look to them. And so does the Holmes Brigade.

“They weren’t spiffy,” Thompson said.

When the unit participates in re-enactments, living history events or school presentations, members are attentive to details from clothing and timepieces to bedrolls and cooking equipment.

“We want to take people back in time to the smells, sites and sounds, like they were in the 1860s,” Thompson said. “This is the next best thing to going back in time and actually being there.”

The National Park at Wilson’s Creek invites the Holmes Brigade to its events because of their stellar authenticity.

“There’s something about being at these places; it adds a whole other dimension to the history, the being there,” Thompson said.

This year, the union infantry re-enactors began their season in April at Ft. Scott, Kans. They were at the Camp Jackson, Battle of Carthage and Siegel’s occupation of Rolla commemorative events. Later this year, they will be involved in Missouri’s largest event at Wilson’s Creek and re-enactments of the battles at Lexington, Athens and Boonville.

Although Saturday’s program will be small in scale, Straatmann and other Holmes Brigade members thought the unique Missouri transition important to be marked.

“The secessionists were run out of the Capitol and the U.S. flag was run up again,” Straatmann said.

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