Frémont, Pathmarker of the West

By Allan Nevins | Go to book overview
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Civil War in the West

JULY of 1861 found Frémont commander of the Department of the West--the great military area comprising Illinois and-all the states and territories between the Mississippi and the Rockies--with his headquarters in St. Louis.

A St. Louis how changed! Once the most hospitable and cordial of towns to all who bore the name Frémont or Benton, now it was a shuttered, sullen, and hostile city. The hot July sun beat down upon a river that stretched empty from shore to shore--the steamboats laid up at their wharves with fires out and crews gone. The streets were half deserted, with knots of unemployed men glowering resentfully at the soldiers who patrolled the corners, with curtains drawn in the shop windows, and with the wheels of the few vehicles echoing loudly against empty warehouses. Of the 160,000 people, a majority seemed definitely alined against the Union. Hardly an American flag was flying; but in its stead the secession banner hung over the buildings in which recruiting for the Confederate armies was being publicly carried on, while in the best residential sections the Stars and Bars were lavishly displayed. Army officers, intimidated and few in number, dared not venture far from the arsenal, the barracks, and the center of the city. At night bands of ruffians, armed or unarmed, marched through the streets hurrahing for Jeff Davis and the rebel cause. This was the disaffected town, the metropolis of a half-disaffected state, in which Frémont arrived from New York on the morning of July 25, 1861.1

Jessie Benton Fremont, Souvenirs of My Time, p. 166ff.


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