Missouri Unofficially Raising an Official Army; The Posh Life of the Seventh Regiment

Sunday, April 28, 1861

Missouri was a mess. It, like the other border states, was split on the question of secession. Though the state’s Secession Convention, held in March, rejected the idea 98-1, when Fort Sumter was fired upon (and probably before that), Governor Claiborne Jackson began to think up ways to remove his state Southward.

When Lincoln called for 75,000 militiamen (Missouri was required to raise 4 regiments – about 4,000 men), Jackson had refused to furnish a single soldier, calling it “illegal, unconstitutional, and revolutionary in its object, inhuman and diabolical, and cannot be complied with.” Jackson added, “Not one man will the State of Missouri furnish to carry on any such unholy crusade.”1

This was true to an extent. Governor Jackson would not supply even one man to carry on this “unholy crusade,” but another man, Nathanial Lyon, would make sure Lincoln’s call (and much, much more) was met. Recently, he had helped the Illinois militia outfit themselves with some of the arms taken from the St. Louis Arsenal. Leftover from that haul, there still remained quite a stockpile of weaponry (around 40,000 muskets, 34 field artillery pieces, etc).2

By this time in April, Lyon had the makings of four regiments. He wrote to Washington, telling them that 2,500 men had enlisted, making up two full regiments, nearly all of a third and half of a fourth. Since he had the artillery to arm several batteries, he thought about raising those as well. For the time being, he would wait for further instructions.3


The Posh Life of the Seventh Regiment

On this Sunday morning in Washington, the Seventh New York held church services in their quarters, the Chamber of the House of Representatives. The pulpit was the Speaker’s desk.

That afternoon, President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward visited the Seventh. Lincoln “complimented the soldiers on their fine appearance and gentlemanly bearing, and thanked them for the promptness with which they had answered the call of the country.” Seward said much the same.

All regiments coming into Washington were under the command of Assistant Adjutant-General Irvin McDowell. The Seventh officially accepted his “Orders No. 1,” which mostly pertained to how a military regiment should behave, specifically while stationed in the Capitol Building.

Aside from giving the times for Reveille and Tattoo (lights out), “loud talking, whistling, singing, scuffling, or running will not be permitted within the building.”

The Seventh added to this order, detailing that drills and parades would be held daily. As for dining, the troops “must be marched to their meals by companies, in charge of a commissioned officer, the files counted before leaving quarters, and verified on return of the company.” These weren’t your typical hardtack and coffee meals, however. The order stated that the men would be “allowed one hour and a quarter for meals, except those which go to Willard’s Hotel; they will be allowed one hour and a half.”

Willard’s Hotel was the premier hotel in Washington. Lincoln had stayed there with his family prior to his inauguration. Three times a day, the troops were marched by company to a variety of Washington hotels. “Thus, in fine quarters, with hotel fare and an easy routine of duties,” wrote William Swinton in the unit’s official history, “the regiment passed its time with pleasure.”4

  1. Official Records, Series III, Vol. 1, p79-83. []
  2. Wilson’s Creek by Piston & Hatcher. []
  3. Organization and Status of Missouri Troops, p16. []
  4. History of the Seventh Regiment, National Guard, State of New York, During the War of the Rebellion by William Swinton, Fields, Osgood & Co., 1870. []
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