Civil War-era Plat of Jefferson City, Missouri
Drawn by a Union Soldier - Accompanied by a Humorous Letter
Gen. McKean Forces "Secesh" Townfolk to Fly Stars & Stripes for Washington's Birthday
A detailed map of Missouri's capital, with a tongue-in-cheek letter by A. B. Burton, the Union soldier who drew it. Addressed to a friend in Cincinnati, the letter opens by summarizing the female situation in Jefferson City before describing how General McKean ordered the public buildings and hotels of the erstwhile Confederate-controlled town to fly the American flag. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon’s forces had captured Jefferson City without a fight on June 15, after early successes by the Union such as the Battle of Boonville, which gave them control of the Missouri River Valley. Brigadier General Thomas Jefferson McKean, a veteran of the Mexican and Seminole Wars, commanded Jefferson City, December to March 1862. He was then given command of a division in the Army of the Tennessee in mid-April. He fought in the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi, and continued to lead the division until December.
At the time of the letter Union forces were on the brink of triumph in Missouri. After the Confederate defeat in March 1862 at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Benton County, Arkansas, the Union would control the border state of Missouri for the next two years. Burton's letter evokes the confidence of the Union Army at the time and place. His map and letter stand as wonderful primary sources for the western theatre of the war.
The Jefferson City map is quite detailed, showing the city's street grid south of the Missouri River, identifying many important sites, noting which hotels were "secesh."
- Missouri River, with a note "Bluff Bank of River, cut for R.R" and Ferry Landing
- Boonville Road
- Railroad depot
- Unfinished fort "the one we worked on so long."
- Our first camp
- Our Wr. Qrs.
- Mr. Baker's
- Unfinished "Governor's Residence" which Claib. Jackson didn't get to live in [Secessionist Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson had retreated to Boonville].
- Catholic Church
- Virginia Hotel - Secesh
- Jefferson House - Secesh
- Tennessee House - Secesh
- McCarty House - Secesh - best Hotel in town
- Express Office (U.S.)
- Post Office
- Gov. Gamble's Residence
- Court House
- Judge Welles' (Union) Residence
Transcription of the letter, which speaks for itself, here follows:
Jefferson City Mo.
Tuesday night Feby. 25/62
Enclosed I send you a map of this place, gotten up "regardless of expense" and "copyright secured." I knew you wanted to see whereabouts, near the town, we are situated, so I thought I would make this for you, before we go away. The map explains itself, except that I can't show all the hills and hollows that the town is built on and in. I believe this vicinity is more hilly than Campbell Co. Ky. and you know something about how that is.
You want to know if there are any pretty damsels in Jeff. City &c. Well, no. There was one girl that I thought was right good-looking, but last Friday night she went to a ball, and the next morning as we went past her house in the procession, I saw her on the porch and was disenchanted at once. It was evident she had just got up - arisen, I mean - and her hair, dress and eyes - ugh! Well, that's the only girl I have seen that I thought was good-looking at all. Matson, our orderly pays his distresses to a little Irish girl, who he thinks is very pretty, but so far as I am aware he is entirely alone in that opinion. I am acqainted with a young lady named Grimshaw, (euphonious cognomen, isn't it) who plays very well on the guitar, but she hasn't the least pretensious in the world to good looks. Then there's Miss Alcorn, not a beauty, but rather pleasant. The two Miss Bakers, neither beauties nor pleasant, but "on the contrary quite the reverse." Miss Hyatt, who lives "over the creek," quiet and uninteresting. Miss Smith not bad looking but you can't get her to "say beans." That's all that I think of just now.
Let me tell you how we came to have a fine display of flags in town on the 22nd. Genl. McKean issued an order the day before saying that all those public buildings and hotels that did not have the American flag out on the 22nd would be liable to be taken for Hospitals, and if any of them couldn't get a flag they would be supplied by making known the fact at Headquarters. So the Hotels, although they are all owned by Secesh, all had the National colors out on the 22nd. I expect it went hard with them. Got my saddle last night. As I am expecting a letter from your Pa tomorrow night, I will write him about it. There are one or two things lacking, I think. Ask you Pa, if Lieut. Sawyer's pen is done. Sawyer saw the Paymaster as he came through St. Louis. The Major thinks we are going to leave here soon but says he thinks he will be sent up here to pay us off before we go. Hope so, I'm sure. That'll suit me to a t - y - ty. Give my love to all. Write soon, and believe me ever, Yours truly, A.B. Burton.
Such manuscript items from the Western border areas of the Civil War, particularly detailed hand-drawn maps of a key western city as Jefferson City, are rare in the market.