Thomas L. Snead Collection

Thomas L. Snead was a soldier and a politician during the Civil War. In 1860, Snead worked at the St. Louis Bulletin, and was intimately involved in Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson’s election. He stood next to Jackson during his Inaugural Address, and served along side him at the Battle of Carthage and Boonville. Eventually, Snead was appointed Acting Adjutant General of the Missouri State Guard, and served under Sterling Price through 1864. He left the army for a seat in the Confederate Congress, as a Representative from Missouri. In 1886, he wrote The Fight for Missouri which chronicles the events in Missouri from the 1860 election to the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.

The Thomas Snead collection consists of several letters written about The Fight for Missouri. Most of these letters contain praise for Snead’s accomplishments, and note his ability to write a full and unbiased history of the events that unfolded. The collection includes correspondence from John F. Snyder, R. Ira Holcombe, N. L. Norton, Charles D. Drake, and Franz Sigel. These five authors provide critiques of Snead’s book and in some cases personal narratives of the events. Only six letters from the collection were selected for digitization. Included are the above mentioned correspondences and a single letter from Snead inquiring about a report of Price’s 1861 actions. These letters were selected because of their personal insight to the events and provided enriched context beyond the thank you letters in the collection. The remainder of the collection is available for research at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Museum.

The value of these letters lies not only in the candid dialogue regarding pivotal events in Missouri history, but the perspectives of the authors. Charles Drake wrote that he holds no ill will against those who served in the Confederacy. Yet in 1865 he encouraged the passage of the “Iron Clad Oath,” disenfranchising anyone with ties to the Confederacy. Franz Sigel wrote to Snead in 1886 to clarify statements published in his book. Sigel has been accused of a lack of tactical skill on the battlefield and is known for fleeting retreats when facing overwhelming odds. In his letter, Sigel explains his decisions and actions, providing a detailed description of how he slipped through enemy pursuit after the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. This collection is a valuable compendium to The Fight for Missouri, providing interesting insight to Missouri soldiers and politicians as they reflect on the war 20 years later.

Contributed by Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

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