John M. Weidemeyer Papers

John M. Weidemeyer was born on January 10, 1834, in Charlottesville, Virginia, to John F. Weidemeyer and Lucinda Draffen Weidemeyer. By 1850, John and his parents moved to Osceola, District 79, in St. Clair County, Missouri.1 Weidemeyer married Lelia V. Crutchfield, an Osceola native, on November 12, 1856, and the couple resided there until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.

Prior to the Civil War, there was growing tension in the area due to the border wars between Kansas and Missouri. The citizens of Osceola and the surrounding communities feared an attack from Kansas. Weidemeyer wrote in his journal regarding the town people’s concerns and the preparations they took against the attack they believed was coming.

In the fall of 1860, the Kansas Jayhawkers Committed a great many outrages upon the border of Missouri – They became so bold that it was feared that they would penetrate the state as far as our little town of Oseola [Osceola, Missouri]. Knowing as they did that it was a considerable commercial town and that the merchants Kept large stocks of valuable merchandise, The citizens became alarmed and held a meeting at the Court house. The result of the meeting was the instruction for the citizens of the town and neighborhood to immediately prepare for defense and be in readiness to resist any party of the above named ruffians should they attempt a raid upon us –
John M. Weidemeyer – Journal [1860-1863], Page 1

Weidemeyer took charge of the defense of the town by raising a company of thirty-five men, which he uniformed at his own expense.2 He became captain in Company I of the 2nd Missouri Cavalry, M.S.G., CSA, on August 28, 1861.  The fear the citizens in St. Clair County felt was very valid as guerrilla warfare continued to spread throughout the region. On September 22, 1861, Jim Lane and his Jayhawkers made a bold move and entered the town of Osceola, proceeding to ransack it.4 They robbed the bank, pillaged stores and private houses, and looted the courthouse. Capt. Thomas Moonlight bombarded the courthouse building with a cannon while others set fire to the town, almost totally destroying it. Weidemeyer recorded his recollection of the burning of Osceola in his journal and in his Memoirs of a Confederate Soldier.

General Jim Lane with about 2000 men from Kansas from Kansas came to Osceola [Missouri]. I had there two companies of about two hundred men. All raw recruits. With the few men I could keep together we fired three times on them at short range with shot guns and rifles. It was about midnight but the moon shown brightly. We retreated to Warsaw [Missouri]. We must have done some execution as they dug two large graves into which a number could have been buried. I lost one man, and one was severely wounded. They looted and burned the town. – The fear of the Kansas men was so great that nearly all the people left Osceola [Missouri] and went to the country. My wife [Lelia V. Crutchfield Weidemeyer] took our two babies, Mattie and Charley, put a few things in a trunk, and in her buggy fled to the country. The only thing that my father [John F. Weidemeyer] carried was his violin… The next day after the burning of Osceola I returned with my company to find the town still burning and the Jayhawkers all gone.
John M. Weidemeyer – Memoirs of a Confederate Soldier [1860-1865]

Even though Lane’s Jayhawkers had destroyed Osceola, Weidemeyer was determined to raise a Confederate regiment to defend the area from guerrilla fighters and Union soldiers. Soon after the burning of Osceola, Weidemeyer took his independent band of fighters and found “General [Sterling] Price’s army as he fell back from Lexington to the South part of the state.”5 In Springfield, Missouri, Weidemeyer and about fifty of his old company enlisted in the Confederate service.6

On December 25, 1861, Weidemeyer became a captain in Company F of the 6th Missouri Infantry Volunteers, CSA. He became 1st Lieut. on March 4, 1862, and Pro. Capt. on May 12, 1862.7 The 6th Missouri Infantry fought in the Battle of Elk Horn, Arkansas, otherwise known as the Battle of Pea Ridge, and at Branchville, Arkansas, as well as at the Battle of Osceola, Missouri. Then, they moved east into Mississippi, and fought in the battles at Iuka, Corinth, Big Black River, Vicksburg, Grand Gulf, Port Gibson, and the Battle of Baker’s Creek, otherwise known as Champion Hill.

Despite Weidemeyer’s determination to fight for the Confederate cause, he was a practicing Presbyterian and a God-fearing man. In an 1861 letter home to his wife, Lelia, he expressed his belief that God had blessed the Southern cause and in fact, had brought about this war.

J.W. Tucker thinks that France will now immediately open the blockade at Charleston [South Carolina]. – that She has been waiting for the 4th of Mch [1861] to pass, when Lincoln could not declare war without calling the new Congress together. He thinks that if he does that that they will be for peace and the result of calling together the democratic Congress would be to establish peace by immediately acknowledging the independence of the Southern Confederacy I cannot express to you how much I desire this war closed. We have all suffered greatly. Oh may our Heavenly Father have Compassion upon us, and accept our sacrifice and sufferings as sufficient for the purposes for which He in his wisdom permitted this war to be brought about Have we not suffered and made sacrifices enough? Is not all we have lost and endured been sufficient to teach us our dependence upon him? and humble the selfish pride we may have had in former days?
John M. Weidemeyer letter to Lelia V. Crutchfield Weidemeyer – ca. 1861

Weidemeyer and his family adamantly supported the Confederacy and Missouri’s secession from the Union. He never shied away from expressing his opinions in letters, or in his journal or in the Memoirs of a Confederate Soldier. Even though the Confederacy suffered massive losses and were unable to maintain control of towns such as Vicksburg and Atlanta, Weidemeyer still believed the Confederacy would prevail and win the war.8 In the beginning of 1863, he wrote Lelia comparing the character of the Southern men to the Northerners; morally, spiritually, and ethically.

I believe if any reasonable person were imparshally compare our chances, they will decide that it is impossible to subjugate us. We are united. the North is divided. we fight for liberty. They for conquest and riches. Our army is in a large propotion composed of religious, moral & good men – theirs of the very lowest characters that is picked up in the Cities of the North. – A large proportion are foreigners. Our army is disciplined and under good control. – theirs is corrupted by the licens given to them to plunder and Commit all kinds of atrocities. Our Genls are men of acknowledged superiority, and give general satisfaction. – theirs the reverse. The President of our Confederacy has been acknowledged for years to be a great statesman. Lincoln is denounced by his own party for being a man of but little attainments. All acknowledge that their great army is so badly demoralized that nothing can be done with it at present.
John M. Weidemeyer letter to Lelia V. Crutchfield Weidemeyer – January 3, 1863

In 1864, Weidemeyer and the 6th Missouri Infantry CSA participated in the Georgia Campaign and the Tennessee Campaign. Weidemeyer’s beliefs about the unity and superiority of the Confederacy’s army began to dissipate after Sterling Price’s Expedition to regain control of Missouri failed in 1864. He wrote in his Memoirs of a Confederate Soldier of the disasters that began to befall the Confederate Army and of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender.

In the battle of Nashville [Tennessee] we met disaster. I was at the front that day and with other officers did all we could to keep the men in line and prevent a rout. It was all in vain. I never witnessed before such a panic. Men threw away their blankets, their guns and any thing that retarded their flight, but for a few gallant men of the army especially Forsets [Nathan B. Forrest] cavalry the whole army must have been captured… As prisoners, we the officers were taken to Dauphan [Dauphin] Island [Alabama]. There we learned of the surrender of General [Robert E.] Lee army of Northern Virginia.
John M. Weidemeyer – Memoirs of a Confederate Soldier [1860-1865]

The regiment officially surrendered in May 1865. After the war, Weidemeyer rejoined his family who had been staying with his brother in Palestine, Texas. Weidemeyer attempted a beef import business following his discharge. He had seen a great way to make money transporting beef to New Orleans, Louisiana, and selling them for a great profit. Unfortunately, when he arrived in New Orleans with one-hundred and thirty head of Texas cattle he discovered that several other men had seen the same opportunity, thus flooding the market and driving the prices down.9

After four years, Weidemeyer finally returned to Missouri, settling in Clinton, with his wife, Lelia, and their three children, Mattie, 10, Charles, 8, Willie, 5, Lelia, 2, and Annie, 1. (Annie, born in 1867, passed away in 1975, at the age of 107.)10 Weidemeyer conducted a grocery store on the east side of Clinton’s public square for 25 years and had six more children. He was a stockholder and cashier at the State Bank of Clinton and on the board of directors for the Citizens’ Bank. Weidemeyer was a deacon at the Cumberland Presbyterian church, and although a staunch Democrat, he never sought public office. He was well respected as a contributing member of the community.

John M. Weidemeyer died on January 12, 1911, and is buried in Englewood Cemetery, Clinton, Henry County, Missouri.11 His wife, Lelia, lived another 20 years, passing away on June 22, 1931.12

Contributed by the Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College

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  1. 1860 U.S. Federal Census; Census Place: Osceola, St Clair, Missouri; Roll: M653_644; Page: 873; Image: 378;
    Family History Library Film: 803644
  2. 1860 U.S. Federal Census; Census Place: Osceola, St Clair, Missouri; Roll: M653_644; Page: 873; Image: 378;
    Family History Library Film: 803644
  3. Albert Castel, “KANSAS JAYHAWKING RAIDS INTO WESTERN MISSOURI IN 1861”, Missouri Historical
    Review, State Historical Society of Missouri, October 1959,
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Missouri Digital Heritage, John M. Weidemeyer Service Records,
  7. Missouri Digital Heritage, John M. Weidemeyer Service Records,
  8. The Civil War As it relates to St. Clair County, Missouri, Missouri History Encyclopedia 1901,
  9. The Civil War As it relates to St. Clair County, Missouri, Henry Co., MO Cemetery Records,
  10. “John M. Weidemeyer,” Englewood Cemetery Part 22 – UDO to WETZELL, Henry County, Missouri, Clinton
    Township- 400 S. Vansant Rd, Clinton, Indexed By: Jean Rentchler Swann and Betty Jo Smith Johnson
  11. The Civil War As it relates to St. Clair County, Missouri, Henry Co., MO Cemetery Records,