Home Guards and Home Traitors: Loyalty and Prostitution in Civil War St. Louis

  • LeeAnn Whites


On the morning of August 29, 1861, a captain of the U.S. Infantry decided to take a stroll down Fourth Street, a major thoroughfare of St. Louis, with his new bride on his arm. According to a letter of complaint written that very day to the Provost Marshal, Major McKinistry, the hundreds of citizens who witnessed this act found it “exceedingly disgusting.” It was especially humiliating to the Union men in the crowd. The author of the complaint, who preferred to remain anonymous, suggested that officers or soldiers in the Union forces, like McKinistry himself, must surely be even more concerned by such behavior on the part of a uniformed officer. The alleged bride was, after all, a notorious woman around the town. For years, she had kept a public house in St. Louis and was rumored to have amassed considerable wealth through her “iniquitous” calling. Indeed, it was rumored that the reason why the officer had so besmirched the honor of his uniform was in order to acquire the brothel keepers’ ill-gotten wealth. According to the outraged citizen, “not another man could be found in St. Louis who would be seen with her (publicly) under any circumstances.”1


Local Citizen Disorderly Behavior Union Force Police Commissioner Gender Matter 
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© LeeAnn Whites 2005

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  • LeeAnn Whites

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