Officers of the Pekin Zouaves

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

On the last page of the very first Pekin City Directory, published by Omi E. Root of Peoria in 1861, is an entry for an “independent company of volunteer militia” called the “Pekin Zouaves.” This is how Root’s Directory describes this militia company:

“Organized May 16th, 1861. Number of members, 60. Annual days of parade, 22d February, 10th May, 4th July, 10th September, and 8th January. The following commissioned officers were elected, May 28th, 1861, for six years: G. W. Baker, Captain; H. P. Finigan, First Lieutenant ; L. B. Greenleaf, Second Lieutenant ; W. M. Olmsted, Third Lieutenant. C. R. Cummings, Orderly Sergeant ; appointed by the captain for one year.”

The reason this militia company was formed was one of the most important events in U.S. history – the Confederate States of America’s attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, which sparked the U.S. Civil War. Soon after, militia companies were established throughout the remaining United States to prepare to aid in the Union’s war efforts against the Confederacy, and the Pekin Zouaves were one of those companies.

But why was this company called “Zouaves”? The original Zouaves were a French army light infantry corps organized in 1830 – at first the French Zouaves were all Algerians from North Africa, and consequently their uniforms were Middle Eastern or Turkish in style. Romantically imitating the French Zouaves, other nations also established their own companies of soldiers wearing Zouave-style uniforms, including militia companies in Illinois and Missouri during the early months of the Civil War.

At the website is a “Brief History: 8th Missouri Volunteer Infantry (US) – The ‘Fighting American Zouaves.’” Following are excerpts from the “Brief History” (emphasis added):

“As a result of a direct order from President Lincoln to alleviate the prejudice against the Irish, the 8th Missouri Infantry was organized in St. Louis from June 12 to August 14, 1861. Over 600 Irish boatmen & deck hands left the St. Louis riverfront to fight under the command of Captain Morgan L. Smith. Originally from New York, he and his brother, Captain Giles A. Smith, also recruited troops from Bloomington, Illinois. The 8th MO uniform was that of the American Zouaves.

“The Peoria Zouave Cadets were organized in Peoria, Illinois 3/23/1861. They recruited up to war strength and left for St. Louis on 6/19/1861 but, upon their arrival, there was a disagreement and about half returned to Illinois to join the 17th Illinois. An under-strength company calling themselves the Pekin Zouaves from Pekin, Illinois, sent about 30 recruits from Peoria to St. Louis, and filled up the company. They mustered in as Company H. Neither company provided the ‘Zouave influence’ for the company since they were already being referred to as the ‘American Zouave Regiment.’ Company L sharpshooters were recruited in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

“The 8th MO served the duration of the Civil War and fought decisive battles under Generals Grant and Sherman. They became well known for their tenacity, displaying Zouave fighting techniques on the battlefield. Generals Grant and Sherman write about the 8th Missouri in their Memoirs. General Grant’s son, Frederick Dent Grant, writes in ‘At the Front With Dad’ about slipping into the Battle of Vicksburg at age 13 with the 8th Missouri. Eleven soldiers in 8th MO were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their actions during the Siege of Vicksburg.”

As this column has noted previously, one of the members of the Pekin Zouaves was none other than Pekin’s pioneer historian William H. Bates (1840-1930). Of the five original officers of the Pekin Zouaves, Capt. G. W. Baker is listed on page 13 of the 1861 Pekin City Directory as “BAKER, GEORGE W. F., ambrotype and photographic gallery, cor. Court and Second ; bds. Tazewell House.” Thus, Baker was, like Henry Hobart Cole, one of Pekin’s early photographers.

This photograph from the collection of Steven Schmit of Richmond, Va., shows Civil War veteran William H. Bates of Pekin wearing his old “Zouave” uniform.

First Lieut. H. P. Finigan was Henry P. Finigan, a Catholic Ulster-born Pekin attorney, land and real estate agent, and grain merchant. Finigan with his wife Margaret and Margaret’s parents together escaped the Irish Potato Famine and settled in Pekin. Henry’s date of birth is uncertain, because when he registered for the draft in June 1863, his age was written down as 31, but the 1870 U.S. Census says he was 34 at that time (that census also mistakenly gives his middle initial as “B.” rather than “P.”).

Second Lieut. L. B. Greenleaf was Luther Berge Greenleaf, born in Connecticut in 1834 or 1836, died August 1902 in Onarga, Ill. The 1861 Pekin City Directory says he was then a law student. His Onarga newspaper obituary says although he studied law, he instead became a journalist in Peoria, later moving to Kansas for a while, then finally settling down in Onarga.

Third Lieut. W. M. Olmsted was William M. Olmsted (1802-1872), who in 1861 was a clerk at Stephen Roney’s Hardware, 33 Court St., at the corner of Court and Second. Olmsted later was promoted to the rank of captain during the civil war. His grave in Lakeside Cemetery is one of the old Oak Grove Cemetery burials.

Lastly, Orderly Sgt. C. R. Cummings was none other than Columbus R. Cummings (1834-1897), a prominent Pekin businessman and land owner who subsequently served as Pekin’s 20th mayor (1875-1876), later moving to Chicago, where he became a Gilded Age railroad tycoon and banker. It was the heirs of C. R. Cummings’ great estate who in 1916 gave the Pekin public schools an athletic field with the stipulation that it should be named after the estate manager James M. James (1849-1918).

#capt-george-w-f-baker, #civil-war, #columbus-r-cummings, #james-morris-james, #lieut-william-m-olmsted, #lieut-henry-p-finigan, #lieut-luther-b-greenleaf, #pekin-zouaves, #william-h-bates, #zouaves

‘Big Pete,’ W.H. Bates and The Star Spangled Banner

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Question: What do Pekin’s pioneer historian William H. Bates, the Hanging Judge of Andersonville, and The Star Spangled Banner all have in common?

Answer: Mexico.

No, we’re not talking about that Mexico, and not that Star Spangled Banner, either. In this case, we mean a town in Missouri called Mexico, and a Civil War-era newspaper printed there that was dubbed “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Mexico, Mo., was also the home for the last 35 years of his life of Peter “Big Pete” McCullough, known as the Hanging Judge of Andersonville.

McCullough, Bates and The Star Spangled Banner are spotlighted on a pair of informative historical panels created by the Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation ( The panels, one featuring Bates and The Star Spangled Banner and the other featuring McCullough, will be formally dedicated at a ceremony in Mexico on Tuesday afternoon, April 12.

This project was brought to the attention of the Pekin Public Library last fall, when Gabriela Molina, programs coordinator of Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation, contacted the library seeking additional information on W.H. Bates of Pekin.

Regular readers of this column will recall that Pekin’s own W.H. Bates, who had a lifelong career in the fields of printing and newspapers, had a part in the printing of The Star Spangled Banner. As we have noted previously, during the Civil War Bates volunteered for the U.S. Army from 1861 to 1864, serving in Companies C and H, 8th Missouri Infantry, 15th Army Corps.

His published 1930 obituary, repeating information from a biographical sketch that was included in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” says Bates “and other printers in his regiment issued a paper from a print shop they took over at Mexico, Mo., printing the edition on manila wrapping paper, the only kind available, the owner having secreted the print paper at the approach of the troops.”

Allensworth’s history, page 976, presenting information that must have been provided by Bates himself, adds these details: “William Henry Bates, on his arrival at the United States Arsenal, St. Louis, became a member of Company C, Eighth Missouri Infantry (American Zouaves), and took part in the engagement in Wentzville, Mo., July 16, 1861, and several skirmishes prior to, and after the occupancy of City of Mexico, Mo., where, on the 19th, the printers in A. B. and C. companies of the Eighth Missouri, issued the first Union half-sheet newspaper printed in the Confederacy, and named it ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’”

The printing equipment had belonged to a Mexico resident named Robert Verdier. The paper’s editor was Chester H. Childs, who, according to the 1860 U.S. Census, was a bookkeeper in St. Louis before the war.

Star Spangled Banner Newspaper

Shown is the top portion of the first edition of The Star Spangled Banner, a Civil War paper produced in Mexico, Mo., by the members of the Missouri Eighth Infantry on July 19, 1861. William H. Bates of Pekin was one of the soldiers who helped print this paper. The only known surviving copy of the paper is preserved at the Mexico Audrain County Library. IMAGE PROVIDED BY GABRIELA MOLINA OF MISSOURI’S CIVIL WAR HERITAGE FOUNDATION

Despite the conditions under which this newspaper was produced – under the stresses and strains of war, using poorer quality and less durable paper – an original copy of The Star Spangled Banner has survived the 155 years since it was printed. It was donated several years ago to the Audrain County Historical Society in Mexico and is preserved in the archives of the Mexico Audrain County Library. It’s the only copy known still to exist.

With the permission of the Mexico Audrain County Library and the assistance of the Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation, the Pekin Public Library has been supplied with a color photocopy of the top half of this historic newspaper which Bates helped to print, along with reproductions of the proofs of the historical panels to be dedicated this Tuesday.


Shown is a full page image of The Star Spangled Banner’s first issue, which is preserved in Mexico, Mo. IMAGE PROVIDED BY GABRIELA MOLINA

As a journalistic project of Union troops charged with securing Missouri for the United States in the face of strong Confederate sympathy, The Star Spangled Banner’s purpose was to promote the Union cause, to reassure Union sympathizers in Mexico that the American Zouaves would keep them safe, and to warn Confederate sympathizers that, as the newspaper proclaimed, “The time of temporizing with rebellion in this part of the State is past.”

After their activities in Mexico, the Eighth Missouri was sent to St. Louis and then down to Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Paducah, Ky. While in Cape Girardeau, Bates was transferred from Company C to Company H, known as the Peoria-Pekin, Illinois, Company, since its members had come from this area.

“Although most soldiers were recruited from St. Louis and its vicinities,” wrote Molina in a letter to the Pekin Public Library in February this year, “some of the first companies were from your part of Illinois. As you will read in the panels, The Eighth Missouri Volunteer Infantry made their way to Mexico where they appropriated printing equipment to publish the Star Spangled Banner. It is a coincidence that the other panel features Pete McCullough of McLean, Illinois, who was also part of the Eighth Missouri. As best we can tell, McCullough was not part of the group that went to Mexico in July 1861, but he moved to Mexico after the war.”

The informational panel tells how McCullough, who died in Mexico on Dec. 5, 1910, acquired the moniker of “the Hanging Judge of Andersonville.” As the panel relates, after the fall of Vicksburg, McCullough was captured by the Confederate Army in July 1863, and as a prisoner of war he ended up at Camp Sumter in Andersonville, Ga.

“As the Confederate prison became more and more overcrowded,” the panel says, “Union prisoners engaged in thievery and other depredations against fellow prisoners. Prison authorities allowed Union prisoners to establish a ‘court’ to enforce discipline, and Big Pete McCullough was elected judge. A number of men were tried for various offenses, but six of the prisoners were brought up on charges of murder. A jury was empaneled, and McCullough presided over a two day trial. The six were convicted of murder and hanged on July 11, 1864. Visitors to the Andersonville National Cemetery find among nearly 13,000 graves the stones of these six, conspicuously separated from those of other prisoners.”

Thanks to the dedication of historians and archivists in Missouri, we today can learn of some of the remarkable stories and personalities from these pivotal years of American history that highlight long-forgotten connections between the communities of Mexico, Mo., and Pekin, Ill.

#hanging-judge-of-andersonville, #mexico-missouri, #missouris-civil-war-heritage-foundation, #pekin-history, #star-spangled-banner, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates, #zouaves

William H. Bates of Pekin, ‘the historian of the city’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Note: Archivists and historians in Missouri recently contacted the Pekin Public Library with information on a fascinating project they’re working on – a project that is related to the life of Pekin’s pioneer historian William H. Bates (1840-1930). Keep an eye on this column in the coming weeks to learn about their project. In the meantime, here’s a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column on William H. Bates that was first published March 17, 2012.


It’s simply impossible to study the early history of Pekin and Tazewell County without running across the name, and relying on the publications, of William H. Bates of Pekin. Regular readers of this column will recall that Bates was the first to publish a history of Pekin, which was included in the old Bates Pekin City Directories starting in 1870. But just who was William Bates, and how did he become Pekin’s pioneer historian?

The Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room files hold the answers to those questions, specifically in the lengthy obituary of William H. Bates published the day after his death in the Nov. 12, 1930, edition of the Pekin Daily Times.

“Few men had contributed as much of their time and means for the betterment of Pekin as Col. Bates,” the obituary says. “He gave the city its first daily newspaper, back in the early seventies, the Bulletin, but the venture did not pay and the paper was discontinued after nine months. He was one of the publishers of the Weekly Republican, printed numerous city directories containing much historical data and issued the souvenir booklet at the dedication of the court house, Wednesday, June 21, 1916. He was the historian of the city and knew more of the story of its early history and growth to its present population than any living man.”

Bates was born in New London, Ohio, on April 28, 1840, the son of Truman and Elizabeth Bates. The Bates family settled in Lafayette, Ind., in 1848, and it was there that William went to school and learned the printer’s art. He got a job on Sept. 15, 1853, in the Lafayette Daily Argus print shop, and the next year he transferred to the Lafayette Daily Courier. There he would compose a column of type and feed one end of an old-fashioned wood-framed Adams press. In 1855 he joined the staff of the Daily Morning Journal at Lafayette.

Fate brought him to Pekin in 1858. Desiring to visit some of America’s larger cities, he “packed his carpet-bag and took the train for Chicago,” his obituary says. He was only in Chicago for three weeks, however, when he received a letter from a sister who was living in Pekin, urging him to come and visit her. His visit was extended, and apart from his three years of Civil War service in the Union army, he remained in Pekin until the end of his life.

Bates volunteered for the U.S. Army from 1861 to 1864, serving in Companies C and H, 8th Missouri Infantry, 15th Army Corps. He “took part in twenty-six engagements, his regiment having the distinction of never losing a battle. He and other printers in his regiment issued a paper from a print shop they took over at Mexico, Mo., printing the edition on manila wrapping paper, the only kind available, the owner having secreted the print paper at the approach of the troops.”

To give his daughter Teena an idea of what he looked like as a Union soldier in the Civil War, Pekin historian and printer William H. Bates got out his old uniform and had Pekin's pioneer photographer Henry Hobart Cole take this photograph of him in 1892. "In your imagination," Bates told his daughter, "remove the chin whiskers, add a little flesh to the cheeks, and you have your father's picture of 1861-1864." The photo is from the collection of Missouri historian Bill Winters.

To give his daughter Teena an idea of what he looked like as a Union soldier in the Civil War, Pekin historian and printer William H. Bates got out his old uniform and had Pekin’s pioneer photographer Henry Hobart Cole take this photograph of him in 1892. “In your imagination,” Bates told his daughter, “remove the chin whiskers, add a little flesh to the cheeks, and you have your father’s picture of 1861-1864.” The photo is from the collection of Missouri historian Bill Winters, courtesy of Steven Schmit of Richmond, Va.

Prior to the war, Bates happened to meet Abraham Lincoln in Metamora. “During the time he worked at his trade in Peoria he was sent to Metamora to overhaul a print shop there that was badly run down. During his short stay the young printer stopped at the local hotel or tavern, and Abraham Lincoln, who was later to become president and a world figure, was there attending court. For a week the gaunt railsplitter entertained the crowd around the office stove with his stories, and he had no more attentive listener than young Bates. The latter remembered some of the stories Lincoln told and delighted in retelling them. In Lincoln he saw one of the future great men of the republic, became one of his ardent admirers and was always a consistent republican.”

Bates played a central role in many of the affairs of his community. Active in local politics, he was Fourth Ward alderman in 1887-88, was elected city treasurer in 1903 for two years, and made an unsuccessful bid for the mayor’s office in 1914. He also supervised Pekin’s Memorial Day celebrations until 1929.

“He was at the fore in all public demonstrations and old-timers still talk about ‘Giasticutus,’ a mechanical elephant Mr. Bates constructed for the Fourth of July parade of 1876,” says his obituary.

“Patriotic to the last, he said only a few days ago: ‘I don’t care what there is on the casket so there is a flag.’ And a flag covers him as he reposts at his home on Haines avenue.” The obituary also commented how fitting it was that, “While the nation paused for Armistice day, marking the end of the world’s greatest war, an heroic figure in civil war history, William H. Bates, passed out of life into that realm of eternal peace. . . . “ Daily Times publisher F.F. McNaughton went to the trouble of making sure Bates received a grand military funeral, the first one in Pekin’s history.

Bates never retired from his trade. At the time of his death, Bates was said to be the third oldest printer in the U.S., and perhaps the oldest active printer in the country.

#abraham-lincoln, #civil-war, #henry-hobart-cole, #pekin-daily-bulletin, #pekin-history, #pekin-weekly-bulletin, #preblog-columns, #the-bulletin, #william-h-bates, #zouaves