The pro-South secessionists called the Minute Men were organized by eight St. Louisans; Overton Barrett, Rock Champion, Basil Duke, Samuel Farrington, Colton Greene, Arthur McCoy, James Quinlan, and James R. Shaler. These men made their headquarters at the Berthold Mansion, which was one block west of the courthouse on Fifth (now Broadway) and Pine streets. The leaders of the Minute Men were able to muster nearly 400 men and organized them into five separate companies.
On March 3, 1861, the evening before the state constitutional convention reconvened at the Mercantile Library to discuss Missouri’s course in the Civil War, the Minute Men prepared a demonstration to show their desire for secession. Two flags that represented the Confederacy were made, and before dawn Champion and Quinlan hoisted one of them above the courthouse, the other being placed at the Berthold Mansion. The flag flying above the courthouse (on the same day as Pres. Lincoln’s inauguration) was taken down by a custodian, but the scene at the Minute Men’s headquarters nearly caused a riot. A crowd developed around the mansion but was reluctant to use force because armed guards were patrolling the property.
On March 23, 1861, the General Assembly passed a bill to create a board of police commissioners for St. Louis. This bill took control of the police away from the mayor and put it in the hands of the commissioners, who were appointed by the governor. Basil Duke, one of the leaders of the Minute Men, was made a commissioner on this board, putting control of the St. Louis police in the hands of a secessionist.
On April 26, the same day Capt. Lyon moved excess stores from the arsenal into Illinois, a group of armed Minute Men stopped a train filled with German volunteers and attempted to spark a confrontation that would draw Gen. Daniel Frost’s militia into St. Louis. The Minute Men leaders also hoped that the confrontation would rally support for the secessionist cause among the St. Louis Irish. However, after some rough treatment and loud cheers for Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy, the Germans, who kept their composure, were sent home.
While the confrontation did not materialize, the militia did muster in St. Louis on May 6. Around 700 men answered the governor’s call at Camp Jackson, and the majority of the 400 Minute Men were probably present, forming the bulk of Frost’s brigade. Camp Jackson was captured by Federal troops led by Nathaniel Lyon on May 10.
After the Camp Jackson affair, secessionist sentiment quieted in St. Louis and the Minute Men organization lost prominence, although they did continue to recruit for the Confederate army for some time until such activities were outlawed after the Union commanders in the city gained control.
Radical Republicans - a wing of the Republican Party organized around an uncompromising opposition to slavery.