LEMAY • Federal troops fired into a crowd of roughnecks and coarse women that, just moments earlier, had been taunting the soldiers with jibes like "Yellow bellies," "Filthy Dutch" and "Go back to Germany!"
Several hundred spectators looked on quietly, with many snapping photos and nodding their approval of the historical accuracy of Saturday's re-enactment of the Camp Jackson Affair.
The violence, which was dubbed a massacre by Southern sympathizers, was the Civil War's biggest bloodletting in St. Louis. At least 28 civilians and seven soldiers were killed in the May 10, 1861, melee, which happened shortly after the Missouri Volunteer Militia under the command of Gen. Daniel Frost surrendered Camp Jackson to Union Army Capt. Nathaniel Lyon's troops and German immigrant volunteers.
Missouri militiamen who gathered at Camp Jackson tended to favor secession, like the bivouac's namesake — Missouri Gov. Claiborne Jackson. The camp was located on Lindell Grove, a meadow near what today is the east campus of St. Louis University.
Saturday's re-enactment played out at Jefferson Barracks Park, about 10 miles south of the historical carnage, which happened as federal troops returning from the camp marched along Olive Street, near Compton Avenue.
"We're free men," shouted Brian Thrasher, playing the role of John J. Jones, an Ohio man who was fatally shot by Union troops.
Thrasher, 22, has appeared in more than 25 Civil War re-enactments — usually as a Confederate artilleryman. "I usually get to fire cannons, so this one wasn't as fun for me," said Thrasher, of Gerald. He spent about 20 minutes on the grass pretending to be dead.
"This one is more about education than it is action."
There will be violence on a grander scale Sunday, as re-enactors stage the Battle of Blackwell, a skirmish that happened in Jefferson County on Oct. 15, 1861.
J.D. Magurany, the cultural site manager of Jefferson Barracks, said he was pleased with turnout so far at the three-day Civil War event, which started Friday.