“Conduct unbecoming” in Tony’s Saloon: Captain Michael Laux of the 2nd Missouri Artillery

Yesterday I gave you a bit of a teaser in the administrative section discussing the 2nd Missouri Artillery.  At the end of June, 1863, Captain Michael Laux, commander of Battery A, was under arrest and awaiting a hearing.  On the muster rolls, Laux’s status is simply – “Absent” and “Under arrest since February 27, 1863.”

Military things being what they were, when an officer is placed under arrest we are conditioned to expect some epic episode worthy of note… documented, of course, with a court marshal or other formal proceeding.  While there were all sorts of reasons for arrests, generally these fit into two broad categories – disobedience (not obeying orders) and misconduct.  And displays of misconduct more often than not are influenced by consumption of alcoholic beverages.  The case of Michael Laux fit into that latter category.

Laux was an immigrant, listed on the 1860 census as a carpenter originally from Bavaria, specifically the Rheinpfalz region.  At age 37, he lived in St. Louis with his wife Sibilla, aged 34.  They had two daughters, Margaretha and Mary, both born in Missouri and aged eight and six, respectively.

According to service records, Laux first joined the 1st US Reserve Infantry, Missouri Troops – a short enlistment early war formation – as a private.  He was commissioned a captain in the 2nd Missouri Artillery on September 26, 1861 and assigned to Battery A. The regimental book had Laux at five feet, 10 inches tall, with dark complexion, brown eyes, and dark hair.

Battery A’s service was mostly around St. Louis.  And it’s the winter of 1862 that we want to focus upon.  On February 5th of that year, Laux had… well… an incident:

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Transcription:

Headquarters, 2nd Mo. Art’y

St. Louis, Feb’y 1862

Charges and specifications against Capt. Michael Laux, Camp A, 2nd Mo. Art’y.

Charge. Conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

Specification. In this that on Wednesday, the 5th day of February, he went into Tony’s Beer saloon, being drunk, and ordered the proprietor to shut up the saloon and also ordered the guests to leave, assuming the authority of the Provost Marshall and saying that he was acting under such authority – and that after he had ejected the guests from the place he himself remained to drink beer for over half an hour, thereby forcing the proprietor to act against the rules established by the Provost Marshall.  During all this time he having demeaned himself toward the proprietor as well as the guests in a very ungentlemanly manner. When he left the Beer saloon he went into the oyster saloon attached to Tony’s Beer saloon and there repeated the same treatment towards the proprietor and guests.

Henry Almstedt

Col., Commanding, 2nd Mo. Art’y.

Witnesses:

Captain F. Johnson, Comdg. Fort No. 4.

Theodore Kanfuian (?), Seinberger’s Hotel.

Dr. F. Tunghans (?), Seinberger’s Hotel.

Anton Niederwieser, Proprietor of Tony’s Tivoli.

Of the witnesses, those from Seinberger’s Hotel appear to be guests at the bar.  With the name, Niederwiser, we can trace the location of the incident to Tony Niederwiser’s Beer Garden and Billard Saloon, at 17 South 4th Street, between Market and Walnut Streets (according to the 1863 St. Louis City Directory).

No indication from the records what prompted Laux’s behavior.  He was taken into custody two days after the incident.  He was apparently released back to duty within a couple of weeks.  Then in May he was granted a furlough, then returned to duties.  Battery A was detached for service at Rolla, Missouri in July 1862, with Laux in command.  The battery returned to St. Louis in late January 1863.  Then on February 27, Laux was under arrest again.  It is not clear if this arrest was due to a new charge or related to the earlier incident.  But what is clear, Laux was in jail.

This time Laux remained in custody at least through September.  In July he was removed from the battery rolls.  In late September, his enlistment was up and, like others in the 2nd Missouri, was eligible for discharge.  In Laux’s case, it appears formal charges were never brought forward.  Instead, Laux was released, on September 28, 1863, to a board established to adjudicate those men from the 2nd Missouri then leaving service.  But Laux was not discharged, the department indicated there were accounts to settle.  This added insult to injury, as Laux was still formally IN the service but not being paid for being in service (since his term had run out).

In November, he wrote to the commander of the 2nd Missouri Artillery (which had essentially reformed), Colonel Nelson Cole:

It is now two months since I am waiting for the adjustment of my accounts by the Ordnance Department.  I am thereby in a bad situation.  Not discharged from the service yet, I am nevertheless restrained from accepting a citizen’s employment.  I would therefore most respectfully ask you to have me mustered out of the service at once, like my brother officers, who were under the same circumstances mustered out. …

Finally, on December 5, 1863, by orders of Major-General John Schofield, Laux was “honorably mustered out of service” with the proviso that his final pay would be held until all accounts were settled…. you know, the old “we’ll send you a check in the mail” routine.  Thus ended Laux’s military service.  He appears on the draft rolls for 1863, listed as a carpenter living on Carondelet Avenue (matching an 1864 city directory listing).

Post-war, Laux moved to 915 Shenandoah Street.  The 1870 census found him with his wife Sevilla, but now with two boys and a young girl – Jacob (9), Henry (6), and Phillipine (4).  Clearly Michael and Sevilla maintained a prosperous home.  What of Margaretha and Mary?  With both of age by 1870 (you know they married young back then), it is no big surprise to see them out of the house.  The oldest, Margaretha, died in Nevada in 1927.  But Mary is a mystery to me.

Laux applied, and received, a pension in 1887.  He was still at the Shenandoah Street address when he died of endocarditis on October 29, 1894.  Sevilla survived him and worked as a housekeeper until her death in April 1900.

Laux may have avoided major battles and thus lacks celebratory events in his service record.  There is little evidence for us to evaluate Laux’s ability or qualities.  Yet, there was honor attached to his service, even if clouded.  The weighty question is, what prompted the incident of February 5, 1863?

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Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 2nd Missouri Artillery

The Second Missouri Artillery was organized in the fall of 1861 as the 1st Missouri Artillery, Reserve Corps with fifteen – yes, fifteen – batteries.  Three were designated light batteries (A, B, and C) and the remainder as heavy batteries for garrison duty.  Designated the 2nd Missouri in November 1861, the number of batteries was trimmed to twelve with a lot of shifting of resources. And for the first year or so of the war, these batteries defended Missouri, mostly around St. Louis.  By the summer of 1863, enlistments were coming up and the regiment faced some pending changes (which would lead to consolidation in the fall).  But at least through the end of June of that year, the formation remained a regiment in the table of organization and under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Weydemeyer.

That said, the regiment’s summary is rather slim:

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Six batteries have no returns.  Of the other six, only three have cannons (two of which were the designated light batteries).  So let us attempt to at least identify what is left out with an administrative summary.  I recently came across a source with more detailed information about the officers assigned to this regiment.  And I’ve applied some of that here:

  • Battery A: No return.  Assigned to District of St. Louis, stationed at Fort No. 5.  Captain Michael Laux, of the battery, was under arrest for “Conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman” for an incident involving a consumption of beer.  Lieutenant Charles Faist filled in as commander.
  • Battery B:  With a November 1863 return    , this battery was at Helena, Arkansas with one 6-pdr field gun and one 12-pdr field howitzer. However, a battery muster roll from June 1863 indicates the battery was at Forts 1 and 2, at St. Louis at this same time.  In fact, I can find no record of a posting of this battery to Helena. So we have a conundrum with the summary.  Captain John J. Sutter was in command.
  • Battery C:  Another November 1863 return, and also placing this battery at Helena, Arkansas.  According to the return, Battery C had two 6-pdr field guns on hand.  But yet again, this is at odds with the muster rolls, placing Battery C at Fort 9, St. Louis. Captain William Baltz was in command.
  • Battery D: Based on a return filed in august 1864, this battery was at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, with an annotation “Infy Stores.”  — Though with a return, no equipment tallied. Captain Charles P. Meisner commanded this battery, posted to the garrison of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
  • Battery E: No return. According to muster rolls, stationed at Forts No. 7 and 8 at St. Louis.  Captain Otto Schwarz, commanding this battery, was “killed by unknown person” on June 1, 1863.  Lieutenant Emil Holzborn replaced Schwarz.
  • Battery F: No return. Stationed at Fort No. 3, St. Louis.  Captain Arnold Roetter commanded.
  • Battery G: A return filed in January 1864 placed this battery at St. Louis with infantry stores.  There is a fort listed by name, but somewhat illegible. Muster rolls place the battery at Fort No. 6, St. Louis.  Captain Emil Strodtman (or Strodtmann) was in command, but detached for courts martial duty.
  • Battery H: No return. Posted to Fort No. 10.  Captain Frederick Lohman was in command.
  • Battery I: A return posted in August 1864 also indicates this battery had infantry stores on hand and stationed at St. Joseph, Missouri. The location is likely a transcription error.  Like sister batteries, Battery I was at St. Louis. In this case, Fort No. 4.  Captain Friederich W. Fuchs commanded.
  • Battery K: No return.  Assigned to the District of Southeast Missouri, this battery was equipped for field duty.  Muster rolls indicate service at Arcadia, Missouri. Lieutenant Thaddeus S. Clarkson.  The previous quarter, the battery reported two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3-inch Ordnance rifles. This battery was involved with the Marmaduke Raid earlier in the spring.
  • Battery L: No return.  After serving at Rolla, Missouri through the spring, this battery returned to the St. Louis area – Camp Gamble.  I am not certain who was in command.  Lieutenant William Weydemeyer is the only officer I can say for certain was with the battery in June 1863.
  • Battery M: Reported at Little Rock, Arkansas, in a January 1864 return, with six 12-pdr mountain howitzers. This location was valid for September of 1863.  In June 1863 the battery was part of the Department of Southeast Missouri and reported at Arcadia. There are also reports indicating service at Pilot Knob.   Captain Gustave Stange remained in command.

The 2nd Missouri, as depicted in the points above, would cease to exist in September of 1863.  With so many enlistments complete, the batteries were disbanded or consolidated.  Most of the officers resigned their commissions.  But then started the cycle of raising a replacement.  For all practical purposes an entirely new 2nd Missouri was recruited, with new officers.

But that is for the next quarter’s summaries.  For now we have a handful of smoothbore cannons that need ammunition:

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Just three lines to consider:

  • Battery B: 42 shot, 84 case, and 56 canister for 6-pdr field guns; 30 shell and 50 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Battery C: 98 shot, 216 case, and 92 canister for 6-pdr field guns.
  • Battery M: 84 shell, 444 case, and 72 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

With that, we have accounted for the cannon ammunition reported by the regiment for the quarter.  I have posted the blank pages for the rifled projectiles should one wish to review: Hotchkiss, James, Parrott, and Schenkl.

Moving directly on to the small arms section:

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Only one line of entries:

  • Battery M: Eighty-two Army revolvers, sixty-seven cavalry sabers, and thirty horse artillery sabers.

That concludes the 2nd Missouri.  But we still have eight more lines of the “miscellaneous” independent batteries and detachments from Missouri.  Another administrative knot to untangle!