The “Horrible Assassination” of Captain Otto Schwarz, June 1, 1863

Another teaser from Tuesday’s posting … or shall I say “sordid details”… of the 2nd Missouri Artillery involved Battery E and its commander, Captain Otto Schwarz.  On the June 1863 returns for the regiment, the remark “Killed by unknown persons” appears to the right of his name.  Such a declaration, particularly for a battery not engaged in active campaigning, is interesting to say the least.

Schwarz, like many others in the 2nd Missouri, was an immigrant, having come over from Prussia.  His name appears in records as Schwartz or Swartz.  Here, I will stay with the spelling from the official documents, and drop the “t.”  I don’t know when he arrived in the United States.  But in 1860, he lived in St. Charles, Missouri (the “old” state capital, just north of St. Louis), working as a merchant.

At age 31, he enlisted in the 2nd Missouri Artillery in October 1861 (though I cannot claim any specifics, there are indications he served in the militia before the war and of course in those formations when called up in 1861).  The regimental book described him as five feet, 6½ inches tall, dark complexion, grey eyes, and light hair.  Schwarz was commissioned a second lieutenant in Battery I.  Then in October 1862 he was promoted to Captain and transferred to command Battery E.

Of course, the regiment had not, nor would in its initial enlistment period, see any significant campaigning.  Battery E was stationed at St. Louis.  But detachments of the battery were involved with skirmishes at Blomfield, Missouri in September and October 1862.  So they might claim to have seen some small part of the elephant.  Still, one might think this easy duty, guarding St. Louis.  But most of these men were recruited from the St. Louis area.  The inactivity must have given room for mischief.  Not just Battery E, but the 2nd Missouri Artillery as a whole.

Spring 1863 found Battery E manning Forts No. 7 and 8, in the defenses of St. Louis.

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A couple IX-inch Dahlgrens and a pair of 32-pdrs all in barbette pivot mountings. (Forts No. 6 and 7 had the same plan.  Fort No. 8 had one Dahlgren, two 32-pdrs, and three 12-pdr guns.) A lot of iron to throw about.  Just one of a chain of forts guarding the gateway to the west.  For all appearances, Battery E had a quiet garrison posting.

All that change… well for Schwarz, came to an end… in the early morning hours of June 1.  The Daily Missouri Democrat of St. Louis reported on June 2:

Horrible Assassination – Capt. Otto Schwartz Murdered by Soldiers – The Perpetrators Unknown.

Captain Otto Schwartz, of Company E, 2d Missouri Artillery, stationed at Fort No. 7, was murdered at one o’clock yesterday morning, in the most deliberate and cold-blooded manner.

A few moments before that hour he was in front of the residence of Lieut. Aaron Schenck at the junction of Grand and Franklin avenues, conversing with that gentleman and with Lieut. Leistner.

It was bright moon-light and the party felt disposed to enjoy the coolness and beauty of the hour.  Finally Leistner bade the Captain good-by and retired with Schenck to his room, while Capt. Schwartz moved off to return to Fort No. 7. Soon after entering their room, Schenk and Leistner heard the reports of two pistol shots, but paid little attention to them. In a few moments a groan and cry were heard in front of the house, and on opening the door they found the Captain lying mortally wounded on the pavement.

He was borne into the house, and Dr. Pondrom, Surgeon of the Second Missouri Artillery, was summoned. The patient was suffering intensely and evidently in death agony.  The Doctor could do nothing to save him.  The victim was asked who shot him.  The reply was, “I do not know; they were three soldiers together.”  He was again asked, “Were they any of your company?” He answered “No, none of my boys,” and shortly afterwards expired.

One of the balls entered the left side below the spleen, passed through the abdomen, and out above and near the right hip.  The other only passed through the calf of his right leg.  The death resulted from rapid and copious internal hemorrhage consequent upon the first wound.

A woman in the vicinity was yesterday at the Coroner’s inquest in view of the body, and testified that on hearing the pistol firing she looked out and saw three men run.  They were dressed in soldiers’ clothes. Capt. Schwartz, when shot, was at the corner of Page and Grand avenues.  He ran thence some one hundred and sixty or more yards to the spot where he was found.

No clue has yet been found to the perpetrators of this diabolical deed. By some the cause is traced to “mutiny” prevailing among certain of the 2d Missouri Artillery, and in consequence of which 3(?) score of arrests have been made within about three weeks past.  The murder is involved in mystery.

Captain Schwartz was a resident of St. Charles, was some thirty-five years of age, and unmarried.

Newspapers as far away as Ohio picked up the Democrat‘s report and ran the article.  Some newspapers apparently mistook Schwarz for a different officer of a similar name, offering the name, date, and place but mistakenly indicating the officer was in a Wisconsin regiment:

OttoSchwartz8thWis

I’m sure Otto Schwartz of the 8th Wisconsin was OK…. though his wife might have had a bad day.

I’ve not located any other accounts of the incident.  And more importantly, there are no follow up stories to provide any sort of closure.  No leads.  No suspects.  Though I’ve not exhausted every source just yet.

But this claim of mutiny in the 2nd Missouri is worth further examination.  Looking at the regimental returns, specifically at the number of soldiers in custody, there is a trend:

  • April 2: Two officers, 15 enlisted.
  • April 30: Four officers, 32 enlisted.
  • May 10: Five officers, 38 enlisted.
  • May 31: One officer, 65 enlisted.
  • June 10: One officer, 114 enlisted.
  • June 30: One officer, 195 enlisted.
  • July 10: Two officers, 176 enlisted.
  • August 10: Two officers, 105 enlisted.
  • August 20:  Three officers, twelve enlisted.

Of course, we know who one of those officers held in confinement was, but as to the rest, particularly all those enlisted men?  We can wonder about trends here and speculate something stimulated a rise in confinements starting in April, increasing in May, then peaking in June.  Keep in mind, during the five months sampled the regiment’s strength varied from 550 to 630 men.  So at the end of June, a third of the regiment was confined. Mutiny might well be the word for it.

But let us look at that “spike” in more detail.  A return from June 30 breaks out the confinements by battery:

  • Battery A:  One officer (Captain Michael Laux, who we know).
  • Battery B: 10 enlisted.
  • Battery C: 12 enlisted.
  • Battery D: No report.  This battery was at Cape Girardeau, Missouri
  • Battery E: 5 enlisted.
  • Battery F: 26 enlisted.
  • Battery G: 5 enlisted.
  • Battery H: None.
  • Battery I: 6 enlisted.
  • Battery K:  43 enlisted.
  • Battery L: 15 enlisted.
  • Battery M: 73 enlisted.

Recall the summary listing from earlier this week.  Batteries K, L, and M were actually not at St. Louis, but rather serving as light artillery in Southeast Missouri.  Such may help explain the number of confinements.  And may not necessarily be confinements due to mutinous behavior – infractions or missing movements, for example.

But looking through the newspaper’s articles that spring, it is apparent 2nd Missouri soldiers were involved with numerous altercations.  There are reports of stabbings, shootings, and fights.  And several appear in the weekly list of prisoners, identified as from the regiment.  A particularly bad incident occurred on July 4, with numerous – numbering above two dozen – members of the regiment arrested for questioning.  We might attribute that sort of behavior to disciplinary problems… but again… maybe not mutiny.

But most interesting among the “troubles” appearing for the 2nd Missouri occurred at the front end of this bulge of confinements. On April 23, the Daily Missouri Democrat reported:

Fort No. 8, St. Louis, April 21, 1863

A word from the detachment of Company E, 2d Missouri, referring to the President’s proclamation:

An order was received at this post yesterday, from Col. Almstedt’s headquarters, to furnish a certain George Hays with a safe-guard, to proceed to a certain house to recover his property, the said property being a runaway female slave.  When upon the men refusing to be used for such a duty on the plea that they had not enlisted as negro catchers, they were all ordered under arrest.  We support the above needs no comments.

[List of eleven soldiers, by name, who refused the assignment]

Some of the soldiers refusing were non-commissioned officers, indicating this was not some privates revolt against doing work.  This was a considered stand to make.  The next day, the paper walked this back a bit, claiming they intended to print the notice with some commentary.  But those comments had been inadvertently left out.  Concluding on the matter, the editor wrote:

It most clearly is the duty of the soldier to obey his superior officers, leaving responsibility of his consequent action upon the authority commanding it. If, however, he feels that is conscience or manhood will be outraged by yielding obedience to any particular order, then it is equally his duty to accept arrest and punishment without complaint.  But, as to the order referred to in this instance, our information leads us to conclude that the circumstances under which it was issued perfectly justify it, and that the disobedience was itself as unpardonable as the subsequent complaint was unsoldierly and wrong.

First, recall that Missouri was listed among the exemptions in the Emancipation Proclamation.  So Mr. Hays may have been a legal slaveholder, at least at that moment in time.  The question here is really if the military commander had an obligation to assist Hays, under his authority.  And that, I would submit, opens a larger can of worms.

But this brings up yet another possible reason for mutinous behavior.  And specifically from the men of Battery E.  Implied in the situation is Schwarz was the officer issuing the order to these men, as they came under his direct control.  I have looked through the records of six of the eleven, and find no indication of punishment or arrest.  Though a short period of confinement, say a few days, would slip go unrecorded in the service records.  But I would point out that two of these men went on to promotions and to reenlist in the regiment later in the fall.  Not graces normally accorded to those punished for disobedience.

So, we are left with Captain Schwarz killed by three soldiers, from the death-bead testimony of the victim, supported by one witness.  And we have a cry of mutinous behavior in the regiment.  Maybe we need to look deeper at the “climate” of the 2nd Missouri at this time.  The men were serving at home, literally for many.  They were given rather mundane garrison duty. They were close to the end of enlistments.  The city offered many distractions and “entertainment.”  And they were given orders that at least some found distasteful.

Any one of those factors… or all of those factors… might lead to a motive for shooting Captain Otto Schwarz.

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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:

0193_1_Snip_MO2

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:

0195_1_Snip_MO2

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:

0196_3_Snip_MO2

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!