Brevet Major General John H. McNeil, USV
(1813 Nova Scotia-1891 MO)
Original Member of the Missouri Commandery of MOLLUS
Visit the MO Commandery of MOLLUS Homepage
John H. McNeil was born February 4, 1813 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, of American parentage. After receiving a common school education, he learned the trade of a hatter, in Boston, MA, at the age of 16, and three years later he was President of the Mechanic's Apprentice Library Association. In 1832 he removed to New York and entered into copartnership with his father, and also became a member of the famous New York 7th Regiment. He settled in St. Louis in 1836, first taking a position in the employ of a Mr. McKee, and subsequently setting up for himself in the retail, and afterwards upon Main Street, in the wholesale hat business. In 1844-5, he was a member of the Missouri Legislature, and from 1855 to 1861 was President o fthe Pacific Insurance Company. From the time of his settlement in St. Louis to the breaking out of the war, he continued, however, to prosecute the business of a wholesale hat merchant.
On May 18, 1861 he abandoned his business and entered the military service of the United States, as Colonel of the 3rd USRC MO Volunteers. During APril and May, he was engaged in organizing the regiment at Turner Hall, and on May 10th participated in the capture of Camp Jackson. On July 16 and 17, he was engaged in the capture of Fulton, MO, and in the defeat of General Harris. After serving a Post Commander and Provost Marshal of St. Louis until August, 1861, he was on the 10th of that month he mustered out of the service.
On December 7, 1861 he re-entered the service, as Colonel of the 2nd MSM Cavalry. He engaged in actions of Walkerville, MO, April 2nd and 14th, 1862, and on June 4th was assigned to the command of the District of Northeast Missouri, with headquarters at Palmayra. He was in action against the enemy on June 26, 1862, and from July 28th to Aug. 6th operated a campaign against Porter's guerrillas in Northern Missouri, engaging them at Whalley's Mills, August 1st, and in teh battle of Kirksville, Aug. 5th and 6th, where Porter's command of 3,000 men were dispersed. He wsas also in actions at Stockton, Aug. 6th; Bragg's Farm, Sept. 13th; and Shelbourne, Sept. 15th. On October 23rd he was assigned to the command of the 8th Military District of Missouri, and engaged in operations in Lewis, Clark, Scotland, and Schuyler counties.
On November 29, 1862 he was commissioned a Brigadier General, "for gallant services north of the Missouri River." From December, 1862, to May, 1863, he operated against guerrillas in Southeastern Missouri, being in action at Bloomfield, March 1st; in the expedition from that place, March 9th to 15th; in command at Capr Girardeau, in April; in command against Marmaduke and pursuit from Cape Girardeau to Chalk Bluffs, AR, April 17 to May2; engaging in actions at Cape Girardeau, April 26; Jackson and near White River, April 27; Castor River, April 29; Bloomfield, April 30; and Chalk Bluffs, on St. Francis River, May 1 and 2.
From July 15th to Oct. 19th, 1863, he commanded the District of Southwestern Missouri, with headquarters at Springfield. He was in the campaign against Shelby, from Sept. 22nd to Oct. 26th, being in action at Humansville, Oct. 16th, and Buffalo Mountain, Oct. 24th.
On October 29, 1863 he was assigned to command the District of the Frontier Department of Missouri. From March to August, 1864, he commanded the District of La Fourche, Department of the Gulf, and subsequently (until September) the District of Rolla, Department of Missouri.
On October 6, 1864 he was assigned to the command of teh 2nd Brigade of the forces at Jefferson City, MO, and operated against Price in his invasion on the State from Sept. 24 to Oct. 26, participating in the repulse of Price's attack on Jefferson City, Oct. 6 and 7; in actions at Brownsville, Oct. 9 and 11; Little Blue, Oct. 21; Independence, Oct. 22; Big Blue, Oct. 23; Coldwater Grove, Oct. 24; Marias des Cygnes and the rout of Price's army, Oct. 25.
From October, 1864, to April, 1865, he commanded the District of Central Missouri, and on April 12, 1865 he resigned and was honorably mustered out of the service, and was brevetted a Major General of Volunteers, "for gallant and distinguished services during the war of the rebellion."
At the conclusion of the war, General McNeil settled in St. Louis and was soon appointed Clerk of the Criminal Court. In 1866, he was elected Sheriff of St. Louis County (then including the City of St. Louis), which office he held until 1871. He was a Centennial Commissioner from 1872 to 1876, also an United States Indian Inspector until 1882. From 1883 to June of 1885 he was Assistant Adjutant General of the Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Missouri, and in 1890 was appointed to a position of trust in the St. Louis Post Office. Although in apparent health, he died suddenly while in discahrge of his official duties.
It is a pleasure to record that as a citizen in the private walks of life, General McNeil was modest in deportment and always courteous in address. Well read, especially in historical literature, he was an interesting conversationalist, and rarely inaccurate inmarshalling argumentative data. Despite adverse circumstances of fortune, he was cheerful, unobtrusive, free of jealousy, and never happier than in society of his old comrades of the war, to whom he was devotedly attached. Beneath a natural ruggedness of character, and a crisp, stern manner of speech, he had a warm and tender heart, which often found expression in illy concealed emotion.
His consideration of the complex questions which grew out of the war, was tempered by an earnest desire to eradicate the bitterness which four years of strife had engendered, and to create in the new life of the country a patriotism which should universally pervade the hearts of the American people.
John McNeil died June 08, 1891 in St. Louis, MO, bur.Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, MO.
No man ever loved his country more ardently than John McNeil. In the days that were darkest and amid trials that were sorest, he was from first to last the non-compromising defender of her integrity, and so closely linked together were his loyality and his appreciation of duty, that between them neither policy nor expediency ever found a middle-ground.
Thus for four long, bitter years, unallured by those grander and more brilliant campaigns which were heaping honors upon other men, did this brave soldier stand at his post of duty, and thus, in th arena of a fierce and merciless border warfare, did he battle against the forces which vainly struggled to wrest the great State of Missouri from her allegiance.
The importance of this work and the value of these services can only be estimated in the light of the disastrous results which must have followed the successful occupation of this great strategic section of the country by the powers of the rebellion. No more endring monument can be builded to the honor of our deceased Companion than the page of history which will record that he was on of the leaders whose untring energy saved this Imperial State from the calamity and the crime of secession.
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civl War John H. McNeil Camp #62 in Moberly, MO is named in his honor.
1) MO Commandery of MOLLUS, Circular No.79, 07Nov1891
2) Membership Records of the MO Commandery of MOLLUS
3) "Generals In Blue", by Warner c1964
4) The American Civil War 1861-1865.
Copyright (c) 2000 Douglas Niermeyer, MO Commandery of the MOLLUS