Thomas Caute Reynolds

Last updated
Thomas Caute Reynolds
Governor of Missouri (Confederate)
In office
December 6, 1862 May 26, 1865
Preceded by Claiborne F. Jackson
Succeeded byOffice abolished
11th Lieutenant Governor of Missouri
In office
January 3, 1861 July 31, 1861
In exile
July 31, 1861 – December 6, 1862
Governor Claiborne F. Jackson
Preceded by Hancock L. Jackson
Succeeded by Willard P. Hall
Personal details
Born(1821-10-11)October 11, 1821
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
DiedMarch 30, 1887(1887-03-30) (aged 65)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Cause of death Suicide by jumping
Resting place Calvary Cemetery,
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
38°42′12.2″N90°14′17.4″W / 38.703389°N 90.238167°W / 38.703389; -90.238167 Coordinates: 38°42′12.2″N90°14′17.4″W / 38.703389°N 90.238167°W / 38.703389; -90.238167
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s)Heloise Marie Sprague
Alma mater University of Virginia (LL.B.)
Heidelberg University (LL.D.)

Thomas Caute Reynolds (October 11, 1821 – March 30, 1887) was the Confederate governor of Missouri from 1862 to 1865, succeeding upon the death of Claiborne F. Jackson after serving as lieutenant governor in exile. In 1864 he returned to the state, but was forced back into exile after the Battle of Westport.


Reynolds was elected lieutenant governor in 1860 as a Douglas Democrat, privately supporting southern rights. When the Confederacy began to take shape in 1861, President Davis viewed the leaders of neutral Missouri with suspicion and initially refused to send military aid, so enabling the Union to dominate the state. Missouri's Confederate government fled to Arkansas, and Reynolds became demoralized and went to work in Richmond. Upon Governor Jackson’s death from cancer on December 6, 1862, Reynolds started planning the liberation of Missouri with Confederate Major-General Sterling Price. The planned expedition took place in 1864, but achieved nothing. After the American Civil War Reynolds fled to Mexico, returning to St. Louis in 1869. He jumped to his death there in 1887.

Early life and education

Reynolds was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1838 and received a doctor of laws degree, graduating summa cum laude, from Heidelberg University in 1842. He was admitted to the Virginia Bar in 1844 and served as a chargé d'affaires in Madrid before moving to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1850. There he opened a law practice, served as United States Attorney, and rose in the Democratic Party, joining the anti-Benton wing when the party split over Senator Thomas Hart Benton’s failure to support the Southern side of the national debate in the late 1840s and early 1850s. [1]

Reynolds was fluent in German, as was his French-born wife. Early on in St. Louis, he had good relations with the influential German community. Republicans, however, consciously and aggressively pursued a Free Soil policy that fed on white fears that slavery and the Democratic Party would serve to debase white labor as it was forced to compete with slave labor. Reynolds, as a proslavery Democrat, lost the support of the German community and the Republican editor of the Missouri Democrat, Gratz Brown particularly drew Reynolds’ ire.

Reynolds challenged Brown to a duel in March 1855. This duel never happened, however, as Brown chose "the common American Rifle with open sights, round ball not over one ounce, at eighty yards." Reynolds refused the terms because his short-sightedness would have put him at a severe disadvantage in making an accurate shot. The public attacks continued and Brown, chafing under Reynolds' accusations of cowardice for his manipulation to avoid the original duel, finally issued a challenge. Reynolds chose the more traditional dueling pistols and on August 26, 1856, the duel occurred on Bloody Island. Brown was shot in the leg (and was to walk with a limp for the rest of his life) while Reynolds was unscathed. Both returned to the political fray [2] and Brown would serve as Governor of Missouri from 1871 to 1873.

Lieutenant Governor of Missouri

In 1860, Reynolds was elected as lieutenant governor, serving along with Governor Claiborne F. Jackson, and assuming office in early 1861. The team, aware of the strong free soil sentiments of important factions of the Missouri electorate, had run as Douglas Democrats. [3]

Reynolds was an early leader of the secessionists in Missouri. On January 4, 1861, soon after his native South Carolina seceded, he called a meeting of secessionists in Jefferson City and began to help organize the Minutemen secessionist paramilitary organization at the same time Unionist companies, the "Home Guard" were being organized by Missouri Congressman Frank Blair, Jr. On January 8, Reynolds addressed a public meeting that adopted a resolution which said, in part, "We pledge Missouri to a hearty co-operation with our sister Southern States … for our mutual protection, against the encroachments of Northern fanaticism, and the co-ercion of the Federal Government." On January 17, 1861, he made an influential speech before the Missouri Senate that led the way to the call for a state convention to consider secession. [4]

At the beginning of the American Civil War, Missouri adopted a position that it would remain in the Union, but would not send troops or supplies to either side. Governor Jackson refused the call from President Lincoln to supply troops to the Union, and the Missouri General Assembly established the Missouri State Guard under Sterling Price to resist attempts to force the state to comply. Following the Camp Jackson Affair, when Union military troops and civilians clashed over the arrest of the Missouri Volunteer Militia, Price, Jackson, and Reynolds met on May 14, 1861, to discuss strategy. All appeared to agree with Reynolds that the best course was to organize the entire state militarily to resist any attempt by Lyons to occupy the state capital. On May 20 Price dispatched Reynolds to Richmond in order to secure a guarantee from Davis to protect the state secession convention if reconvened.

However the next day, Federal authorities under William S. Harney reached a cease-fire arrangement with Jackson and Price in the Price-Harney Truce. Reynolds, when he heard about the truce through the newspapers, was upset and feared that Price was reverting to Unionism.

Unionists such as Frank Blair also opposed the truce, and President Lincoln authorized Blair to overrule the agreement and relieve Harney of command. Harney's successor, Nathaniel Lyon, accompanied by Frank Blair, met with Governor Jackson and Price on June 11. Lyon demanded that the state government cooperate in suppressing the Southern rebellion, and that it permit federal military activities beyond the city limits of St. Louis. [5] Jackson and Price would only agree to preserve order in the state and resist any Confederate incursions into the state as long as Lyon agreed to disband loyal Home Guards organizations (including the 1st-5th U.S. Reserve Corps) and restrict Federal troops to metropolitan St. Louis. No agreement was reached. Jackson and Price left immediately for the state capital and the next day Jackson issued a proclamation describing the meeting and calling for fifty thousand volunteers to defend the state. Lyon’s reaction was to move immediately against the forces of Governor Jackson.

On June 3, Reynolds had sent a letter to President Davis requesting that a Confederate army be sent to occupy Missouri, and on June 21 Reynolds and Edward C. Cabell, a representative sent separately by Governor Jackson, met with Davis in Richmond. Davis had his own concerns about the loyalty of Price and Jackson after the truce with Harney and their apparent willingness, based on the June 12 proclamation to resist the Confederacy. Davis declined to send troops until Missouri had actually seceded. According to Reynolds, Davis stated:

I think General Lyon acted very unwisely in not accepting Governor Jackson’s proposals, and Mr. Lincoln may send him orders to accept them. Governor Jackson in his proclamation makes a merit of having proposed them; now if I agree to send Confederate troops into Missouri at your request, can you give me any guarantee that Mr. Lincoln may not propose and Governor Jackson assent to the agreement rejected by General Lyon, and compel those troops to retire before their joint forces?

Davis did, however, authorize Benjamin McCulloch to provide any necessary military assistance to Missouri consistent with protecting Arkansas and the Indian Territory. [5]

Lyon occupied the state capital in Jefferson City, Missouri in July 1861. The state constitutional convention was reconvened without the presence of pro-Southern representatives, and they declared the offices of Missouri governor and lieutenant governor vacant. Hamilton R. Gamble was appointed provisional governor, and Willard P. Hall was named lieutenant governor.

Jackson and Reynolds, along with other pro-secession politicians such as David R. Atchison, maintaining they were still the elected government of the state, fled to the southwest corner of the state by Springfield, Missouri where Lyon was killed in the Battle of Wilson's Creek. [6] Jackson and Reynolds convened the pro-South elected government in Neosho, Missouri and voted the Missouri secession to secede from the Union. Unable to defend themselves in the state, the government eventually moved to Marshall, Texas.

American Civil War

By December 1861 President Davis was trying to select an overall leader for Confederate forces in Missouri, Texas, and Arkansas. Jackson, Reynolds, and the Missouri Congressional delegation all lobbied for Sterling Price. Davis had concerns about Price based on his misunderstandings with McCulloch and his early support for neutrality. Davis was also unwilling to place in command of the area any general from the states of Missouri, Texas, or Arkansasfearing that their objectivity for the entire Confederate war effort would be blinded by local concerns. After first offering the position to Henry Heth and Braxton Bragg, Mississippian Earl Van Dorn was eventually selected. The issue of local versus national control of Missouri troops did materialize after the Battle of Pea Ridge when Price’s troops, over the troops' and Price’s objections, were ordered across the Mississippi – Price would eventually return to fight for Missouri but his troops would not. [7]

Reynolds returned to Richmond to work with its Congressional delegation but eventually became frustrated with his inability to contribute. In April 1862 he returned to his family estate in Winnsborough, South Carolina. His active role in the war resumed and took on new importance, however, when he learned in December 1862 that Governor Jackson had died and that he was now governor.

After the Battle of Corinth, Price had been strongly lobbying the Richmond government to return to Missouri with his troops. In late January 1863 Price went to Richmond to make his case, and Reynolds joined him there in his first act as governor. Both Price and Reynolds were concerned that with Missouri totally occupied by the Union any peace treaty might exclude Missouri from the Confederacy. Meeting with Davis and secretary of War James Seddon, the Missourians received the immediate assignment of Price west of the Mississippi with his troops to follow when circumstances warranted. Reynolds also received a letter designating him as an unofficial advisor to Generals Kirby Smith and Theophilus H. Holmes and an agreement from Davis to consult Reynolds before the appointment of any general officers. [8]

From this point on, despite an outwardly cordial appearance, the relationship between Reynolds and Price would deteriorate. In September 1863 forces under Price abandoned Little Rock, Arkansas, and Reynolds noted that "General Holmes and all the general officers under Price at Little Rock, except General Frost, considered the evacuation a blunder, and that Steele could have been beaten back with great disaster to him.". [9] He did support and encourage the replacement of Holmes but he lobbied with the President to replace him with Simon B. Buckner rather than Price whom he considered (in Castel’s words) "devious, insincere, petulant, and arrogant" and "impulsive, tactless, and prone to indiscreet and exaggerated language." [10]

Reynolds tried to exert his influence, backed up by his personal relationship with Jefferson Davis, over the civil and military decisions in the Trans-Mississippi Department. He brought some order to the records of the government which he had inherited from Governor Jackson but early on had differences with Price over the disbursement of the dwindling state treasury. The split became open and public when Reynolds appointed Colonel L. M. Lewis to the Confederate Senate to replace Price favorite and Davis critic, incumbent John B. Clark. [11]

As long as Missouri remained in Union hands, Reynolds remained a governor without an actual state to govern. Reynolds' final chance to become governor in fact occurred in October 1864 when he accompanied General Price in his raid back into Missouri. While both Price and Kirby Smith in their official reports painted a positive picture of the raid’s accomplishments (i.e. new recruits, railroads and bridges destroyed, prisoners taken, war materials gather), Castel notes:

Finally, neither Kirby Smith nor Price mentioned that the expedition failed to seize St. Louis or occupy Jefferson City and install a Confederate government, failed to bring about a mass uprising of Southern sympathizers, failed to influence state elections except probably to increase the Republican vote, and failed to do any damage to the Union military installations in Kansas. In fact Price failed to achieve a single one of his objectives other than obtain recruits, and he did that only in the imperfect fashion described. [12]

Reynolds was proud of his own participation in the raid, claiming he had "been among the bullets on the battlefield, shared mule meat with the starving, and walked in the retreat". [13] At the same time he blamed Price for the raid’s failures which he characterized as nothing but "a weak and disgraceful plundering raid." He was especially incensed at the failure to capture Jefferson City which would have allowed Reynolds to be officially installed as the state’s governor. Reynolds complained to Smith in October and in a December 23, 1864, published letter to the Marshall Texas Republican newspaper he thoroughly lambasted Price in the guise of defending two other officers that Reynolds claimed Price was using as scapegoats for his own failures. Reynolds followed this up by sending a copy to Price and asking him to resign from the military. Price responded by requesting that Smith conduct a formal investigation of Price’s charges and in a published letter to the Shreveport News denied Reynolds’ charges while referring to him as someone "who pretends to be, and styles himself in it [the Texas Republican letter], the Governor of the State of Missouri. [14]

A court of inquiry was held in late April 1865, but it was never concluded due to the end of the war. For the most part, Castel concludes that Reynolds’ specific charges were not supportable and notes that Reynolds in 1887 effectively recanted the most serious charges. Referring to his public charges, Reynolds wrote, "It is against all the canons of history that, made in a heated controversy, they should be used, or even referred to, in stating ‘’facts’’ of that campaign itself." [14]

Later life

Reynolds and a group of refugees including Kirby Smith, Sterling Price, John B. Magruder, and Joseph Shelby, with several hundred of his troops, retreated to Mexico in the summer of 1865. Reynolds took up residence in Mexico City where he served as a railroad commissioner and unofficial adviser to the Emperor Maximilian. [15]


Reynolds killed himself in 1887 by jumping down an elevator shaft at the Customs House in St. Louis. A note with his body indicated he was afraid that he was losing his mental capacity. [16] He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.


See also


  1. Gerteis p. 66-68
  2. Gerteis p. 69-71
  3. Gerteis p. 66
  4. Castel p.9
  5. 1 2 Castel p.30-32
  6. Monaghan p. 158
  7. Castel p.66-83
  8. Castel p. 133-137
  9. Castel p. 159
  10. Castel p. 166
  11. Castel p. 159-170
  12. Castel p.251-252 Similarly Prushankin p. 204 notes "But the raid had not been a success and [Kirby] Smith knew it. Upon Price’s return to Shreveport, Smith refused to receive him.
  13. Castel p.256
  14. 1 2 Castel p.257-261
  15. Castel p. 273-274
  16. Castel p. 278-279

Related Research Articles

Border states (American Civil War) Slave states that did not officially secede from the Union during the American Civil War

In the context of the American Civil War (1861–65), the border states were slave states that did not secede from the Union. They were Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, and after 1863, the new state of West Virginia. To their north they bordered free states of the Union and to their south they bordered slave states of the Confederacy, with Delaware being an exception to the latter.

Battle of Wilsons Creek Battle of the American Civil War

The Battle of Wilson's Creek, also known as the Battle of Oak Hills, was the first major battle of the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the American Civil War. It was fought on August 10, 1861, near Springfield, Missouri. Missouri was officially a neutral state, but its governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, supported the South and secretly collaborated with Confederate troops.

Nathaniel Lyon First Union general to be killed in the American Civil War

Nathaniel Lyon was the first Union general to be killed in the American Civil War. He is noted for his actions in Missouri in 1861, at the beginning of the conflict, to forestall secret secessionist plans of the governor Claiborne Jackson.

Claiborne Fox Jackson American politician

Claiborne Fox Jackson was an American politician of the Democratic Party in Missouri. He was elected as the 15th Governor of Missouri, serving from January 3, 1861, until July 31, 1861, when he was forced out by the Unionist majority in the legislature, after planning to force secession of the state.

Sterling Price American politician and Confederate Civil War general (1809–1867)

Major-General Sterling Price was a senior officer of the Confederate States Army who fought in both the Western and Trans-Mississippi theaters of the American Civil War. He rose to prominence during the Mexican–American War and served as governor of Missouri from 1853 to 1857. He is remembered today for his service in Arkansas (1862–1865) and for his defeat at the Battle of Westport on October 23, 1864.

William S. Harney United States Army general

William Selby Harney was a Tennessee-born cavalry officer in the US Army, who became known during the Indian Wars and the Mexican–American War. One of four general officers in the US Army at the beginning of the American Civil War, he was removed from overseeing the Department of the West because of his Confederate sympathies early in the war although he kept Missouri from joining the Confederacy. Under President Andrew Johnson, he served on the Indian Peace Commission, negotiating several treaties before spending his retirement partly in St. Louis and partly trading reminiscences with Jefferson Davis and Ulysses S. Grant in Mississippi.

Camp Jackson affair Massacre during American Civil War

The Camp Jackson affair, also known as the Camp Jackson massacre, occurred during the American Civil War on May 10, 1861, when a volunteer Union Army regiment captured a unit of secessionists at Camp Jackson, outside the city of St. Louis, in the divided slave state of Missouri.

During the American Civil War, the secession of Missouri from the Union was controversial because of the state's disputed status. Missouri was claimed by both the Union and the Confederacy, had two rival state governments, and sent representatives to both the United States Congress and the Confederate Congress.

Battle of Carthage, Missouri

The Battle of Carthage, also known as the Engagement near Carthage, took place at the beginning of the American Civil War on July 5, 1861, near Carthage, Missouri. The experienced Colonel Franz Sigel commanded 1,100 Federal soldiers intent on keeping Missouri within the Union. The Missouri State Guard was commanded by Governor Claiborne F. Jackson himself and numbered over 4,000 soldiers led by a hero of Mexico, Sterling Price, along with 2,000 unarmed troops who did not participate in the battle.

Battle of Dry Wood Creek American Civil War battle fought in Sep 1861 in Missouri

The Battle of Dry Wood Creek, also known as the Battle of the Mules, was fought on September 2, 1861, in Vernon County, Missouri, during the American Civil War. After his victory at the Battle of Wilson's Creek on August 10, Sterling Price and the Missouri State Guard moved further north into Missouri. A force of Union troops under James H. Lane moved from Fort Scott, Kansas to attempt an interception of Price's army, and set an ambush along Dry Wood Creek. Price's Missouri State Guard troops outnumbered Lane's Kansas troops, and after a two hour skirmish forced Lane to retreat to Fort Scott. In their retreat, Lane's troops abandoned their supplies and mules to the Missourians. Price followed up his victory by continuing his northward march, culminating in another victory at the siege of Lexington, September 13 to 20, before returning south shortly afterwards.

Battle of Boonville

The First Battle of Boonville was a minor skirmish of the American Civil War, occurring on June 17, 1861, near Boonville in Cooper County, Missouri. Although casualties were extremely light, the battle's strategic impact was far greater than one might assume from its limited nature. The Union victory established what would become an unbroken Federal control of the Missouri River, and helped to thwart efforts to bring Missouri into the Confederacy.

St. Louis Arsenal

The St. Louis Arsenal is a large complex of federal military weapons and ammunition storage buildings operated by the United States Air Force in St. Louis, Missouri. During the American Civil War, the St. Louis arsenal's contents were transferred to Illinois by Union Captain Nathaniel Lyon, an act that helped fuel tension between secessionists and those citizens loyal to the Federal government.

The Price–Harney Truce was a document signed on May 21, 1861, between United States Army General William S. Harney and Missouri State Guard commander Sterling Price at the beginning of the American Civil War.

Missouri State Guard Military force of the U.S. state of Missouri from 1861 to 1865

The Missouri State Guard (MSG) was a military force established by the Missouri General Assembly on May 11, 1861. While not a formation of the Confederate States Army, the Missouri State Guard fought alongside Confederate troops and, at various times, served under Confederate officers.

The city of St. Louis was a strategic location during the American Civil War, holding significant value for both Union and Confederate forces. As the largest city in the fiercely divided border state of Missouri and the most important economic hub on the upper Mississippi River, St. Louis was a major launching point and supply depot for campaigns in the Western and Trans-Mississippi Theaters.

Missouri in the American Civil War

During the American Civil War, Missouri was a hotly contested border state populated by both Union and Confederate sympathizers. It sent armies, generals, and supplies to both sides, was represented with a star on both flags, maintained dual governments, and endured a bloody neighbor-against-neighbor intrastate war within the larger national war.

The Missouri Constitutional Convention of 1861–1863 was a constitutional convention held in the state of Missouri during the American Civil War. The convention was elected in early 1861, and voted against secession. When open fighting broke out between Pro-Confederate governor Claiborne Fox Jackson and Union authorities, and Union forces occupied the state capital, the convention formed a provisional state government, and functioned as a quasi-legislature for several years. The convention never did produce a new constitution; that task was delegated to a new convention, elected in 1864.

Franklin Archibald Dick was an American lawyer, politician and military officer during the American Civil War. He served as a Republican member of the Missouri state legislature and worked with Francis P. Blair Jr. to oppose slavery in Missouri. He served as volunteer assistant adjutant general to Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon in the struggle to prevent Missouri secession to the Confederacy that resulted in the Camp Jackson Affair. He also served as Missouri provost marshal general and lieutenant colonel under Major General Samuel Curtis. After the war, he worked as a law partner with Montgomery Blair at the Blair House in Washington, D.C.

Confederate government of Missouri Government of Missouri in exile (1861–1865)

The Confederate government of Missouri was a continuation in exile of the government of pro-Confederate Governor Claiborne F. Jackson. It existed until General E. Kirby Smith surrendered all Confederate troops west of the Mississippi River at New Orleans, May 26, 1865.

The Provisional Government of Missouri was established on August 1, 1861 by the members of the Missouri Constitutional Convention after the evacuation of Missouri's pro-Secessionist Governor Clairborne Fox Jackson and elements of the Legislature to the southern part of the state. The Missouri State Convention, acting under authorities granted to it by the special election earlier that year, declared the office of Governor vacant, and appointed former Missouri Supreme Court Justice Hamilton Gamble Governor. Even opponents of Federal action in Missouri generally respected Gamble.