By MARK EVANS
One of a handful of Civil War soldiers buried in historic Memorial Cemetery was honored on the anniversary of his burial on April 14.
J. Felix St. James, a successful local lawyer and mayor of Ste. Genevieve, was a lieutenant colonel in the Missouri 13th Infantry, fighting at the Battle Fort Donaldson, Tennessee in February 1862 and the bloody Battle of Shiloh in April 1862.
He was killed during the Battle of Shiloh, in Tennessee on April 8, 1862.
He was transported nearly 200 miles back to Ste. Genevieve by river craft and was interred in the cemetery on April 14, following a ceremony at the stone church. St. James is one of only five Civil War veterans known to be buried in the historic cemetery, which closed for burials in 1881. (There are well over 100 Civil War veterans buried at Valle Springs Cemetery and possibly hundreds more buried throughout the county.)
St. James’ name has lived on in the Lt. Col. J. Felix St. James Camp No. 326, Department of Missouri Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW).
This was not his first local honor. After the war, the local Grand Army of the Republic fraternal organization named their post after St. James.
On April 14, the 159th anniversary of St. James’ death, Camp No. 326 members Gary Scheel, Paul Kist, Michael Schaaf, Bob Mueller, and Marty Aubuchon took part in a ceremony honoring him.
They took turns standing watch over the approximate site of his long-disappeared tombstone in Memorial Cemetery.
The basic location is known, thanks to Goodspeed’s History of Southeast Missouri, a hugely important regional history published in 1888. It mentions that the lieutenant colonel was buried next to his father, Augustin St. Gemme, whose obelisk-like marker still stands in the cemetery.
St. James was also the grandson of the Jean Baptiste St. Gemme Bauvais. His wife, Susan, was the daughter of one of Ste. Genevieve’s early doctors, Ichabod Sargent.
His brother Gustave, who went by the surname St. Gem, was active in the Ste. Genevieve for many years, credited during the late 19th century as being one of the foremost authorities – along with their sister, Augustine St. Gem Menard – on Ste. Genevieve history.