By Bob Mueller
Special to the Herald
The Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when South Carolina militia fired on Fort Sumpter near Charleston, South Carolina.
On Aug. 16 of that year, the effect of the war reached Ste. Genevieve when Union troops seized the local bank’s money for safekeeping due to rebel activity in the area. General John C. Fremont declared the state of Missouri under martial law on August 30, 1861.
Under martial law, administration of justice was transferred from civilian courts to the military. To implement martial law, provost marshals were assigned in each county. They had the power to conduct random arrests, provide passes for travel, issue assessment and taxes, banish people from the area, and require loyalty oaths from those suspected of aiding and abetting the southern forces.
President Lincoln felt the application of martial law was necessary to protect the citizenry and preserve order. General Henry Halleck, General in Chief, identified specific types of disloyalty and appropriate punishment. Money raised from assessment were used to fund relief services.
Local resident Augustus St. Gem was named as Provost Marshal of Ste. Genevieve County on Sept. 3, 1862. His brother, J. Felix St. James, one of the first area volunteers to the Union cause, had died earlier that year at the battle of Shiloh.
St. Gem was remembered as an aggressive provost marshal who jailed local citizens such as Peter Aubuchon, Emilie Carron, and Paschal Boyer for suspected disloyalty, banished James C. Cousins and William Bloom, sent numerous local citizens to the St. Louis Gratiot Prison for acts considered treasonous
He also required oaths and bonds from citizens such as Felix Labruyere and William Pratt. St. Gem was later promoted to provost marshal for the counties of Perry and Jefferson in addition to Ste. Genevieve. He served in that capacity until April 8, 1865, when he was succeeded by Lt. John O’Neil.
The Aug. 28 event on Third Street was a reenactment of various events that happened in Ste. Genevieve during the Civil War.
It included appointment of St. Gem as provost (Sep. 3, 1862), Federal troops taking over the courthouse (Oct 1, 1864), General Order 13 barring the selling of liquor to the local militia (May 19, 1865) and the naming of prominent citizens as possible southern sympathizers (Apr 14, 1864).
Some of the characters in the reenactment portrayed actual Civil War characters. Others unnamed soldiers and citizens.