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Citizens showed loyalty during light up the night

The Hannibal Messenger newspaper was located in the new League Building, on the southwest corner of Main and Center Street, in 1862. The Messenger reported on Hannibal citizens and businesses which displayed lights in their windows in support of Union troops. League Building, 125-127 North Main Street, Hannibal, Mo. Photo by Esley Hamilton, 1983. National Registry of Historic Places inventory form.


Tensions between citizens over the issue of united or divided states ran deep in Hannibal, Mo., during the years of the Civil War.

The angst played out right there on Main Street, where businesses could prosper or fail, depending upon which way the political winds were blowing.

On March 12, 1862, news came to Hannibal via telegraph that as the result of a months-long Union blockade of the Potomac, the Rebels had evacuated all of their batteries at Mannassas, Virginia, on the night of March 4, 1862. The next day, Union forces entered the abandoned Confederate stronghold.

Hannibal reacts

Perceived as an advancement for the Union cause, Mayor Moses P. Green of Hannibal, issued an invitation to businesses and citizens alike, loyal to the Union cause, to “light up” the night.

The typical dark of the streets was transformed, one lamp or candle at a time.

The Hannibal Daily Messenger, owned by William T. League, and located in a new three-story building which still stands on the southwest corner of Main and Center streets, set out to report on the night when the candle and oil lights of Hannibal seemed to outshine the moon.

A.K. Miller, a 29-year-old native of Kentucky, and more recently the editor of the St. Joseph Journal, was the Messenger’s editor. A description of the night, as captured by this newspaper’s representative, was published in the March 13, 1862 edition.

The business building of T.R. Selmes, leading Hannibal businessman, banker, and former mayor, on the northeast corner of Main and Hill streets, was illuminated, as was the Planters’ House hotel across the street.

Henry King Bellard and Washington L. Youse (who was serving as councilman for the Third Ward) operated a wholesale grocery business at 34 Main Street, on the east side of Main between Bird and Center streets. Upstairs over their store was the Recruiting office for the regular army, conducted by Lieutenant Jewel. This building was illuminated out of respect for the Union Army.

The windows of Brewington and Holme’s was illuminated; R.D. Brewington and P.H. Holme conducted a shoe, boot and leather business on the westside of Main, between Bird and Center.

A window on the second-story of the aforementioned League building, in a room rented by Mr. Ed Price, was decorated with a mammoth National flag, illuminated from inside the room.

J.R. Shockley’s Daguerrean Rooms and John Hilt’s barber shop in the 100 block of Main Street, were accordingly lit up.

On Market (a few years later renamed Broadway) lights were shining in windows from the intersection with Main for an entire block, to the northeast corner of Market and Third Street, where the post office was located on the second floor.

Next door to the post office, toward the river, the new Union Store, managed by W.P. Robinson, J.T.K Hayward and W.H. Loomis, was extravagantly decorated.


Private residences which complied with the mayor’s request included:

Mayor Moses P. Green, corner Church street and Maple Ave.

Dr. R.H. Griffith, residence gravel road west of Marion House, West End

Dr. B.T. Norton, SW corner of Church and Third

T.R. Selmes, corner North and Sixth

Dr. G.L. Hewitt, Hill between Fifth and Sixth

Ex-Mayor G.H. Shields, corner Maple Avenue and Lyon

William T. League, 17 Fifth Street

David Dubach, Center and Fifth

J.T.K. Hayward, Fifth, between Church and Lyon

W. Smith Ingham, south side of Broadway between Sixth and Seventh

S.S. Allen, Sixth, between Church and Lyon

John Graham

John Campbell, west side of Sixth between Church and Water

Capt. A. B. Cohen, watchmaker, corner Sixth and Water streets.

South Hannibal

The newspaper representative then went to South Hannibal, where the neighborhood:

“ ‘let their light shine’ in blood earnest! Every window fronting on Fourth street (much later renamed Sycamore) was illumined, except two houses, we believe. Mr. (John) Volk (Main Street, between Washington and Jefferson) rather outshone the rest, as he had five twelve light windows in the front of his dwelling. He had a candle to each glass, as did also Mr. (J.S.) Pierson, opposite.”

In addition:

“The brilliancy of Union street demonstrated that its name was not a misnomer. The blazing windows of Mr. (Benjamin) Stevens’ mansion on the hill side (Union Street, between Fifth and Sixth), made a splendid appearance, being brought out in bold relief by the dark background of the sloping landscape in the rear. The railroad building presented a fine appearance, it being a three story building, full of windows, and every pane appeared with a light.”

Mr. Stevens, at that time, was operating a lime business in South Hannibal.

And above all else, a huge bonfire, believed to have been built by patriotic Irish women, was ablaze on Lover’s Leap.

Steam whistles

“The steam whistles let off about eight o’clock as though they were going to ‘blow up all creation,’ while a little later all the church bells began to toil, and rang in their merry chimes until a late hour.”

Fire company

A Hannibal fire company, known as Citizen’s Gift Engine Company No. 1, was located near the intersection of Third and Market (Broadway) streets, in a room adjoining a blacksmith shop on Third Street.

The newspaper reported that the fire company surpassed “all others in the beauty of its lights and the magnificence of their display, which was more like Aladdin’s Lamp, or some fairy scene, than anything earthly. Some of the hose carriages were out, splendidly decorated with flags &c.”

Military might

Col. David Moore and the Missouri 21st regiment was stationed at Hannibal at the time, and on that night, he called the regiment out to show support. The Hannibal Messenger reported the next day:

“Col. Moore’s entire regiment was out. The two howitzers of this command were hauled to the levee, where the soldiers were drawn up on parade, and a national salute fired, the cannoneers giving the rebels a pyrotechnical display of their prowess, and showing the loyal men ‘how to do it,” by throwing a lot of bomb shells horizontally, and letting them explode heavenward about midway across the river.”

A month later, Col. Moore was seriously injured in a battle in Tennessee, resulting in the amputation of his leg just below the knee. He was a native of Clark County, Mo.

Editor’s Note: We learned last year in this column that two residents of Union Street were killed while serving with the Union army during the war.

Rodolph Mitchick was killed in action following the two-day Battle of Corinth in Mississippi on Oct. 4, 1862. He was 37.

Michael Shaughnessy, a native of Ireland, was killed at the Battle of Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, Tenn., on Nov. 25, 1863. He was about 33 years of age.

Note: The news of the retreat of the rebels from Manassas was transmitted via telegraph, expressly for the Hannibal Messenger, by Stebbins and H. & St. Jo. Lines, Office, Railroad Building, South Hannibal. D.A. Williams, Operator.

Note: Addresses were calculated through cross referencing Hannibal city directories of the era.

Manassas Junction, Va., after its evacuation by the Confederates in March 1862. Barnard and Gibson photographer. Library of Congress

Advertisement, 1866 Hannibal city directory, accessed via the Hannibal Free Public Library’s website. Henry King Bellard and Washington L. Youse operated a wholesale grocery business at 34 Main Street, on the east side of Main between Bird and Center streets.

The Union Store, located next door to the post office (NE corner of Third and Broadway). Advertisement from the Hannibal Daily Messenger, Sunday, March 9, 1862.

Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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