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Grant and Mexico: The Most Marked Courtesy

     Mexico, Missouri has abundant history in regards to the Civil War. Due to the area being a strategic location, both politically and militarily, it was repeatedly at the center of the Confederate and Union armies’ focus in Missouri. The heart of the area known as “Little Dixie,” much of the local population provided support for the Missouri State Guard and later the Confederate Army through both supplies and manpower. Both were easy to transport, due to the railroads running through the town. Because of their strategic location and infrastructure, the Union army sought to secure the area early in the war. U.S. Grant was dispatched, in command of the 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry, to protect the town and the railroad from Confederate sympathizers and troops. During his stay there, from July 20 through August 7, 1861, Grant settled his headquarters on the area known as “the Commons.” It was here that Grant learned he had promoted to Brigadier General.1

Starting his journey to Mexico, Grant and his troops initially landed in Missouri on July 10, 1861, on the Missouri side of the river opposite Quincy, Illinois. Guarding the railroad, Grant traveled from Macon, Missouri to Mexico, Missouri. It was here that the St. Louis newspaper was brought to Grant by his regiment’s chaplain. In which, an article elaborated on Grant’s name being submitted for promotion to the rank of Brigadier General of Volunteers. It wouldn’t be until several days later, after Grant reached Ironton, Missouri, that official word actually made it from the military informing him of his promotion.2 About Mexico, Missouri, Grant wrote in his memoirs:

My arrival in Mexico had been preceded by that of two or three regiments in which proper discipline had not been maintained, and the men had been in the habit of visiting houses without invitation and helping themselves to food and drink, or demanding them from the occupants. … I at once published orders prohibiting the soldiers from going into private houses unless invited by the inhabitants, and from appropriating private property to their own or to government uses. The people were no longer molested or made afraid. I received the most marked courtesy from the citizens of Mexico as long as I remained there.”3

1 “Learning Center.” Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation. April 2016. Accessed July 11, 2017.

2 Ibid.

3 Grant, Ulysses S. Grant: Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Selected Letters 1839-1865. Edited by John Y. Simon. Springfield: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985.

About the Author
Whitney E. Tucker is the Member Services Coordinator for Missouri's Civil War Heritage Foundation. Whitney is completing her master in Historic Preservation at Southeast Missouri State University. Contact her at

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