Rolla was early occupied by the Federals and on another August day, just one year later, Rolla was changed from its crude pioneer ways to the pomp and glory of a Military Camp.

In 1860, buckskin and butternut homespun garments, rubbed elbows with fancy “store-clothes” from St Louis. Gamblers in their loud checked vests and silk plug hats gently relieved sun-tanned woodsmen of the gold their traps and rifle had earned for them in furs and pelts.

Then came the war; families were rendered asunder, the Southern sympathizers concentrated in various rendezvous, but Rolla was early occupied by the Federals and on another August day, just one year later, Rolla was changed from its crude pioneer ways to the pomp and glory of a Military Camp. The railroad that was expected to handle the products of a great and resourceful region, now was commandeered for military purposes; trainloads of loyal German troops from St Louis were rushed to Rolla, hurried encampments formed and as these troops were moved on down the Wire Road (Now Highway 66) through the wilderness to Springfield, more troops came, larger camps were established, and new regiments recruited. Gay uniforms predominated on that first of August ’61, when every company chose its own style and color. Red blouses and baggy blue trousers of the Zouaves, mingled with all shades of blue, grey and brown. Brass buttons, epaulettes, and gold braid was lavished; bugles sounded by day and night; and bands played. Recruits marched and drilled all day and played cards or gathered about camp fires to sing lustily, the rollicking confident songs of early war times. Big homes, and there were a few ample ones, and taverns that had been hastily constructed, rocked with merriment, dancing and often fighting.

Mingling with the well-clothed and well-fed Union Troops was a strange and motley horde up from the mountains of south Missouri and north Arkansas—these were the refugees, flying before the gathering storm and from the hands of guerrillas and bushwhackers that had already begun to range the Ozarks. They came from as far south as the Boston Mountains and in every kind of conveyance use in that day. Prairie schooners drawn by slow-moving oxen, and half famished mules; hacks, carriages and state coaches. Many walked barefooted driving the remnants of their herd. Household goods were few, but always included a featherbed, an iron pot and skillet. The women often wore linsey woolsey and the men butternut or blue homespun jeans. Some in buckskin with coonskin headgear. Men with hair to their shoulders and unshaven but determined and always armed with squirrel rifle or shotgun—their main dependence for food and protection. Hound dogs were abundant.

While the troops camped on the hills about Rolla, or were quartered in town, the refugees bivouacked where they could.

It was August, they required not much more than a place to sleep, shelter was not needed and generally out of the question. At night this flotsam and jetsam from the hills gathered about big fires, sang folksongs and danced to the ever-present fiddle. By day they gazed at the bright uniformed troops and stared wide-eyed at the strange iron monster that puffed and whistled and when they got too close, drenched them in steam.


Rolla Daily Herald Aug 26, 1955