56th Regiment Enrolled Missouri Militia
In the spring and summer of 1862 the Federally supported Missouri State Militia had replaced most of the U.S. Volunteer force who had been sent elsewhere to fight. And while elsewhere a very serious situation erupted from the raiding Confederates, whether they were regular, irregular or guerrillas. The Missouri State Militia was unable to handle the situation so the Governor authorized General Schofield to organize as large an additional force as necessary to aid the Missouri State Militia in protecting the state of Missouri. And thus was born the Enrolled Missouri Militia.
General Schofeild called for every able-bodied man in Missouri subject to military duty to report for enrollment in the militia. Exemptions were made for foreign born citizens and for those who paid $10.00 and one-tenth of one percent of the value of all their taxable property to the state in lieu of service. Once they started to enroll the men were organized into companies with neighbors who lived in the same immediate area.
The Enrolled Missouri Militia soldiers were to serve for 6 months, although many served two and three tours of duty. Enrolled soldiers also continued their civilian lives but were on call at all times for military service. Once they were called to active service they were not supposed to serve for more than 30 days continuously, although this did not always happen. In the beginning the Enrolled Missouri Militia received no uniforms but turned out when called in their civilian clothing. It wasn’t until July of 1863 that uniforms were issued to the soldiers. They were also to supply their own horse and guns. Each company was to meet and train at an established building where their arms could be stored under guard and defended in case of attack. The Enrolled Missouri Militia was not allowed to draw rations and forage during the first year operation when on duty, but was instructed to subsist on the disloyal population. The Enrolled Missouri Militia was funded by the state and was subject to the call of the governor but received its orders from the Federal military.
The Enrolled Missouri Militia’s main assignment was garrison duty, guarding supply depots, public buildings, military outpost and railroad bridges. This freed thousands of regular Union Soldiers for campaigns through out the south. But the Enrolled Missouri Militia duties soon changed, they became actively engaged in locating and attacking guerrilla bands across the state and directly confronting the regular Confederate Army which they were never organized or trained to do.
The 56th Enrolled Missouri Militia was primarily a infantry regiment with the exception of Company “A” which was a cavalry unit. The regiment was organized in July of 1862 and was made up of men from Cape Girardeau County. The Commanding Officer was William McLane. The men served in companies A, B, C, D, F, G, H, and I. There was no company “E” and company “H” combined with company “A” very soon after it was formed. The last record of the 56th was for December of 1864.
There are few event records for the 56th but this is what is known; they provided troops for the defense of Cape Girardeau and Southeast Missouri, guarded supply wagon trains that left the strategic Federal supply depot at Cape Girardeau, guarded the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad and scouting missions from Cape Girardeau into the northeast corner of Arkansas.
The 56th also took part in operations against Marmaduke’s Expedition into Missouri from April 17 – May 3, 1863. They were in the Battle of Cape Girardeau on April 26, and on April 30 – May 1, were in a major skirmish along the St. Francis river at Chalk Bluff. They were actively engaged against Sterling Price’s invasion, while his troops were passing through Southeast Missouri, during September of 1864. They were also in skirmishes at Reeve’s Mountain on November 19 and Buckskull on November 20, in Randolph Co., AR. They were also in many skirmishes near Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Pocahontas in Cape Girardeau County.