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James Latimer was born on December 2, 1829 at Closagh Rock, Covey, Ireland. Very little is know regarding the life of James Latimer, but we know he migrated to the United States in the 1850’s. Nor do we know the exact date of Latimer’s enlistment; but we do know he enlisted not in the regularly sanctioned army, but in Company I, 36th Regiment Missouri Militia; an irregular regiment of volunteers, on August 3, 1862, at Nodaway County, Maryville, Missouri; and was ordered to active duty the same date by General Benjamin Loan.

The Nodaway County Regiment Home Guard, consisting of seven companies, was organized by Colonel William J.W. Bickett from July through October 20th; having  been a Doctor of Medicine before becoming commander of the Nodaway County Regiment and Company I was commanded by Lieutenant Moorehouse.

The compliment of 36th Missouri Militia was originally organized in Carroll County and was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Hoover.   The Missouri Home Guard was not like any Home Guard organization of other states. The Missouri Home Guard even though it was said to be a state militia unit, was controlled by the Federal government.The so-called Missouri Home Guard in which Latimer served was authorized by the un-elected, marshal-law, quisling, Yankee government of Hamilton Gamble.  Some of the Home Guard were dedicated Unionists and many were German ‘48ers,  but the number of the core group was never very great. When Lincoln demanded that the states contribute more troops to the cause the Union recruiting effort devolved into dragooning. Missouri’s rump government enacted a law known as the “Enrolled Missouri Militia Act” or what they called EMM troops.Gamble could not fill out his quotas because no one wanted to fight for the North so he passed this law that basically proclaimed that all men in the state were then Yankee soldiers.  EMM troops made up the bulk of the Home Guard and were a troublesome, mutinous, and uncontrollable lot.   As a result many Missourians joined the Partisans and were murdered if captured by the Yankees on the grounds that they were “deserters” from the Union army.

On June 11, 1861, Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon, commander of the Department of the West, was ordered by the Department of War to enlist citizens of Missouri loyal to the Union to protect their homes and neighborhoods from pro-Southern elements.

With authority provided by the United States government it was unique in the course of the Civil War. Some 20,000 men joined what came to be known as the Home Guard; 241 companies in 6 regiments and 22 battalions, consisting of two classes:

Those organized for their own protection and the preservation of peace in their own neighborhoods, armed by the United States but which would receive neither pay, clothing, nor rations and those who were organized, armed, and equipped for active local service, and which would have a valid claim for pay. Those were called into service by Federal military authorities after recruitment quotas for U.S. Volunteers were reached and additional manpower was needed. The total number of men who served from Missouri with the Union was around 110,000, with some 90,000 siding with the Confederacy; but the exact number will never be known.

 

The Home Guard was closely related to and sometimes considered a part of the U.S. Reserve Corps and was a major component of the Federal forces fighting in Missouri. Despite the role it played, records relating to its service are sparse. Names of large numbers of units have been lost to history, many from a lack of knowledgeable record keeping; some, like the 36th, because if records had been kept they would have revealed the atrocities committed by Missouri raiders operating under the umbrella of governmental legitimacy. Missouri and Kansas was renowned for what came to be called “Jayhawkers” and “Redlegs”; murdering bands of irregular militia’s that often operated well outside accepted standards of warfare. It was Union units of that caliber; making war on civilians and non-combatants, that resulted in the retaliatory raid on Lawrence, Kansas by Confederate Partisan Rangers. His unit, the 36th Missouri Militia was a Redleg unit and Latimer in applying for a Pension after arriving in Australia openly admitted to murdering without reason 30 Confederate soldiers, General Robert E. Lee's brother and his two young sons; after his unit captured them. Though he applied for a pension, it's doubtful he ever received one.

The 36th Missouri Militia was never mustered into U.S. service, but instead operated as a so-called state military unit. Enlisted by General Tuttill of the regular U.S. Army, the first thing the Militia did was to arrest and place in confinement all of the Nodaway County Officers, without charges being filed and without due process of law. They were in turn released by General Tuttil, but only after each had provided a personal bond and security, insuring their good behavior and loyalty to the Union during the war.

The Regiment was then ordered to the southern part of Missouri where they were involved in pursuing Confederate Partisan Rangers operating in Missouri; capturing on one occasion the brother of General Robert E. Lee, who was well known simply as Dr. Lee, his two sons and some thirty other Confederate Rangers, whom they referred to as “raiders”. Unfortunately the 36th Militia did not conduct itself according to accepted norms of military law, but more aggressively and brutal than any of the Confederate Ranger or Guerilla groups; and they took no prisoners.  They simply shot and murdered all those who were captured, as they did Dr. Lee, his two sons and some 30 unarmed Confederate prisoners they had just captured; as testified to by James Latimer in a sworn affidavit when he unsuccessfully applied for a pension.

Being in reality one of a number of Union “Jayhawker” guerilla units operating in Missouri, under the guise of being an official unit, records relating to the 36th and other irregular “units” are simply non-existent. Either they weren’t kept according to military regulations or they were destroyed at some later date. Most of what is known comes from the “oral history” of those who served under its banner. Latimer was released from active duty on April 2, 1863.

Latimer survived the war, had married the daughter of General Freemont, left his unit before the war was concluded, as did many Union guerilla’s did and returned to his Irish homeland in 1863.

In 1864 a committee of the House of Representatives of the Twenty-second General Assembly of the State of Missouri was appointed to investigate the conduct, or misconduct and mismanagement of the Missouri Militia units; an indication of the seriousness and severity of their actions and atrocities during the war. In the same year, 1864, Latimer migrated to Australia, and settled down near his brother Thomas David Latimer where he had a successful arrowroot farm in southern Queensland, and had a wife named Nancy Jane, who bore him two children; Margaret Louise born on January 15, 1867 and James Fremont born on November 2, 1869. 

Thomas David Latimer, James’s brother, was said to have been born August 11, 1832, in Cootie Hill, County Monaghan, Ireland and migrated to Australia and established himself before James did. That was why James migrated to Australia. Thomas was a Presbyterian and a Queensland Police Officer, but police records record his age at 56 years and 6 months, on July 16, 1878, which would make his birthday sometime in February 1822. His birth date varied on each birth certificate of his ssseven children. He may have been trying to hide his birthdate from his second wife whom he married in Brisbane on March 1, 1892 at age 70. He had two of his seven children by her, the latest around the age of 80.

James Latimer died on August 12, 1919 and was buried in the Pimpama Cemetery in Ormeau, Queensland, Australia; Identification number 575, section M01, grave number 229. His grave has a double concrete surround with pillars on each corner and a tall monumental headstone.

Family legend says that the Latimer’s are related to one James Latimer who "placed
the first gold spike for the opening of the Great Western Railway from London to Bristol
" (England) and also Hugh Latimer who was burnt at the stake by Queen Mary as a heretic.

 

Robert Taylor

“A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion”,  Frederick H. Dyer, 1908

Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Missouri for the Year 1863, St. Louis, Missouri., 1864

Annual Report of the Adjutant General of Missouri for the Year Ending December 31, 1865, Jefferson   City, Missouri., 1866

Birth, Marriage and Death Records, Queensland

 Jim McGhee, Missouri

 National Archives of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland

 “Organization and Status of Missouri Troops in Service During the Civil War”, Washington, Government Printing Office 1902

Pimpama Cemetery Records, Queensland

Records of the Missouri Adjutant General

The Missouri Commandery of Mollus, Union, Missouri

 U.S. Pension Records

Gravesite photo courtesy of Robert Taylor

David S. Reif, SCV, Missouri

 

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