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M-411: General John Smith Cavender Correspondence

Repository: St. Louis Mercantile Library Special Collections

Title: General John Smith Cavender Correspondence


  • Cavender, John Smith

Date: 1861-1904, bulk 1861-1863

Extent: 25 letters with transcriptions, 3 transcribed obituaries, 1 biography (typescript copy).

Location note: Vault -- vertical files

Language: English 

Abstract: Correspondence and related papers of John Smith Cavender, Union soldier in the Civil War.

Biographical note: 

Gen. John Smith Cavender was born in Franklin, N. H., March 11, 1824. Gen. Cavender's grandfather, who was of Irish descent served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and his children were prominently identified with the early history of the country. His son John Cavender, early engaged in the manufacture of cotton goods, but in a few years gave up manufacturing to become a merchant. He married a woman of Scotch-English descent, who was the mother of John Smith Cavender.

When the son was twelve years of age the Cavender family removed to St. Louis and embarked in the grocery business. Young Cavender had been sent to the district school in his native town before he was removed to the West, and after spending four years in the St. Louis schools he was sent back to New Hampshire to complete his education. He first entered Phillips' Exeter, and, after fitting himself for a college course, concluded his studies with a year in the Mercantile Class and Law school at Cambridge, Mass.

Soon after leaving college Mr. Cavender engaged in the hide and fur business in St. Louis, which he pursued nearly three years during which he traveled extensively through the Western country. Upon quitting the hide and fur business, in 1848 he purchased the shoe manufactory and boot and shoe house of John C. Abbott, and conducted them with such signal success that in ten years he had accumulated a handsome fortune...

In 1860, complaints having been made that Col. Montgomery of Kansas was contemplating a raid into Missouri, a brigade of the National Guards, with Mr. Cavender as adjutant, went to the border counties to capture the invaders. In the meantime he had been elected by the Free-soilers to represent the county of St. Louis in the state legislature and immediately after his return from the border counties he took his seat in the general assembly. At the close of the session, which was a stormy one, military preparations were making and he returned to St. Louis and began to raise recruits for the first company of the First regiment of Missouri volunteers, of which he was made captain. The first regiment joined the troops under Lyon, and after the taking of Camp Jackson proceeded up the river on steamboats toward Jefferson City. From Springfield Lyon sent Capt. Cavender back to St. Louis with letters to Gen. Fremont asking for reinforcements. He returned with the promise of the reinforcements, and arrived in time to take part himself in the fight at Wilson's Creek, where he was wounded three times in the body and left for dead...

For gallant conduct at Arkansas Post and Shiloh he was made a brigadier general by brevet.

On hearing of the death of his father Gen. Cavender returned to his home in St. Louis and resigned his commission. In 1867 Gen. Cavender was elected to the state senate from the Thirty-third senatorial district...

Gen. Cavender was married to Miss L. W. Rogers of Massachusetts in 1854, who survives him with their four sons, the oldest 30 and the youngest 13.

(Transcribed from the Missouri Republican. St. Louis: February 24, 1886.)

Scope and Content noteThe General John Smith Cavender Correspondence Collection consists of correspondence and related records relating to the life of Union General John Smith Cavender.

The bulk of the collection is letters from Gen. Cavender to his wife, Lu. One letter is written from E M Joel, Lt. & R Quartermaster, at Cavender's request. The letters were written in 1861 and 1863 and concern the events of Cavender's service in the war.

There are 25 letters in total, many of which have been transcribed. The transcriptions also reside in the collection. The collection also contains one typescript copy of a biography of Gen. Cavender, written by his son in 1904, and three transcribed newspaper obituaries regarding Gen. Cavender (Missouri Republican, Feb 24, 1886; Post-Dispatch, Feb 23, 1886; and St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, Feb 24, 1886).

Controlled Access Headings:


  • Civil War, 1861-1865

Conditions Governing Access note: This collection is open for research. 

Conditions Governing Use note: 

Access Restrictions: Due to the rare and fragile nature of this resource, reproduction of the collection’s materials must be reviewed by library staff. Please contact the Library at 314-516-7247 for more information.

Copyright Information: The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Fee Services: Fees associated with staff research time, cost recovery in reproductions processing time and materials, and licensing may apply.

Preferred Citation noteThe preferred citation for this collection is "From the collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at UM - St. Louis."