BRIEF HISTORY: 8th MISSOURI VOLUNTEER INFANTRY (US)
The "Fighting American Zouaves"
As a result of a direct order from President Lincoln to alleviate the
prejudice against the Irish, the 8th Missouri Infantry was
organized in St, Louis from June 12 to August 14, 1861. Over 600 Irish boatmen & deck
hands left the St. Louis riverfront to fight under the command of
Morgan L. Smith. Originally from New York, he and his brother,
Giles A. Smith, also recruited troops from Bloomington, Illinois. The 8th MO uniform was
that of the American Zouaves.
The Peoria Zouave Cadets were organized in Peoria, Illinois 3/23/1861. They recruited up to war strength and left for St. Louis on 6/19/1861 but, upon their arrival, there was a disagreement and about half returned to Illinois to join the 17th Illinois. An under-strength company calling themselves the Pekin Zouaves from Pekin, Illinois, sent about 30 recruits from Peoria to St. Louis, and filled up the company. They mustered in as Company H. Neither company provided the "Zouave influence" for the company since they were already being referred to as the "American Zouave Regiment". Company L sharpshooters were recruited in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
The 8th MO served the duration of the Civil War and fought decisive battles under Generals Grant and Sherman. They became well known for their tenacity, displaying Zouave fighting techniques on the battlefield. Generals Grant and Sherman write about the 8th Missouri in their Memoirs. General Grant's son, Frederick Dent Grant, writes in "At the Front With Dad" about slipping into the Battle of Vicksburg at age 13 with the 8th Missouri.
Eleven soldiers in 8th MO were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their actions during the Siege of Vicksburg.
MORE HISTORICAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE 8TH MO