St. Louis is often touted as “The Gateway to the West.” But Jefferson Barracks Military Post “is that gate,” Mark Trout, president and CEO of the Missouri Civil War Museum, told host Don Marsh. On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Marsh and Trout discussed the history of Jefferson Barracks, its role in various wars and its cemetery.
Created in 1826, Jefferson Barracks is the oldest operational military installation in the region and was named after President Thomas Jefferson, who had died earlier that year. The historic site in south St. Louis County was strategically placed on a plateau that overlooks the Mississippi River.
“Best way to sum Jefferson Barracks up: it’s always been a troop mobilization point, be it from the Civil War and so forth, even during the Mexican War … even in the [American- Indian Wars] … especially during the Spanish-American War,” Trout explained.
Overall, there are around 280,000 graves at the site, many belonging to soldiers. The first known burial was Elizabeth Ann Lash, the infant child of an officer stationed at the military post.
Trout added that Jefferson Barracks is “actually a cemetery inside a cemetery,” referring to the Old Post cemetery.
Standardized headstones commonly seen at national cemeteries today didn’t come into practice until the 1870s. For visitors that want to see headstones from the pre-Civil War era, Trout said to look out for oddly shaped burials.
“The farther you drive towards the Mississippi River, you’ll start encountering tombstones and headstones that are different sizes and different shapes,” he explained. “Once you see that, you’re pretty much in the [Old Post] cemetery.”
Listen to the full discussion to hear more facts about the military posts and the various historical events that occurred there:
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Xandra Ellin give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.