Thomas Fletcher — a Union general, Missouri governor, and (almost) a Gallatin resident! Why would the first native-born Missouri governor be interested in Gallatin upon retirement? And why didn’t he stay? That’s what we’d like to know.
Gov. Thomas Clement Fletcher purchased real estate in Gallatin in the early 1870s including land, a house and business building, perhaps as a plan to live in our fair city.
Tom Fletcher was one of Missouri’s most well-loved citizens after the Civil War. He was the first native-born governor, serving from January 1865 to January 1869 during our most trying period of reconstruction. Thomas was our first Republican governor, called a “Radical Republican.” In some Missouri counties he got 100% of the votes cast. He won election overall by a “landslide.”
President Lincoln brevetted Fletcher a brigadier general after commanding the Union Army as a colonel at the Battle of Pilot Knob, Missouri, Sept. 26-29, 1864. Col. Fletcher’s unit of less than 1,000 men faced General Price’s army of three divisions, more than 12,000, and checked the rebel advance and probably saved St. Louis from destruction or capture.
Col. Fletcher had served in the Union Army starting as an assistant provost marshal under Gen. Lyons before Lyons was killed at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. Fletcher became a colonel by election in 1862 when he organized the 31st MSM. Col. Fletcher was wounded and captured at the Chickasaw Bayou but exchanged in May 1863.
Col. Fletcher was at the fall of Vicksburg and the Battle of Chattanooga. He commanded a brigade in the Atlanta campaign. He organized the 47th and 50th MSM that faced Gen. Price at Ft. Davidson and commanded the 47th Regiment of six companies in the battle. They were outnumbered more than 10 to 1 but only withdrew after leaving as many as 1,200 rebels dead or wounded at Pilot Knob.
Later, Gen. Fletcher was with Gen. Sherman and was active in Sherman’s March to the Sea when the Republican Party back in Missouri nominated Fletcher as their candidate for governor.
Gen. Fletcher favored amnesty and abolishing the test oaths for voters that had served the rebels. This may have brought him rebel votes in 1865 and 1866 at two elections. Gen. Fletcher advocated free education for all children and schools to train teachers and farmers.
Thomas Fletcher was born in 1827 at Herculaneum, Mo., and made his home at nearby Hillsboro, Mo. In later years, Gov. Fletcher moved to Washington, D.C. to practice law and died there in March 1899. Gov. Fletcher had first joined the Missouri Bar in 1855.
In February 1871, ex-Gov. Fletcher purchased part of what is now John Leopard’s building and a house on the east half of out lot #14 that has been owned by the Wirt family. He gave $6,000 for the old Farmers Exchange Bank offices and $4,500 for the Wirt property. In January 1873, Gen. Fletcher purchased two lots in the Wirt’s Addition and two lots in the Brown’s Addition.
In 1876, Gen. Fletcher owned an 80-acre farm north of Gallatin and the land just west of Lyle Cemetery. Just why Gen. Fletcher was interested in Gallatin and why he did not stay remains a question.
Sources: compiled from articles published in the Missouri Historical Society Review and Who’s Who Encyclopedia
by David Stark