Civil War Wiki
M. Jeff Thompson
[[Image:M. Jeff Thompson|center|200px|border]]'
Personal Information
Born: January 22, 1826(1826-01-22)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: Template:Death date
Place of Death: {{{place of death}}}
Birth Name: {{{birth name}}}
Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
Confederate States of America
Participation(s): {{{participations}}}
Branch: Confederate States Army
Service Years: {{{service years}}}
Rank: brigadier general (MSG)
Service number : {{{servicenumber}}}
Battles: American Civil War
*Battle of Fredericktown
*Battle of Westport
*Battle of Mine Creek
Relations: {{{relations}}}
Other work: {{{otherwork}}}

Meriwether Jeff Thompson (January 22, 1826 – September 5, 1876) was a brigadier general in the Missouri State Guard during the American Civil War. He served the Confederate Army as a cavalry commander, and had the unusual distinction of having a ship in the Confederate Navy named for him.

Early life[]

Thompson was born at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, now West Virginia[1] into a family with a strong military tradition on both sides. He moved to Liberty, Missouri in 1847 and St. Joseph the following year, beginning as a store clerk before taking up surveying and serving as the city engineer.[2] He later supervised the construction of the western branch of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad. Thompson served as Mayor of St. Joseph from 1857–1860. He presided over the ceremony inaugurating the first ride of the Pony Express on April 3, 1860.

Civil War[]

Thompson was a colonel in the Missouri state militia at the outbreak of the Civil War. In late July 1861, he was appointed brigadier general of the First Division, Missouri State Guard. He commanded the First Military District of Missouri, which covered the swampy southeastern quarter of the state from St. Louis to the Mississippi River. Thompson's battalion soon became known as the "Swamp Rats" for their exploits. He gained renown as the "Swamp Fox of the Confederacy."

When Union General John C. Fremont issued an emancipation proclamation purporting to free the slaves in Missouri, Thompson declared a counter-proclamation and his force of 3,000 soldiers began raiding Union positions near the border in October. On October 15, 1861, Thompson led a cavalry attack on the Iron Mountain Railroad bridge over the Big River near Blackwell in Jefferson County. After successfully burning the bridge, Thompson retreated to join his infantry in Fredericktown. Soon afterwards, he was defeated at the Battle of Fredericktown and withdrew, leaving southeastern Missouri in Union control.

After briefly commanding rams in the Confederate riverine fleet in 1862, Thompson was reassigned to the Trans-Mississippi region. There, he engaged in a number of battles before returning to Arkansas in 1863 to accompany Gen. John S. Marmaduke on his raid into Missouri. Thompson was captured in August in Arkansas, and spent time in St. Louis' Gratiot Street prison, as well as at the Fort Delaware and Johnson's Island prisoner-of-war camps, before being exchanged in 1864 for a Union general. Later that year, Thompson participated in Major General Sterling Price's Missouri expedition, taking command of "Jo" Shelby's famed "Iron Brigade" when Shelby became division commander. He served competently in this role. In March 1865, Thompson was appointed commander of the Northern Sub-District of Arkansas. He surrendered his troops on May 11, 1865, in Jacksonport, Arkansas.

Although Thompson frequently petitioned for the Confederate rank of brigadier general it was never granted. His brigadier rank came from his Missouri State Guard service.[3]

A ship in the Confederate Navy, the CSS General M. Jeff Thompson, was named in Thompson's honor. The side-wheel river steamer was converted at New Orleans to a "cottonclad" ram in early 1862. It was commissioned in April and sent up the Mississippi River to join the River Defense Fleet in Tennessee waters, seeing its first action in the Battle of Plum Point Bend. After being set afire by gunfire from Union warships in the Battle of Memphis on June 6, 1862, the ship ran aground and soon blew up.

Postbellum career[]

After the war, Thompson moved to New Orleans, where he returned to civil engineering. He designed a program for improving the Louisiana swamps, a job that eventually destroyed his health. He returned to St. Joseph in 1876 where he succumbed to tuberculosis.[4] He is buried in Mount Mora Cemetery in St. Joseph.


  1. Filbert, Preston, The Half not Told; the Civil War in a Frontier Town, Stackpole Books, page 11
  2. Allardice, Bruce, More Generals in Gray, LSU Press, page 219
  3. Allardice, Bruce, More Generals in Gray, LSU Press, page 220
  4. Filbert, Preston, The Half not Told; the Civil War in a Frontier Town, Stackpole Books, page 166

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