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Ask Gen. Palmer: Colorado Springs linked to the Civil War

October 24, 2013 Updated: October 24, 2013 at 3:10 pm
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Editor's Note: This column about local history appears in Sunday's print editions of The Gazette, on the "Who We Are" page. Send questions to dave.philipps@gazette.com; 636-0238.

Question: What's with all the downtown streets named after Northern Civil War generals and admirals - Hancock, Sheridan, Foote, Logan Farragut, Meade? How did they get out west, so far from where the war was fought?

Answer: Colorado Springs may seem far removed from the War of the Rebellion, but in fact it is inextricably linked to it. This city was built by Union men. Some day remind me to tell you about my time in the war - a scout behind enemy lines, imprisoned in that wretched Castle Thunder only to escape by my own wits - quite sporting times, I can assure you. If not for the war, it is questionable whether I would have come West, but afterwards my home in Philadelphia seemed too staid and quiet.

As for those streets you mention, I had two good men help me lay out this city who were both first-rate Union officers. The first was my dear friend Henry McAllister, who I met as a private in my cavalry and in whom I saw so much promise that I promoted him to captain, then major and he became my right-hand man.

After the war, I implored Henry to help me with the Colorado Springs colony. I also recruited a talented general who fought at Vicksburg named Robert Cameron. McAllister ran the business end, selling lots. Cameron staked out the town. Both were close associates and friends. Is it any surprise with our combined experiences then, that when our little colony grew and we added the aforementioned streets in 1890, that we chose to honor superb Pennsylvania generals including George Meade and Winfield Scott Hancock, who fought, as I did, at Antietam, and were crucial in turning the tide at Gettysburg? Is it a surprise that we commemorated Adms. Andrew Foote and David Farragut, who fought at Vicksburg alongside Maj. McAllister? Around the same time, the city also added streets honoring Abraham Lincoln and Rutherford Hayes on the west side.

Rebels also came here after the war. The daughter of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Margaret Hayes, moved into a house on Cascade Avenue in the 1880s and brought with her one of her house slaves, Frank Loper, who became her servant. Eventually Loper worked as my doorman at the Antlers Hotel, where some of the boys took great delight in posting a hand bill I had circulated in 1865, offering a reward for the capture of her father - a gesture I assure you Mrs. Hayes found quite unamusing.

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As told by staff writer Dave Philipps in Gen. Palmer's voice.

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