Malta's Civil War Heritage


Very few areas can lay claim to having produced three prominent Civil War Generals. However, Malta and Morgan County can certainly do so. Two of the three generals, Major General Joseph Bailey and Brevet Brigadier General Jeremiah Rusk served in the Union Army, while the third general, Otho Strahl, served in the Confederate Army.

Major General Joseph Bailey was born near Pennsville in 1825. Bailey was one of only 14 Union Officers to receive the "Thanks of Congress" Award. Bailey received this award, as well as his promotion to the rank of brigadier general for his engineering feat that saved Bank's Fleet in the Red River Campaign of 1864. After resigning from the Union Army at the conclusion of the war, Bailey moved to Missouri. In 1867, Bailey was killed while serving as the Sheriff of Newton County, Missouri.

Brevet Brigadier General Jeremiah Rusk may in fact be Malta's most famous son. Born in Malta in 1830, Rusk and family moved to Wisconsin during the early 1850s. Rusk was breveted for his action at the crossing of the Salkahatchie River in Georgia during 1865. While serving in the Union Army, Rusk had three horses shot from under him. After the war, Rusk served three terms in Congress representing Wisconsin. From 1881-1888, Rusk served as Governor of Wisconsin. Rusk moved from here to the position of Secretary of Agriculture from 1889 to 1893.

Born in 1832 near Elliotts Cross Roads, Otho Strahl had settled in Tennessee and was practicing law there when the war began. General Strahl distinguished himself in a number of major battles, including Shiloh, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Atlanta and Franklin. Strahl was killed in action at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. The Battle of Franklin is also known as the "Gettysburg of the West." In this five hour battle, six Confederate Generals were killed, five others were severely wounded and one other was captured. In this battle, the Confederate Army suffered a casualty rate of 39%. For comparison sake, Pickett suffered a loss of 22% at Gettysburg and Napoleon suffered a casualty rate of 31%.


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