The Twelve Apostles of the Rebellion



Cairo, Illinois. From Dickson College.

Perhaps the greatest over exaggeration of antebellum rebellion in Little Egypt comes from the discussion of town meetings. Throughout the years multiple sources have talked about the meetings in Pope, and primarily Marion, Williamson County, as proof of rebellion in Southern Illinois. When histories were being written in the early 20th century the true content of these meetings was not known, nor was any information known on the men who actually conducted them and went on to form Company G of the 15th Tennessee Confederate Regiment. Fortunately, in 1996 historian Ed Gleeson published the only book on the Egyptian Rebellion, titled Illinois Rebels. In his work Gleeson collected the personal memoirs of the men from Williamson County behind the historic rebellion, and put together an accurate account of what actually occurred.

39523The call to join the rebellion was first taken up by twelve men, whom Gleeson calls the Twelve Apostles. These men were Henry Hopper, Frank Metcalf, Hibert A. Cunnighman, Thorndike Brooks, A.T. Benson, John M. Cunningham, G.W. Goddard, Isiah Harris, Harvey L. Hays, Peter Keifer, James D. Manier, William R. Surlock, and James M. Washburn. Henry  C. Hopper of Williamson County started the uprising when he posted a meeting in the town of Marion, calling on residents to meet at a salon and discuss Egyptian secession from the Union. Only twelve men showed up for the meeting, and called themselves the, “Illinois Committee for Southern Rights.” (Gleeson p. 4) Together they drafted a document titled, “Be it Resolved” concerning secession topics, and posted it in the Marion town square calling for a meeting later that night. This is the famous rebellion meeting talked about in the 31st History, the Centennial History of Illinois, newspapers, and countless other historic sources. However, what transpired at the meeting was far different than past knowledge has suggested.

Hibe CunninghamA large crowd of people carrying guns and torches did indeed show up that night in Marion; however they were not pro-secession, but rather pro-Union and were angry with the twelve men who had suggested secession. This hostility was due to a fear of federal intervention in an area already under close watch. The mob yelled at secessionist Peter Keifer when he tried to speak, but the activity was reported to the Union Colonel Prentiss as being a mob discussing the “Be it Resolved” secession agenda. As a result two canons and a regiment of troops was sent to Carbondale, Illinois, and caused a great uprising from people who were fence sitters, and had no interest in choosing a side, much less having federal troops in their backyard. In his memoirs, member of the Twevle Apostles Frank Metcalf admits to purposefully stirring the pot, and creating a rumor that the federal guns were going to fire on the citizens. (Gleeson p. 8) This caused even more of an uprising and created anti-union feelings in the area. Despite the hostile events, when the Twelve Apostles continued to recruit and eventually set out to join the Confederacy, only 34 men from Southern Illinois joined them. All were from Williamson County, and Carbondale, and were not as widespread as historic sources once suggested.

Frank MetcalfAs for John A. Logan’s involvement in the meetings, the memoirs of the 12 Apostles claim that he was absent from the Marion County meeting. In fact, his brother-in-law, Hibert Cunningham was convinced that Logan was going to join the Confederate cause with him, and constantly reassured other members of the 12 Apostles of this. Both Hibert Cunnigham and Frank Metcalf admit to meeting with John Logan on May 4th, 1861, before they depart for Kentucky to join the Confederacy. Logan tells them he will join them but first has “unfinished business” to attend to, a believable story since Logan was currently moving homes at the time. Logan later denied ever having this meeting in his post-war memoirs, and would forever be resented by Metcalf for it. (Gleeson p. 9)