The Missouri in the Civil War Message Board

Unintended consequences of friendship

A tale of the friendship of two men - one from Massachusetts and the other from Prussia - and the connection to Union forces and the emancipation of Missouri slaves. About 1850 a young American from Harvard, William Sedgwick, went to the University of Breslau to study law. William met a young medical student, Anton Nixdorf, and convinced him to visit America. Anton came to Massachusetts where William's family lived, and took a position as a German professor at Sedgwick College, reading medicine under the instruction of a nearby doctor. A year later, William Sedgwick went to St. Louis to set up a legal practice and Anton took a job as a dry goods clerk in St. Louis. For eighteen months Anton read medical texts at the library, then entered St. Louis Medical College, graduating in 1856. He practiced in St. Louis for a time, then traveled upriver to the steamboat port of Tuscumbia, Missouri. In 1861 he enlisted as a surgeon in Company H of the Osage Home Guards under Captain Capps, and was later made surgeon of the Miller and Camden County Rangers, commanded by Captain John Salsman. Anton's friend, William Sedgwick, served with the Massachusetts Infantry. A few weeks after William was promoted to Major, on September 17, 1862, he was wounded at Antietam. His friends found him eight hours later and took him to a farmhouse where his mother and sister cared for him until his death on September 29th. After the Radical Republicans won power in Missouri in the election of 1864, Anton Nixdorf was sent to St. Louis for the State Constitutional Convention in January 1865. Because of the friendship formed at the University of Breslau in 1850, Anton Nixdorf was one of the signers of the document abolishing slavery in Missouri - January 11, 1865.