Loyal Legion Vignettes

(1838 Illinois - 1907 Missouri)
Original Member of the Missouri Commandery
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States

Douglas Niermeyer, Past Commander-in-Chief
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
(January 2006)

John Pope Baker was born 24 July 1838 in Kaskaskia, Illinois, the son of David Jewett and Sarah Tennery (Fairchild) Baker. David served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois and was one of the distinguished jurists of his day.

Shortly after getting married in 1819 David Jewett Baker relocated to Kaskaskia, then the Illinois State Capitol, where he began a law practice, became a Probate Judge of Randolph County in 1820, and in 1829 was appointed by Governor Ninian Edwards to the United States Senate to fill a vacancy. In 1833, David was appointed by President Andrew Jackson as United States District Attorney for the State of Illinois—the state, then constituted one district and served in that office until 1841. In 1844 he moved the family to Alton where he was known as one of the best attorneys in Illinois and became one of the strongest anti-slavery leaders of pioneer Illinois. He spoke and wrote against slavery and assisted Governor Coles in distributing thousands of anti-slavery tracts, helping defeat a proposition of calling a convention to amend the state constitution to permit slavery. Feelings ran so high against David for his part in defeating the slavery constitutional convention that Thomas Reynolds, Chief Justice of the Illinois State Supreme Court, attacked him on the streets of Kaskaskia. The men reportedly dueled with canes and bowie knives, and both were marked for life afterward. Mr. Baker’s life was threatened many times because of his opposition to slavery. David Jewett Baker was a supporter of the Republican Party in 1854; following its inception in Ripon, Wisconsin and Jackson, Michigan and before it was formed in Illinois. He was chairman of the first Illinois Republican State Central Committee of which Lincoln was a member. In 1858 he served as a member of the committee that drafted the resolutions debated by Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. Mr. Baker’s influence was reflected in the lives of his children. Four distinguished sons were educated in law. The Baker family was closely identified with Lincoln, the formation of the Republican Party and the war to save the Union. David Jewett Baker and his sons attained distinction, with a consciousness of solidarity in the family relation, and of their obligation to maintain the family honor unsullied.

John Pope Baker graduated from Shurtleff College in 1856, studied law with his father, and was admitted to the bar in 1859. On 23 March 1861, he was appointed by President Lincoln as Second Lieutenant First US Dragoons, and placed on duty in Washington, DC. He was promoted to First Lieutenant on May 13, 1861, fought at the Battle of Bull Run 21 July 1861, and was promoted Captain First US Cavalry on 17 July 1862. He served on staff duty at the headquarters of the Sixth Army Corps in the Army of the Potomac, and also on staff duty as Inspector General of Savannah, Georgia in the early part of 1865. He was brevetted as Major US Army on 9 April 1864, "for gallant and meritorious service" at the battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, and as Lieutenant-Colonel on 13 March 1865, "for gallant and meritorious service during the war."

John was then married to Mary Todd Wallace (born a1843 Springfield, Illinois), who was the daughter of William S. and Francis Jane (Todd) Wallace. Francis (Todd) Wallace was a sister of Mary Ann Todd who married Abraham Lincoln (16th president of the United States). After the close of the war, he served with his regiment at the headquarters of General Sheridan in Louisiana and, in 1865, was ordered from there to the Pacific Coast spending three years in Nevada and Oregon campaigning against the Indians and resigned his commission in 1868.

After his retirement from the Army, he moved to Springfield, Illinois and became one of the proprietors and associate editor with his brother, Edward Lewis Baker, of the "Illinois State Journal." Edward Lewis Baker married Julia Edwards, daughter of Ninian Wirt and Elizabeth P. (Todd) Edwards. Elizabeth P. (Todd) Edwards also was a sister of Mary Ann Todd who married Abraham Lincoln (16th president of the United States). John also was for a short time engaged in the grocery business in partnership with A.S. Edwards.

He was re-appointed on 8 December 1882 as Major and Paymaster US Army and was stationed at Leavenworth, Kansas; Omaha, Nebraska; Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico; Fort Sam Houston; Texas; and finally St. Louis, Missouri. He served through the Spanish American War being on duty at several ports in the United States and Cuba. He was advanced to Lieutenant-Colonel and placed on the retired list on 23 April 1904. He participated in the first battle of Bull Run, West Haven, Virginia, the Seven Days Battle, Crampton's Gap, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Sabine Pass, Louisiana, campaigns of West Louisiana, and Red River, Vermillion Bayou and Sabine Cross Roads, where he was wounded. His service was in the Sixth Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, in the Army of the Shenandoah under Sheridan, Aid-de-Camp on the staff of General E. Moore, and in campaigns against hostile Indians in Nevada and Oregon. After his retirement, Colonel Baker resided in St. Louis, Missouri.

On 30 December 1883, he was elected an Original Companion of the California Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS Insignia Number 4430) and was a Charter member of the Kansas Commandery in 1886. He later became a member of the Missouri Commandery in 1902.

John Pope Baker died 14 February 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri. His wife, Mary, died September 1911. Both are buried in Springfield, Illinois. Colonel Baker was held in high esteem by companions in arms, who placed a laurel wreath upon the flag-covered casket as a fitting tribute to a gallant soldier and a generous, true-hearted friend.

For Additional Baker Family Data in Illinois and their involvement with Lincoln please see:

Visit the Homepage of the
Missouri Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States


1) Missouri Commandery of the MOLLUS, Circular No. 326, June 1, 1907.
2) Membership Records of the Missouri Commandery of MOLLUS.

Copyright © 2006 Douglas Niermeyer, Missouri Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States

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