A native of Nova Scotia, John McNeil settled in St. Louis in 1836 and became an insurance executive before the Civil War. McNeil is one of four Canadians who have achieved the rank of general in the U.S. Army.
McNeil’s Civil War years were spent entirely in Missouri. A mediocre battlefield commander, he played a part in a number of Missouri’s most important engagements, including the Battles of Cape Girardeau and Westport.
McNeil’s place in history, however, is defined by his act of ordering the execution of 10 southern sympathizers in October, 1861, at Palmyra, Missouri. The Palmyra Massacre created a sensation in the world press, and sparked Missouri’s descent into a war of retribution.
McNeil died in 1891 and is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.