The Civil War in Grant County

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1935 Gathering of Grant County Civil War Veterans
The citizens of Grant County have always responded to their country’s call in time of need. Never has the response been more prompt or full than during the time of the Civil War. This war changed the face of the county, and touched every hearthstone and in the area. Each and every member of Grant County participated in the war. From soldiers and fighters to the mothers and children at home, every person fought to preserve the county and the livelihood of its people.

Contents

Volunteering for Service

During the procession of the Civil War, no state was more responsive and prompt to furnish troops than Indiana. Qt the entire nation, Indiana had the highest percentage of its young men volunteer for service. Indiana furnished 208,367 Hoosiers to fight and die to sustain the Union. Indiana became involved in a total of 308 engagements during the Civil War. In one of the battles where Indiana became the most involved, the Battle of Atlanta, the state had 46 infantry regiments and nine batteries of artillery participate. Why have these Hoosiers responded so well, and in such an impressive fashion? It could not have been because Indiana was greatly militant. By the time of the 1860s, most of Indiana’s citizens had never seen a military company at drill. Only a few of Indiana’s men had seen action in the Mexican War, and had military experience. Likewise, the reason could not have been because Indiana was fiercely opposed to the South. Indiana was tied to the South for economic reasons. As well, Indiana held family connections and migration patterns with the South. This amazing, immediate response of the people of Indiana came from the patriotism of its people and the disbelief that the American flag had been fired upon. (Zenor 9)

When the attack came against Fort Sumter, the gun was fired that was heard around the world. At this time in Grant County, there were no railroads or telegraph wires in the area, and yet the echo of the shot reached every household in the county. When the official news came by stage on April 12, of 1861, that South Carolina had seceded from the Union and there were already hostilities, Grant County became alert. Each day a stagecoach ran between Wabashtown and Andersontown, keeping the people in the county informed until word came for Lincoln’s call for a million men. Grant County responded and sent her quota to the front. The county was alert, and the job of the recruiting officer was easy. There was a determined feeling in Grant County that slavery should be restricted to the states that had it. The first ninety-day enlistment came in April of 1861. From this day on, Grant County again knew the awful meaning of war (Whitson 589).

"Hardly had the echoes from the last guns at Fort Sumter died away before the stirring scenes that attended a public volunteering were arousing the people of Marion and vicinity." (qtd. in Whitson) The new patriotism was inspired in the county by the thought of the flag being lowered at the command of a rebellion. The sentiment of the people in Grant County was unanimously in favor of maintaining the Union unimpaired. Emotions were high, and the people were ready to respond the President Lincoln’s appeal for 75,000 troops to serve for ninety days. (Whitson 591)

Preparations for War

Col. David Shunk
As the people assembled around the courthouse, a fife and drum corps greeted them with the martial music. The central figures of this gathering were David Shunk and Oliver H. P. Cary. Both had served their country during the Mexican war, and stood as the authorities on all military matter. Jacob Welles and John Reuss also sat next to these men in the place in which the privileged characters sat in the old courthouse. The enrolling book was presided over by James A. Stretch. As each volunteer stepped forward and signed their name three cheers were given, and the fife and drums would break into such strains of music that have become most memorable. Joseph Horton was the fifer, Abner Leach played snare drum, and David C. Hite played bass drum. There then were a few days set to prepare for the absence of these men. "The teacher had to find a substitute, the merchant and clerk to arrange their affairs, the professional man delegated his business to someone else, and the plow was left in the furrow." Then in the next morning the volunteer members of Grant County were on hand and ready to leave for camp and training. (Whitson 592)

In Sweetser’s store, where now stands the First National Bank on the west side of the square, there had been several dozen old-fashioned muskets which were stored for years from the time of the Mexican war. ln a triumphant manor these guns were distributed to the embryonic soldiers as they stood in line on the east side of the square. The men stood in a line, which stretched from the old Gilbert corner up to the alley at Huffman and Eshelman’s grocery, and the departure of this company was most interesting. The streets were lined with weeping woman and children, while the volunteer men and boys cheered enthusiastically at everything in sight so as to hide their emotions. The line was formed and the march began up near the old plank road on Branson Street. Here the volunteers boarded wagons donated by patriotic citizens, and headed towards Andersontown. (Whitson 592)

All along the way the enthusiasm was continuous. In each community the people gave the men a grand reception. The same procession greeted the wagons of men as they rode through Fairmount. As each town was reached, the men would climb out of the wagons, shoulder their arms, and march through the streets "with all the gravity of veterans." The men arrived at Andersontown, and boarded a train to Indianapolis where they were ordered to rendezvous for service. (Whitson 593)

The train arrived in Indianapolis at the place where the Hoosier men were organized into regiments of ten companies. The governor next appointed the officers of each regiment. Within a few weeks the companies were almost full, and began their very short and temporary training at army camp Morton. Camp Morton was merely the grounds at which annually the State Fair was held. The camp was named after Oliver Perry Morton, lndiana’s war govemor. The men were split into quarters and assigned to stay in stables and pens built for horses, cattle, and swine. The only direction the men were given during their stay was an incomplete amount of drill without arms, and an occasional tum at standing guard. The stay at this camp was short and hasty. Soon enough these men were mustered together and sent off to the front. (Zenor 10)

Grant County at War

It was only a week of time after the firing on Fort Sumter that the first Grant County Company was mustered into service. It was Company B of the Eighth Infantry Regiment. The officers were David Shunk, captain, Oliver H. P. Cary, first lieutenant, and John Ruess as second lieutenant. These officers were commissioned on April 18, 1861. Later on April 26, Captain Shunk was promoted to major, and Colonel Cary to captain. John Reuss stepped up to first lieutenant, and J. M. Wells was elected second lieutenant. (Whitson 593)

The Eighth was ordered to West Virginia on June 19. They were here attached to Rosecrans’ Brigade, McClellan's Provisional Army of West Virginia. Once allied with Rosecrans, they moved to Clarksburg, West Virginia on June 19. Their march continued next to Buchannon. The troops occupied Buchannon on the day of June 30. The West Virginia Campaign commenced on July 6 and continued on through the 17th. The Infantry met with the Confederate troops and fought in the first melee with the Battle of Rich Mountain on July 11, 1861. In this effort, the Grant County resident, Frank Hall, was the first county soldier injured afield. After this battle the Eighth was mustered out on August 6, 1861, than reorganized at Indianapolis later that fall. The Infantry held together for three more years of service losing seven officers and 84 enlisted men in battle and from mortal wounds. Five officers and 166 enlisted men were taken by disease. (Civil War — Indiana: Indiana Regimental Histories)

Life at Home

During this time in the history of Grant County much more has come to be known about the action afield than back at home. Much of the privation and self-denial that came to those at home will never be written. In this time, suspense and uncertainty became a part of the community. The wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and young children held a lifestyle with as much turmoil as the men fighting. Many times a mother would have each of her sons marching with a different company, scattered all across the country. With the men of the household at war, those who were at home were left to sacrifice themselves to tend to every need. "Loyalty ran through the whole family and the women had their part." (Whitson 590) For the women it remained to bring comfort to the sick and wounded of the soldiers on the march, at camp, in hospitals, and even more important in strife, during and after the battle. With the circumstance of the war, motherhood was an occupation sufficient to occupy.

When time came for Soldiers’ Aid Societies, the women of Grant County shone in their entire luster. These women possessed the necessary strength needed to keep the community alive. At the hands of Grant County women, bullets were run into molds. Every material comfort they had went into the boxes and barrels packed and sent to the front line. (Whitson 594) In the way that the women provided for the soldiers, the state of Indiana provided for the women. While the men were at war the Indiana laws gave the women at home a bounty of 25 dollars a year. This provided some hope, but only a little. The prices of wartime prevailed, and once again the women learned to strive and prevail over hardships. (Whitson 596) In necessity, the women of Grant County served a major role in the course of the Civil War.

Conclusion

The number of volunteers who served from Grant County during the Civil War will never be exactly known, but an accurate estimate could be given at around 2,400. Along with the Eighth Infantry, Grant County was represented in many regiments. The Fifth Indiana Cavalry, often called the Ninetieth Regiment, the Thirty-fourth, Fifty fourth, Seventy-fifth, Eighty-ninth, One Hundred and First, and the One Hundred and Fifty-third Regiments were made up mostly by local soldiers. (Whitson 589) When the first of Lincoln’s calls for men came to Grant County it was raised fully by volunteers. On October 6, 1862 came the first draft. Grant County was 128 men short, but this number was immediately raised by volunteer methods. (Whitson 596)

Each and every time a call was given, there were patriotic men in Grant County ready and willing to give their lives for service. The men of Grant County who lost their lives in the struggle have been honored at the gravesites in which they rest. A great number of men lay in the cemeteries around the community, but yet some of the soldiers’ records are incomplete. Many of Grant County’s men sleep in unknown graves all over the Southland. At the hand of the nation’s bloodiest war in history, Grant County survived. Not only did the county live on, but in a very influential way helped the country to survive. "ln the days soon after the rebellion, when Oliver Morton was speaking in Marion on an improvised platform on the courthouse lawn, he called for the uplifted hands of all who were related to patriots, who had father, husband, brother, son or sweetheart in the struggle, and there was such a demonstration that he declared he could walk on their hands above the heads of the crowd — a magical effect on all who heard the assertion, and the "War Governor" was patriotism itself" (Whitson 597)

Works Cited

  • Civil War-Indiana: Indiana Regimental Histories. 10 May 2000. 14 December 2001. Craig Dunn Enterprises, Inc. 1999 http://civilwarindiana.com/reg_ history_inf0.html
  • Whitson, Roland. Centennial History of Grant County Indiana 1812 - 1912 V. I. Chicago, IL and New York, NY: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1914. 589-597.
  • Zenor, Carl A. Indiana and the Civil War. Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Civil War Centennial Commission, 1961. 9-11.

Credits

This article was written by Scott Brady for Mr. Munn's AP US History class and Mr. Lakes's AP English 11. It was submitted on January 10, 2002.

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