Hoosiers do not normally come to mind when discussing the Civil War. That is why it is amazing to learn that 200,000 Hoosiers fought in that war. Although our land was not scarred by the battle, and we have no Gettysburg here, many of our ancestors answered the call to fight to end slavery and preserve our country.
A few, such as Colonel Eli Lilly were famous, most were not. Lilly led the 18th Independent Battery Light Artillery. Many of these young men were fellow friends and classmates recruited by Lilly. The unit became a part of the Army of the Cumberland and played important roles at the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, among others. You can find more information about Lilly and “Lilly’s Battery” at The Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum, which is located in the lower level of the Indiana War Memorial on Monument Circle, downtown Indianapolis. Conner Prairie also has information concerning Indiana’s involvement in the Civil War.
The 28th Regiment was the only African-American Regiment organized in Indiana. Its initial training took place at Camp Fremont located near the south side neighborhood of Fountain Square, in Indianapolis. Near White House, Virginia, on June 21, 1864, the 28th Regiment participated in its first combat. Then the regiment accompanied General Sheridan's Cavalry through the Chickahominy swamps to Prince George Courthouse, suffering "severe losses from frequent skirmishes with the enemy".
The 15th Indiana Regiment Infantry was organized at Lafayette, Indiana and mustered in June 14, 1861. On November 25, 1863, the 15th Indiana was under orders to capture the Confederate rifle pits at the foot of Missionary Ridge. Muskets cracked and gun smoke rose in choking clouds as the 15th Indiana rushed into the battle. The regiment went face down on a road, well up on the Ridge, in a storm of lead. Suddenly within the galling musket fire Major White of the 15th Indiana gave the command, "Men, for God's sake forward!"
We have books in our collection that will bring you in to the lives of some of the Hoosiers who fought in the Civil War. In the book Iron Men, Iron Will by Craig Dunn you can learn about the 19th Indiana Regiment, and discover the reason they were called the Iron Brigade.
On a more personal note, read Affectionately Yours, The Civil War Home-Front Letters of the Ovid Butler Family by Barbara Butler Davis. This book includes letters written to Scott Butler while he was serving in Indiana’s 33rd Regiment. This book reminds us that war also affects those left at home. The 200,000 men who left Indiana to fight in the war were 75% of the eligible males from our state.
At our downstairs elevator lobby, we currently have a display which highlights some of the Indiana regiments, with photos of their regiment flags. We have included books that our library has on Hoosiers and the Civil War. You are welcome to visit us and explore this chapter in Indiana history.