Memories of War Times

Personal Reminiscences of Happenings That Took Place From 1861 to the Grand Review

by Reub Williams

Hark to the sound. There's a foe on the border--
A foe striding on to the gulf of his doom;
Freemen are rising and marching in order
Leaving the plow, the anvil and loom.
Rust dims the harvest sheen
Of scythe and of sickle keen;
The ax sleeps in peace by the tree it would mar'
Veteran and youth are out,
Swelling the battle-shout,
Grasping the bolts of the thunders of war!
---- T. Buchanan Reed

Following President Lincoln's call for troops on the 15th day of April, 1861, I feel confident that those who have grown to manhood's estate since that period, and who were too young, even though they may have been born at the time, to remember the wonderful excitement that almost instantly prevailed. Indeed, even a vivid and faultless description of the uprising--for, in the truest and broadest sense of the word, that is just what it was--written by the finest descriptive author the country has ever known, could do justice to the subject, and while those who have been born since the war have often heard the story detailed, yet it is doubtful whether the most glowing description could convey a true picture of the excitement that swept over the land like a tornado, and I often think that the facts would not be believed even were they most successful and eloquently set forth.

In the call for 75,000 men to "suppress the insurrection in the South," President Lincoln had apportioned the number of regiments that each State was expected to furnish, there being six required from Indiana. Governor O. P. Morton at once issued his call for these six regiments, and it should be understood that a regiment at that period consisted of 77 men and officers to a company and thus a regiment would be composed of 770 men, to which should be added the "field and staff officers," consisting of a colonel, lieutenant-colonel, major, adjutant, quartermaster, a surgeon and one assistant surgeon. A month or more later, when the first call for "three years or during the war" regiments were called for, Congress had raised the number composing a regiment to 1,040 men and officers, companies consisting of 101 men each, so that under Governor Morton's call, only 4,620 men and officers were required to fill the six regiments first called out. For this number 22,000 men offered their services.

Companies boarded the trains in many instances without orders and arrived at Indianapolis to be cared for without even letting the Governor know they were coming. In my first article I have stated that here in Warsaw at the second public meeting, enough men were enlisted to form two companies under the first call. These were to serve for three months, and no doubt the short time required was quite an inducement to many men who felt that they could serve for that length of time and give that much to their country at any rate. The company here was organized with Henry C. Hubler, as captain, the only man in the place who had ever had any military training, he having belong to an independent company in Pennsylvania where the militia law was excellent as it was all over the eastern states. A. P. Gallagher, who had served as a private soldier in the Mexican war was elected first lieutenant, and as we had no other guide at that time to go by but Hardee's tactics, two second lieutenants were elected, Reub Williams --was selected for second lieutenant and Andrew S. Milice, now living at riverside, California, was chosen as sub-second lieutenant, the mustering officers, however, failing to recognize this position, Milice was appointed a sergeant. After the company was mustered and after the writer became the captain of the company, following the promotion of Captain Hubler to the majorship of the regiment, thus making a vacancy, Milice was appointed second lieutenant, while the writer went up to Hubler's place.

After the company was formed fully ten days--perhaps longer, as time flew fast to those who were so eager to receive orders to come to the State capital--elapsed before it could secure an order to proceed to the State capital. In fact, owing to the reason that the companies raised near Indianapolis rushed in upon the Governor without orders, it began to look as if our services would be dispensed with entirely. However the late Col. J. B. Dodge, at that time treasurer of this county, went to the capital in order to have the company accepted and a more delighted lot of young men has seldom been seen, when Captain Hubler received a telegram the next day directing him to entrain for the State capital.

On the next day the company left for Indianapolis, going by way of Fort Wayne, thence to Peru and thence to the capital, the only route the north part of the State had except the longer and still more round about way via Wanatah, Lafayette and from the latter place to Indiana. I have already stated that up to the time the company from this place arrived in Indianapolis, the term of enlistment remained three months; but the wisdom of Gov. Morton, and his fitness for the position he held was illustrated by his permitting so many companies to come to the capital. It was at that time quite uncertain what Kentucky would do, for while there were plenty of Union men in that State all of the State officials or nearly so, were favoring secession; certainly Governor McGoffin was, and should that state be dragged out of the Union as Tennessee was, there would be danger all along the southern border of Indiana.

Foreseeing this, about the first thing he did after receiving the President's demand for six regiments was to call the State legislature in extra session, and in view of the danger along the Ohio river, about the first thing the Legislature did was to call out six regiments of State troops to serve for one year, the Governor rightly considering that the overflow of the six regiments of three month's men would fill up these extra regiments quickly, and such certainly would have been the case only, that Congress when in session passed the law for 300,000 men to serve for "three years, or during the war." This had a tendency to prevent the filling up of all six regiments of State troops, and only the Twelfth and Sixteenth were mustered into the State service, and thus became the very first regiments in all the country agreeing to serve for a longer time than three months.

Many men composing the excess--that is, those who were left after the company from this place was mustered in, went into various other regiments, and it is quite likely that nearly all of the regiments from Indiana enlisting under this first three years' call contained more or less men from Kosciusko. I know that I was greatly surprised on one occasion after the war while in Adjutant-General Terrill's (W. H. H. Terrell) office to find that there were thirty six men in the Eighteenth regiment, if I had got the number of the regiment correctly in mind, credited on the muster rolls to Kosciusko county. The cause for this scattering of men from this county is thus accounted for, as the Eighteenth was scarcely known in Northern Indiana.

When one looks back at this early period of the war, how little did any of us know or even dream of the wonderful immensity which it was to assume? In the Southern States the remark that "one Southern soldier was the equal of any seven north of Mason and Dixon's line" was common. On the other hand we had here at home many who declared "that it would only be a breakfast spell for the North to subdue the rebellion." Both were wrong, and at the same time even a conservative statement on the subject could not have been else than a mistaken one. Many homes were to be made desolate; many children made orphans, and many wives to journey along life's highway alone, for the reason that a fond and loving husband was the occupant of some unknown grave among the pines of Georgia, or in the desolate valleys of Old Virginia--in fact, every state in the Union was to have graves whose occupants wore either the blue or the gray!

Perhaps history cannot show an instance where a government was so utterly unprepared to either begin a war to defend itself or carry one on. For years the "fire-eating" leaders of the South --the Yanceys, the Toombses, the Wises, had been at work in preparing the slave-holding States for a dissolution of the Union, and the setting-up of a confederacy, whose cornerstone should be slavery, and in fact, the second section, I think it is of the constitution of "The Confederate States of America," provided for slavery in such terms as could never after their adoption leave any question of doubt upon the subject--it was so clearly set forth and so free from ambiguity. Quietly, but surely, the South was getting ready for the contest for years before their leaders had worked the people of their section up in a way that the vast majority would sustain the effort to divide the Union when the time came to strike.

Under Buchanan's administration, the then Secretary of the Navy, Floyd, under the power given him by his position, had so widely scattered our navy that but a few of the better ships were within reach of the new administration when Lincoln took his seat as President of the United States. The War Department of the government had been also stripped of arms and when the opening came with the firing on Fort Sumter, there were not enough muskets to arm one man in ten who had offered their services, while all over the South in almost every county--at least in the Gulf States--independent military companies had been organized and armed for several years previous to the memorable and fateful 15 of April 1861. Both Maryland and Virginia contained a number of these at least partially drilled, and at any rate armed companies.

How different it was here in Indiana when the war broke out. There were not over four independent companies in the State. the militia laws of the State were so defective that scarcely any aid could be secured from the State government. I remember that a year or tow preceding the breaking out of the war that a military tournament was held at Crawfordsville where Lew Wallace as captain had kept up a company of soldiers; at Wabash, Captain Charles Parish was the head of a similar company; and Captain Simon Bucker of Louisville, Kentucky, the commanding officer of another, and these three companies only, attended the tournament at Crawfordsville.

All three of these captains possessed a taste for military matters. Gen. Lew Wallace had served in the Mexican War and I think parish also, and both responded to Gov. Morton's call for troops at once, and each of them, as might have been expected, became prominent in the war. Lew Wallace became a Major-General and Charles Parish became the Colonel of a regiment on the Union side, while Buckner entered the Confederate service and was in command when the rebel forces afterward surrendered at Fort Donelson, as a Major-General. Floyd, the late Secretary of the Navy, who had scattered the United States ships to the four winds, slipped out of the Fort the day preceding, fearing that if captured by the Federals, there might be a reckoning with him, so he, previous to leaving, turned the command of the Fort over to Gen. Buckner and made his escape. After that Floyd seemed to have sunk out of the view even in the South. At least, his name was seldom heard of to any extent, after he made his escape from Fort Donelson.

Governor Morton had all that he could do to find arms for the six regiments called for from Indiana, but by using every kind of musket offered--the Harper's Ferry, the Belgian, some of the old style of Springfield rifles, etc., etc., he got his quota filled, and these troops were hastened to West Virginia as fast as cars could be furnished to carry them. here is where the far-seeing wisdom of Governor Morton showed itself. He felt sure that the three months' term would expire ere the war, which he felt would last for years, would fairly begin, and thus out of the surplus of men in Camp Morton, Camp Sullivan, etc., etc., when the call for three years troops came in addition to the two State regiments organized, the second call was soon filled from among those who failed to get into any of the three months regiments and as a consequence the second quota for Indiana was quickly filled by his splendid management and equipped fairly well, he having by "hook or crook," secured a sufficient number of guns to arm them all.

The first duty that fell to the command to which the writer belonged --the Twelfth Indiana Infantry--was at Evansville on the Ohio River, away down in the southwest part of the state, a region know for many years as "The Pocket." Two pieces of artillery were added, and men detailed from the regiment to manage them--although these were men enlisted as infantry. The duty of the troops at that point was to blockade the Ohio River and prevent supplies of all kinds of war material from passing southward to be used by the Confederate army. It was almost a daily occurrence to stop one or more steamboats. Some of them were carrying cargoes that might be considered contraband of war, and this class of goods was taken possession of, but in most instances, the owner of the goods could establish his own loyalty, and fully explain the real destination and ownership and thus in most instances most of the cargoes were returned to the owners. This kind of duty continued up till July 21, 1861-- the day of the first Bull Run disaster. On that Sunday evening colonel John M. Wallace--who commanded the Twelfth--received a telegram from Governor Morton stating that cars would be at Evansville that same evening for the purpose of transferring the regiment back to Indianapolis and early in the forenoon of the following day, Monday, it arrived and the proposition was submitted to the members of the regiment to be transferred to the United States service. This was complied with at once, not a man refusing as he might have legally done, perhaps, and the next morning, Tuesday, we left to aid in the defense of Washington.

Warsaw Daily Times January 3, 1902

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