150 Years Ago: The Civil War

Note: 2012 continues the 150th anniversary of the greatest conflict in which Americans were ever engaged — the Civil War. This is the nineteenth in a series of articles providing a month by month synopsis from the pages of The Indianapolis Daily Journal of Hoosier reactions to national events.

JULY, 1862

As Hoosiers prepared to celebrate the nation’s birthday, Indianapolis “dorg” owners made haste to the city clerk’s office to get their dog licenses in compliance with the new ordinance, and 160 dogs soon had the “city’s baggage checks” around their necks. At the Christian Church, two ladies and seven gentlemen were awarded diplomas in the seventh commencement exercises conducted by North Western Christian University, while overshadowing all were reports of “The Battle Before Richmond” and “Farragut Shelling Vicksburg.” Local squads of rebel sympathizers, the Butternut fraternity, reveled in rumors of Union reverses proclaiming “the Abolition army has been whipped again,” but quickly mixed with Union men and talked of “our army” when news of Union success was received.

The season at the Metropolitan Theater was to have closed, but with the appearance of the Webb sisters — Emma performing multiple characters in the clever comedy Four Sisters and Ada singing “like a nightingale” and dancing “with fairy lightness” in The Manager’s Daughter, Indianapolis continued to be entertained for a few more nights. On the Fourth, many businesses and private homes were decorated with flags and evergreens. Capt. John Von Schlen’s and Capt. Milton Minor’s batteries fired the national salutes, the 19th Infantry United States Army band provided “excellent music” from the Bates’ House balcony, and double team and single horse road wagon races were conducted at the Exchange Trotting Park; fireworks and bonfires illuminated portions of the city.

While many hailed the announcement by the First Baptist Society that a new church building capable of seating 1,300 persons was to be constructed at New York and Pennsylvania streets, citizens of the 4th and 5th wards met at Fuqua Hall to organize a remonstrance against a recently passed ordinance governing the construction of a large pork slaughter house north of McTaggart’s Pork House on the east bank of White River. The action that permitted the new slaughter house was rushed through the city council and “stinks in the nostrils” of some.

The Stephen Decatur docked at Evansville with sick and disabled Indiana soldiers from the Tennessee River campaign, and an appeal was made to the people of Indiana from the hospital at Columbus, Kentucky for “twenty-four dozen live chickens, five barrels of eggs, and some vegetables” to be sent every two weeks. The great battles in Virginia produced more casualty reports, and in response to McClellan’s “short and temporary retreat” before Richmond, the President issued a call for another 300,000 volunteers, “a force deemed entirely adequate to the crushing out of the rebellion.”

On Saturday evening, July 12, a large enthusiastic Grand Union Rally was held at the Masonic Hall, but owing to its size, half of the crowd reassembled at the State House grove. Gov. Morton and others addressed the groups. William Wallace, county clerk, said that he and Benjamin Harrison, Reporter of the Supreme Court, had been asked by the governor to give their services to their country. “The hour had come when every man should respond to his country’s call for volunteers…,” declared Wallace. Harrison said “he could not weigh questions of profit or tender ties of home against the duty he owed to his Government.” All the church bells in the city announced a subsequent war meeting at the State House grove where many came forward to volunteer and a large amount of contributions were pledged before a heavy thunderstorm arose. During the storm, about twenty-five prisoners at Camp Morton broke through the fence and escaped. Quick action by the commandant resulted in thirteen being rounded up and the utmost vigilance was exercised in capturing the rest.

“INDIANA INVADED! NEWBURG TAKEN! Evansville Threatened. Up Hoosiers and Defend Your Homes” screamed The Journal headlines, Saturday, July 19, over its columns reporting actions of a band of rebel guerrillas that had crossed the Ohio River and captured Newburg, destroying the hospital stores not confiscated, taking the patients prisoner, and ransacking the homes. The marauders numbered thirty-two, under the command of Adam Rankin Johnson, and were aided by thirteen citizens of the town who helped direct the ransacking. In less than an hour after the alarm had reached Evansville, 1,000 men were under arms and cannon departing for Newburg on board the Eugene, Courier, and Commercial. By the time the Hoosier force arrived at the Warrick County town, they found the community secured by 700 armed men of the county. The raiders had skulked back across the river with about 250 stands of arms, a lot of provisions, a wagon and two horses. While his men were pillaging, Johnson calmly made out paroles of honor for all the Union soldiers who were patients in the hospital.

Primary meetings to elect delegates to the Marion County Union Nominating Convention were held in the townships with those elected instructed to support candidates to local offices who were the choice of the townships. At Masonic Hall, large crowds viewed the Panorama of the Rebellion and War, “a very fine work of art,” and there was great satisfaction that the Congress had authorized the establishment of a United States arsenal at Indianapolis.