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Chicago F.A. Battey and Company Publishers 1882

Part 1


“I will teach thine infant tongue 
To call upon those heroes old.
In their own language, and will mold 
Thy growing spirit in the flame 
Of Grecian lore: That by each name 
A patriot's birthright thou mayest claim."
— Shelley.

    For, thirty prosperous years La Grange County developed in population and resources without knowing the spirit of war. Children were born and grew to manhood without ever seeing a soldier in military dress. Mothers and maidens had never felt the anguish of separation from husband or lover at the stern call of a nation at war. Perhaps not half a score of men in the county at the opening of the rebellion had any knowledge, except through tradition and reading, of the forced march, scanty rations, the exposed bivouac, guard and picket duty, toilsome work on breastworks, rifle-pits and forts, the marshaling of the armed hosts for “ battle's magnificently stern array,” the fury of the storm of shot and shell, the falling dead and mangled human forms, the rejoicing of victory and the despair of defeat, the heart?sickening scenes in hospital, the anxious waiting at home for news of the great battles which is to be to them a sorrowful joy or dead despair — of all the painful, terrible, magnificent things which go to make up war.

    For a number of years after the first settlement, a few old soldiers of the Revolution, who lived in the county, were honored on Independence Day, put on the platforms and cheered for their services, but all these had long since passed away, and were slumbering among the dead in peace. There were, besides, a few survivors of that later and less heroic war of 1812, who could tell some stories of old-time bravery, but these were very few. The Mexican war had drawn a few soldiers from the county, and some of its heroes had come into the county after the war. But, as we said before, all counted, not more than ten had “smelled gunpowder.” Indeed, when the first squad of volunteers assembled in 1861, there was but one man in the community with sufficient military knowledge to give commands for the simplest maneuvers. This soldier was William B. Bingham, who had served in the ranks of an Ohio regiment the Mexican war.

    So it can be seen what a new and before unfelt thrill went through hearts of the people of the county when, in April, 1861, the flag of the nation was insulted and outraged at Fort Sumter. A common glow of patriotism fired every bosom. Every man, woman and child, possessing a spark of heroism, was raised from a devotion to little things into a higher life of consecration to an idea — the preservation of the nation — a tumult of emotions, before unfelt and undreamed of. Indignation at the insult to that flag, which that for the first time, began to have a significance; apprehensions of the perils to happy homes; duty's call to the front; the restraining thought of death and sorrow — all these swarmed in the minds of the men. The hearts of mothers and wives sank, at first, in anguish at the sight of the portentous cloud coming over the sky, but soon rose with a sublime patriotism which taught them that no sacrifice was too costly for the altar of our country.

    On the 15th of April, 1861, President Lincoln called for 75,000 militia and on the next day Gov. Morton issued his proclamation for the organization of six regiments, the quota of Indiana. The first paper published in La Grange after this, contained a call for a public meeting at the court house to which all Union-loving citizens, irrespective of party affiliation in the past, were invited to take action for the "organization of a military company, and for aiding and assisting the families of those who may volunteer." At that meeting, the court house was filled to its utmost capacity. John Kromer, an old citizen, and a soldier of 1812, presided. Nathan P. Osborne and Samuel Sprague acted as Vice Presidents, and C. O. Myers and A. B. Kennedy as Secretaries. The Committee on Resolutions were A. S. Case, Harley Crockett, Dr. F. P. Griffith, Dr. J. H. Rerick, Thomas J. Skeet and Alexander B. Kennedy. The resolutions reported were unanimously adopted, and were as follows:

    WHEREAS we deplore the circumstances which have inaugurated civil war and brought the people of a portion of the South in conflict with the General Government of the United States therefore,
    Resolved, That it is the duty of all patriotic citizens, irrespective of party names and distinctions, ignoring, for the present, all past dissensions and party bitterness, to unite said people, in support of the Government of the United States.
    Resolved, That we are unalterably attached to the government of the United States, and will yield to it an ardent and firm support against all its enemies; pledging to each other are lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

    James M. Flagg and Hon. Robert Parrett made patriotic speeches. Mr. Flagg recalled the words of Jefferson, that about once in thirty years the tree of liberty mast be watered with human blood. The time for such a sacrifice, he said, was at hand. Acts, not words, are now necessary. Mr. Parrett eloquently and feelingly argued that it was a time when all former issues should be laid aside — the only questions now being, union or disunion. Mr. Andrew Ellison was called upon, who, speaking in a candid manner, said his sentiments were not wholly in accord with the previous speakers, but that he was a citizen of the Republic, and acknowledged his allegiance to it, and proposed to stand by its laws under all circumstances and contingencies. William S. Boyd thought there had been talking enough, and proposed that steps be at once taken for the organization of a company, whereupon John H. Rerick drew from his pocket an enlistment paper already prepared, which was read, approved, and enlistment at once commenced. William Cummings, William Selby and John Kromer were appointed a committee for soliciting contributions for the families of those who should enlist.

    This was the first war meeting ever held in the county. Others quickly followed — one at Lima on the 23d, addressed by Hon. J. B. Howe, Revs. Farland and Cory, and another at Wolcottville on the same day, presided over by A. J. Atwood, with L. L. Wildman, as Secretary, and Dr. Martin, O. B. Taylor and Henry Youngs as committee on resolutions. These demanded a prompt and vigorous execution of the Federal laws, the retaking of the forts, arsenals and other public property seized by the rebels, and that the insult to the United States by the so-called Confederacy in attacking Fort Sumter was one that should be redressed, if it was necessary to 
use the entire military strength of the American people. At these meetings, volunteers were added to the list and contributions made for their families. On May 1, a meeting was held at South Milford, presided over by John Bartlett , with R. Smith as Secretary. It was addressed by Francis Henry and George Rowe. The committee on resolutions were Francis Henry, E. Stockwell, Dr. J. Dancer, L. Blackmun and George Bartlett. The resolutions reported and adopted differed slightly in tone from those adopted at the other meetings, and we 
present them here, in order that the different shades of feeling at the time may be represented:

    Resolved, That we will sustain the Constitution of the United States of America, and uphold the authorities thereof in sustaining the laws and protecting the flag of our country and our enemies, both North and South.
    Resolved, That we have no sympathy with the Secessionists of the South, nor the Abolitionists of the North, and that we hold them responsible for the present distracted condition of the country.
    Resolved, That we recommend every good citizen to consider calmly and dispassionately our present condition, and that we will hail with joy an early and honorable peace, and if peace cannot be brought about, that we prosecute the war with the utmost 
vigor to a final end.

    A committee was appointed to devise the best method of organizing a military company and reported, recommending that the Secretary open his books for immediate enrollment, which was done, and some names were entered. On May 4, another meeting was held at La Grange, "for the purpose of holding a council of war," 
as the chronicler of that day put it. The crowd gathered in the court-yard and was addressed by J. B. Wade, A. Ellison and Roman Mills. On Mr. Wades suggestion, the meeting voted that the county should pay the expenses of the volunteers while at home. Roman Mills said he had two sons already in the company and two more to spare, and would go himself if necessary. The company which had been drilling under Maj. Bingham made an exhibition of their skill; there was martial music, firing of cannons, the "Marseillaise,' and "Red, White and Blue." Thus the attention of the people was directed to the enlistment. The paper was kept by Dr. J. H. Rerick at Betts & Rerick's drug store, and as fast as men made up their mind to enlist, and could arrange their business, they came in, signed this papers and went into the ranks for drill. About the 1st of May, William Roy, a young man who had just finished a five years' service in the regular army came to La Grange to visit his relatives, and being fresh in military tactics, discipline, at once became the most important personage in the community. As soon as the volunteers heard of his presence in town, he was sent for and requested to give the boys a touch of the "regular's" drill. With form ---- and the quick, firm step of the trained soldier, he was soon at their front, and at the first command of "front face," the humble regular private, William Roy, was transferred into a Captain of volunteers. Spectators and volunteers were alike elated, but hardly any more so than the drill-master, Mr. Bingham who immediately tendered his cane, then the only instrument of authority, and turned the command over to the new-comer.

    The organization of the company was completed in a few days, and formation of the fact forwarded to the authorities at Indianapolis. When public indignation for rebels ran so high as it did then, and a furious and speedy overthrow was anticipated, it was not strange that the most terrific names should be suggested for company titles. In obedience to this prevalent feeling our first military organization assumed the belligerent cognomen of the
"La Grange Tigers." A less ferocious title would have given satisfaction a few months after, without any discredit to true courage and patriotism. "Honor Guards," subsequently, under the influence of the declaration of a great pr that the war was a failure, was equally significent of public opinion. The first enlistment paper, referred to above, is still carefully preserved. All who signed, did not at that time enter the service, but nearly all did within a few months. The following is a copy of the obligation to which the volunteers one hundred and two in number, put their signatures

LA GRANGE, Ind., April 1, 1861,
The undersigned hereby agree to organize themselves into a Volunteer Military Company in accordance with the statutes of the State of Indiana, and to be at the service and comet of the Governor thereof, whenever in his opinion the exigencies of the country demand, for a term of three months from date of reception for duty. They also agree, when the required number (84) of signatures for a company have been obtained, to meet, elect their officers, and report for service.

    All this enlistment and preparation for the field had been done without any definite arrangement or order from 
the State authorities. The Governor had called for volunteers to fill the State quota, but there was no assurances that the “Tigers” would be needed to make up the requisite number. Not until the 14th of May did the company receive any orders, and then only in an indirect way; but the boys were eager to go into service, and the intimation that they were needed was accepted as sufficient. The company was en route in an hour or two for Sturgis, where cars were expected to convey them to Indianapolis. Many citizens accompanied them- seeing them off- and they were met by a Sturgis company and escorted to town. The officers chosen by the men, in this first military company, were: Captain, William Roy; First Lieutenant, George A. Lane; Second Lieutenant, C. M. Burlingame; Third Lieutenant, F. A. Spellman; First Sergeant, J. A. Lamson; Second Sergeant, J. A. Bevington; Third Sergeant, Thomas Burnell; Fourth Sergeant, David Dudley; First Corporal, John F. Varner; Second Corporal, James Rheubottom; Third Corporal, J. A. Hoagland; Ensign, Andrew J. Fair.

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