Many of the early pioneers left their native land overseas to escape famine, religious persecution, wars and service in the military.
A large percentage of the families in Lake County in the 1830's and 1840's saw their sons off to war in the 1860's, serving their new country on the side of the North. Within two weeks after the fall of Ft. Sumter, on Apr. 14, 1861, after a call of the President for 75,000 men to volunteer, there was an immediate response.
An organization of a Company was begun at Crown Point, with other recruiting stations at Lowell, at Hobart, and a few other places in Lake County. John Wheeler was captain, Charles Bell, first lieutenant, and Michael Sheehan second lieutenant. This Company left Lake County on June 24, 1861, was transferred to Lafayette where it became Company B, 20th Regiment of the Indiana Volunteers and mustered into service on July 22, 1861, with William L. Brown as colonel.
The following is an unusual story of the Civil War written by an unknown veteran of the 20th Regiment of the Indiana Volunteers:
I was fishing in a mill pond. "Get any bites, Johnny?" I called to a couple of Rebs who were fishing on the opposite bank. "No suh, we don't; must be too cold I reckon." "Yes, I guess so." We had a well understood truce not to fire at one another while on picket.
"Got anything to trade?" I asked. "Any papers or tobacco?"
"Oh yes, I think so suh."
"How will we manage?" I queried.
"O, I d'n no. Can't ye come ovah, suh?"
This astonished me a little. "I'm afraid you won't let me come back."
"O, yes suh. Come back as soon as you want to. Won't hurt a har of your haid, suh."
I believed them, and said "all right, I'll take your word for it," and off with my clothes plunged in and swam the hundred yards of water. Reaching the bank I ran up among them and sat down on a log. They threw an overcoat over me and we sat there and talked very friendly.
"Would you like to taste a rebel biscuit, suh?" as one of them cut off a chunk of beef and fished a big fat biscuit from his haversack.
"O yes," I laughingly replied. I took it with thanks and ate it with a relish. The biscuit was not very light or white, but sweet and palatable.
We talked about the recent battle of Chancellorsville and of other things. Both agreeing that if we had this war to settle, we could do it and go home in a week.
"Now, suh, we want to keep ouh word, and for feah an officah of the day might come around, suh, I well suggest that you go back; not foh ouh good, but foh youhs."
"All right, thank you. I'll go now. If you have a late paper I'll put it in my hat and go."
So he gave me a yesterday's 'Richmond Examiner' and I was soon "steming the tide and pushing it aside with sinewy arms."
I reached my side of the river, crawled up the bank, dressed myself and was off for my regiment lying back in the woods a quarter of a mile.
In the afternoon, when off duty and having made arrangements with my Johnny friends to come over, I hastened down to a certain cozy retreat among the bushes on the river. I found half a dozen Johnnies and a similar number of our boys sitting there playing cards.
They said, "Well, we all's heah."
"Yes, glad to see you. Get what you wanted?"
"O, yes suh."
Soon they said they must go. So they plunged in and began swimming away-all but two. They turned and whispered, "we don't want to go back." I understood, and said "get back behind those bushes." And around they got. The other fellows never missing them, I suppose, until they had reached the other side.
I took them up to Col. Wheeler, told him who they were and where I got them. He smiled and directed me to take them back to division head-quarters, which I did, and never heard what was done with them.
It was a common thing to meet on the picket line and trade papers, coffee and tobacco, both sides enjoying it.
The 20th Ind. Vol. Infantry also were involved in many battles in the war between the States. They participated in the following engagements: Hatteras Bank, Newport News, the capture of Norfolk, Orchards (where they lost 144 men, killed, wounded or missing), Seven Days Fight, Manassas Plains, Chantilly, Fredericksburg (the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th days fight losing 152 men, killed, wounded, or missing), Manassass Gap, Locust Grove, Pine Run, Wilderness, Todd's Tavern, Po River, Spottsyvania, Tallopotanni, Cold Harbor, Deep Bottom, Strawberry Plains, Petersburg, (where many were lost), Preble's House, Hatcher's Run, and many more until the surrender of Gen. Lee's Army. Col. John Wheeler of Crown Point was killed at Gettsburg July 2, 1863.
By 1864, nearly 1,500 men had left Lake County to join the following Regiments: (Ind. Vol. Regiments) 9th, 12th, 20th, 72nd, 73rd, 87th, 99th, 128th, 142nd, 151st, and 155th, all Infantry Regiments. The 5th, 7th, and 12th were Cavalry Regiments. The 4th and 24th were Artillery. Many more men from Lake County enlisted or volunteered in regiments from Illinois. The history books report that the fighting men from Indiana served their country well.
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