Pioneer History by Richard C. Schmal

Off to War, 1861

(from the Jan. 30, 1991, Lowell Tribune)

Early in the morning of Apr. 12, 1861, Ft. Sumter at Charleston, South Carolina was bombarded by southern artillery batteries, and the Civil War in the United States had begun. Within two weeks after the fall of the fort, the organization of a Company of Infantry was started at Crown Point, Lake County's seat, and recruiting stations sprang up in Lowell, Hobart and a few other places in the county.

President Lincoln's call for volunteers was heard by the loyal citizens of Lake County, and an intense wave of excitement washed over the North. By September 1862 there were 100 volunteers from West Creek Twp., 93 from Cedar Creek Twp., and 74 from Eagle Creek Twp., and over 400 more joined the militia.

The entire population of Lake County in the 1860 Census was 9,145, and the number of families was 1800. From those 1800 families came 1000, more than one from every other household!

At Crown Point, then a small village depending on the news to arrive by stagecoach from the northeast, the residents were aroused to speedy action when men from all over the county came to enlist in several Indiana and Illinois outfits.

Many of the sons of the Lake County pioneer families were leaving their homes for the first time in their lives, and barely one of them knew what to expect for his future. They had never been mustered into crowded encampments or been away from home for months or years at a time. The routine of their new life in the Army would be an awakening for them all.

Nearly half of the men who enlisted in the county were from the Three Creeks area, and the Three Creek Soldier's monument at Senior Citizens Park in Lowell lists more than 400 men and one woman who served their country in that conflict. Many of them joined the Ninth Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry, which from its war record became known as the "Bloody Ninth."

Others joined the 73rd, 99th, 128th and the 151st Indiana Infantry, and 5th, 7th and 12th Indiana Cavalry, as well as the Fourth Battery, Light Artillery.

Like most of the villages across the country, Crown Point and Lowell were crowded daily with bands playing martial music, bragging politicians making long speeches, young officers talking to recruits, and "swooning damsels."

Veterans of past wars walked to the stand to remind one and all of their proud tradition. Then it was time to enlist, and the cry "Who will come up and sign the roll?" was heard from the officers. Forward they came, a wall of young men with a great display of patriotism. All the while, 'The National Anthem' was played by the bands, whistled by youths, sung in the theatres, and hammered on tin pans by small children.

The young men coming to enlist stepped forward for all kinds of reasons. For some, enlisting just seemed the right thing to do, for standing back would let down their friends, community and family, and they would risk missing all the fun and glory, besides taking the chance of being branded a coward. Fathers looked toward the old rifle on the wall and lamented that they were too old to go to war. Least logical were the sweethearts: "If a fellow wants to go with a girl now, he had better enlist," wrote an Indiana boy.

Many of the young men enlisted because they wanted a change. The Army was something different from trudging behind the plow or sitting at a desk, for war was the great adventure of their generation. Even old veterans who knew the horrors of war enlisted, but most were turned down due to their age, although several over 60 years of age were active in battles.

Economics also played an important part in luring men into the ranks. The pay of a Union Private was not particularly generous, just $13 per month, with a small amount taken out to pay for laundry in some areas. (Eighty years later, in 1941, the Old Timer received just $21 per month as a new private!)

The men thought it enough to live on, and it was steady work. Better yet, many states were paying enlistment bounties or bonuses to those who joined, and to those who re-enlisted, often amounting to several hundred dollars. Some greedy young men enlisted several times in different places to collect their bounties, but were dealt with severely when caught. During the time the draft was in effect, some of the richer men paid hundreds of dollars for others to take their place in the ranks.

If promoted to Private First Class, a soldier's pay was raised to $17, while a Corporal received $20, and a Sergeant's pay was $34. Officers' pay per month went form $45 for a Second Lt., to $95 for a Colonel. The General's pay ranged from $124 to $270 (Lt. General), all according to the 1861 Army regulation's manual.

The new recruits came overwhelmingly from the farms of rural America, with whole companies and regiments raised in the same locality, bringing with them their local values, customs and common experiences. More than half who donned the blue were farmers. Carpenters, clerks, laborers and students made up much of the remainder of the troops. The 300 different occupations represented in the Union Army made the regiments self-sufficient.

Not all the drummers were boys, but often nine, ten, and 12-year-olds found their place as fifers and drummers and sometimes served in combat. Many of the new enlistees 16 and 17 years of age, wrote the numeral "18" on slips of paper and put them in their shoes, so that they could 'truthfully' say that they were "over 18" when asked about their age by recruiting officers. For many, it was the first time they had a suit of clothes, even though they had to cope with heavy wool uniforms, soggy when wet, and with shoes that did not fit, without 'left' or 'right' sizing.

In July 1862 President Lincoln put out a call for 300,000 men, with quotas for that call of 12 in West Creek, 16 in Cedar Creek and five in Eagle Creek Twp. Eagle Creel paid a bonus of $400 to each of the new enlistees.

The President's order brought forth a poem, written by an unknown author, which was very popular among the Northern soldiers, and the citizens of the Union. "Father Abraham" was one of the affectionate names for Lincoln, and the first of four verses read:

Last updated on July 13, 2001.

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