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During the American Civil War, Indianapolis, the state capital of Indiana, was a major base of support for the Union. The governor of Indiana, Oliver Hazard Perry Morton, was a major supporter of President Abraham Lincoln and he quickly made Indianapolis a rallying point for Union Army forces as they prepared to enter Confederate lands. The city was a major railroad hub and transportation center and therefore had military importance; it was also the site of a major prisoner-of-war camp, Camp Morton, and was at once threatened with by attack from Confederate forces, although the nearest any Confederate came to the city was Seymour, Indiana, 60 miles (97 km) away. However, there was one incident sarcastically referred to as the Battle of Pogue's Run.


Throughout the winter of 1860-1861, there was talk throughout the region of the possibility of war with the South. Before the war, four militia groups met in Indianapolis. On January 7, 1861, one of the local militia groups, the Zouave Guards, volunteered to fight if Governor Morton so wished, but their services were not immediately needed. All four of the militias later became part of the 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment. One militia officer, First Lieutenant Frederick Knefler, eventually rose to the rank of brevet brigadier general, becoming the highest-ranking Jewish military officer of the Union. Another militia leader, Francis A. Shoup, decided to go south and became a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army.[1] On February 12, Abraham Lincoln visited Indianapolis, one of his stops on a train journey to his presidential inauguration. Lincoln was first president-elect to visit Indianapolis.[2]

9th Indiana Infantry Regiment

On April 12, news arrived in Indianapolis via telegraph that Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, had surrendered to local forces who wanted Union troops off their land. Lincoln responded by calling for volunteers to join the armed forces to restore order. Governor Morton quickly made Indianapolis a mustering point for those who wanted to enlist, and more than 12,000 recruits assembled in Indianapolis in a span of two weeks. By April 22, the 9th Indiana Infantry Regiment was organized, the first of 104 Hoosier regiments to be trained in Indianapolis, 61.5% of all regiments formed in Indiana. Six were ready for President Lincoln's initial call for troops. Indianapolis would send 4,000 of its own residents into the service. Camp Morton was quickly built on the grounds of the Indiana State Fair. In total, 24 installations for the war would be built in Indianapolis or its vicinity. The first resident of Indianapolis to die in the war was Private John C. Hollenbeck, who died around Romney, Virginia on June 27, 1861.[1]

There was little doubt that the majority of Indianapolis residents supported the Union. Pro-Union mobs would sometimes force individuals suspected of Confederate sympathies to go to the mayor's office and take an oath of loyalty. The most notable of these was the editor of the Indianapolis Sentinel, J.J. Bingham, who was forced to take the loyalty oath by a mob inspired by articles that decried Bingham in the Indianapolis Journal.[3]


Union Station

Battles in Kentucky and Tennessee caused the major difference in Indianapolis during the war. After the battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, the Union began to collect a large number of Confederate prisoners of war. Governor Morton volunteered to hold some of the prisoners in Indianapolis, and more than 3,700 Confederate prisoners of war soon arrived at Camp Morton. As the Confederates were poorly fed, and were unused to Northern winters, citizens of Indianapolis rallied to provide humanitarian aid for the prisoners. A hospital to treat them was made from the Athenaeum at the corner of E. Michigan St. and Massachusetts Ave.[4]

Union soldiers continued to gather at Indianapolis, sometimes as many as 12,000 at a time. Popular spots for where the soldiers resided included Monument Circle and University Park. Some soldiers turned to street crime and caused major law enforcement troubles. Prohibition of alcohol sales had to be established in the city. City police never bothered to discovered who murdered an officer from Pennsylvania. Many deceased soldiers were held at Indianapolis's Union Station, awaiting transportation to their eventual burial spots.[5]


Site of the Battle of Pogue's Run

The first military execution in the Western Theater of the American Civil War occurred on March 27, 1863. A 27-year-old school teacher from Clay County, Indiana, Robert Gay, was killed by a 20-man firing squad. This happened just south of Camp Morton at Burnside Barracks. After he was captured by the Southern army at Richmond, Kentucky, Gay declared allegiance to the Confederacy to escape further army service. He was convicted of treason and executed, but not before he apologized for what he had done.[5][6] The next year, three bounty jumpers were executed at Burnside Barracks.[5]

In May, Democrats decided a fair election could not be held, so they withdrew their ticket. Between the nine wards only 14 votes were cast for Democratic candidates.[7] On May 20, 1863, an incident later called the Battle of Pogue's Run occurred. A state Democratic convention was interrupted by Union soldiers sent by Governor Morton (a Republican), and after the convention soldiers searched trains departing with various Democratic convention delegates, causing the Democrats to throw their personal weapons into Pogue's Run as the train passed by the creek.[8]

Camp Morton

When John Hunt Morgan crossed the Ohio River into Indiana, the state went into a state of emergency. On July 7, the citizens of Indianapolis were rejoicing over the Union victories at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. But on July 8, the city's mood turned to panic as many feared Morgan would attack Indianapolis to free the prisoners at Camp Morton. The panic was increased as Morgan's telegrapher, "Lightning" Ellsworth, posed as various Union telegraphers saying Morgan had far more men than he actually had—he had just over 2,000—and sending false information saying Morgan would attack Indianapolis, among other locations. Five regiments were sent to Indianapolis to defend the Indiana State House, in total 65,000 men answered the call for all able bodies to defend the capital city. The panic in the city lasted until July 14, when it was confirmed that Morgan had left Indiana and entered Ohio. In the chaos, the accidental explosion of a caisson killed a boy, three soldiers, and two horses.[5][9]


The 28th Colored Infantry was formed on March 31, 1864, near what is now Fountain Square at Camp Fremont. It was the only black regiment formed in Indiana during the war and lost 212 men during the war. They were signed on for a term of three years, but the war was effectively over in 11 months' time, cutting their term of service short.[5]

"The City Regiment," officially known as the 132nd Regiment, was formed in May 1864 to be sent to guard railroads in Tennessee and Alabama, which were firmly in the control of Union forces. It was formed mostly of young boys and older men seeking adventure, making it the favorite regiment among Indianapolis citizens; more citizens attended the departure of the City Regiment than that of any other regiment. Twelve members of this regiment died of disease before returning home after the predetermined stay of hundred days.[5]

1865 and aftermath

The Circle in Indianapolis was built to honor the war dead.

News of the Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox reached Indianapolis at 11 p.m. on April 9, 1865. The Indianapolis Journal called the subsequent celebrations within the city "demented." Celebrations came to a halt when the news of the assassination of Lincoln arrived on April 15; Lincoln's funeral train passed through the city on April 30. An estimated 100,000 people attended the bier while Lincoln lay in state at the Indiana Statehouse.[10]

Indianapolis soon saw much activity in the drawdown of military forces that occurred at the end of the war. June saw many formal receptions honoring soldiers who had returned home from the war. On June 12, the last Confederate prisoner of war was paroled at Camp Morton. The military wagon train was 28 miles (45 km) in length, and it passed though the city on July 25. By autumn all soldiers had left Indianapolis.[10]

Statewide data concluded that Indianapolis lost 700 men during the war.[10] Following the war, Indianapolis would cement itself as the premier city in Indiana, as the dominant pro-Northern sympathies of the state punished the antebellum largest city, New Albany, whose ties to the southern states were abhorred.[11]

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in downtown Indianapolis was built to honor the Indiana veterans of the Civil War. The construction began in 1888 after two decades of discussion and was finally completed in 1901.[12]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bodenhamer p.441
  2. Holliday p.24
  3. Thornbrough p.117
  4. Bodenhamer pp.382, 441
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Bodenhamer p. 442
  6. Holliday pp.57–58
  7. Holliday p.57
  8. Bodenhamer p.1121
  9. Holliday pp.58–59
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Bodenhamer p.443
  11. Findling p.53
  12. Bodenhamer p.1278


  • Bodenhamer, David (1994). The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. $3. ISBN 0-253-31222-1. 
  • Findling, John (2003). A History of New Albany, Indiana. Indiana University Southeast. 
  • Holliday, John. (1911). Indianapolis and the Civil War. E. J. Hecker. 
  • Thornbrough, Emma Lou . (1965). Indiana in the Civil War Era, 1850-1880. Indiana Historical Bureau. ISBN 0-87195-050-2. 

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