136 – The Civil War in Indiana

South Carolina seceded from the Union in December 1860. It demanded that the U.S. Army leave Charleston.

When that didn’t happen, the South Carolina militia bombarded U.S. troops in Fort Sumter on April 12 and 13, 1861.

The American Civil War had begun.

Lincoln calls for volunteers

After the attack on Fort Sumter, Lincoln issued a call on April 15, 1861 for 75,000 volunteers for three months. Indiana’s share of that total was 4,683, or six regiments. Governor Morton telegraphed Lincoln the same day that Indiana could provide 10,000.

Within a week more than 12,000 Hoosiers had volunteered. Those not selected for the first six regiments were offered the opportunity to enlist for three years or return home until needed. Many of the volunteers organized into local regiments of the state militia.

The Indiana Legion

In May, just a month after the call for Union volunteers, Indiana organized its own state militia, the Indiana Legion.

… thousands of men volunteered for the Indiana Legion, the reorganized state militia that primarily guarded the southern border of the state. 

Hoosier Soldiers in the Civil War

Joseph and Milton Jarvis volunteered for the Indiana Legion. Their other brothers may also have joined, but we don’t have any citations.

Joseph and Milton would have been members of the Jefferson County Ninth Regiment. There were ten companies of infantry and one of artillery. Only one infantry company was issued guns. The artillery company had three artillery pieces.

In September 1861, the artillery company and the one armed infantry company were called to defend Louisville against attack. But the danger passed, and they returned home.

In June 1862, this regiment was again called upon to furnish three companies of infantry for guard duty at Camp Morton rebel prison. The call was immediately responded to by the requisite force, which continued on duty for about sixty-days, and until their services were no longer required.

Ninth Regiment, Indiana Legion – Jefferson County – Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana

Joseph and Milton Jarvis were included in this call to guard Camp Morton.

Camp Morton

At the beginning of the war, Indiana had no facilities for recruiting or training of soldiers. Governor Oliver Morton ordered a camp to be created in Indianapolis for this purpose. But by 1862, the camp was converted to a prison camp.

After the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, it was one of the Union’s most important prison camps. Most Confederate prisoners captured in Kentucky and Tennessee went to Camp Morton. In June 1862, a call was issued for volunteer militia to guard the growing number of prisoners.

The camp was designed for 3,000, but held up to 5,000 prisoners.

Among the first replacements to reach Camp Morton were three Legion companies from Jefferson County. The men in one of these companies had volunteered unanimously, leaving their farms to look after themselves.

Camp Morton 1861-1865 – Indianapolis Prison Camp

Joseph and Milton Jarvis were among the Jefferson County militia members assigned as guards.

They were citizen soldiers, called up for short duty of sixty or ninety days. They had farms and jobs and businesses at home.

They were unaccustomed to military discipline and some weren’t proficient with firearms. Many were farmers with fields that needed tending. Some were allowed short furloughs during harvest.

A prison break

Toward the middle of July a stampede among the prisoners startled the town. First rumors had it that a hundred prisoners had escaped and fifteen or twenty had been killed.

The removal of one of the more experienced guard regiments and the stormy, rainy night of July 14 gave the prisoners as good a chance for escape as they could ever hope for.

Thirteen of the fleeing men, two of them wounded, were captured within twenty-four hours ; one poor soul got “tired of walking” and surrendered to a conductor on the Terre Haute line; all the rest but one were brought back to the camp by July 18.

Camp Morton 1861-1865 – Indianapolis Prison Camp

Camp Morton was known for the poor living conditions of the inmates. It was said that the prisoners at Camp Morton were walking skeletons, who were lucky to eat once a day. They were poorly cared for. Inadequate clothes, terrible sanitary facilities and close personal contact contributed to the inmates’ short life expectancy in the prison camp. Many inmates died from diseases they incurred in the camp.

Wabash Valley Visions and Voices Digital Memory Project
Camp Morton Prisoners – c. 1863

In the winter, the barracks were impossible to keep clean and fuel was scarce. More than 1,700 Confederate soldiers died there during the course of the war.

Partial List of Prison Camps During the Civil War

More troops needed in 1862

At first, volunteers for the Union Army were plentiful, but as they became more scarce, Congress passed the first draft law—the federal Militia Act on July 17, 1862.

Those drafted could pay a $200 commutation fee to get out of service.  Under this system, 3,003 Hoosiers were drafted; 2,183 of these men entered the army, and the rest either ran away or were exempted for disabilities. 

Hoosier Soldiers in the Civil War

Another draft in 1863

When the 1862 militia draft proved inadequate, Congress passed the Enrollment Act on March 3, 1863. 

When the president issued a call for more troops, each state was given a quota.  A draft was held only if a township failed to meet its quota through volunteers.  In fact, the primary purpose of the draft was to stimulate volunteering.  

Hoosier Soldiers in the Civil War

Every white man age 18 to 45 had to register for the draft. We find all five Jarvis brothers in the registration records.

It’s in these records that we find that Joseph and Milton Jarvis had previously served as prison guards.

Draft Registration – Joseph and Milton Jarvis – 1863
Draft Registration – James, William, Lafayette Jarvis and cousins – 1863

Morgan’s Raid

John Hunt Morgan

On July 8, 1863, Confederate Col. John Hunt Morgan and his group of 2,400 raiders seized two steamboats and crossed the Ohio River from Kentucky into Indiana. Morgan’s plan was to leave a path of destruction, free the prisoners from Camp Morton and burn Indianapolis.

Governor Morton issued a call to mobilize the Indiana Legion and any other volunteers available in the southern part of the state. Thousands answered the call.

I’m guessing the Jarvises were among those who responded, as Morgan was moving into their counties and townships.

The Legion was poorly equipped, each man usually bringing his own musket or shotgun. And it was mostly infantry, a poor match to keep up with Morgan’s fast-moving cavalry.

The Legion units were deployed all along the southeast border along the river, as they didn’t know Morgan’s route.

Crossing into Indiana, Morgan camped five miles north of the Ohio River on July 8, 1863. The next day, the only “major” military action in Indiana during the war — the Battle of Corydon — was fought a mile south of the former state capital on Old Ind. 135.

Morgan’s men dismounted and attacked on foot, capturing 450 members of the Indiana Legion in the 30-minute clash and then setting them free after they promised not to fight again. Morgan then sacked Corydon, leaving that afternoon.

RetroIndy – Morgan’s Raiders

On July 10, Morgan rode north to Salem, looting and burning the railroad depot and two bridges. He extorted $1,000 from three local millers.

While dining at a local hotel, Morgan received the shattering news of two thundering blows to the Confederacy, the loss at Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg.

The Battles of Corydon and Gettysburg are generally acknowledged as the only two “battles” fought on Northern soil, and took place only days apart.

General Morgan’s Raid Through Indiana

On July 11, Morgan moved into northern Jefferson County, near the Buchanans’ farms and Joseph Jarvis’ farm. Most of the militia were 15 miles south in Madison, anticipating Morgan’s arrival. But Morgan turned north.

Route of Morgan’s Raiders – July 1863

On July 13, Morgan entered Ripley County, looting homes and businesses along the way.

From Rexville they marched to Versailles where they were met at the new courthouse by a hurriedly summoned band of the militia and citizens. The raiders seized the guns belonging to the militia and broke them against the corner of the courthouse.

The Deputy County Treasurer, B. F. Spencer had buried the county funds for safety from the raiders. The treasurer’s office was looted and it is reported that several thousand dollars was taken by the raiders.

Horses were hidden as well as possible in advance of the raiders, as they constantly seize fresh horses, leaving worn out nags, occasionally, in their stead.

Housewives were ordered to prepare meals for the marauding cavalry and feed was appropriated for their animals, all available supplies were used or carried away.

Morgan’s Raid Through Ripley County

From Versailles the raiders moved to Milan and Pierceville. Stragglers spread throughout the entire county, looking for horses, food and valuables.

Morgan’s Raid Through Ripley County

On July 14, Morgan crossed into Ohio. By then, Union troops were trailing him and gunboats along the Ohio River were dispatched to block his escape. Over several skirmishes, Morgan and most of his men were captured.

During his raid, Morgan and his men captured and paroled about 6,000 Union soldiers and militia, destroyed 34 bridges, disrupted the railroads at more than 60 places, and diverted tens of thousands of troops from other duties. He spread terror throughout the region, and seized thousands of dollars worth of supplies, food, and other items from local stores, houses, and farms.

Morgan’s Raid – Wikipedia

Most of Morgan’s captured troops were taken to Camp Morton. Morgan and his officers were taken to the Ohio State Penitentiary, where they made a daring escape in November. Morgan was killed a year later in Tennessee.

Who served?

Here are some fascinating statistics about who served in the Union army.

Percent of population

Indiana ranked second among the states in terms of the percentage of its men of military age who served in the Union army.  Indiana contributed 208,367 men, roughly 15 percent of the state’s total population to serve in the Union army, and 2,130 to serve in the navy.  Most of Indiana’s soldiers were volunteers.

Indiana in the American Civil War

Republicans vs. Democrats, married vs. single

One study of biographies in nine county histories determined that 37.9 percent of married Republicans and 64.7 percent of single Republicans joined the Army; among Democrats, just 8.0 percent of married men and 31.0 percent of single men served.  

Hoosier Soldiers in the Civil War


75% of Union soldiers were 21 or younger.

I had no idea how young the soldiers were. War is a young man’s lament.


More Hoosiers died in the Civil War than in any other conflict. Although twice as many Hoosiers served in World War II, almost twice as many died in the Civil War.

Indiana in the American Civil War

Casualties by state

Over 24,416 Hoosiers were killed or died during their service. More than twice that number returned to the state bearing disfiguring and debilitating wounds and scars.

Southern Indiana and the Civil War

Casualties by non-battle causes

Camps were not safe places.  One of the best known facts about the Civil War is that approximately two soldiers died of disease, accidents, and other non-battle related causes for every soldier who died in battle.  It is not so well known that the proportion of battle deaths to disease and other non-battle related deaths could vary widely from state to state.  It appears that men from predominantly rural states were more susceptible to death from disease.   

Indiana, which was 91.2 percent rural in 1860, had approximately 2.5 disease and other non-battle related deaths for every one battle death (7,243 battle deaths, 17,785 non-battle deaths).  Massachusetts, which was approximately 59.5 percent urban in 1860, had fewer men die of disease and other non-battle related causes than men who died in battle.  

Hoosier Soldiers in the Civil War

Casualties compared to other US wars

Civil War casualties exceed those of all other wars combined.

The war’s Indiana legacy

The American Civil War altered Indiana’s society, politics, and economy, beginning a population shift to central and northern Indiana, and contributed to a relative decline in the southern part of the state. 

Indiana in the American Civil War



2 thoughts on “136 – The Civil War in Indiana

  1. Brenda Teply January 23, 2021 / 5:16 pm

    Great research! Most informative. And, as always, your timeline puts events into perspective.


  2. Mark Jarvis January 24, 2021 / 8:20 am

    Thank you, Brenda. I always appreciate you reading the stories, and I value your comments.


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