Young men from Johnson County filled six infantry companies in the American Civil War. One of the most well-documented is the 7th Indiana Infantry Regiment, Company F. After the fall of Ft. Sumpter in Charleston, South Carolina on April 13th, 1861, young men flocked to Franklin to volunteer their service for the Union Army. Once one hundred men from the county had signed up, the Franklin Riflemen was formed with officers chosen by election. Within days they boarded a train headed to Camp Morton in Indianapolis. They took only a few supplies, a makeshift bedroll, and a rifle. Life in the infantry was unlike anything these men had experienced. They weren’t soldiers by training. Most were farmers, shopkeepers, and laborers. They were young—the average age was 25 years old. They received limited military training of drills without weapons and some sentry duty. There was no live ammunition training to prepare them for actual warfare.
Life in camp as a Company consisted of drills, dress parades, waiting for orders. Soldiers entertained themselves with games of chess, journaling, telling stories, penning letters to home, and engaging in a new game called baseball. Soldiers were paid generally every two months, though pay periods sometimes stretched to six or eight months. The lowest ranked soldier, a Union private, received $13 per month. Pay increased with each promotion. Many used their wages to purchase goods and extra supplies as the Army struggled to provide clothing, blankets, and even ammunition. Some also sent home all or part of their pay using agents or other visitors to camp to carry money home on their behalf. Letters home often included questions regarding whether the money ever arrived.
With nearly 3 in 4 eligible men enlisting to fight for the Union, daily life for those left behind was often difficult. Women, children and older men were left to shoulder farming burdens and other responsibilities in addition to their regular obligations. Women had to handle the tending of animals, planting and harvesting crops, and managing household finances. They also had to complete their usual chores of sewing, laundering, and cooking for the family. Letters from soldiers often gave advice and instructions for handling farming or other complex tasks.
Original record books at the Franklin Branch of the Johnson County Public Library give some insights into soldiers of 7th Indiana Infantry Regiment, Company F. These incredibly delicate materials include several leatherbound volumes containing Company Morning Reports, Company Orders, Company Clothing, and Muster Roll and Pay Roll records. These are not reproductions, but actual books carried by company officials and used to document happenings and official reports. For instance, the Company Orders book lists each soldier in the 7th Indiana Infantry Regiment, Company F, their physical description, birthplace, where and when they enrolled and mustered, and a column for military history (though this is mostly blank). You can visit the library to visit these records with assistance from library staff.