Hours after Confederate forces fired on Ft. Sumter on April 12, 1861, Johnson County residents left their fields and shops to gather at the telegraph office in Franklin for news of the insurrection. The telegraph gave few details and by 9 pm the crowds slowly dispersed. Six eager young men were too anxious to wait and arranged to use a hand-car to travel 20 miles north by rail to Indianapolis. This arduous journey took them until early the next morning. Once in Indianapolis, they heard the news that the Fort had fallen. President Lincoln would be issuing a proclamation the next day calling for 75,000 troops to suppress the uprising. These young men hastily returned to Franklin and found a crowd of residents who eagerly received the news that the nation was now at war.
Patriotic meetings were held to organize companies in response to Governor Morton’s call for six regiments from Indiana. The following resolution was printed in the Herald [Franklin, Indiana] that week:
“We were always under the impression that our quiet town was peaceably disposed, and that any other fever but the war fever could find its way here. The events of the last week, however, have somewhat dispelled this illusion, and since our last issue scarcely an hour passes without hearing the martial strains of the fife and drum, and witnessing the parade of some company who have enrolled themselves for the war. Six companies have been formed here, and if every little town will do as well we can send enough men from Indiana alone to protect the capitol and do all the fighting.”
Not everyone was as supportive. Many early settlers of Johnson County came from Kentucky and the newly-Confederate state of Virginia. They retained ties to the south through family and friends. Some supported slavery while others were willing to let it continue in favor of maintaining the Union. Some residents viewed the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 as unwarranted government interference. Tension about Indiana’s war involvement could be seen in all areas. One pastor reportedly encountered days when he had to mediate some “violent political issues in the congregation, varying from consecrated zeal for the cause of the Union to an avowed sympathy for the Rebellion.”
Support for the Union cause included Johnson County supplying young men for six infantry companies. One of the most well-documented is the Indiana Volunteer Infantry, 7th Regiment, Company F, made up entirely of men from the County. Originally mustered for 3 months, the Company was reorganized in the Fall of 1861 for three years’ service. Reportedly men of high moral character and known to be teetotalers, this company was known informally as “the singing and praying” company of the regiment. They fought in 26 battles, including the Battle of Antietam, the Battle of Fredericksburg, and the Battle of Gettysburg. Of the 100 or so that originally enlisted, some reports list that 21 were killed in battle, 40 were wounded, 6 died of their wounds, and another 12 died of disease.
The Johnson County Museum of History in Franklin has a permanent exhibit that follows Company F through the war and as they returned home. Be sure to plan some time to visit this informative and impressive tribute to the gallant men of Company F. Information about Johnson County Museum of History’s open hours can be found here: https://co.johnson.in.us/jcmuseum/.