Chesterton Tribune

Porter County's military contribution, 1861-1865

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EDITOR'S NOTE: The numbers in this story are a work in progress. Readers will be advised that the text is different than the printed version. Corrections have been and will continue to be made.

 

By DAVID CANRIGHT

The 130 men who volunteered to preserve the Union 150 years ago this month were just the first of more than 1,200 from Porter County.

It is impossible to say exactly how many local men served during the war. The post-war reports of the Indiana Adjutant General are incomplete.

For some units hometowns are not given. For others, only the county is listed.

Several sources report that many men from Porter County enlisted in Illinois units, particularly the 9th Illinois Cavalry, there being no Indiana cavalry regiment recruiting in Northwest Indiana early in the war.

Porter County men are said to have served in the Navy and on river gunboats.

Some are mentioned in connection with Union regiments from Kentucky and Tennessee. At least one served in a regular Army unit, the 18th U.S. Inf.

Many men are listed two, three or more times as they got promotions, changed units or re-enlisted as Veterans.

An 1876 county history confirmed 1,025 serving from Porter County: 183 cavalry, 829 infantry and 13 artillery, but this list, which has misspellings and other assorted errors, omits several men in the 4th and 5th Indiana artillery batteries.

It also misses the “Valparaiso Guards” who enlisted in the 15th Indiana Infantry in response to the very first call for recruits in 1861. Nor does it include any Porter County men who enlisted in units from other states, particularly the 47 in the Kankakee company of the 9th Illinois Cavalry. The author is aware that his list is not complete and estimates a total of “between 1200 and 1300.”

T.H. Ball in his “Northwestern Indiana,” published in 1900 put the total at 1,200. Ball estimates that eight Northwest Indiana counties contributed a combined total of 7,000 men to the Union.

The best guess of this reporter is that 1,194 Porter County men served the Union, but that number is likely to rise with additional research.

Rev. Beer, in his 1882 history, writes that “The names of Porter County soldiers are found on the rolls of twenty-nine regiments of infantry, four regiments of cavalry and two batteries of artillery,” from Indiana. He misses at least two artillery units and two infantry regiments. There is also a reference to at least one man from the county serving in the United States Colored Troops.

After the war many -- probably hundreds -- of Civil War veterans who had enlisted and served from other states moved to Porter County. Many of these men joined the Grand Army of the Republic posts in Valparaiso and Chesterton and are buried in local cemeteries alongside their comrades who enlisted from here.

We don’t know what happened to all of these men.

At least 149 are known to have died in service.

110 died of disease including 10 in Andersonville Prison

At least 24 were killed in action. 13 others died of wounds out of 60 confirmed wounded.

Two died by accident.

539 completed their terms of enlistment.

99 re-enlisted as Veterans after serving a full three years.

Two were dishonorably discharged.

There were also 58 desertions, but some of these are the same man deserting two or even three times.

This leaves about 500 not accounted for. Most of these were probably discharged for illness or injury before their enlistment had expired. A quick survey of the available evidence hints that at least a few men wounded, missing or killed in battle are not included.

Setting the Record Straight

An article this week in another newspaper says that “More than 200 men from Liberty, Jackson, Westchester and Pine townships died in the war, not counting those from other areas in the county.” This does not fit the available evidence.

200 dead is a high-end estimate for Porter County as a whole.

Fewer than 400 men [More likely fewer than 300. See Web/only additional note at the end of this story.] served from the four Duneland townships and even this number may be high. Approximately 1/8th to 1/7th of county men died. So a more likely number of deaths from this area in the Union Army would be 50 or less.

In addition to the combatant deaths, at least one chaplain and one nurse from Porter County died ministering to the sick and wounded in hospital.

Back home in Calumet at least one citizen is reported to have been killed in a political brawl over the war.

A note on Civil War graves: If a Civil War veteran is buried in Porter County, he probably survived the war. The government headstones were standardized after the war, and the GAR posts helped get headstones for the families of their comrades. Since this reporter began his studies of local veterans in the 1970s some local headstones have been vandalized or weathered to become almost illegible.

Researching your ancestor: Recent developments in digital technology and the Internet are making it easier than ever to search for information on Civil War soldiers. A word of caution: Many digital lists repeat old errors or add new ones through typing or scanning mistakes. An example is the 1876 list of Porter County veterans now accessible on the Web: Nathan DeMass of Calumet (Chesterton) is listed as De Moss. This list has other errors. All lists do. Look for multiple sources and check to make sure a newer source is not just copying an older error. Also: The Westchester Township History Museum maintains a database of men from the Duneland townships.

By the Numbers

Cavalry:

57 Porter County men in the 5th Indiana Cavalry, (90th) regiment,

110 in the 7th Indiana Cavalry (119th regiment),

16 in the 12th Indiana Cavalry, (127th) regiment.

47 in 9th Illinois Cavalry

Total cavalry, 183+47 = 230

Indiana Infantry:

135 in the 9th,

approximately 40 in the 15th

14 in the 17th,

137 in the 20th,

3 in the 23rd,

13 in the 29th,

21 in the 35th,

3 in the 59th,

52 in the 63rd,

185 in the 73rd, including an entire company from Calumet (Chesterton)

47 in the 99th,

88 in the 128th,

56 in the 138th,

10 in the 142nd,

102 in the 151st regiment.

and at least 1 each in 15 others

Total Infantry, 921

Indiana Artillery

3 in 3rd battery

20+ [estimated, 7 confirmed] in 4th battery AKA “Michigan City Light Artillery”

10 in 5th battery

10 in 20th battery

Total 43

All totals are estimates based on available sometimes incomplete records.

Population vs. Recruitment

Porter County Population in 1860: 10,295

Four Duneland Townships in 1860: 2,327

 

Total enlisting from Porter County: Between 1,000 and 1,300

Proportion estimated to be from Duneland would be less than 25%

 

Posted 4/15/2011

Most recent corrected version: 4/16/2011