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By MOLLY HALL
In the beginning of the Civil War, our Perry County citizens were excited and full of enthusiasm for the war. Rallies, speeches and fiery discussions were held in almost every township and the call for patriotism was heard as our country and her people prepared for war.
Often the Cannelton Reporter was asking the folks of Perry County to be cautious in their words and actions. On April 18, 1861 the newspaper stated, “the news had reached town that civil war had commenced, there was considerable excitement. We hear that some very tall talking was done, words of terrible import were used, but finally excitement subsided and all hands went to church. Keep cool gentlemen; you won’t lose anything by keeping cool.”
The paper’s editors also stated that the mass citizens of Perry County were loyal to their government. Every pulsation of their hearts is big with patriotic devotion to the country. No truer words could have been spoken of our Perry County ancestors as Perry County was one of the 19 counties from the state of Indiana making their quota of the number of men needed to meet the requirements Indiana needed to fill her ranks.
Over time, the devastation and heartbreak of the Civil War would reach Perry County as the Cannelton Reporter began reporting the names of the men injured, missing and dead. War leaves no one indifferent. Patriotism soon began to have a new definition for our county as the call for bandages, supplies and help for orphans and widows transformed into a greater need.
There were 20 different home guards formed in Perry County during the war, each town and township raising the men needed to protect and defend the place they called home. Groups took the names Perry Rifles, Rome Legion, Hickory Rangers, Oil Rifles, Union Grays, Clark Sharpshooters, Troy Artillery, Tell City Artillery, Deutscher Jaeger, Hoosier Wildcats and the Newcomb Guards. All were classified as the Fifth Regiment, Indiana Legion.
Their services would be needed as they helped protect Perry County from raiders such as Captain Thomas H. Hines and his Confederate soldiers when they entered northern territory between Rome and Derby, at a point called Robert’s Landing.
In July of 1864 gunfire from a federal gunboat named the Springfield fired in defense of the town of Cannelton.
The above photo is a picture of veterans from Clark Township who served in the Civil War, with the exception of the two men on the end, Capt. Sid Cummings and Lawrence Cassidy, who served in World War I. Most of the men listed are descendants of Perry County’s early pioneer families with the exceptions of Joseph Nix, who was born in Breckinridge County, Ky.
He served in Co. H of the 42nd Regiment of the Indiana Infantry and Judson Collins known as “Uncle Judd,” who was born in Muhlenberg County, Ky., and had served in the Civil War in Co. B of the 146th Infantry.
Zephaniah Miles was born near Adyeville and married Isabelle Hayes March 14, 1858. Isabelle was the daughter of Daniel Hayes, who was a veteran of the War of 1812. Daniel Hayes had served multiple times from Kentucky and received 80 acres of land in Perry County for his service. Zephaniah Miles served in Co. F of the 53rd Indiana Infantry during the Civil War.
Francis Lanman descends from Revolutionary War veteran James Lanman, who served from both North and South Carolina. He was wounded in the battle at Eutaw Springs in South Carolina. James Lanman is buried in the Lanman cemetery. Francis Lanman died July 23, 1930, and was the last surviving Civil War veteran of Clark Township and is buried in the Bristow Cemetery.
Out of all the veterans listed here, we learn the most from John Beard on what these men witnessed and lived through during their lifetimes. John Beard’s obituary states he was a true Perry County pioneer,
“Think of the span of years his life covered. Indiana became a state in 1816, only 18 years before Mr. Beard was born, which was before Cannelton or Tell City were laid out as towns. He was 14 years of age at the close of the Mexican War and was 3 years of age before the first successful railway was laid in the county,” his obituary read.
John Beard was a veteran of the Civil War serving in the Union Army for four years. And, although his obituary did not mention it, he also lived through the First World War and Spanish War. John Beard died at the age of 92 Feb. 4, 1927.
Perry County had seven Grand Army of the Republic Posts, often abbreviated GAR, after the Civil War. Each post was numbered and named. The requirement for the name was that the individual must be deceased. Most posts were named in honor of a local or national veteran. Delahunt Post No. 152 was the Cannelton post named in honor of Civil War Veteran Thomas James Delahunt from Cannelton, who served in one of the first regiments raised in the county, Co. F, 26th Indiana Regiment.
He was wounded at the battle of Prairie Groves, Ark. and Kennesaw Mountain, Ga.. He rose to the rank of major and after the war became the owner of the Cannelton Reporter.
McKinley Post 303 was formed in Rono from 1884-1885. Dean Post 377 was formed in Branchville in 1884. There were several Deans from Perry County who served: William, Charles H., John R., Richard Z., William H, Milton and James Deen. The last three died in the war. The post was active until 1902.
C.B. Wheeler Post 392 was formed at Rome in honor of Sgt Charles B. Wheeler from the 81st Indiana Regiment, who died during the war.
Isaac Van Winkle Post 566 was formed in 1890 to 1901. Isaac Van Winkle served in the 81st Indiana Regiment and was a descendant of the founding Van Winkles of Bristow in Clark Township.
Frey Post 287 in Tell City was named in honor of one of Tell City’s founding members, Cpt. Louis Frey. He was a native of Switzerland and for a time was a representative in their Congress.
Frey was a seasoned veteran as he had fought in five different campaigns before the Civil War broke out. Frey is credited for rallying the men from Tell City to serve in the Union Army for their new country. The Tell City men at first were declined into service as Indiana had already met the quota of men needed. This, however, did not discourage the men from Tell City as they then reported to the state of Ohio and entered into the Union Army from that state. Eventually all would be mustered in.
Magnus Brucker Post 234 was formed in Troy in honor of their respected citizen, Surgeon Magnus Brucker. Magnus Brucker was born in 1828 in Haslach, Germany, and settled in Perry County in the early 1850s.
Letters that he wrote his wife, Elizabeth Meyers, during the Civil War are in the book "The Letters They Wrote Home, Germans in the Civil War.”
Magnus Brucker served in the Indiana House of Representatives and was in the 23rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry. He died Oct. 23, 1874.
The Grand Army of the Republic is noted for the founding of soldiers homes, relief work and pension legislation. On May 30, 1868, Commander in Chief John A. Logan issued General Order 11 in which all posts would designate May 30 as a memorial day.
He declared it to be “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”
The date of Decoration Day, as Logan had called it, was May 30 because no battle was ever fought on that date. It was not until after World War 1 that May 30 would honor all veterans – both men and women – from every war and would become known as Memorial Day.
Perry County has much to be thankful from our hearty pioneers with their enduring spirits to our loyal veterans who have served this great nation.
May we never forget.
Sources for this article are from the Sons of the Union Army, “History of Perry County” by Goodspeed, “History of Perry County” by Thomas Delahunt and “Civil War Veterans of Perry County, Indiana (1861-1865)” by Frank D. Sandage.
Hall is a member of the Perry County Bicentennial Committee and has authored several columns dealing with county history.