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Raising Indiana's Troops

Early Volunteers

Soon after the news of the attack on Fort Sumter reached Indiana County, a meeting was held at the Court House. A committee was formed to decide what course the county would take. The committee resolved to fight on the side of the Union in order to re-establish peace and security within the country (Stephenson 623). A Union flag was raised over the county court house and many other private and public buildings also showed their support by flying their own flags (Stephenson 624).

The initial wave of forces supplied by Indiana County was full of young men who were looking for adventure. Companies formed included the Indiana Guards, the Shelocta Invincibles, the Brushvalley Rifle Company, and the Black Hornets of Saltsburg (Stephenson 628-9). Army life seemed exciting compared to quiet town life, and men were caught up in the patriotic mood of the time. Recruitment was not overly stringent which meant even men who were not well-qualified soldiers were allowed to join. The Army also promised consistent pay as well as other monetary benefits after service (Stephenson 629). As some of the letters in our collection show, however, the government was not always on time when it came to paying the troops.

The Men at Home

Not all men were equally compelled to join the service. A letter written to the Indiana Messenger expresses one man's frustration with this inequality:

"A Chance for All

We would like to see a company of volunteers raised in Indiana County, composed of brokers, lawyers, doctors, merchants, and wealthy editors, if there are any such in the county. The company should be made up entirely of men who are able to leave their families comfortably provided for…If any person is to be hurt or killed, the wealthy should have at least an equal chance with the poor…Those who are in a manner, destitute of property – who fight only for the glorious institutions under which we have lived and prospered, are in the field bravely contending with the rebels. Will those possessed of wealth longer hesitate or delay? It is the poorer class generally, who have left our county…The rich have done the most and loudest talking. They have been bold in proclaiming…-but for some reason or other, seem to be backward about assisting…In the borough of Indiana alone, there are many men possessed of immense wealth who are qualified in every respect to discharge the duties of a soldier (Stephenson 630-1)."

Not all the rich avoided service, however. Two of Judge Thomas White’s sons served in the military.

Later Recruitment

After the initial rush to enlist, men were less eager to enter the service once the horrors of the war became more apparent. Men were dying in the field and others were deserting. The need for men had continued to increase, so the government turned other means in order to meet the needs of the Army. The government began to offer bounties, which would be paid to every man who volunteered. A draft was instituted after even more men were required following the devastating losses at Bull Run, Harper’s Ferry, and Antietam. The draft spurred more men to volunteer because volunteer soldiers could choose which regiment and position to join. Other men found ways to dodge the draft by hiring substitutes to go to war in their place. These inducements were effective in raising enough troops, even if these men were not as inspired by patriotic spirit as their predecessors (Stephenson 632-3).

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