O Captain, My Captain

Discharge papers from the 8th Indiana Infantry for L.K. Harris. (Click to enlarge).

L.K. Harris served his first three months in the Civil War under a man named Mayberry M. Lacey.  After his three-month service in the 8th Indiana Infantry, Captain Lacey became Adjutant in the 69th Indiana Infantry and served with L.K. Harris in that unit until the end of the war.

Prior to the war, Mayberry Lacey was clerking in J.S. Starr’s clothing store in Richmond, Indiana.  He claims to be the first man to volunteer as a private on April 17, 1861.  Years later he recalled, “I lived in Richmond when the guns of Sumpter woke the nation to a realization of the fact that war was upon us.”

The very same day he volunteered, Lacey was elected first lieutenant of William P. Benton’s company.  The whole company went to Indianapolis the next morning and “within a week Captain Benton was made colonel of the regiment and I was promoted to captain.”

In mid-June, General McClellan sent the 8th Indiana to western Virginia to join the force he was building there.  On July 11th, the 8th played an important role in defeating the Confederates at Rich Mountain.  The 8th captured “1500 stands of arms, 5 guns and 1000 prisoners, and all their camp equipage.”  The only banner in the engagement at Rich Mountain was that of the 8th Indiana, emblazoned with the motto, “Above us or Around us.”

After the battle, the Battle Axe of Freedom (a Richmond newspaper) reported “Capt. Lacy won enduring laurels at the battle of Rich Mountain, for his coolness and bravery.  An eye witness tells us that he was foremost in the charge that made the rebels fly, and gave more than one ‘secesh’ striking proof of the excellence of the sword made for him by Henry Hunter of this city.”

Mayberry M. Lacey and the other field staff of the 69th Indiana Infantry. Lacey is seated on the left. (Click to enlarge).

Many years after the war, Lacey proudly told his family, “I never missed a march or a battle, was wounded twice, once quite badly and taken prisoner.  I soldiered in every southern state but two, Georgia and South Carolina…That War of 61 to 65, its marches, drear and long many of them, the camp, the bivouac, the battle line, the sickening after screams of dead and wounded, seems only a fretful dream.”

On August 5, 1861, L.K. was discharged as a 4th Corporal in Lacey’s Company D of the 8th Indiana Infantry.  L.K. immediately went on to serve nine months in the 36th Indiana Infantry, while Lacey recovered from sickness at home.  Then in the fall of 1862, they both joined the 69th Indiana Infantry.  They served together through many of the war’s greatest battles until the war ended in 1865.

A 1903 letter from Mayberry M. Lacey to a family member in which he recounts his life, including his Civil War service, is in an Earlham College Archival Collection.

Mayberry M. Lacey’s dress sword was recently donated to the Wayne County (Indiana) Historical Museum.  You can see a picture of the sword and read more about Lacey’s life in an Indianapolis Star article from June 7, 2011.

For more details on William P. Benton and the first Wayne County company, see my previous post, William P. Benton and the Wayne County Boys.

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3 Responses to O Captain, My Captain

  1. Mark McCollum says:

    Maberry Lacey is my great great great great uncle and I have been collecting information about him over the past 15 years. He was also the chief of police in Richmond after the war.

    • Kris Love says:

      @mark McCollum, I would like to know more about M..M.Lacey. Elizabeth Lacey (his daughter) marries Clyde Powers (civil engineer Indiana). I discovered some of his memorbilla (signed letter dating 1864,) Id be happy to share my findings..

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