Choosing More War

A card from L.K.'s military record that shows he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in Company F of the 36th Indiana on September 1, 1861. (Click to enlarge).

In September 1861, Lewis K. Harris chose to go back to war.  Like many of the ninety-day men (those who joined the initial three-month units called for by President Lincoln and raised by the governors of several states), L.K. wanted to stay in the volunteer army and continue to fight for the preservation of the Union.

L.K.’s experience in the 8th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, his promotion to 4th corporal, and his involvement in the Battle of Rich Mountain all probably played a part in his being commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the newly formed 36th Indiana Volunteer Infantry.

On September 21, 1861, the Broad Axe of Freedom (a local newspaper) listed all the officers and members of Captain George Hoover’s company.  L.K.  is listed third below the captain and his 1st lieutenant, Isaac F. Ogborn.  Captain Hoover’s company was raised primarily in Richmond.  Typically the captains and lieutenants helped fill the companies.  L.K. may have actively recruited some of the men himself.

A page from the Quartermaster's Book for Company F of the 36th. At the top, you can see that the enlistment date is September 1, 1861. All along the right hand column, you can see Lieutenant L.K. Harris' signature, acknowledging the supplies given to the soldiers of Company F on October 12th. (Click to enlarge).

The 36th had been forming for several weeks at Camp Wayne in Richmond.  According to L.K.’s official military record, he enlisted on September 1st.  That same enlistment date is given for the unit as a whole in the Quartermaster’s Book for the 36th.

During the first few weeks of September, young men arrived and prepared to be soldiers.  Robert Best, an eventual member of Company H, arrived at Camp Wayne on September 6th.  The very next day, he woke up to a bugle call, drilled for an hour before breakfast, then went to see Colonel William Grose to take the Oath of Allegiance.  L.K.’s experience was probably similar.  In fact, as a 2nd lieutenant, he may have led some of the drills himself.

George Hoover’s company reached full strength in time to be mustered in as Company F of the 36th on September 16th.

September was filled with drill, guard duty, dress parade and lots of rain.

The 36th continued to organize and drill until October 11th, when they left for Indianapolis.  Their first day there, each soldier received an allotment of clothing.  Lieutenant L.K. Harris recorded these in the Quartermaster’s Book (see image above).

While in Indianapolis, the soldiers encamped at Camp Murphy.  The rain continued.  On October 19th, Robert Best wrote home to his brother: “the weather has been a little hard on us for a few days, but our ‘little while houses’ turn water admirably, and the ground on which we are camped is of a gravelly nature and dries very quickly.”

By October 25th, four companies of the 36th had received their Enfield rifles.  A few others were to receive muskets while still at Camp Murphy.  The final two companies had to wait until their next stop in Kentucky to receive their firearms.

After a couple of weeks in Indianapolis, the 36th joined General Don Carlos Buell’s force in New Haven, Kentucky (thirty miles west of Louisville) on October 30th.  They called their new home “Camp Grose” after their leader, Colonel William Grose.  In a letter to his cousin, Maurice Williams from Company G of the 36th described what it was like at the camp in late November 1861:

Colonel William Grose

We have not had any Cold Weather worth nameing yet.  We are very Comfortable so far…We also have plenty to eat.  Such as fresh beef potatoes and so forth.  We have to eat hard Crackers now….

General Buel has not been With us any yet.  Colonel Grose is the Commander of the first in his absence.  We have our guns loaded all the time and keep our things ready to March at any Moment.

The 36th stayed at New Haven until December 15th, “trying hard,” in the words of Colonel Grose, “day and night to cease to be citizens and learn to be soldiers, officers and men being fearful that the war would end and they would not get into a fight.”


To read the diary of Robert Best, a member of Company H of the 36th, see the digital archive at the Allen County (Indiana) Public Library.

To read more of Maurice Williams’ letter to his cousin, see the digital archive at the American Heritage Center

To learn more about the 36th, you can find Stories and Marches of the Thirty-sixth Indiana by William Grose at GoogleBooks.

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