Last modified: Friday, March 18, 2005
Civil War soldier's memoir featured in Indiana Magazine of History
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- To commemorate the beginning of its 100th year of publication, the Indiana Magazine of History has produced a special thematic issue on "The Civil War and Abraham Lincoln."
In the lead article of the March issue, George P. Clark, an emeritus professor at Hanover College now residing in Louisville, Ky., presents the Civil War memoir of Sgt. Louis Bir of the 93rd Indiana Infantry Regiment. The 93rd Indiana fought throughout the western theater of the Civil War. Bir wrote his memoir late in his life when he was a successful businessman in New Albany, Ind.
In an engaging narrative style, Bir wrote of both the horrors of the war and its lighter moments. For example, he described the battle for Jackson, Miss., and then the behavior of the Union troops after they had taken the city:
"This was our first Severe battle. Had been many Little Brushes & Here it was that I Had a Shell to tare off Parts of Both of my Pant Legs & Soon after a ball Struck the Butt of my gun and took off the Stock and it was here that company B of our Regimant Lost 9 men By one Shell and it was Here that a few of our fellows got in an old frame house thinking thay would be safe & thay hadent more than got in and behind it untill there was not Less then Dozan Shells Struck it and if you Ever saw a Scatterment it was at this time the fellows coming out of all openings Windows & doors.
"By Evening the Rain ceased & So did the Johnnies for Jackson was ours. Our regiment went into camp at the West of town and all the boys broke for town & We had a Bonfire all that night So the boys could get away with their Whisky Tobacco and all Kind of Supplies. I Being a-good-Boy Just got a couple of Hams did not chew tobacco or drink Whisky -- when I could not get it. But By 9 oclock that night the Whole of Shurmans Corps Was Drunk. If (Confederate Gen.) Johnson had came back that Night I think one Regiment could have taken the Whole army."
Bir's description of the Confederate surrender of Mobile, Ala., near the end of the war gave a glimpse of the war's devastating effects on the South:
"At the Surrender of the Forts it was our Lot to guard a Regiment of Alabamy I think the 86 Alabamy & thay were all boys. Lots of them did not Look Like thay were over 12 or 13 yeers old, a great many of them crying and wanted to go Home. I allso Recollect a Remark one of the Old veteran Rebles made as they were marched by our command. He said, Well I'll Bedamned if Every Pine tree aint got a Dozen yankeys behind it & the woods is full of them no wonder thay can come and invade our country & Just do as thay Please."
In the first of two companion essays, Civil War historian J.D. Fowler places Bir's memoir in the context of other Civil War soldiers' writings. In the second essay, Clark offers details of Bir's life before and after the war.
Elsewhere in the issue, Darrel Bigham, a history professor at the University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, and a member of the national Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, provides readers with an overview of the important new Abraham Lincoln collections recently acquired by the Indiana Historical Society. The issue concludes with a review section featuring books about Lincoln and the Civil War.
The Indiana Magazine of History is published quarterly by the Department of History at Indiana University Bloomington in cooperation with the Indiana Historical Society, which offers the journal as a benefit of membership. For information on these articles, contact the editorial office at 812-855-4139. The magazine's Web site is at https://www.indiana.edu/~imaghist.