NEW ALBANY — War has a habit of bringing out a certain kind of excitement in young men, at least with those who have never seen combat.
During the Civil War, New Albany’s boys who joined the ranks of Indiana’s 23rd Union Army regiment weren’t much different. Mostly comprised of Clark, Harrison and Floyd County volunteers, the 23rd had no problem in July 1861 mustering enough soldiers to go fight the rebels in the South.
“Even though there was significant Southern sympathy in Floyd County and New Albany and probably all along our side of the [Ohio] river, still they didn’t have any trouble recruiting,” said professor Curt Peters, a local historical researcher and interim vice chancellor for academic affairs at Indiana University Southeast.
Gathering near the old fairgrounds to prepare for duty, men who volunteered as infantry soldiers generally came from area farms and other working-class employment. Officers, on the other hand, most likely belonged to the merchant and higher social classes. For example, Col. William Sanderson, the commander of the regiment, was a cabinet maker in New Albany and had distinguished himself in the Mexican War.
First Lt. Shadrach Hooper, a member of Indiana’s 23rd, wrote a brief recollection of his time serving during the Civil War. Peters said much of what we know about the regiment comes from this document. In the piece, Hooper described the difficulties of living in a border state.
“The business and social intercourse of the people of Southern Indiana, by reason of the great waterway which made their interests mutual, being largely with the people of the South, it could be truly said of the 23rd Indiana that it was a case of brother contending against brother, father against son and chum against schoolmate,” Hooper said in his writing.
Heading out of New Albany in the summer of 1861, the soldiers took a train to Indianapolis followed by a jaunt to St. Louis. Peters said the local newspaper reported quite a bit on the regiment, but later was criticized for printing these articles for fear the South might use them to determine troop movement and other strategies.