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Civil War author to speak at Bloomfield Library: "Johnny comes marching home to Greene County"

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

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BLOOMFIELD -- In June and July of 1864 Civil War soldiers from the Greene County company of the famed Fourteenth Indiana Regiment began returning home from the long and deadly war. D Company, under Colonel Elijah H.C. Cavins, was one of the most honored companies in one of the most famous of the Midwestern regiments in the East in the war.

Civil War author Nancy Baxter will speak at the Bloomfield Library on Thursday, June 19, 6:30-7:30 p.m. on "Johnny Comes Marching Home to Greene County and Southern Indiana." A new edition of her book The Dream Divided: Indiana in the Civil War a Novel has just been released.

The boys from Bloomfield and Linton and the countryside in Greene County had done an extraordinary thing as the last days of their three-year enlistment wore down in early June of 1864.

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They had recently fought in the grinding campaigns to stop the South and end the war, in 1863 at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and in '64 at the Wilderness in early May and now, after Bloody Spotsylvania May 8-21 when the rest of the Fourteenth Indiana regiment headed for home, the men of D Company of Greene County voted to stay on, beyond their time.

Why did they do it? Very few companies in the war stayed beyond their "contracts," in this case three years. They had signed on as volunteers in April of '62 as part of one of the first-call regiments as Lincoln appealed for soldiers to defend the Capitol after Ft. Sumter. Putnam County men were also in the company. The regiment was part of the Gibraltar Brigade, so named by General French for courage at the Battle of Antietam. And now Cavins' boys agreed to stay and fight again--this time at Cold Harbor, May 31-June 12, where there were 7,000 Union casualties in less than an hour of fighting.

The boys survived and came home, starting a new era. Their colonel, Elijah Cavins, returned to practice law in Bloomfield. And the answer to the question "Why did they do it?" is found in the men's loyalty to Cavins as leader of their company and eventually the regiment. Everybody respected him; his fellow officer Major William Houghton called him "the most perfect man I have ever met." Cavins was not present at the Battle of Cold Harbor. He had been sent to the occupied South to head up a prison camp. But regimental records say "The men of D Company, Greene County, stayed on in honor of their leader, Elijah Cavins."

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Baxter is also author of Gallant Fourteenth: The Story of a Civil War Regiment and the new history of the Martin County Guards, company C of the Fourteenth from Loogootee. Her books will be available at the library program. She is the 2000 recipient of the Eli Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award of the Indiana Historical Society.



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