2014 Essay Contest Honorable Mention, Junior Division
Kye, 7th grade
Teacher: Dana Tucker
School: HomeLife Academy | Tennessee
Preserving 150 Years of History: Life at War
The Fiftieth Indiana Infantry was formed in Seymour, Indiana, in September 1861 and mustered in October. On Christmas Day and under the command of Col. Cyrus L. Dunham, the Infantry exited the state for Bardstown, Kentucky. One of the hardships for many soldiers was separation from family during holidays and for extended periods of time. It would be several Christmas seasons before most of the Fiftieth Infantry would see their families again. For others, that reunion would never occur.
The journey from Seymour to Bardstown, and eventually to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where they were assigned to railroad guard duty for almost a year, covered over 170 miles. Civil War soldiers on the march would typically travel about fifteen miles per day regardless of weather conditions. Increasing the difficulty of the journey, soldiers often shouldered 50 pound packs full of needed supplies.
Members of the Fiftieth Indiana Infantry also endured an additional hardship after moving to Munfordville, Kentucky, in September 1862. Dunham’s forces surrendered to Confederate General Braxton Bragg on September 14 and were imprisoned until being paroled in October in exchange for Confederate soldiers. While it is not known exactly what the Fiftieth Infantry underwent during imprisonment, conditions were unthinkable for most prisoners of war. Sickness, crowding, malnutrition, disease, and even death were commonplace in the camps.
After the exchange, Dunham’s troops made the 425 mile trek to Parker’s Crossroads,Tennessee, where they participated in a battle against Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, capturing 500 prisoners and seven pieces of artillery.
Parker’s Crossroads is located 20 miles northeast of Jackson, Tennessee. Though not a major battle site such as Gettysburg, Bull Run, Antietam, or its neighbor, Shiloh, Parker’s Crossroads is worth preserving. Thanks to the efforts of the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) and the Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield Association (PCBA), the smaller battle site is being protected for generations to come, helping to tell a more complete story of the Civil War.
As CWPT President James Lighthizer said during the 2006 Dedication Ceremony, “It means this sacred ground will be preserved forever. People can come and remember. Future generations will not be able to meet future challenges without hearing from the past.”