SESQUICENTENNIAL “SIGNATURE EVENT”
Honoring Private John Auten and the Civil War Soldiers from Indiana 
Sponsored by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War,
the Department of Indiana and the David Dixon Porter Camp
With a Civil War Encampment to be Held on the
Campus of the Northern Indiana Center for History
July 23 2011 – South Bend, Indiana

To all Departments and Camps:

It is official the John Auten Program has been recognized as a “Signature Event” by the Sons of Union Veterans.

What does this mean?

First the Sons attending our program will be able to obtain the “Signature Program” passport, medal and coin.  If you already have a passport you will be able to get it stamped at the D.D. Porter Camp tent the day of the program.

So when is it and what will be happening?

The Auten Program will be on July 23rd, in downtown South Bend, Indiana beginning at 11am EST and it is FREE

Part one of the day’s events will take place on the old courthouse steps (the corner of Washington and Lafayette) which is the same building where Pvt. Auten’s funeral was held in 1862.

After the SUVCW’s Commander-in-Chief gives the keynote address there will be a procession to the South Bend City Cemetery (.8 of a mile) where a new Auten headstone will be dedicated.

*****PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU CAN DRIVE TO THE CEMETERY IF YOU LIKE – there will be plenty of on street parking on Colfax Street*****

Along the procession route two Civil War artillery groups will be firing off salutes to John Auten

Other activities include a wreath laying ceremony and the posting of the guard at the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors monument at 10am EST.  (Note this is around the corner from the old courthouse on Washington Street)

The city of South Bend has declared July 23rd to be John Auten Day and proclamations from the Governor’s office and the Indiana House of Representatives will be on display.

Additionally there will be a John Auten Postal Cachet with a special Auten Cancel available from the USPS at a small cost.

Also D. D. Porter Camp will have their own John Auten ribbons and coins available

And there will be a Civil War Encampment on the grounds of the Northern Indiana Center for History.  If you are interested call Travis Childs at 574-235-9664 ext. #242 or e-mail education@centerforhistory.org for more information.

Come as you are or wear your uniforms and period dress – this will be an outstanding event that is educational, interesting and fun!!!!!

Please pass this information on to your members and other interested parties

For more information e-mail Mike Downs at mpdowns51@yahoo.com *

*Mr. Downs is a retired United States History teacher, author and is currently the Junior Vice-Commander, Department of Indiana, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

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Private John Auten

 

On April 15th, 1861 President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteer soldiers for a ninety day enlistment to help defeat the rebelling southern states. By 1865 over 277,000 Hoosiers had left their homes to fight and die in places that many of them had never heard of. With a census population in 1860 of roughly 1,200,000 people Indiana sent nearly 51 percent of their military age men to take up arms, thus based on the percent of the population that went off to fight only one state ranked higher. Also from the state numerous Catholic Priests, Nuns and others from many religious backgrounds provided spiritual and nursing care for the fighting men. Private John Auten was one of the first to volunteer from our state and the first to make the ultimate sacrifice being one of the more that 365,000 northern soldiers to die in the Civil War. As such John Auten represents all the soldiers that fought to keep our country united and free and should have special recognition at the beginning of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

Soon after the Presidents’ call for men to fight Pvt. Auten enlisted in the 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry at a Union rally on the courthouse steps in South Bend. At the rally Congressman Schuyler Colfax and other leaders from St. Joseph County urged men to enlist and put the “traitorous secessionist” in their place. Auten was one of a hundred men in company I of Colonel Robert H. Milroy’s Ninth I.V.I. On May 29, 1861 the regiment was sent off to the western part of Virginia (now the state of West Virginia) and saw “the elephant” for the first time during an attack on the rebel’s forces at Phillippi, Virginia. On July the 10th, just 15 days before his enlistment was up, Pvt. Auten and a friend joined a scouting party which went into the Confederate lines and was killed by a rebel picket. The account of his death follows:

“West of the Staunton turnpike, and not far from the Rebel works, was an old field, with here and there a clump of blackberries, a group of dead trees, or a pile of logs. On the east was a dense wood, with an undergrowth of laurel. One day field and wood were alive with skirmishers. In the wood the Rebels were comparatively safe, but our soldiers in the field must creep stealthily from log to tree, and from tree to bush, take aim with keen glance and rapid hand. A youth, with delicate face and form and light curling hair, lay behind a log near the road. He had in his hand a revolver, which he had taken from a dead Rebel officer the day before. Restless and impatient, he determined to cross the road and penetrate the dangerous wood. With swift step he put the thought into execution, cleared the road, hid in the thicket. A few minutes, and two shots were fired; then on the evening air rose a scream, so awful that no man who heard it will forget it to his dying day. Mortal agony was in that shrill cry. The skirmishers in the field sprang to their feet, and drew instantly together. The hasty and perilous resolve was made to dash into the wood. In the laurel, a few steps from the road, they found the bleeding, lifeless body of the reckless boy. He was John Auten, of the Ninth.” (The Soldier of Indiana in the War for the Union - Vol. 1., p. 49.)

The men of the regiment recovered his body and it was returned to South Bend where his family and the citizens of the county mourned their first lost. On August 2, 1861 Auten’s funeral was held in the county courthouse and more that 5,000 people turned out to help celebrate his sacrifice. After a eulogy by Congressman Colfax and a service by the Reverend J. C. Reed the casket was carried in a procession to the South Bend City Cemetery.

Soon after the war ended and as the soldiers returned to their homes the veterans formed the Grand Army of the Republic. The purpose of the GAR was to help the soldiers as problems arose in their lives, to serve as a patriotic group to remind the citizens of the sacrifices the soldiers made in keeping our country united and free and to act as a social group where the veterans could be with other vets who had made similar sacrifices.  The Grand Army of the Republic recognized John Auten as the first soldier to be slain from the state of Indiana.  In Indiana, the Civil War veterans in the South Bend area formed the John Auten Post, #8 in 1866 and was the only group to remain active in the state until the Grand Army of the Republic was reconstituted in the late 1870’s. For a 1912 Department of Indiana Encampment in South Bend the post created a medal to honor John Auten and written on the likeness of the private were the words; “First Union Soldier From Indiana Killed In 1861” (see badges below).  In the 1970’s, a short history of the Indiana Department of the Grand Army of the Republic, written by Argus Ogborn, Past Department Commander of the Sons of Union Veterans, also made note that John Auten was the first Indiana soldier to die in the war. Finally the St Joseph County Public Library has a beautiful, leather bound “Descriptive Book” given to the post by the Studebaker brothers of South Bend.


(Note, all pertinent details were taken from the following sources: A History Of St. Joseph County Indiana by Timothy E. Howard, Lewis Publishing Co. 1907, The Civil War Day By Day, An Almanac 1861 – 1865, by E. B. and Barbara Long, Da Capo Press, 1971), and Indiana In The Civil War 1850 – 1880 by Emma Thornbrough, published by the Indiana Historical Society, 1965, and The Soldier of Indiana in the War for the Union - Vol. 1, Merrill and Company Indianapolis, 1866.)


See Also: Indiana Governor Mitch Daniel's Proclamation of the Civil War Sesquicentennial and Pvt. John Auten


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Submitted by Michael Downs with assistance from Tim Beckman


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This Web Page Last Updated: 06/26/2011



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