Thursday, January 9, 2014

Allen County in the Civil War

by Tom Castaldi

The Civil War Memorial in Lawton Park on Spy Run was dedicated on October 10, 1894.  Its inscription reads: “Tribute for patriotic citizens of Allen County who fell in defense of the Union 1861 – 1865 – Chickamauga, Vicksburg, Gettysburg.”

Civil War Monument in Lawton Park
Its installation was accompanied by a parade from downtown to the present-day Lawton Park led by the principal donors, Louis and Charles Centlivere.  A presentation was made by Robert Bell a prominent attorney of the day who had served in the Eighth Indiana Regiment of Volunteers during the Civil War.  A state senator, Bell was a close friend of the perennial Democratic nominee for the presidency, William Jennings Bryan, who visited the Bell home and once gave a speech from Bell’s front porch on the virtues of the silver standard.

Allen County participated in strong numbers in the Civil War, sending over 5,000 men into service.  Out of a county population of nearly 30,000, there were 489 who lost their lives. They fought mostly in the western theatres of the war, from Shiloh to Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Land for Lawton Park was originally purchased in 1864 and in 1865 it was the site of the only Indiana State Fair to be held in Fort Wayne.

Henry Lawton, a genuine hero of the nineteenth century, was born in Toledo, Ohio, and raised in Fort Wayne.  When the Civil War broke out in 1861, he joined the first Indiana regiment formed when President Lincoln called for volunteers to save the Union, and he soon was in the first engagements against the Confederacy.  In the Atlanta campaign he won the Congressional Medal of Honor, the first Fort Wayne native to have done so.

By the end of the war, Lawton, was a colonel and soon joined the regular army to fight in the Indian Wars.  He campaigned against the Sioux in 1876 - the same year Custer was defeated - and against the Utes in 1879.

In 1886 and 1887, Lawton participated in the campaigns against the Apache chief Geronimo, chasing him through Arizona and into Mexico.  When they finally caught up with Geronimo, it was an officer in Lawton’s command who finally convinced the great chief to surrender.

Statue of Lawton in Lakeside Park
Later in 1899, Lawton was placed in charge of the American forces assigned to put down the Philippine rebellion after the Spanish-American War.  During a campaign in the Luzon mountains, Lawton was killed by a sniper on December 19, 1899.  Ironically, the guerilla soldier who shot Lawton was named Geronimo.

In 1899 North Side Park was renamed Lawton Park as a tribute paid to the fallen soldier by his hometown.  A statue of the General by sculptor Frederick C. Hibbard stands in Lakeside Park at Lake and Crescent avenues.

Originally published in Fort Wayne Magazine 
 “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – April 2007 No. 31
Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast at 6:35 a.m., 8:35 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on WLYV-1450 AM and WRRO 89.9 FM. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog, “Our Stories,” at history


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