Collectors Bring Home Pieces of Civil War

Kokomo — Two Howard County men have each spent more than three decades collecting items from the Civil War, and in many respects, both collections are priceless.

Craig Dunn has focused on photographs, letters and diaries from Indiana soldiers who served with the Union Army while Kenny Lawrence has a large collection of weaponry, equipment and documents.

Lawrence said his brother started collecting in the 1970s.

“He had a pistol that he was taking to sell at a gun show in Indianapolis,” Lawrence said. “I bought it before we left Howard County.

From that point in 1980, Lawrence has collected numerous other weapons, including muskets, carbine rifles, pistols and swords.

He has a musket that is from the Harper’s Ferry Arsenal, which John Brown attacked prior to the start of the Civil War. He also has muskets that were used by the first sharpshooters in the Army, who were required to hit an eight-inch bull’s-eye from 200 yards away.

Also among the prized items in his collection are books, flags, photographs, lithographs, flags and equipment used by soldiers during the war years.

Lawrence has a display of photographs from the Iron Brigade, including a picture of the first reunion of the 19th Indiana Regiment taken in 1871.

The collection also includes the battle flag of the 124th New York Infantry, complete with bullet holes suffered in combat, and a regimental flag for an Alabama regiment.

“I don’t know what it’s worth,” Lawrence said of the collection.

A portion of his collection is dedicated to the Grand Army of the Republic, and he has attended various reunions over the years.

He would like the city of Kokomo or a historical society to purchase a portion of the collection to put on permanent display.

Dunn, who has authored two books about Indiana troops in the Civil War, has a collection of more than 3,000 original Civil War photographs. His collection includes letters, diaries and manuscripts written by Hoosier soldiers.

A history minor at Ball State University, Dunn said he grew up with a real interest in the Civil War and World War II.

“I remember growing up, my father telling me when he was growing up around Oakford, they would go down to where the trains would go through on Ind. 26 to watch the troops going over to World War I,” he said. “We talked history at the dinner table. … I grew up with an interest in it.”

Dunn said in the 1970s, he read the three-volume series on the Civil War written by Bruce Catton, and was hooked.

“Early in the 1980s I got my first Civil War photograph, it was a tin type,” he said. “When I took it out of the case the soldier’s name was on it. I started doing some research and found out he was killed in action. Later I learned where he was at when he was killed in action.

“It’s not just photographs,” Dunn continued, “these were living, breathing people that did these things. I quickly discovered truth is far stranger than fiction.”

Dunn said he found a photograph of an Indiana soldier who happened to be walking down the street from Ford’s Theater the night President Abraham Lincoln was shot.

“He was Jeriah Dinkins from the 19th Indiana,” he said. “When they transported Lincoln across the street, they grabbed him for guard duty right outside the house where Lincoln died.

He has no intention of ever selling the collection and would like to donate it to Ball State University or an historical organization with an endowment to hire a curator.

“I have several images that are favorites of mine,” he said. “One is a 1864 photo of the officers of the 19th Indiana, before they went into their final campaign. I feel like I know those guys, most were killed or wounded.”

Dunn said he is most interested in the Battle of Antietam, which took place on Sept. 17, 1862, in Maryland. It is the bloodiest single-day battle in U.S. history with 23,000 casualties.

“It was the great turning point in the war,” he said, “it really was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. You can stand on the battlefield and get a feel for what took place. The 19th Indiana Regiment played a pivotal role.”

In addition to the research he has done into the pieces in his collection, Dunn has also authored two books: “Iron Men, Iron Will: 19th Indiana Regiment”, and “Harvetfields of Death; 20th Indiana Volunteers at Gettysburg”.

He has also done all the research for a third book on the 57th Indiana Regiment.

Dunn said his favorite parts of his first two books are the epilogues, because they relate what the soldiers did after the war.

About the author:
• Ken de la Bastide is the Kokomo Tribune enterprise editor.


DISCLAIMER: Neither Indiana VA Mortgages ( nor NEO Home Loans is affiliated with any government agencies, including the VA.