Veterans Make Connections With Civil War Counterparts In New Howard County Exhibit

KOKOMO, Indiana — It’s a distance of time, 150 years of time, a life in a different era and a fight in a different world. Despite that, Howard County Historical Society has built a bridge to that time, life and fight in their newest addition at the Seiberling Mansion, the Civil War Exhibit.

The exhibit, nestled in the Seiberling Mansion’s former gift shop, is a gift in itself as it goes beyond displaying weapons of the war. It also tells a story from the soldiers themselves; one featured letter is written by Thomas J. Harrison and details what he and his troops did on a July 1864 raid through Alabama and parts of Georgia.

The original letter is drawn up with immaculate writing on worn paper from an era so distant it can be hard to imagine. However, volunteer Randy Smith said reading through Harrison’s letters provoked more than interest, but a connection that time couldn’t dilute.


Smith said he served his country overseas for 13 years. He said reading about Harrison’s experiences from a land not his own through Harrison’s own words was a feeling that resonated with him.

Harrison “reflects on his first year of service to his country and how it’s changed him and how it’s helped him understand people,” he said. “Reading that from the perspective of a veteran helped me understand that a lot better than if I was someone reading the letters and wasn’t a veteran.”

However, Smith said the connection between the men featured in the exhibit is the real story.

“Finding the connections with the people was a lot of fun,” he said. “William Markland, who was sick and sent home on furlough, was mentioned by name in a Harrison letter because they were in the same unit. So the connections between the people are one of the things I found interesting. Although John Wilder, a state commander for the 17th Indiana infantry regiment, was from New York State, he became commander after Milo Haskill was promoted from commander of the 17th Indiana to general. The two men undoubtedly knew each other. Just finding those connections was very interesting, and how many there were for how small of a pool of men we were working with was very surprising.”

Stewart Lauterbach, Howard County Historical Society curator, added the stories visitors will find in the walls of the exhibit even surprised him — and he’s been in the business for 27 years.

“The story of Thomas Kirkpatrick (was shocking),” said Lauterbach. “He was reported killed in action and when he showed up back home after the war ,his wife apparently couldn’t handle that. So for the rest of her life with him — she passed before he did — she would not acknowledge his presence. (Kirkpatrick) slept out in the barn and if they went to town she rode in the carriage and he had to follow her on a horse.”

Another favorite tale Lauterbach shared was the story of the 5-year-old Civil War veteran, just one of the many stories of Hoosiers in history highlighted in the Civil War Exhibit.

However, he said in addition to the handwritten letters, the stories and the artifacts it’s the understanding of what Hoosiers were able to accomplish in a war so long ago that will stand out to guests.

He said visitors “will be able to see what men from this state helped do to keep the country whole and how they did it,” he said.


Information from: Kokomo Tribune,

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