A History of the 31st Indiana Volunteer Infantry
A New Regiment is Formed
The "War of the Rebellion" or Civil War was on. Excitement was high in and around the town of Terre Haute, Indiana. The DAILY WABASH EXPRESS of Terre Haute, reported that a citizens meeting was held the night of April 16th, 1861 at the Court House. The crowd was large and enthusiastic and many could not get in. Upon displaying the "Stars and Stripes" the band enthusiastically played "The Star Spangled Banner" while the crowd saluted the flag. Speeches were given by several of the area's prominent citizens to rally support for the Union.
Within days after the firing on Fort Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 troops to serve for a term of three-months. There were to be 94 new regiments, of which Indiana's quota was to be 6 new regiments. Indiana's newly inaugurated governor, Oliver P. Morton, was a very strong and proactive leader. In response to what he perceived to be a weak and unprepared central government, he took immediate steps to prepare for war. Governor Morton acted quickly by issuing a proclamation calling for the six regiments. Response was very high and there were enough for several more regiments.
Never has the contributions and influences of a state been such a factor in determining the outcome of National or for that matter World events ever occurred. States, both northern and southern rallied to support their cause in terms of not only men, but tremendous financial and material means.
Below is an example
of the wording found in an advertisement that started appearing in the
DAILY WABASH EXPRESS paper of Terre Haute in July of 1861. The paper just
so happened to be owned by Charles Cruft.
The locations that men signed up for the 31st were varied. Some early recruits went to Indianapolis for enlistment at Camps Sullivan and Camp Morton. Others either signed up at the Vigo county Court House or in their local village or town. My Great, Great Grandfather, Andrew Gosnell enlisted in the small village of New Goshen Indiana.
Andrew was enrolled as a private. He and his fellow "Vigo Rangers" and the other 9 companys were officially mustered in as the 31st Indiana Volunteer Infantry on the 15th of September for a term of 3 years. At the time he joined the regiment he was 26 years of age. The Military Records showed Andrew to have Blue Eyes with Light Hair and a Sandy Complexion. Andrew's height was 5 foot, 8 inches, which was the average height of Indiana Civil War soldiers.
When companies formed they called themselves by Company Names or Guard Names and not by letters. Only once the regiment was formed were they assigned a Company Letter.
The regions that the companies of the 31st Indiana were formed from are shown Below.
The Regiment was officially mustered in as the 31st Indiana Volunteer Infantry on September 20, 1861 by Lt. Col. Wood of the U.S. Army. All did not go smooth at Camp Vigo. There were shortages of uniforms and arms. There was even an attempted group desertion at the camp, which was foiled. The regiment drilled and drilled at camp Vigo.
On to Evansville, then Camp Calhoun
About sundown on the 21st of September, the 31st received its marching orders for 5 companies. They packed up their things and headed toward the train depot in Terre Haute. Just after 9:00 p.m. they left for Evansville and arrived there the next morning around 7:00 a.m. There they received their arms and ammunition, but they had no provisions of food at that time. The good citizens of Evansville furnished the regiment a large breakfast.
The 31st had several camps in and around this area. The short lived camp near Evansville was called Camp Cruft. They camped in Spotsville, KY, Henderson KY and several other areas in this vicinity. Rumors flew about the area of possible invasions and so the 31st made several reconnaissance missions in the area.
On October 31st, 1861, Andrew Gosnell was placed on special guard duty at Lock No. 1 on the Green River. He remained on this special service until November 27, 1861.
Eventually the 31st Ind. along with other regiments from Indiana and Kentucky settled into a camp near Calhoun, KY called Camp Calhoun.
The 31st was originally under the command of Brigadier General George H. Thomas but in November they were under the command of Brigadier General Thomas L. Crittenden at Calhoun. Crittenden's division was under the command of General Don Carlos Buell's Army.
In late November there were the following regiments at Calhoun;
On December 28th, a few miles south of Camp Calhoun, near Sacramento, the "Battle of Sacramento" took place. Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry attacked a battalion of Major Eli H. Murray's 3rd Kentucky Cavalry. The 3rd Kentucky Cavalry was part of the force stationed at Camp Calhoun. Murray's men were on a scouting mission to locate Confederate troop movements in the area. This event brought the war close for the first time to the green soldiers of the 31st.
The winter spent in Camp Calhoun was not good. Poor sanitary conditions at the camp at Calhoun led to the death of many men by disease. A large infestation of rats contributed to the disease problems. Measles mumps, malarial fever, and rheumatism were epidemic. Visitors to Calhoun, Kentucky complained about the deplorable conditions as in a letter written on stationery from an Indianapolis Hotel to Governor O. P. Morton which describes the conditions that they found the soldiers in. A few excerpts from the letter are at right: (spelling copied as original)
Governor Morton assigned a Doctor to investigate the sanitary conditions of the 31st Indiana Volunteer Infantry camp at Calhoun. A report of the conditions was made and sent to Laz. Noble the Adjutant General of Indiana.
The 31st Indiana remained at Calhoun until February 9, 1862, when they embarked on board the steamer Ben J. Adams, and arrived at Paducah on the night of February 10th. The next morning they headed towards Fort Henry, up the Tennessee River. They then returned without disembarking, because Fort Henry had been taken the day before. They then ascended the Cumberland River, and arrived near Fort Donelson on the morning of February 14, 1862.
The Battle of Fort Donelson:
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At this time the 31st became part of the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Division of the Army of the Tennessee. The 1st Brigade was under the command of Colonel Charles Cruft and the 3rd Division was under the command of General Lew Wallace. The 1st Brigade was composed of the 31st Indiana, with Lieutenant Colonel Osborn temporarily commanding; the 25th Kentucky Volunteers, under Colonel James M. Shackelford; eight companies of the 44th Indiana Volunteers, under Colonel Hugh B. Reed and the 17th Kentucky Volunteers, under Colonel John H. McHenry.
On February the 15th around 8:30 a.m., General Lew Wallace's order was received to put the brigade in motion to the extreme right of the Union line for the purpose of reinforcing General McClernand's division. The brigade moved in column with the 25th Kentucky in advance, followed by the 31st Indiana, the 17th Kentucky, and the 44th Indiana. The 31st was to fall in to the left of the 25th Kentucky. Before the 31st reached it's position, it was exposed to a "galling" fire of musketry and artillery from a hill to their left. The regiment formed in line of battle at the foot of the hill and fired upon the enemy position. The enemy had outflanked the troops of the other brigade on the right and drove them back. The troops came rushing through the 31st's ranks near the center. The line quickly reformed on the hill to the right and rear of the previous position. During the confusion, Lieutenant Colonel Osborn and about 20 men became detached from the regiment and were unable to rejoin it during the day.
From the new position a heavy fire was poured into the enemy. The line moved farther to the right and again fired into the enemy which soon gave way. There were reports that the Confederates were forming in a hollow leading to the hospital in the rear. The regiment was ordered back to protect the hospital until about 4:00 p.m. At this time the 31st Indiana was then ordered to march into a ravine below the fort, on the extreme right of the Union line in support of the 11th Indiana and 8th Missouri regiments. The 31st formed to the left of the 17th Kentucky and charged the hill. The regiment reached a ravine immediately below the enemy's batteries and was exposed to a terrible fire of grape, shrapnel and shells. To avoid the fire, the regiment was moved farther up the ravine. Five companies of the 31st were ordered up the hill on the extreme left and the rest were sent to the right with the rest of the brigade to outflank the enemy and attack in the rear. The assault was a complete success. The Confederates retreated to within the works of the Fort. The regiment was ordered to fall back to where the fight on the hill was made and there encamp for the night. From this position they were to prepare to storm the works early in the morning. The regiment slept on the hillside and were woke early the following morning on the 16th. They were drawn up in column and made ready to march to the assault until word came that the Confederates had surrendered. This was the very first fight for the 31st Indiana, and they performed gallantly.
STATS for Fort Donelson: 9 killed, 52 wounded, 6 of these Mortally, and 1 missing;
Battle of Shiloh:
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Andrew Gosnell and the regiment marched to the previously captured Fort Henry. On March 9th the regiment loaded aboard the steamboat "Fannie Bullit" and started up the Tennessee River in the company of 75 other Steam Boats and 4 Gun Boats. An enlisted man noted that the trip was "pleasant" with "fine scenery". On March 13th the boat landed at Savannah, Tennessee.
The regiment later moved to Pittsburg Landing on the 16th. Here on the 18th, the 31st set up camp about a mile from the river, near the crossroads of the Hamburg and Savannah road and the road from Pittsburgh to Corinth. At this time the 31st was part of the 3rd Brigade, 4th Division, of Brigadier General Steven A. Hurlbut of the Army of the Tennessee which was under the command of Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant.
On April 5th the 3rd Brigade was placed under Brigadier General Jacob Lauman. The regiments of the Brigade were the same as at Fort Donelson, the 31st Indiana under Charles Cruft, the 44th Indiana, the 17th Kentucky and the 25th Kentucky.
Early Sunday morning on April 6th the rapid volleys of musketry from camps to the front indicated the commencement of the battle. At 7:30 Gen. Hurlbut received an urgent message from Sherman for help. He ordered Lauman to have the brigade form for action. In a little over 10 minutes the brigade line was formed and moving in column along the Hamburg Road. Prentiss' refugees were streaming back through the division. Hurlbut realized he could advance no further. The 31st with the brigade was formed in front of the famous sunken road and in the Hornet's Nest.
The battle was progressing actively upon the right and left of the main line. Soon the Confederates attacked the brigade in great force and with much desperation. This first attack was probably made by Col. Winfield Statham's 3rd Brigade under John C. Breckenridge.
The confederate advance came to within 10 yards of their line and was repulsed by a "cool and steady fire". Each man expended approximately 30 rounds. Col. Cruft wrote that "the slaughter among the enemy in its front was terrible. A second attack was shortly made with increased fury. The line stood unbroken, however, and after exhausting nearly the last cartridge again repulsed the enemy. Here a slight cessation in the attack occurred, barely long enough to procure fresh ammunition from the rear. The boxes of the men were scarcely filled before the enemy were the third time upon us. The line stood firm, and again succeeded against superior numbers. There was now a short cessation of firing, during which the cartridge-boxes of the men were again filled. A fourth assault was soon made, which was gallantly repulsed, and the enemy withdrew, leaving my regiment, with the balance of the brigade, in position. The enemy, retreated and moved off toward the left of the main line."
Colonel Cruft states, "During the action my regiment fired an average of about 100 rounds per man. The piles of the enemy's dead which were lying along our front when he retreated attested the accuracy and steadiness of the fire."Seeing that the Union left was about to be swept, Gen. Hurlbut ordered the brigade to move to the left about 2 p.m. For some minutes the brigade was halted near the Hamburg road, to protect Willard's battery, that was then playing upon the enemy. Cruft continues, "The various regiments were then moved farther to the left, and our regiment ordered to the extreme left, and placed in position to await the expected attack.
An Illinois regiment subsequently formed to our left and rear. The action soon commenced to the right. It was apparent, from the reports of skirmishers sent to the front and from observations, that the enemy were preparing to flank our line to the left in great force. This was shortly accomplished. Regiment after regiment marched up from a large ravine to the left, moving in echelon, in compact lines, with Confederate flags flying, in perfect order, as if on parade, and came steadily down upon our small front.
An order was given for our left to advance. My regiment did so promptly. It was soon evident that the advance could not be sustained, in the absence of a reserve, against the overwhelming force of well-disciplined troops of the enemy. After my regiment had fired some 10 rounds the regiment to the left was forced back. An order was now given along the entire line to fall back, and a general retreat was made about 3:30 o'clock p.m. to a ridge nearer the river, [Grants Last Line]. Here the regiment was again formed in brigade line and marched up to the support of a section of a battery of large siege guns, and occupied this position during the desperate fight which closed the day. After the final repulse of the enemy the regiment was moved forward, with the residue of the brigade, about three-fourths of a mile, and there bivouacked for the night, at about 7:30 o'clock."
On the next day April 7th, the regiment was actively engaged with the balance of the brigade on the right of Sherman's main line.
During the battle of Shiloh, Andrew Gosnell was slightly wounded in the right hand by a musket ball. Col. Cruft was badly wounded more than once during the battle and refused to leave the field until after the regiment had retreated to Grant's Last Line
STATS for Shiloh: 21 killed, 114 wounded, 10 of these Mortally, and 3 missing
On May 2nd 1862, the Thirty-first was transferred to the Army of the Ohio, and became a part of the Twenty-second Brigade, Fourth Division. Andrew was listed as being absent from the regiment due to an illness part of May. This was the only time he was listed absent due to sickness.
The regiment now began a chase of Confederate
General Braxton Bragg. It traveled through middle Tennessee passing into
Kentucky through Bowling Green and reached Louisville, KY. Here the
regiment remained the rest of the month, and in the meantime were
introduced to the Ninetieth Ohio Regiment, which became part of the
brigade. Capt. John T. Smith writes... "A finer-looking regiment of men
never went into service. And it was as true as steel, and as brave as it
was true. The day they came into our brigade they were splendidly
equipped had everything allowed by the regulations, and more too. The
next morning they did not have near so much. The fact is, the
Thirty-first had made a draw, and it was with great difficulty that you
could get the Ninetieth to believe that the Thirty-first had not robbed
them of their household goods and kitchen furniture."
After leaving Louisville the 31st was involved in the skirmishing at Perryville, Kentucky, but really did not get involved in the main battle.
Marching in late October the regiment
experienced the first snow storm of the season. They had left their
tents behind. On the 26th of October the regiment began moving at 6 am
toward Mt. Vernon, with snow six inches deep. Several of the men were
barefooted and had no blankets. They halted an hour for dinner, then
took the road to Somerset, KY, marched 5 miles and halted for the night
in a meadow. They had no tents but were able to get plenty of straw and
hay to bed down in. On the 31st, they marched 21 miles and encamped at
Columbia, KY, stayed one day and while there, drew some shoes and a few
shirts, which was much appreciated by the men.
The regiment now marched to Nashville, Tenn. and
remained there until December 26th, 1862. On the 26th, the regiment took
up the march for Murfreesboro in Major General Roscrans' plan to move
against Bragg's Force holed up in Murfreesboro.
In consequence of the terrible slaughter of
Chalmer's Brigade, which were all Mississippians, that part of the
battle-field is known a "Mississippi Half Acre."
On Jan. 2nd 1863 the battle resumed. The 31st
took part in the attack on General John C. Breckenridge's left.
Andrew Gosnell made it back to his regiment at Cripple Creek, TN in early June.
The Battle of Chickamauga:
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The 31st Indiana at the battle of Chickamauga
was part of the Army of the Cumberland under Gen. Roscrans, in the 21st
Corps, under Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden, 2nd Division under Gen. John M.
Palmer, in the 1st Brigade commanded by Gen. Charles Cruft and the
Regiment was led by Col. John T. Smith. The 1st Brigade again consisted
of the 31st Indiana, 1st Kentucky, 2nd Kentucky and the 90th Ohio.
The lines were formed to the front as best
could be done in the darkness, without fires and without supper, except
as could be had from the haversack, the men settled down for the night.
This proved to be the line that was to be occupied by the Thirty-first
Indiana in the battle of Sunday, September 20th, the east Kelly field
line. During the night and by daylight of the morning of the 20th, the
various regiments of the brigade constructed rough log breastworks along
STATS for Chickamauga: 5 killed, 61 wounded, 7
of these mortally, and 17 missing.
The 31st was ordered to Bridgeport Alabama in November and therefore missed the battle of Missionary Ridge. While in camp here at Bridgeport, two hundred and eighty-five men of the regiment re-enlisted, or veteranized. Those who re-enlisted were mustered as veterans on the 7th day of January, 1864. Andrew Gosnell did not re-enlist. I imagine that he had had enough. The veterans left Bridgeport on January 26th, and arrived at Indianapolis, where they were given a magnificent reception and later returned to Terre Haute. Back home, some men recruited new recruits for the regiment. They returned to the regiment April 1, 1864.
Their plan was to quietly send Company D to the left and hide in some old rifle pits until morning. Before daylight the next morning, the regiment was moved out by platoons to a point as near the enemy as they could get without attracting attention. They were to lie down until 6:00 am., at which time Company D was to open fire on the rebel picket-line, and, while their attention was attracted by the firing from an unexpected direction, the regiment was to charge the line. The plan went like clockwork. They captured every man on the line. The 31st Indiana immediately went to work, facing the rifle-pits the other way, and strengthened the works. The rebels opened on them immediately with their artillery. A canon ball from the rebel artillery fire cut down a dead tree, nearly a foot in diameter. The tree fell lengthwise with the 31st's line and within a very few feet in its rear. Before the felled tree was still, the men of the 31st Indiana took hold of it and picked it up, and carried it into proper position for the breastworks. They then called to the "Johnnies" to "cut down that other tree" that stood near by.
Colonel John T. Smith, writes, "On June 28th, I being officer of the day, I and the rebel officer of the day arranged a truce, under which it was agreed that there should be no firing in our division front until further notice. This arrangement was continued for about. three days, and was hugely enjoyed, as it virtually released us from prison. The same afternoon, the regiment had an opportunity to exchange its surplus coffee with the rebels for tobacco. The next day there were hundreds of the troops met the rebels in the hollow between the lines, and exchanged papers, and traded coffee for tobacco. The arrangement would doubtless have continued a day or two longer, but our boys got to stealing the Johnnies. The second day of the truce, the men of the regiment brought off fifteen rebel soldiers. Their plan of operation was, to take a suit of our uniform --pants, blouse, and cap--in their haversack, and when they could find a fellow who wanted to get out, a lot of them would get around him and have him put on these clothes over his, after which he could walk off with perfect impunity. After getting him up into our works, they would have him divest himself of these clothes, and return to repeat the operation. The terms of the truce at first provided that there should be no work done, of any kind whatever, on the fortifications on either side, but it was afterwards agreed that each army might do anything it desired or wanted done on their works. A while after this, the Colonel was called out by the rebel officer of the day, and told that he must look out for artillery that the enemy was putting in two guns in our immediate front, and that he could not control them, and that they were liable to open on us, as soon as they got them planted. This intelligence was immediately conveyed to General Stanley, and in a few minutes he and his chief of artillery were at our front line. We were ordered to get out on our front, and to pile up an immense heap of brush to conceal our operations. It did not require fifteen or twenty men long to pile up the brush, and then a couple of guns were brought up, and a few men were sufficient to pull the brush-pile down the hill, out of the way; and the guns opened. On the top of the rebel works were some timbers, leaving a space under the timbers, through which they could fire, while the timber protected their heads while firing. The top of the rebel works was lined with men, more numerous than one ever saw chickens on a fence after a shower. At the first shot from our guns, these timbers, and the men that were on them, were knocked several feet up into the air. After a few shots the firing ceased, and the guns moved back. In a little while the rebel officer of the day called again for the Colonel, and told him he need have no further fears in regard to artillery, for their guns would hardly make good kindling-wood. He said they intended to play a trick on us, and they had got beat at their own game, and if we had not got so many killed and hurt I would be glad of it. Nearly every man on those timbers was killed."
Summary of Atlanta Campaign:(May 1-September 8, 1864)
On the September 7th , the 31st took up the line of march to Atlanta, arriving there on the 8th, and marched through the city.
During the Atlanta campaign, from May 1 through September 8th, the Thirty-first Regiment was engaged in actual battle time approximately ten days. About twenty-two days were spent in sharp skirmishing, and around seventeen days in building breastworks.
My Great Grandfather, Andrew Gosnell was mustered out on September 15th, 1864 at Chattanooga, Tennessee. His Muster Out Roll says he was given transportation and subsistence to Nashville.
STATS for Atlanta campaign: 32 Killed and Mortally Wounded.
On October 3rd the regiment struck it's tents and began the pursuit of General John Bell Hood with the Fourth Army Corps. By the 24th of November the regiment had reached Columbia, Tennessee. Here, they were shelled by cannon on the 25th and 26th and were involved in some heavy skirmishing. At 9 o'clock at night on the 28th, the regiment moved out toward Spring Hill. Passing through Spring Hill early the next morning, they passed by the camp fires of Hood's Army less than 1/3 of a mile away. The regiment had to force it's way through a jam on the pike filled with wagons, ambulances and artillery, but moving farther up the pike they discovered that most of the wagon trains had been abandoned and some were on fire. Drivers were detailed and soon the train was moving. At daylight the 31st Indiana was detailed as a rear guard. The enemy cavalry kept up its pressure on the 31st and at one point they let the rebels get to within 100 yards of them and then surprised the rebs with a couple of canon shots and chased them off. The regiment reached Franklin around 11 A.M., in an exhausted state. Around 2 P.M. the Battle of Franklin began, and furiously raged until night. The 31st stood off several of the enemy's charges and each time they were repulsed with terrific slaughter. Because of the entrenchments, breastworks and some good luck, the 31st experienced no casualties at the Battle of Franklin. This is almost unbelievable, because the cost on both sides at Franklin was tremendous.
An amusing incident at Franklin:
Col. Smith writes, "We had one drafted man who said he intended to stay with us and faithfully do all the duties of a soldier, except to shoot, that he would not shoot, that he never intended to fire, a gun. He was told that he would get along all right then, for no one would ever tell him to shoot. About the time that it was seen that the rebels intended charging us, the Colonel went to where this man lay behind temporary works, and found that his gun was empty-neither loaded or, capped. He called to the Sergeant-Major to make a detail of a Corporal and two men who would rather shoot a man than not. The Sergeant--Major soon reported with the detail, and said, "If such men as you want are in the regiment, I believe I have got them." The Colonel said he believed so, too. The Colonel then directed the Corporal to lay down there near that man, and not tell him to shoot, nor allow any one else to tell him to; but, when the regiment fired, if his gun did not go off, to put three bullet-holes through him. The Colonel walked away, and the, drafted man said to a comrade at his elbow, "I believe they will do it." "Of course, they will," was the reply. The drafted man then got up and carefully loaded his gun, and, capping it, again lay down, and, turning to the Corporal, said, "'Now, if this darned thing explodes, and the gun don't go off, you must give a fellow a little chance." But his gun went off, and it was thought that he was the first man in the regiment to fire, and he kept it up manfully; and after the engagement was over he seemed to be the proudest man in the command, and apparently, seemed to think he had done it about all."
Around midnight on the 30th, the Union Army quietly withdrew from Franklin, taking its artillery and wagon trains, off the, battle field. The 31st reached Nashville just before noon that morning.
The Battle of Nashville:
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At Daylight on December 31st, 1864 the regiment
moved out from the left of the Hillsborough pike. The battle began on
the right and the 31st Indiana was involved in heavy skirmishing just
under the rebel Fort. In the afternoon the regiment charged up the hill
in front of the Fort, it being immediately in their front. They captured
the artillery and several prisoners. At night the 31st bivouacked on the
Granville pike. The next morning they were involved in more skirmishing
and took some more rebel works. The army made pursuit of Hood's army
after the Battle of Nashville and kept up with them until the 28th at
which time the pursuit was stopped.
STATS for Nashville: 10 killed and 33 wounded, 8 of these Mortally.
The regiment was later sent to Texas after the War ended and eventually was mustered out of service in Texas on December 8, 1865. The retired regiment eventually arrived home in Terre Haute, Indiana on January 6th, 1866, after serving a little over four years and three months.
(Killed and Mortally Wounded)
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I am interested in anything connected with the 31st Indiana Vol. Infantry, or if you have any questions please feel free to contact me by E-Mail.
I am especially interested in photos of soldiers from the 31st Indiana in their wartime clothing. I am also interested in any letters, diaries, or biographical information on 31st Indiana soldiers
Copyright © 1998 - 2015 by Dennis Hutchinson. All Rights Reserved. This site may be freely linked to, but not duplicated in any fashion except by the author's consent. When permission is given, this copyright statement must remain with the document.
Last Update January, 2015
How to obtain a copy of the Book:
Regiment of Indiana Volunteer Infantry in the War of the Rebellion"
by John Thomas Smith.
The book is
Books a Million,
and some other book
stores. Simply copy the text in yellow above and go to the web site of
one of these book seller's, then paste the name of the book in the
search box, then click "GO" or