Last weekend my husband and I went to the local Center For History to see the Christmas trees on display. Included in our admission was entry into an exhibit on the Civil War. Since my latest research project has been an ancestor, William T. BOTKIN, who served and died in the Civil War I actually spent most of my time in this exhibit instead of admiring the trees!
The exhibit confirmed what I felt after reading the book Letters From Elmira's Trunk. Although history puts the emphasis on the slavery issue as the key reason for the war, that wasn't exactly true for the Union soldiers that enlisted. I felt from reading their letters that they were fighting to stop succession. None of them ever mentioned fighing slavery in their letters.
The exhibit also stated that many young men enlisted for the adventure. I can also see this being the case. My relatives were mostly farmers and, therefore, from rural America. In fact, my Mom tells the story of how my great-grandmother didn't "go to town" until she was 13 years old! And the town was just 5 miles away! The lure of seeing the country would be enticing to these young men of 18, 19 and 20 years old. Not to mention the peer pressure they must have felt. In the case of the 69th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, I am discovering that at least 4 cousins in my family enlisted on the same day and served together in this unit.
All this has just added to my current obsession with the boys of the 69th. I've compiled a spreadsheet with all their names (over 1800) of them and have started a virtual cemetery on Find A Grave. Where all this will lead I really don't know. But for now, I'm driven to learn their stories. Sons, Brothers, Cousins, they all went off to war. Some returned and some didn't but they all have a story to be told.