Col. John Wheeler
The 20th Indiana Volunteer Infantry
Class of 2015
Crown Point, Ind.
Commanded the 20th Indiana at the Battle of Gettysburg.
From President Abraham Lincoln's call for able-bodied Union Army volunteers in 1861 to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House, Va., in 1865, fighting Hoosiers of the 20th Indiana Volunteer Infantry were present and accounted for at the forefront of Civil War history.
More than 300 Northwest Indiana volunteers of the regiment's companies B, E and I stood on the front lines of nearly every major battle of the Civil War's eastern theater. Men of those three companies hailed from Lake, La Porte and Porter Counties, defining the word bravery while sustaining heavy casualties at the Civil War Battles of Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Cold Harbor, Spotsylvania, the Wilderness, Second Bull Run and Appomattox Court House, among other engagements. These men volunteered to fight to save the Union and ultimately end slavery.
The regiment lost nearly a third of its original 1,000 volunteers to disease or enemy bullets during the war. Hundreds lost arms and legs in the fighting, scars they would carry with them for the rest of their lives. Crown Point's Col. John Wheeler fell to a Confederate sharpshooter's bullet while Wheeler commanded the 20th Indiana at the Battle of Gettysburg, still ranked as the bloodiest battle of America's bloodiest war.
A literal son of Merrillville ranked among the casualties. Pvt. James Merrill, son of Merrillville namesake Dudley Merrill, survived many of the war's bloodiest battles only to die in 1864 during the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia while serving in Company B.
Region men of the 20th Indiana once walked on our streets in Crown Point, Lowell, Merrillville, Valparaiso and La Porte. Today, they're well represented in the pioneer cemeteries of Northwest Indiana, gone by not forgotten.
The 20th Indiana Volunteer Infantry was nominated by Marc Chase, The Times Media Company