Williams Family from Evansville, Indiana


The 91st Indiana Regiment was recruited from the First Congressional District during the month of August 1862. They were all volunteers. The response by southern Indiana men to the call made by statesmen and military men that summer was outstanding. This seemed especially true in Posey County where over 200 volunteers responded (one source said 120 but was incomplete). This allowed the 91st to have Battalion status which was very unusual. Some other Congressional Districts (like the 92nd) could not muster enough to form a small regiment. The Union armies were all composed of regiments raised by the states. The volunteers signed up for 3 years. The Federal government set a quota for each state that, in turn, set quotas for each congressional district. If quotas were reached there would be no draft. This led to the bounty system. In some areas as much as one thousand dollars.

Essentially all the men from Company A were from Posey County and about half of those from the small area of West Franklin. West Franklin was the family homeland since Elkanah Williams helped pioneer that area of the country about 1810 and filed papers in 1814. At that time there were still hostile Indians. West Franklin was a port of call for steamboats on the Ohio River for farm products and wood to fuel the boat’s engines. It is in Marrs Township of Posey County. Farmers clearing land had much wood to sell. A large steam driven mill, called the Blackhawk Mill and later the Deigs Mill, sawed the logs to useful size and shape. Pvt. William Williams is buried in the Dixon Cemetery in West Franklin. There are several of his companions from the 91st Indiana Regiment there with him along with his son Andrew and other relatives.

The officers of the 91st were naturally from a wider area since there were 7 companies. A regiment is supposed to have 10 companies but some, including Company A, were fairly large. The commanding officer was Colonel John Mehringer from Jasper Indiana just 20 miles north of Boonville- definitely a southern Indiana Hoosier. He was born in Bavaria, which is somewhere in the general area between the Bollingers and the Barths who married into the Williams family in the 19th century. The Colonel was about 36 years old and a carpenter, sheriff and auditor before the war. His second in command was Major Charles Butterfield of Evansville who was promoted to Lt. Colonel followed by Major James M. Carson from West Franklin. Pictures of both are shown on the internet and 8x10 reproductions are available for $20 at a Craig Dunn site. Both have dark hair and full beard.

Major Carson was well known and respected by the Company A men including Pvt. Williams. He was from their township and the one who made the speeches in Mt. Vernon. Another politician and military man was Gen. Hovey of Posey County. A town on the Ohio downstream of West Franklin is named for him. The speeches and the war news got the Posey County men to volunteering more than most any other area by proportion. They probably appealed to them by describing Confederate General Bragg’s forays into Kentucky and the many successes of the rebels in actions in the west and in the east. And telling them how many Americans were thinking the war wasn’t worth it, so if the south just held on another year they would likely get help from the British and French who needed the cotton. And how they should support the new president. Lincoln had only been in office for 6 months and he wouldn’t stand a chance of being reelected if the war was turned around. Holding the line would not be good enough. And everyone knew Lincoln had lived in the same area as many men of the 91st. Lincoln’s boyhood years were spent in Spencer County just 18 miles from where Company C was mustered. And later Lincoln lived in Illinois just 40 miles from Terra Haute Indiana. Before they could only relate to the farmer- president Andrew Jackson. Now Lincoln was a farmer- neighbor. There might never be another president who was like them and from their neck of the woods. He sure needed their help.

Could these farmers from Posey County shoot? Were they able to live in the woods under trying conditions? Were they tough? Compared to the men from the cities, the answer is "you bet." Could they make a difference? Maybe. The surgeons for the 91st were Robert Robson and Elisha Mitchell from New Harmony. Possibly one of them later saved Pvt. Williams arm. But we are getting ahead of the story. One of the Captains in Company A was John Corbin from New Harmony. Just before the Civil War he lived in Sacramento California (where Walter Williams now lives) but returned to Posey County when it was clear there would be a war. He lived in Sacramento from 1854 to 1858. There were other Williamses in the 91st. One of the captains in Company D was Benjamin Williams from Owensville Indiana who stayed healthy and in the 91st the rest of the war. A Private George W. Williams of Company C was from Washington Indiana and also survived the war. They both might have been related to Pvt. William Williams. Companies D through G in the 91st might have had relatives we don’t now about yet.

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Copyright © 2001 Williams Family from Evansville, Indiana