500 Strong Wabash College Students in the Civil War is the newest book on Wabash history, edited by Emeritus Professor of History James J. Barnes and Patience Plummer Barnes.  The title of this blog refers to the more than 500 men who served in the war and the 148 students in Dr. Barnes’ senior history seminar who researched and wrote the short biographies of the veterans.

Dr. Barnes innovated this project as a result of his study and thinking about the Civil War Roll of Honor on the east side of Center Hall. Ever curious,  Barnes wondered about the lives represented by the names listed.

It has been said that the best way to learn a new skill is by doing it. Dr. Barnes taught his senior history students about history by giving them several names of former Wabash men to research. The students were taught how to use the federal census, how to research in the Ramsay Archives, how to read service records at the Indiana State Archives, and how to do research via mail to local historical societies and public libraries.

The Roll of Honor, pictured above, lists 307 Wabash men who served in the Civil War. The students found that many more Wabash men had served in the Civil War than were listed on the Roll of Honor. Over two hundred more veterans were brought to light making a final total of 529.

Many of the men were difficult to track, but the students and Dr. Barnes persisted. The most difficult files were set aside and, over the course of the next 25 years, Barnes continued the research. Patience Plummer Barnes edited the hundreds of biographies and traced additional loose ends to bring the collection to print, made possible by the passion of another Wabash man, Arthur Baxter. Art [Wabash class of 1956] and his wife Nancy are the owners of Hawthorne Press which specializes in Indiana history projects. Through their determination, this book has become a reality which will serve to enlighten generations of future researchers.

For anyone interested in the history of Wabash, Indiana OR the Civil War, this book is one you will want to have in your collection. I was really interested to read Dr. Barnes’ afterword where he offers several conclusions, chief among them is that, “…although it can not be proven definitively, it is likely that Wabash College sent more student to the war, proportional to its size, than did any other college in America.”

To note this amazing project and in honor of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, Wabash is hosting a Civil War Symposium on Friday, September 27th. The Barneses will be there along with a number of other presenters. All daytime sessions are free and open to the public. So that we can have an idea of the size of the crowd, we have asked that attendees fill out a reservation. More program information and the online reservation form may be found at https://www.wabash.edu/alumni/homecoming/civil

All best, 
Beth Swift
Wabash College