Tim Crumrin - Experience Delivery Director/Senior Historian
As I wrote in my last blog, there was no such thing as unanimity among Hoosiers about the Civil War. Views of the war were colored by an individual’s passions, personality and prejudices. An area in which this was particularly true was race.
African Americans comprised less than 1% of Indiana’s population, but they weighed much more heavily on the minds of white Hoosiers than those numbers would indicate. Attitudes towards blacks were a not-so-subtle, strong undercurrent effecting issues like copperheadism (Southern sympathizing), emancipation, and the very reasons for which the war should be fought.
Many Hoosiers felt that 1% of their fellow citizens being black was more than enough and feared the African American population would increase. Thus, abolition and emancipation were hot button issues in the state. Especially wary was labor (particularly Irish and German immigrant workers) which feared competition for jobs from freed Blacks.
Some ardent Union supporters were hesitant to embrace abolitionism for other reasons. An Indiana legislator wrote that “Wicked acts of the abolitionists have done the Union cause more harm and done more to strengthen the Rebels,” while anti-war Hoosier Congressman Daniel Vorhees declared that “abolition policy” had caused many to lose faith in the war. One Indiana Senate committee report went so far as to state that it did not want Indiana to be overrun “with a worthless and degraded Negro population.”
The Emancipation Proclamation further sharply divided Hoosierdom, and even caused some soldiers to reconsider their role in the war effort, as in this letter from an Indiana soldier published in the Indiana Sentinel: “We want the Union as it was… We don’t want the North flooded with [racist epithet]. We want Indiana exclusively for intelligent, free white men.”
Fortunately, such extreme and racist views did not represent the feelings of all. Many, such as diarist Calvin Fletcher, welcomed the proclamation even though he knew it might harden the conflict on all sides. “In eve Lincoln’s proclamation to emancipate the slaves in disloyal states and districts came. It is cheering to me & I feel God will approve: yet its execution & efficacy may be sealed with blood.”
Fletcher was right.
There are many summer camps in this area, but there is only one where you can spend a magical day as a character in Prairietown
, and that’s 12 – 14 year old “Village People” in Conner Prairie’s summer adventure camp
. My part of that special day is dressing the campers. Every Tuesday at 10:00 a.m., they follow me down the hall to the clothing storage room.
The girls line up first. I measure their waists and assign them a petticoat. “Go out in the hall and put the petticoat on; then get in line again," I tell them. When every girl is “petticoated”, it’s time to find dresses. I check waist measurements again and pull out dresses. If the length is good, I hand it over. “Go back out and put your dress on.” Once I forgot to mention that most of the dresses open in the front, and all the girls were wearing them backwards when I came out.
Once all the girls have dresses and petticoats, I leave the boys and their male counselor to find the right clothes. The girls can try on dresses over their shorts, but the boys have to be sure the trousers fit over the very long period shirts and learn how to fasten those fall front trousers.
The girls have to get their hair up and choose daycaps, aprons, and stockings. The boys come back for my inspection. If they don’t look right, they go look again. When they have all their clothes, they choose a pair of shoes from a tub full of “pretty close” modern shoes so they don’t have to go buy a pair just for one day.
We can usually dress ten campers in about an hour, and I have a day and a half to take care of any necessary repairs before Thursday when they join our staff and youth volunteers in Prairietown to make the past come alive!