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Fallen hero

Historical Society obtains Hendrick portrait

Civil War officer had illustrious career
before dying in battle

Editor’s note: The Jefferson County Historical Society in April purchased a large portrait of John Abram Hendrick, which now hangs in the museum at 615 W. First St., Madison. The unsigned portrait had been obtained from a descendant’s estate by a dealer in California. The dealer called the historical society and offered to sell it. The historical society is now seeking $1,000 in donations to have the portrait cleaned. Historical society member and historian Gordon Whitney wrote this article about Hendrick for RoundAbout.

By Gordon Whitney
Special to RoundAbout

(May 2005) – Life was good for John Abram Hendrick. He was born on March 7, 1823, into one of the first families of Madison, Ind. His maternal grandfather was John Paul, one of the founders of Madison. His mother was the eldest daughter of John Paul. His father was William Hendrick, Indiana’s second governor and also represented Indiana in the United States Senate. He was also one of the leaders of the Democratic Party in the state.

John Hendrick portrait

John Hendrick protrait

Hendrick received a good education and became an attorney and would serve as City Attorney for Madison.
On Oct. 2, 1831, he married Francis Norwood. As a wedding present, they received from the senior Hendrick a home at (High) First and Elm. As the years progressed, his law firm prospered, establishing his reputation as a competent and honest attorney.
Like so many men in the community, he served in a militia unit, the Madison Greys. With the advent of the Mexican War in 1846, Hendrick served as a captain in the 3rd Indiana Infantry seeing action at the Battle of Buena Vista in Mexico.
Upon his return, he formed a partnership with William Dunn. The office was located on Maincross, between Main and Walnut streets in Madison.
In the late 1850s, the turmoil in the country over the slavery problem was growing to a point that war was imminent and like so many others, Hendrick felt the need to serve. It was common knowledge that a high command in the military would be a necessity in the post world and would be imperative in furthering one’s career, or the establishment of a new one. However, commissions were awarded by the present political party, and in 1860 the new Republican Party had swept Indiana, as well as the nation.
Since the Hendricks were known as such stalwart Democrats, it was questionable as to what kind of commission he would receive, if any. Hendrick would have to bide his time as to what Gov. Oliver P. Morton, a Republican, would offer. After a bit of political arm twisting, not to mention the growing need for officers, in July 1861 Hendrick received a commission of lieutenant colonel and was assigned to a new regiment that was being formed in North Madison at Camp Noble. (Camp Noble was on the site of the old Jefferson County Fairgrounds.)
The 22nd Indiana Volunteer Infantry would become a big regiment with more than 900 men in 10 companies. It even boasted its own silver cornet band.
On Aug. 2, 1861, the new colonel and commander of the 22nd arrived – Jefferson C. Davis, a regular Army man who had served at Fort Sumter. Accompanying Davis was Gov. Morton, who in a stirring speech introduced the regiment to its new Colonel. Lt. Col Davis and Hendrick had little in common, outside of their politics – both were Democrats.
Davis was the product of the regular Army, hard and disciplined, whereas Hendrick was the product of an affluent family who enjoyed a comfortable and easy lifestyle. How these two different men would function together remained to be seen.
On Aug. 14, the regiment left Madison for Indianapolis. Three days later they were in St. Louis, and from there they moved to Jefferson City, Mo., arriving on Aug. 26. Here they were brigaded with the 8th and 26th Indiana Infantry. Gen. Davis assumed command, turning the 22nd over to Hendrick. In that short time, Davis and Hendrick worked well together. Hendrick was well liked by his men and had established a good rapport with his subordinate officers.
Meanwhile, in Lexington, Mo., some 3,600 men were under siege by Gen. Sterling Price’s Confederates. On Sept. 18, 1861, Hendrick was ordered to take a command consisting of the 22nd and part of the 18th Indiana and go to their relief. He divided his command sending five companies of the 22nd by land and the remaining five and part of the 18th boarded the transport War Eagle. The 18th and part of the 26th followed on the Iatan river boat on the Missouri River.
On the night of Sept. 26, the War Eagle and Iatan put into Glasgow, Mo., for the night. There, Hendrick learned that there was $75,000 in the bank at Glasgow. Maj. Tanner of the 22nd requested permission to take 500 men into town and take the money. Hendrick was reluctant to approve the venture since there were reports of Confederates in the area. After much pleading and against his better judgment, Hendrick let Tanner go.
Tanner and his men had not gone far when they came under heavy fire, which they returned. The fighting went on for some 15 minutes before they learned that they were being fired upon by men of the 16th Indiana, part of the force that had been moving by land. When order was restored, Tanner was found mortally wounded with that column, which returned to the War Eagle. When Hendrick heard the news he was very upset and saddened, feeling the tragedy could have been prevented if he had been more firm. It was a hard lesson for him: A good leader must have good judgment and the courage to stick with his convictions.
The next day, Hendrick’s command reached Lexington only to find that the Union force had surrendered and the Rebels were falling back on Springfield. With that, Hendrick and his men went into camp waiting for orders.
On the 20th, he learned that he and his command would be part of an Army that was to move on and capture Springfield, Mo. After a hard and difficult march on roads that had turned into quagmires, they reached Springfield only to find it abandoned by the Confederates, who were retreating south. A force was left in the city to keep order while Hendrick learned, to his disappointment, that he and his men were ordered to turn around and march north to Sedalia. The return march was more exacting, brought on by snow and rain, which made conditions almost unyielding.
On Nov. 20, they made camp at the La Mine Cross Roads, Mo., a few miles west of Sedalia. There, they went into winter quarters, which was most welcome by all since many were sick and suffering from fatigue and small pox. Many had frostbite. Rest and good food made for good medicine, and most men’s health improved. They were looking forward to Christmas. But it would not be a good holiday for John Hendrick.
He had received word from Madison that a serious financial problem had arisen that needed his personal attention. On Jan. 3, 1862, he received a 30-day leave and returned to Madison to take care of the situation. Evidently, the situation did improve, for on Jan. 19 he wrote for an extension of 20 days. In his request he said, “I have by indisposition been prevented from transacting the business on account of which I obtained leave of absence,” ending with a P.S.: “Please address me at Indianapolis.”
Hendrick and his family were heavily invested in Jefferson County real estate and other ventures. Since his father’s death, Hendrick had been responsible for the family’s business affairs. Evidently, he completed his personal business, for he returned to La Mine Camp on Feb. 9, only to find that the 22nd Indiana had left on Jan. 26 on their way again to Springfield.
Hendrick caught up with his command shortly after they entered the city on Feb. 11, 1862. Here he learned that there had been a change in the Army. The 22nd was now in the 3rd Division Army of the Southwest, commanded by Gen. Samuel Curtis. His Division Commander was a man he knew well – the former commander of the 22nd, a man he had served under not so long ago, and whose relationship had been difficult at times: Jefferson Davis.
On Feb. 15, Col. Hendrick and the 22nd march out of Springfield, part of the Army that was in pursuit of the Confederate Army under Gen. Sterling Price. As before, it was to be an extremely difficult march. The roads had turned into a sea of mud at Cross Timber Hollow. Close to the Arkansas line, they caught up with the rear of the rebels and were soon engaged in light skirmishing. But all too soon, the Confederates retreated.
Curtis Federals now found themselves out of provisions. Adding to their woe was the weather, which had become wretched, cold, windy and snowy. Hendrick turned his men lose combing the countryside for whatever could be found. Regretfully, their search turned up little. Despite the fact the enemy was close, there was little skirmishing. Then on March 6, the 22nd and other regiments received orders to prepare for probable heavy fighting the next day.
Friday, March 7, dawned bright and clear. The air was frigid as men gathered around fires warming themselves and preparing for breakfast. Despite the cold, this was a special day for John Hendrick, for this was his birthday, and his thoughts must have turned back to Madison. His wife had written him that the family would celebrate his birthday, wishing he was home. But thoughts of home quickly changed when he received orders from Gen. Davis around 9 a.m. to change front and move back to the north, literally to turn around, for an anticipated attack.
By 11 a.m., Hendrick and his men were in their assigned position and had hardly gotten into line when they were attacked by a unit of cavalry, which they were able to drive off. This was followed by a strong artillery strike, causing casualties and bringing on confusion and disorder. Hendrick dismounted and moved among his men, trying to establish order by telling his men to stand firm. Then across the field, the enemy infantry could be seen advancing toward them. All too soon the air was full of shot and shells. As the fighting intensified, suddenly the left of the regiment began to give way. Quickly, Hendrick sent word to Col. Pattison, now commanding the brigade, asking for help.
But there was none to give, Hendrick would have to fend for himself. As he moved along the line, he was struck as a ball penetrated his left side, passing through his torso and exiting near his right shoulder. Then he was struck in the face by a blast from a shotgun shell, killing him outright. His death almost led to disaster. The regiment, without its leader, began to give way and fall back. Fortunately, Maj. David Daily took charge and, after some time, was able to establish some sort of order.
Back in Madison, Francis Hendrick was celebrating John’s birthday with friends and family. Learning of his death brought grief, not only to his wife and family but to the citizens of Madison. Brother Paul went down to Rolla, Mo., to bring the body back for burial, arriving in Madison on Monday, March 17. The funeral was the following day at the North Madison Cemetery in North Madison (now Fairmont).
John A. Hendrick was the highest officer from Madison and the state of Indiana to fall in battle at that time. Sadly, he would be followed by more.

• Gordon Whitney resides in Madison, Ind. For information on museum times at the Jefferson County Historical Society, call (812) 265-2335.

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