Sion Bass, Eliza George and Henry W. Lawton aren't exactly household names in Fort Wayne these days. But on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, these city residents are well worth remembering, because each left a rich legacy of service and sacrifice in the bloody conflict that divided the nation.
Col. Sion Bass, who died of a wound sustained at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee in April 1862, is widely considered to be Fort Wayne's first Civil War hero.
Bass led the 30th Regiment of Indiana Volunteers – known as The Bloody Thirtieth – in three charges of fighting, during which Bass was wounded but continued to lead his men in battle.
According to John D. Beatty's “History of Fort Wayne and Allen County: 1700-2005,” Bass was hit in the thigh by a musket ball after he dismounted to tend to his wounded horse. He died of complications from the wound a week later.
After Bass died, he was given a state funeral to honor the city's first fallen hero of the Civil War. He is buried at Lindenwood Cemetery.
Born in 1827 in Kentucky, Bass made a name for himself as an industrialist who operated successful ironworks and foundry enterprises in Fort Wayne before he became a soldier.
His home, the Sion S. and Eliza Bass House at 509 W. Washington Blvd., has been designated as a local historic landmark.
Known as “Mother George” to thousands of soldiers, Fort Wayne resident Eliza Hamilton George was one of the Civil War's most extraordinary women.
George was Sion Bass' mother-in-law. After Bass died, George applied in 1863 to be a nurse with the Indiana Agent of the Sanitary Commission, a forerunner of the Army Nurse Corps. Objections were raised about her age – 54 – but in the end she was accepted.
George quickly won the respect and admiration of the doctors she worked for and the soldiers she cared for. Because of her compassion for the wounded, sick and dying, the soldiers she cared for titled her “Mother,” and she carried the name proudly.
Stories of her heroism abounded. She was known to carry wounded soldiers from hospitals being shelled by the enemy. On one occasion, she kept up her work on the front lines even as artillery shells and rifle bullets tore through the hospital encampment.
In May 1865, one month after the war ended, George died in a typhoid outbreak at the army hospital in Wilmington, N.C. She was buried with full military honors in Lindenwood Cemetery, the only woman to have been so honored.
Henry W. Lawton
Henry W. Lawton – honored by downtown's Lawton Park – was perhaps Fort Wayne's most prominent Civil War figure.
When the war broke out, Lawton was a student at Fort Wayne Methodist College. He quickly joined the Ninth Indiana Regiment and was among the first of the state's soldiers to fight against the Confederacy. Lawton rose through the ranks from private to captain, fighting at Shiloh, Corinth and Chickamauga.
In the Atlanta campaign with General William Tecumseh Sherman, Lawton became the first Fort Wayne resident to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. By the end of the war, he was a colonel – and not yet 22 years old.
After the Civil War, Lawton joined the regular army and became a professional soldier, fighting Indians in campaigns across the Plains and Southwest. In 1886, he was a key leader in the expedition that pursued the great Apache chief Geronimo and convinced him to surrender. Later in his career, Lawton earned the rank of general and served with Theodore Roosevelt in Cuba during 1898's Spanish-American War. In 1899, he was killed by a sniper while leading a campaign against the insurrection in the Philippines.
In February 1900, Lawton's funeral train stopped in Fort Wayne, where thousands viewed him in state at the unfinished Allen County Courthouse. A few days later, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.