INside Story

Indiana governor helped fuel Union effort during Civil War

We’re taking a look back at Indiana history. All this week, News 8’s Adam Pinsker is taking a look at Indiana’s role in the Civil War. This is the first of five entries in our latest INside Story series.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — He came to power during a time of deep division within the country. Oliver Morton took office just weeks before the start of the Civil War as Indiana’s 14th governor.

He was the was the first governor of Indiana who was born in the state. He was also staunchly against slavery, and made major contributions to the Union war effort.

Morton was originally elected as lieutenant governor in the 1860 election. Just two days into his term, Morton became governor after governor-elect Henry S. Lane was appointed to the Senate.

Within weeks of taking office, the Civil War broke out, and Morton, along with other northern governors, assisted with the war effort.

“Oliver P. Morton was instrumental in making sure that when Lincoln had to put out the call for troops, and put out the call for the needs of the nation, especially the needs of the north, Oliver Morton stepped up to help,” said Amy Vedra, Director of Reference Services at the Indiana Historical Society.

200,000 Hoosiers went to war for the Union, plus another 100,000 for the Indiana Legion or Home Guard.

“Indiana was the second-largest supplier of troops, when you consider percentage of population of the state,” said Vedra.

Morton also helped establish an arsenal originally in downtown, and then moved to the site known today as Arsenal Tech High School. He also had a close relationship with President Abraham Lincoln.

“Morton would go out and meet with Lincoln. Morton was big about going out and seeing the troops, the Indiana troops,” said Vedra.

As the war was winding down, Morton successfully sought a second term as governor, even though the state constitution barred a governor from serving two consecutive terms.

“Oliver P. Morton argued that he was not elected governor, so therefore he could run again, and he did run again, said Vedra.

After serving a second term as governor, Morton was elected by the General Assembly to the U.S. Senate, where he served until his death in 1877 at the age of 54.