Mark Meyer, a life-long resident of Ft. Wayne, says he’s best described as an amateur historian who feeds a portion of his hunger for history through travel and volunteering at The Lincoln Collection. It was at the Lincoln Collection that he first became raptured by the life of Hoosier Civil War soldier and adventurer John E. WIlkins. Now that he has retired, he has had time to fill in the gaps of the life story of this remarkable man.
Mark Meyer presents a Civil War journey through the eyes of Hoosier volunteer John E. Wilkins, who served in the Indiana 11th & 16th Regiments from April 1861 until the war’s conclusion in 1865. Wilkins chronicled his experiences in a diary and “notebooks of recollections,” which are now part of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection.
When he died in November 1911, John E. Wilkins of Vigo County, Indiana, left behind a diary detailing his Civil War service, as well as four handwritten notebooks of reminiscences. Mark Meyer has transcribed Wilkins’s narratives and researched his life story across the country from Vigo County to the National Archives. Meyer will tell that story in the program “John E. Wilkins, Ready & Able: A Hoosier’s Civil War.”
A Brief Biography of John E. Wilkins
John E. Wilkins was born in 1836. He spent much of his life in Terre Haute, Indiana. Before his military enlistment, Wilkins served as Deputy Clerk of the Vigo County Court, as well as serving on the Terre Haute Volunteer Fire Department. During the Civil War, he served in the 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment and in the 16th Regiment Indiana Infantry. After the war, Wilkins became an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and worked as a farmer near Terre Haute, Indiana. John E. Wilkins died at the age of 75 on November 20, 1911.
The 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment: “Wallace’s Zouaves”
In 1861, the 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment was organized in Indianapolis, Indiana, under Colonel Lew Wallace. The nickname “Wallace’s Zouaves” was given to the regiment because of the style of training tactics and distinctive uniform. The regiment was organized for three months of service, but at the end of that time the regiment was extended for three more years. During those three years, the 11th participated in several battles including Fort Donelson, Shiloh, and Vicksburg. The 11th Regiment was mustered out of service on July 26, 1865. Losses totaled 288 men who died in combat or from disease.
The 16th Regiment Indiana Infantry
The 16th Indiana Infantry Regiment was organized in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the summer of 1862. The regiment served three years under the command of Colonel Thomas J. Lucas. The 16th joined the Army of Kentucky and fought in battles such as the Battle of Richmond and the Siege of Vicksburg. It was mustered out of service on June 30, 1865. Losses totaled 297 men who died in combat or from disease.