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June 27, 2020

Confederate monument in Indy and Camp Morton

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The Confederate monument in Garfield Park prior to its removal on June 8 to an undisclosed location for storage. The monument originally marked the mass grave of Confederate prisoners of war who died at a Union Army camp in Indianapolis.

Following the recent dismantling in an Indianapolis park of a Confederate monument that originally marked the graves of prisoners of war who died at a Union Army camp, Hoosier History Live will explore the historic context of various aspects of the controversy.

Civil-War era photograph of Camp Morton in Indianapolis, which came to serve as a POW camp for Confederate soldiers and sailors.Several guests will participate during the show: an expert on Civil War history, including the former Camp Morton and Confederate sympathizers in Indiana during the war; an IUPUI professor who has researched the history of the monument that was moved from a former cemetery to Garfield Park on the city's south side; and a civic leader who oversees presentations about African-American history in the state.

Civil War historian Steve Towne, the author of Surveillance and Spies in the Civil War (Ohio University Press) and other books and award-winning articles about the Civil War, is an archivist at IUPUI. His colleague Paul Mullins, an anthropology professor, has researched the Confederate monument, which he notes was placed initially at Greenlawn Cemetery in 1909. 

Greenlawn, the first major public cemetery in Indianapolis, was located near the White River and Kentucky Avenue, a site that was prone to flooding and later became increasingly industrialized. The monument, funded by the federal government, was a mass marker for 1,616 Confederate POWs whose remains could not be identified individually. Their remains were moved to Crown Hill Cemetery, Greenlawn's successor as the city's major graveyard; the reburial site at Crown Hill is known as Confederate Mound. According to Paul Mullins, the POWs' remains were reburied at Confederate Mound in 1931.

Along with Steve Towne and Paul Mullins, our guests during the show will include Ophelia Wellington, founder of Freetown Village, a living history museum she created in 1982 to teach African-American history.

Confederate Mound in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis is the final resting place of the POWs who died at Camp Morton.During our show, Steve Towne will share insights about conditions at Camp Morton, which was created for the induction and training of Union Army soldiers on a site near 19th and Alabama streets that previously had served as the state fairgrounds.

During the course of the war, Camp Morton primarily served as a POW camp for Confederate soldiers and sailors; by the end of the war, about 1,700 had died there. Today, much of the Herron-Morton Place Neighborhood is on the site of Camp Morton.

With the moves of the POWs' remains, many could not be identified. The relocation of the federally-funded monument (with a metal plate at the base that lists the names of the POWs) from Greenlawn to Garfield Park was advocated by the Southern Club of Indianapolis, which Paul Mullins will describe during our show.

The placement of the monument in a public park in the late 1920s has been controversial for several years. Since the June 8 dismantling, it has been stored at an undisclosed location.

It is not the only Confederate monument, memorial or marker in Indiana. According to the Indiana Historical Bureau, a state historic marker in the Franklin County town of Laurel, birthplace of a Confederate brigadier general, is under review for "misleading and inaccurate statements" as well as the lack of proper historic context on the signage. In Terre Haute, an obelisk at Woodlawn Cemetery memorializes eleven Confederates who died in a POW camp in the city.

The phone lines will be opened earlier than usual during our show for listeners' questions and comments.

Steve Towne, Paul Mullins, Ophelia Wellington.


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July 4, 2020 - coming up

Racial justice in 1820s Indiana: Slave trial and Fall Creek Massacre - encore

Mary Bateman Clark, enslaved by an indentured servitude contract in Vincennes, Ind., sued for her freedom. She won the case on appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court in 1821.


With various aspects of racial justice in the headlines, Hoosier History Live will explore precedent-setting legal trials in early Indiana involving African Americans and Native Americans. We are drawing upon our rich archive for a special encore show focusing on two landmark cases of racial justice in early 19th century Indiana.

Book cover: The Massacre at Fall Creek by Jessamyn West.The two trials: one in which an enslaved Indiana woman successfully sued for her freedom, and a second in which white men were found guilty and executed for slaughtering nine Native Americans, an infamous incident that history has dubbed the Fall Creek Massacre. The shows focusing on these milestone legal cases both originally aired in 2010.

In 1821, Mary Bateman Clark, a young African-American woman living in Vincennes, made history when her lawyer filed a lawsuit seeking her release from an "indentured servitude" contract with one of the most prominent men in the new state of Indiana. The contract required Clark to cook, clean and sew for Gen. Washington Johnston and his family for 20 years. Her only pay was housing, food and clothing.

The case, which made its way to the Indiana Supreme Court, involved determining whether such "indentured servitude" contracts violated the state's Constitution as a form of slavery. Nearly 200 years ago - on Nov. 16, 1821 - the state Supreme Court ruled in Clark's favor and ordered her employer to release her.

Eunice TrotterSharing insights about the social history of the era and the landmark case, Nelson is joined in studio by one of Clark's descendants, Indianapolis resident Eunice Trotter. Eunice, a veteran journalist, and her sister Ethel McCane have used their research about their ancestor to do "living history performances" for schools and civic groups across the state. 

Eunice and Ethel also crusaded for a historic marker in honor of Mary Bateman Clark, which was dedicated at the Knox County Courthouse in 2009. The sisters are Mary Bateman Clark's great-great-great granddaughters.

Nelson and his guest also discuss a similar case involving another young woman, Polly Strong, who also lived in Vincennes in the 1820s and sued to obtain her freedom. She had been enslaved by Col. Hyacinth LaSalle, a prominent Vincennes resident, before Indiana became a state in 1816. LaSalle challenged the new state Constitution, unsuccessfully arguing that it could not be applied retroactively.

Re-enactments of the Polly Strong case have been performed across Indiana under the direction of Corydon historic preservationist Maxine Brown, who has been a guest on Hoosier History Live for a show about her historic restoration of a segregated school in Corydon, as well as a show discussing DNA testing and family ancestry. The restored school, now known as the Leora Brown School, has been the setting for re-enactments of the court cases of Mary Bateman Clark and Polly Strong.

Just three years after the Mary Bateman Clark trial, another milestone Indiana legal case set a precedent for racial justice in the United States.

When white men were found guilty by a jury and executed for the slaughter of nine Native Americans in March 1824, it was the first time that the murders of Indians by whites had been subject to capital punishment under American law.

DAvid Thomas MurphyTo explore all aspects of the brutal crimes in the swampy woods of Madison County - where the Native Americans (including three women and four children) were gruesomely murdered - Nelson is joined in studio by David Thomas Murphy, author of the book, Murder in Their Hearts: The Fall Creek Massacre (Indiana Historical Society Press).

A professor of history at Anderson University, David spent four years researching the massacre, trial and subsequent developments, including the social history of pioneer Hoosiers (Indiana only had been a state for about seven years at the time of the massacre) and of the Native Americans in the region.

"The slaughter in the soggy Indiana creek bottoms created a short-lived but serious national security crisis," David has written, referring to concerns across the country that warfare would erupt across newly developing states.

In researching the tragedy, David explored why the federal government devoted great effort and resources to prosecuting the perpetrators. David's research required that he reconcile conflicting accounts of the events (the tribal origins of some of the victims remain unclear) as well as the motivations involved in the cold-blooded crimes, which involved shooting some of the Native Americans in their backs and mutilating several of the corpses.

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