The American Civil War is always thought of as a military struggle between the states. But there was a great deal more to the war than the military aspect. Every phase of human activity both north and south was affected, including higher education.
Of the approximate 40 colleges, universities, and seminaries in Indiana today, 15 have already celebrated their centennials. Beginning with Vincennes University in 1806, the list of those institutions founded before 1860 includes, in chronological order, Indiana, Hanover, Wabash, Franklin, DePauw, Concordia, St. Mary-of-the Woods, Notre Dame, Taylor, Earlham, Evansville, Butler, St. Mary's at South Bend, and Valparaiso. It is interesting to note that, with the exception of Indiana University, all were-and still are-private or church-related institutions.
These schools of higher education, while still in their relative infancy, were soon called upon to bear their full burden of responsibility for the prosecution of the war. It was not an easy task. Many of them had among their founders men with Southern antecedents, and Southern political, religious, social, economic, and cultural ideas still prevailed in several parts of Indiana. There were many islands of Southern sympathy, especially in the southern half of the state, and the campuses found themselves with a divided opinion on the merits of the struggle. It was inevitable that most should become hotbeds of Union partisanship, but the South was not without its champions. Students had closely followed the regrettable and momentous events that led up to the war. "The Union must be preserved!" and "States' Rights" were the rallying cry of the opposing factions.
Each of the 15 institutions was affected in some particular way, but they all fared alike in having most of their normal collegiate functions either curtailed or entirely eliminated temporarily, even before they were firmly established; although one or two schools actually benefited from the situation. In some cases, due to the absence of professors and students, the colleges were forced to close their doors. But all 15 were to resume their normal activities shortly after the conflict had ended, which is proof of the fact that their founders had built well, and that not even a Civil War could permanently quench the thirst for Christianity and culture....
Hanover College ... lost students during the war, but to a lesser extent than [Indiana University]. In 1860-1861 the school had 56 students enrolled in the degree course and 30 in the scientific course. The following year there were 66 and 13, respectively, with 53 and 23 in 1862-1863, 40 and 44 in 1863-1864, and 42 and 24 in 1864-1865. There were only 23 new students in Hanover in the fall of 1864 but 36 the next year (after the close of the war) plus four returning ones. The drop in enrollment of the college was mainly due to the number of students Hanover pulled from Kentucky and Alabama as well as Tennessee before and during the first year of the war. Many students enlisted for the three-month period. As quite a few of these volunteers were seniors, the class of 1864 was graduated without final examinations. It may be suspected that a short military service was preferred to the rigors of final examinations!
During the war years the halls of Hanover seemed half deserted, as no women had matriculated there until after the war. There were frequent alarms when Confederate troops were in Kentucky. The college was on vacation when Gen. John Hunt Morgan raided southern Indiana in 1863, but at least one student, who had borrowed a horse and started out as a self-appointed scout, was quickly disarmed and dismounted by Morgan's men and sent back to Hanover on foot. Another incident had occurred there in 1862, when the rumor s read that a large force of rebels was crossing the Ohio near the college. The students quickly organized and marched to the river with all the shotguns, pistols, pitchforks and clubs they could find. Some of the students who were Confederate sympathizers determined to have some fun. A skirmish ensued but it was soon discovered that it was all a joke. Friend and foe alike gathered at the general store and recounted their adventures.
In his autobiography, Harvey W Wiley, Hanover's most famous alumnus, claims that nearly all the students volunteered for service with him. He became a member of Company 1, 137th Indiana Volunteers, a large portion of which was made up of Hanover students. Yet during the whole of the war, with 80 per cent of the students under colors, Hanover never closed its doors. The college had depended largely on the Southern states to send her students, except for those that lived in Indiana. Especially did Presbyterian parents of Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama send their sons to Hanover for instruction. Of course, during the war these students ceased coming, and the finances of the college were greatly impaired.