Donald Worster on: Powells Participation in the Civil War
Q: The Civil War came along, how did Powell respond? Is that
something that he fell right into?
DW: He fell right into it. He was one of the first to join up. He was a
principal of a school, in Illinois and when the call came for volunteers, he
was there. He marched off to Chicago. He was mustered into the military, sent
down to Cape Gerardo, in Missouri, and then had to cool his heels for several
months because he was left behind. Most of the action was under by this point,
and he was left behind to build fortifications that wouldn't be used. So, he
was very frustrated at that point. He was a gung-ho soldier, no question about
that--wanted to fight in the worst way. Got books out of the library or
wherever to study up on military engineering-- ready to go to the front when he
Q: What made him so eager to do it?
DW: Well, of course, his family had been strong supporters of Abraham Lincoln
and of abolition--anti-slavery. So, there was that moral purpose that he had
in mind, I think. He believed in the cause. I think, also, it was exciting,
it was daring. It was the movement of people onto a battlefield of the
fortifications. These guns, all of that appealed to the engineering side of
him, the side that liked to organize missions of some sort. He never had this
opportunity, like a lot of people at that point who had never had the
experience and the tragedy of war in their lives. He could only see the
romantic and glorious side of it.