By David Witte
July 31, 2006

What does it take to be a patriot: Dedication to a cause, perseverance, loyalty, and courage. Over the next few days I will be posting information about a patriot named "Frederick Fout", units he served in plus additional background information on him.

On April 13, the news of the bombardment of Fort Sumter had reached Washington on Sunday morning and the cabinets meet to discuss its surrender.

On the same day President Lincoln drafted a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteers and published it to the country on April 15. The call for the militia was based on a law from 1795.

No where was the fire of patriotism more intense than in INDIANA. It turned away all other feelings about the impending issues at hand. The streets were black with a multitude of people waiting for the tidings of the seventy loyal men in an unfinished fort, bombarded by 5,0000 desperate insurrectionists.

In Franklin, twenty miles south of Indianapolis, where Frederick Fout lived, young men, men in middle life, and old citizens stood in the streets, near the telegraph office, where one telegraph operator was working. His knowledge of the telegraph was limited, he closed his office at 9:00 p.m. and went home and the large gathering of citizens dispersed, EXCEPT six men to which whom Frederick Fout was one of them.

The six men made arrangements with the section boss of the rail yard for a handcar (No trains were running on Sunday). The six men took the handcar 20 miles up the track to Indianapolis where they arrived the next morning. When they arrived they heard that Fort Sumter had indeed fallen. A telegraph message had been received that President Lincoln would issue a proclamation calling for the 75,000 to suppress the insurrection. Cheer upon Cheer was the response; one meeting was held at the courthouse and another at the Masonic Hall that all six men from Franklin attended.

About 4 p.m. the six started their journey back to Franklin with the handcar and upon their arrival at the depot, a large part of the citizens where awaiting any type of news from Washington or Indianapolis. The telegraph operator was not able to give much news to the citizens over the wire. Frederick Fout climbed up on a box at the depot and started telling the citizens what he and his friends had heard. The citizens were eager to ask questions and to listen.

On April 19th the riots began in Baltimore and the next day, Frederick Fout enrolled his name as a volunteer in the Franklin Company. His number was 120, as there were 119 ahead of him. His chances were slim. The next day being Sunday, there were several ministers in Franklin preaching loyal sermons. Frederick and is five comrades heard one at his Baptist Church. That afternoon he attended for the last time in Franklin, Baptist Sunday school, which was crowded with volunteers and citizens. Later the same day the Franklin volunteers elected officers for their company.

On Monday morning they all reported to the public hall & soon marched to the train depot, where the train arrived to take the Franklin Company to Indianapolis. After many kisses and handshakes to family and friends, the men boarded the train cars to the capital city. Upon arrival in Indianapolis, all the men lined up quickly in proper positions and marched out onto Pennsylvania Street and marched to Camp Morton. Upon there arrival a grand feast was laid out for all of the volunteers from across the state. They were offered coffee, ham, bread, and other eatable. The day went quickly for the men of Franklin as they strolled about the fort and had conversations of others that had already arrived.

On the 22nd, which was to be the muster date of the company, only 100 men were selected, in which 25 men of Franklin was turned away. Frederick was stunned, in horror, and surprised because he was so desperate to support the cause of his adopted homeland. Frederick learned that an old neighbor of his, Jonathan Gordon (a lawyer) was raising an artillery company and at once he reported to him, but he was told that the Government was not wanting any volunteer artillery units and Jonathan Gordon would have to disband his organization. Frederick had to look elsewhere if he wanted to go into the battle.

Frederick turned his attention and found some of his acquaintances from Indianapolis and Palestine in the DOBS Indianapolis Company so Frederick joined this unit, only to find out within the next couple of hours that the DOBS unit would not be mustered also.

The next day, Frederick asked and received a pass from Camp Morton and he went to downtown Indianapolis to search for a unit. While standing on the corner of Illinois and Washington he met Mr. Byron Finch, then a Quartermaster SGT of the 7th Indiana, coming out of the Bates House Hotel. Mr. Finch spoke to Frederick asking him.

Mr. Finch: Hello Fred, aren't you going with us?

Frederick: Yes, but they will not take Me.

Mr. Finch: Well? Are you going?

Frederick: Sure if I can get a place!

Mr. Finch: Come on quick, I know of a vacancy and I will get you in.

Mr. Finch and Frederick hurried up the steps of the Bates house and meet with Captain Rabb, then of Company I, 7th Indiana. Finch introduced Frederick to Captain Rabb and said here is a boy from our town, We have too many and he can not go with us, but as you have just mustered a man out, put Frederick in his place.

Frederick, Finch and Rabb went in to Captain Woods room, (the mustering officer) who swore the energetic, courageous, young Frederick W. Fout in to the United States Service. Frederick was instructed to report to the camp the next morning. That night Frederick slept at the home of a relative living in Indianapolis. He reported to camp as ordered and even though he was not in the Franklin Company which was "H", he was next to "H", in Company I, the same regiment.

Harper’s Ferry 1862 and Frederick W. Fout
During the night at Harper’s Ferry on September 14, Sgt. Frederick Wilhelm Fout had gone to the northern end of Bolivar Heights with Capt. J.C.H. Von Sehlen and his four guns. After selecting a covered place for the caissons reporting the positions to the Captain, Frederick remained with Von Sehlen’s for a time until the firing in the rear of the unit on top of Bolivar Heights became most terrific. He rode up to the Captain, saluted him and asked permission to go back to the other guns left in charge of the Austrian Lieutenant on Bolivar Heights. Every gun of the enemy appeared in action, and every part of the present position was unsafe.

After riding about a mile through the iron hail, he reached the section, but to the astonishment of Sgt. Fout he found it abandoned. He looked around for the cannoneers and found some of them sheltered in a deep gully. He asked the Sergeant and Corporal: How is this? Why are you not with your guns and replying to the enemy fire? "Well," said one of the men, "when we were up by the gun and were exposed to the fire from all sides, the Lieutenant that the Captain put over us said "Mein Gott in Himmel! Run boys! Come, and get away from here! And so we left and sought protection. By that time the enemy had ceased most of their firing and Sgt. Fout at once seized up the situation, and asked the men to join with him and open up fire on the rebels.

He soon had the required number to man one gun, and they went out of the gully up to the hill and opened fire. Their aim was directed on School House Hill, near the Winchester Pike. Joel Smith, a lead driver of Gun Number 3, left his team in the fully and came forward voluntarily to act as Number 3, to stop the vent. Not having a thumb stall, he pulled the sleeve of his blouse forward to protect his thumb, which after the first shot was already been burned.

No sooner had they begun firing than every battery and gun of the enemy renewed their action, and the roar of the artillery was most terrific. Colonel Miles, expecting an assault by the infantry, during the brief interval of quiet, called the brigade commanders together. Two batteries and a large part of a division of infantry of the enemy had advanced to their left and rear just across the Shenandoah, and not a single shot had been heard from their relief from General McClellan’s 100,000 on the Maryland side. As the firing in that direction the evening before had apparently receded instead of coming nearer, and as the ammunition was exhausted, the brigade commanders unanimously decided it was absolutely useless to try and defend the post longer, and determined to surrender. With the decision reached, General White was sent out to make terms with the enemy. The troops were expecting an order still to attack the rebel lines, but the Colonel Miles commanding the brigade, requested ! in a loud voice, "There will not be one short fired. You are all surrendered. After a time, the line got into motion to back up Bolivar Heights to be surrendered. The men broke their guns against trees as they passed then. When the troops came up the hill they found open of the batteries firing and two or three rebel guns still firing. It seemed that this one battery had refused to surrender. Colonel Miles rode up in person and dismounted and walk up to where Sgt. Fout had taken charge of the gun and was still firing, and addressed him and said: "Orderly, cease firing. We will have to surrender." Sgt. Fout refused with an oath. The gun was still loaded and Corporal Johnson and myself gave the order to fire, and turning to Col. Miles, said "General, don’t let us surrender to these rebels. Let us fight them. Col. Miles replied: "It is no use, as we cannot be relieved (pointing over to Maryland) by our friends." John Gimber pulled the lanyard, and the final shot was sent to the enemy on School House Hill. Capt.Von Sehlen had previously stopped firing. Colonel Miles tied a white handkerchief to his sword blade and climbed on one of the guns to wave it. Just at that moment a shell from a rebel battery or gun struck one of his legs and he fell to the ground.

General Jackson stormed up to Captain J. C. H.Von Schlen’s 15th Battery, Indiana Light Artillery, which was near the center of the line, and shouted, "Where’s the captain of this battery?" Von Sehlen replied I am the captain. General Jackson then stated "You or your men fired after the white flag was up!" Capt. Von Sehlen replied unpologetically; "We are your prisoners by agreement with General White. "Well Captain," Gen. Jackson asked coldly, what was the meaning of this firing after capitulation? I suppose you know the penalty for violating the rules of war." Capt. Von Schlen replied "Yes, but I could not avoid it". "Why not” Gen. Jackson answered, Capt. Von Schlen, replied to him "I got my guns so widely scattered that I could not command them all at once.” Gen. Jackson replied "This is preposterous. Get your battery in line in a proper manner." " I will as soon as possible," Capt. Von Sehlen replied.

Recommendation of Colonel Miles on his deathbed mentioned the following deserving credit during the fight: Brigadier General White. Major J. HJ. McIllivain, Captain McGrath, Orderly Sergeant Frederick W. Fout, of Von Sehlen battery. The batteries of Rigsby, Phillips, Potts and Von Sehlen, for their courage displayed on Bolivar Heights, deserve great praise for holding their positions against tremendous odd.
On October 1st Captain Von Sehlen was ordered to report to Washington before the Court of Inquiry reviewing the surrender of Harper’s Ferry. Frederick Fout received a leave of absence and went back to Indianapolis. And General Lazarus Noble, then Adjutant General of Indiana asked him to report to his office. After asking him some questions about the events at Harper’s Ferry fight. He read to Frederick the deathbed recommendation and asked him to tell him all about his reopening fire and about the Austrian Lieutenant from the Garibaldi Guards. Frederick gave him a true and straight story and the General asked Frederick to wait for a few minutes as he left the room. When the General returned he presented him with his commission as Second Lieutenant in the 15th Indiana Battery. He cut the chevrons of an orderly sergeant from his sleeves, and suggested that he goes and buys a fine uniform that of a Second Lieutenant.

Our main interest is in the Medal of Honor recipient "Frederick Fout" who served in the 7th Indiana Company I and the 15th Indiana Battery - Light Artillery, both units from 1861-1865.

Frederick Fout emigrated to New Palestine, Indiana and then went to school in Franklin, Indiana and at the age of 21 he was a carpenter and a mason. He has a distinguished history of being a soldier, a builder of homes in Indianapolis (one of his homes still is standing in Indianapolis, plus one of his homes that he lived in is where the Starbucks Coffee house opposite the Eli Lilly Civil War Museum stands.

The following was taken from an article from a book "Old and New St. Louis" from 1901. Frederick W. Fout, the successful claim and pension attorney was born October 30,1839, in the little town of Meissen, near Buckeburg, Germany. His mother Sophia (Spannuth) Fout and his father, Frederick Willhelm, was the village blacksmith of the little town on Meissen. His parents were thrifty and economical, and fully comprehending the benefits of a good education confers, kept the boy in steady attendance at the school of his native village, which he left at the age of fifteen to go into the world and seek his fortune. Sailing for America, his journey found an ending at New Palestine, Indiana, where an uncle lived, and with whom he made his home. There he continued his studies until he determined to become altogether independent, and engaged himself to a carpenter to learn the trade. After his apprenticeship was completed he worked at his trade in Indianapolis and in Franklin, Indiana, but aspiring he laid aside his saw and plane to enter Franklin Academy, Indiana. This was in 1859, and he attended school in the winter and returned to his carpenter work in the summer, until spring 1861, which proved a momentous epoch in his life, as did in the lives of thousands of other Americans.

He was filled with an intense patriotism for his adopted country's cause and at the beginning of the war, or in April 1861 enlisted at Indianapolis as a private in Company I, Seventh Indiana Infantry. The regiment participated in the battles of Philiippi, Laurel Hills, and Carrick Fort, all in West Virginia, but as the men had only enlisted for three months, in August they were ordered back to Indianapolis and mustered out. But the young Fout had enlisted in the beginning with determined and patriotic motives, which were not in the least abated by the service he had seen, and he accordingly at once re-enlisted in an artillery regiment. The latter was broken up by internal dissensions but each battery entered the service as and independent organization.

In January 1862, Mr. Fout was made an orderly sergeant of the 15th Indiana Independent Battery, and in August the same year was promoted to 2nd Lt. In, January 1864 he was made 1st Lt. and after that time was in continuously in command of the Battery. He served under Generals McCleland, Miles, Burnside, Schofield, Sherman, and Cox; and was mentioned incidentally by Sherman (in his papers) that it was Lt. Fout's guns that fired the first shell into Atlanta. In June 1865 the 1st Lt. and his battery was mustered out at Indianapolis, its commander served from the first to the last month of the war. Frederick Fout became a United States Citizen in 1865. Once he moved to St. Louis, Missouri he became the number one traveling salesman for the Missouri Glass Company and in 1887 he went to Washington, D.C. to train to become a pension solicitor. He pursued the business in St. Louis and became the top military pension and claim solicitor west of the Mississippi River. He had large rooms in the Fagin Building on Olive Street and was assisted by his son and numerous clerks. He also developed an area in St. Louis called "Fout Place", one of the homes he developed (built) is still standing and waiting for a rehab. to be completed.

Return to Frederick Wilhelm Fout, Medal of Honor Recipient