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You Are There 1863: Letter Home from Gettysburg

Opens Sept. 23, 2017!

Visit the History Center to experience the latest in the You Are There series. You Are There 1863: Letter Home from Gettysburg invites you to join war bride Mahala Beem as she reads a just-received letter from her husband, Capt. David Enoch Beem, describing his experiences on the battlefield of Gettysburg during the Civil War.

Set in the parlor of the home she shares with her in-laws in Spencer, Indiana, visitors are invited join her as she reads her highly anticipated letter, one of the gems of the IHS collection. Mahala shares this most recent correspondence from the battlefield with visitors and prompts a multimedia experience that brings her husband’s words to life. Guests may meet characters such as Mahala and her in-laws Levi and Sarah Beem, who are all experiencing life on the Indiana home front in different ways.

In the space adjacent to the parlor, learn more about Indiana during the Civil War – both the roles that Hoosiers played in the various battles and campaigns and the roles that citizens left behind played at home. Topics such as Gov. Oliver P. Morton’s call for volunteers, the Battle of Gettysburg, and Capt. Beem’s own 14th Indiana Regiment provide background for the letter itself. Also, find out what happened to Capt. Beem and his family following the war, as well as efforts to recover from and commemorate the Civil War after it was over.

Graphics, multimedia and artifacts will highlight additional stories from this incredible chapter in our American story. Additional letters written home from Hoosiers serving in wars from throughout our history will provide context for the ways in which we correspond across the miles during wartime.

Supported by Daniel P. Carmichael, Craig and Jill Dunn, and   


David Enoch Beem was born in Spencer, Owen County, in 1837, the sixth of 12 children of Levi and Sarah Johnson Beem. He worked on the family farm until he was 19. He entered Indiana University in 1856 and graduated in 1860 with a degree in law. He was admitted to the Owen County Bar in the fall of 1860, formed a partnership with Samuel H. Buskirk of Bloomington, and opened an office in Spencer.

Beem's law career was interrupted by military service during the Civil War. He assisted in the organization of the first company raised in Owen County, and on April 19, 1861, enlisted as first sergeant in Company H, 14th Indiana Volunteer Regiment. Beem was promoted to First Lieutenant in August 1861, and to captain in May 1862. He fought at Rich Mountain, Cheat Mountain, Winchester, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. After three years of service, he left the military in June 1864.

Returning home, Beem resumed the practice of law, organized the First National Bank, started a banking firm and partnered in an unsuccessful pork packing business. Beem married Mahala Joslin in April 1862. They had one daughter and two sons – Minnie M. Zaring David Joslin Beem and Levi Amasa Beem. He  never held public office, but was active in the Republican Party and served on the board of trustees of Purdue University for 18 years. Beem died after a long illness in Spencer on October 23, 1923.

IHS holds 192 letters from Beem to Mahala and other family and friends while he served in the Union Army in Virginia; Civil War documents relating to his service and the 14th Indiana Regiment; his essays and speeches, including those written at Indiana University and an incomplete history of the 14th Indiana Regiment; and family letters, court records, deeds, receipts and other legal documents relating to Owen County life, schools, libraries and churches. Find the Capt. David Enoch Beem Civil War Materials digital collection here.