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Family history: Man’s book looks at relative’s role in war

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As he sorted through his late mother’s belongings, Jim Long discovered a treasure that would take him on a journey that began more than 150 years ago.

Tucked neatly in a box was a manuscript written by his grandfather. This document told the story of Long’s great-great-grandfather, Fredrick Summa, and his experiences fighting in the Civil War.

Long, a retired Columbus judge and attorney, was captivated by the stories told in the manuscript by a man named Bluford “Blue” Sutherland, who served with Summa. Long was so intrigued that he began doing his own research to understand the battles his great-great-grandfather fought.

“I have had a lifelong interest in anything historical, but I did not realize at the time how far my research would take me,” said Long, who now lives in Florida. “The more research I did, the more interested I became.”

With dozens of pages of research and his grandfather’s manuscript in hand, Long decided to write a book. He titled it “Fredrick Summa, Pvt., Co. K, 67th Ind. Reg’t Inf. Volunteers and The Battle of the Bridge.” It was published in 2012.

“I was prompted to write this book so that members of my family would have a piece of their roots to appreciate and pass on to future family,” he said.

The book tells the story of the 67th Indiana Regiment Infantry Volunteers and Pvt. Fredrick Summa, of Jackson County, who was 32 years old when he joined the Union Army.

The 67th Regiment mustered in Madison on Aug. 20, 1862, and consisted of one company from Owen and Monroe counties, two from Lawrence County, four from Jackson County, one from Jennings County and one from Bartholomew County.

According to Long’s book, Madison was considered one of Indiana’s largest cities in 1862.

“I was intrigued by what would have made a 32-year-old married man with three young children leave home to go to war. His children at the time were just 5, 3 and 1,” Long said. “I have concluded that it was probably part patriotism and part yearning for adventure.”

In his book, he describes that during Civil War time men often lived their entire lives without traveling farther than the county seat.

“This book caused me to pause and think about what life was like in those days when travel was by foot, horse, horse and buggy or wagon,” Long said. “The new soldiers probably had a romantic view of war, having not yet been exposed to its horrors, and saw it as a chance for adventure.”

Shortly after being mustered in, the soldiers were rushed to Munfordville, Kentucky, to defend the bridge and fort. The anxiety of the first battle is described on Page 8 of Long’s book: “Here were men and boys who had been soldiers for less than a month. They were so green they did not even know how to march together.”

“The importance of the Battle of the Bridge is often overlooked by historians,” said Long, 78. “It is a battle that helped lead to the failure of Gen. Braxton Bragg’s 1862 invasion of Kentucky.”

Just four months into service, Summa died from smallpox.

“Most people do not know or understand that the Civil War was the most costly and bloody war in our history,” Long said. “More soldiers and sailors died in the Civil War than in all of our wars put together, from the Revolutionary War to today. If we were to have the same percentage of our population die today in a war, the dead would be 2 (million) or 3 million.”

Of the 1,635 soldiers who mustered with the 67th Regiment, there were 249 deaths, 53 in combat and 196 to disease.

Long, who served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1957, said studying our history is critically important.

“I think it is important for Americans today to learn that the Civil War not only freed the slaves, but it turned us from ‘these United States’ into ‘the United States,’” Long said. “As someone once said, “If we do not learn from our mistakes in the past, we are doomed to repeat them.”

Greg Long, Jim Long’s son, said his father’s book made him feel closer to his family.

“I had heard about Fredrick Summa my whole life. Whenever we drove by Munfordville, Kentucky, on I-65 on our way to or from Florida, my dad would talk about the battle and Fredrick Summa,” Greg said.

“I didn’t appreciate it as a child, but now that I am older and have read the book, I am proud to be Fredrick Summa’s great-great-great-grandson. I remember studying the civil war in school, but the book makes it more personal because the story is about a family member.”

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