BAPTISM OF FIRE
"On behalf of the state of Indiana, I tender to you, for the defense of the Nation and to uphold the authority of the Government, ten thousand men,"  telegraphed newly elected Governor Oliver P. Morton of Indiana to President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D. C. Indiana's call to arms went out to her citizens on April 16, 1861 as the impact of the bombardment and Union surrender of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, three days earlier, began to reverberate throughout every community in the country.
The escalating state of war soon determined that Indiana's offer of ten thousand men would prove far from adequate and many times that number would be needed to defend the Union. In July 1861, President Lincoln issued a national call for 500,000 additional volunteers. Indiana citizens responded with great enthusiasm, especially among the immigrant population of the state who, due to the political attitudes of the era, felt the need to prove themselves worthy of citizenship.
In the early 1850's, the American Party, commonly known as the "Know-Nothings," developed and spread across the country. Espousing a secret nationalist political agenda with a strong sense of disdain for anyone foreign, including certain religions, the nativist ideology of the "Know-Nothings" festered in National politics long after the party's demise in 1858. Faced with the necessity of affirming their loyalty as true American citizens in a rising tide of resentment, German communities across Indiana petitioned the government in Indianapolis to allow the formation of an all-German regiment, "...to show what patriotic Germans can do." 
In order to appease the barrage from various factions pushing their candidate as colonel for the ethnic regiment, Governor Morton diplomatically chose an outsider who would unify the German competitors in his state. He selected August Willich, among the most notable of German exiles in America, who was unanimously elected colonel of the new command by all parties. Apparently unaware, or more likely unconcerned, about Indiana political intrigue, Willich received state authority on August 12, 1861, to organize the Thirty-Second Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Unofficially known as the First Indiana German Regiment, 434 men were drawn to the ranks on August 24, the first day of mustering into service at Camp Murphy in Indianapolis. Part of the attraction to this new regiment was attributed to the man who would be its colonel.
August von Willich, the younger son of an aristocratic Prussian captain of Hussar cavalry, began his military career in 1822, at the age of twelve, entering Potsdam Military Academy as a cadet and completing studies three years later at the Royal Military Academy of Berlin. Graduating in 1828 as a second lieutenant, he gained valuable professional military experience at company command level in the 7th Royal Artillery Brigade and, later, as a Republican commander during the German Revolution of 1848. As one of the major leaders in the struggle for "Unity, Justice and Freedom," Willich skillfully directed a unit known as "Willich's Free Corps" until the overwhelming Prussian army defeated the revolutionaries in the battle of Kandern/Black Forest, April 20, 1848. 
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Notes: Alexander H. Conner, State Printer, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana (Indianapolis 1869) Vol. I, 4