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If I've learned anything in my 12 years in Northwest Indiana, the most stubborn of our local cream rises to the surface.

Now I know from whence it came.

Nearly 152 years ago, a group of fighting region Hoosiers made a historic stand in Georgia at the Battle of Chickamauga, the Civil War's second-bloodiest battle.

Our local boys must have been considered blue-clad devils by Confederate forces trying to drive the most stubborn of men from the field of battle.

This lesson in mettle came as most of the Union Army was in full retreat, with a barrage of lead bullets whizzing by and as many of the region rats' fellow soldiers were surrendering to a Confederate onslaught.

This week, I'll be attempting to walk in the footsteps of the "Bloody 9th" Indiana Volunteer Infantry as part of a family vacation to the heart of the Civil War's western theater.

Regular readers of my column know of my enthusiasm for the region's role in the Civil War — and for my thirst to seek out the actual grounds upon which they fought.

A century and a half ago today, men of the 9th Indiana, including region men, were heading into their final month of service before being discharged in September 1865.

Throughout the bloodiest four years of our nation's history, the 9th Indiana had earned the "Bloody 9th" nickname by serving on the front lines of nearly every major battle of the Civil War's western theater. Their service included pivotal battles in Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia.

Two years prior to their discharge, these region men of steel made one of many historic stands on the Georgia side of the Tennessee border — a location I'll visit with my family this week at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, which straddles the two states.

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On Sept. 20, 1863, the Union Army was in full retreat from the Chickamauga battlefield, having had their figurative trap-door trousers handed to them by a surging Confederate force.

The Bloody 9th was part of a brigade that was ordered to protect the Union retreat — in other words to stand exposed to the teeth of a charging enemy for the good of the rest of the vanquished troops.

At one point, part of that rear-guard collapsed, and many were taken prisoner.

But when a Confederate officer demanded the same of the 9th Indiana, he didn't get the answer he expected.

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9th Indiana commander, Valparaiso Col. Isaac Suman, instead ordered his lines to aim and fire upon what should have been a conquering Confederate force.

It defied conventional wisdom, given other parts of the Union Army lines near them were waiving the white flag.

But the bravado worked. Most of the surviving men of the 9th were able to scamper away with the rest of the retreating army soon after.

Two months later, the 9th Indiana was part of the major Union victory in neighboring Chattanooga, Tenn. The victory secured valuable army supply routes and thrust Gen. Ulysses S. Grant into command of the entire federal army.

This week, I plan to stand in the historic Chickamauga location where our region made one of its many marks on the nation's bloodiest chapter.

Keep an eye on nwi.com and my Facebook and Twitter feeds for photos of the experience. We'll see if the spirits of our hard-headed ancestors linger in these historic sites.

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