Norman Eddy: The most brilliant South Bender of all time?

 Colonel Norman Eddy is more than a Civil War hero. He’s more than the namesake of a beer at Brew Werks, and he’s more than the eponym of a South Bend roadway and a long-forgotten westside street. In fact, he might just be the most brilliant man who ever called South Bend home.

Aaron Helman

Norman Eddy was born in 1810 in Scipio, New York. He spent his formative years surrounded by the picturesque Finger Lakes, but it’s not certain that he took much time to enjoy the scenery. As a child, Eddy was a voracious reader, consuming newspapers and leaflets and any book he could get his hands on. His appetite for knowledge followed him beyond adolescence, and the young Norman Eddy earned acceptance into Cazenovia Seminary, the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, as well as a prestigious legal apprenticeship.

It would have seemed the brilliant youth had a difficult choice to make.

He chose all three.

By the age of 25, Norman Eddy had passed the bar and held post-graduate degrees in divinity and medicine. For his next act, he was going to get married to Anna and move to Mishawaka, where he would become probably the first medical doctor in that young city. He’d continue his practice in Mishawaka for 12 years, making it the longest job he’d ever hold.

In 1847, Eddy made the short commute to South Bend to begin a new career in law and then politics. The stories describe him as a reluctant candidate for office, but whatever the case, he won election to the Indiana State Senate as a Democrat in 1850 before being sent to Washington in 1853 as the Congressional representative from Indiana’s 9th District.

Clipping from Indiana State Sentinel; October 21, 1852

For two years, Eddy occupied the same seat that Samuel Sample had once held, but he was really just keeping it warm for his neighbor back home, a political opponent named Schuyler Colfax. When Eddy voted in favor of the controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act, Colfax built his entire platform around the need to undo the bill, and he was correct to do so. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill unraveled the Missouri Compromise and served as one of the most important catalysts that pointed toward Civil War. Most importantly for Eddy’s rapidly diminishing political ambitions, the bill was deeply unpopular in the north. Is if that weren’t enough to cripple his campaign for re-election, opposition newspapers were only too quick to seize on any opportunity they could find to stain his character:

The Indiana Herald; September 20, 1854.

When Eddy lost the Congressional election of 1854, he might have returned to South Bend to resume a law career that had only barely started before his foray into politics, but politics had other ideas. President Franklin Pierce appointed Eddy as Attorney General to the burgeoning Minnesota Territory. Eddy later declined the entreaties of friends who wanted him to run for Governor of his home state and even shot down an invitation from President James Buchanan that sought to make him Ambassador to the Netherlands.

As a youth, Norman Eddy had achieved success in every educational pursuit he’d ever attempted, save one. A teenage Eddy had been rejected from West Point, making the lack of a military commission the only hole on his resume. The Civil War was about to fix that. 

In 1861, Eddy was made colonel of the 48th Indiana Infantry and saw action in several key battles, including the Siege of Vicksburg and the Battle of Grand Gulf. But like most of his other jobs, Eddy’s military career would prove to be a short one. During the Battle of Iuka, Eddy was grievously injured and lucky to survive. He was medically discharged, then returned to South Bend to make a third start on his law career, at least until politics came calling again.

He spent a few years as chief tax collector in his home congressional district before he was bandied again as a candidate for Indiana’s governor, and eventually, its secretary of state. The Democrats would have had a hard time finding a better candidate that the well-respected, polymathic, wounded veteran of a won war, but it turns out that not everyone was a fan of Colonel Norman Eddy:

The Weekly Republican; January 20, 1870.

Newspaper hit pieces notwithstanding, Eddy won the office of secretary of state in 1870. When he announced at the end of 1871 that he did not intend to seek another term for the same office, everyone knew that it meant that Norman Eddy was finally going to run for governor.

He wouldn’t get the chance.

Colonel Norman Eddy died unexpectedly on January 28, 1872. As was tradition, the opposition newspapers that lambasted the man in life remembered him fondly in death, lionizing him as a larger-than-life hero and pointing out disingenuously that they’d never said a bad word about the man:

St. Joseph Valley Register; January 31, 1872.

Back home, there was quickly an effort underway to give Colonel Norman Eddy the honor of a street name, but it wasn’t the street you’re thinking of. The first Eddy Street was a westside alley that would later be vacated and abandoned. The exact location of that original Eddy Street is lost to history.

By 1894, the City Commission on Roads and Alleys recommended a name change for St. Basil Street on the city’s eastside, and it’s possible that St. Basil himself couldn’t have imagined a better antecedent than Norman Eddy, the triple-degreed theologian, lawyer and doctor. After all, Basil of Caesarea is venerated as the Patron Saint of education.

Colonel Norman Eddy is buried in the South Bend City Cemetery.

Kirby Sprouls enjoys a Colonel Eddy Oatmeal Stout at South Bend Brew Werks.

Aaron Helman is an author, historian and adventurer from South Bend. You can probably find him at the South Bend Brew Werks. His books are available at