The 44th Indiana Gets Its Colors

One of the regiments seeing its first action at Fort Donelson was the 44th Indiana. Part of Lew Wallace’s division, the 44th was recruited from northeast Indiana and coalesced at Fort Wayne. Under Colonel Hugh Reed, the 44th left Fort Wayne on November 23, 1861 for the front. (Among the enlisted in Company H was one of my ancestors, Samuel Eiman.)

Company H of the 44th Indiana at Chattanooga pose with the unit’s second set of national colors in early 1864.

Before Reed took his regiment out of camp to catch a train to Indianapolis, F.P. Randall, mayor of Fort Wayne, gave a fiery speech to the assembled men, congratulating them on their appearance and devotion to country. He also presented the regiment its national colors, saying: “To it patriotism now looks with ardent hopes, and upon it hang the destines of this nation.”

At the end of his speech, Randall indulged in a ritual with the men of the 44th, one perhaps unique to any unit in the war:

And now, before placing it in your hands, I desire to ask a few questions, to which you will please give audible answers.

Do you solemnly promise to love this flag? [Yes.]

Do you promise to honor it? [Yes.]

Do you promise to obey it? [Yes.] 

Do you promise to sustain and defend it, even unto death? [Yes.]

I then, in this presence and before these witnesses, solemnly join you to the American Flag; and what we have now joined together let not Jeff Davis or his minions put asunder.

The memory of this moment lingered among the Hoosiers of the 44th. Surgeon John H. Rerick recorded Randall’s entire speech and exchange in his 1880 regimental history.

And with that, the 44th Indiana went to war – to Fort Donelson, Shiloh, First Corinth, Kentucky, Stones River, Tullahoma, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga. In the fall of 1862 the colors were exchanged for new ones, which were used until war’s end. Today the unit’s flags are preserved in Indianapolis.

3 Responses to The 44th Indiana Gets Its Colors

  1. The 44th Indiana Volunteer Infantry is one of the unsung heroes of the early Civil War in the West. And in late 1861 they were assigned to BGen Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio as part of the Thirteenth Brigade. In February 1862, as BGen U.S. Grant attempted to acquire sufficient forces to attack Fort Donelson, BGen Buell detached Cruft’s Brigade, which consisted of the 44th Indiana, 31st Indiana, 17th Kentucky and 25th Kentucky Regiments, and that fighting force arrived by steamer three miles downstream from Fort Donelson and marched south, arriving before the sprawling Rebel works in time to be assigned to Lew Wallace’s new Third Division. Maintaining its organization, but now numbered as “First Brigade,” the 44th Indiana contributed to the success of Unconditional Surrender Grant’s victory: Cruft’s Brigade gains especially favourable mention in the After-action Report of BGen Wallace [OR ser.1 vol.7 pp.239-240].
    But it was at Shiloh where the 44th Indiana gained fame. Still part of Cruft’s Brigade, but now assigned to BGen Stephen Hurlbut’s Fourth Division, Charles Cruft was returned to command his 31st Indiana Regiment, replaced by newly- minted Brigadier General Jacob Lauman mere days before initiation of the Confederate attack. On the morning of Sunday, April 6, 1862 Stephen Hurlbut responded to BGen Benjamin Prentiss’s urgent request for assistance and marched his Division forward (south) in the direction of Prentiss’s camp. But Prentiss’s Sixth Division was in process of collapse: fear-ravaged men streamed north, halting Hurlbut’s advance. These panicked soldiers of the Sixth Division did not stop running until they reached Pittsburg Landing, where the Tennessee River stopped them. Meanwhile, as Hurlbut shook his division into line – facing south and southwest – BGen Prentiss and two artillery batteries and perhaps 500 remaining men from his Sixth Division met BGen Hurlbut; and Prentiss was placed to Hurlbut’s right, extending Hurlbut’s line through what became known as the Hornet’s Nest. And when BGen WHL Wallace attached his Second Division to the right of Prentiss, along what became known as the Sunken Road, the resulting length of Hurlbut’s Line, which passed through forest, cultivated field and clearing, at the top of a south-tending slope, exceeded 1 ½ miles. And in Hurlbut’s Division, Lauman was to the right of Williams; and the starting order of Lauman’s Third Brigade was (L – R) 17th Kentucky, 25th Kentucky, 44th Indiana,31st Indiana (abutting Prentiss’s depleted division.) This infantry line was well supported by artillery in advance (Mann and Willard); artillery in the rear (Welker, Richardson and Stone); and embedded artillery (Munch and Hickenlooper).
    Contact along Hurlbut’s Line commenced about 9am when William’s Brigade encountered Rebel skirmishers. Hurlbut adjusted his line for better defense; and Lauman’s Brigade came under fire about 10am. During the next four hours, Rebel attacks hit various segments of the Hurlbut – Prentiss – WHL Wallace Line; to Federal defenders, those attacks seemed continuous, as the roar of gunfire was never-ending; and those attacks were launched by Stephens; Russell; Gibson (four attempts); Statham; Shaver; Anderson. Of these, the 44th Indiana was directly involved against Stephens, Statham, and at least one attempt by Gibson. And at one point the firing became so heavy in front of the 44th Indiana that a scrub-fire broke out, burning to death many of the Confederates who had fallen wounded in front of Lauman’s Brigade [see Frank Leslie’s Illustrated ].
    At about 2pm BGen Hurlbut noticed a Federal force on his left (McArthur’s Brigade) falling back, and realised that he must soon do the same. What happened next is best described by Stephen Hurlbut in his After-action Report: “BGen Jacob Lauman took command of his Third Brigade only the day before the battle. The Brigade and their Commander know each other now. I saw him hold the right of my line on Sunday with his small body of gallant men, only 1717 strong, for three hours, and then, when changed over to the left [of my line] repel the attack of twice his force for a full hour of terrible fighting, closing by the most gallant and successful charge, which gave time required to draw off his force in order and comparative safety. Lauman’s report gives full justice to his officers, among whom Colonel Reed, of the 44th Indiana, was especially distinguished” [OR ser.1 vol.10 (part one) pp.206-7].
    It was one of only two charges by Federal forces that occurred that Sunday. And afterwards at least one major newspaper declared, “The 44th Indiana was THE Regiment at Shiloh.”
    Congratulations on having an ancestor-member of this valiant regiment.

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