Transcript:McCormick, David Isaac. Indiana Battle Flags

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15th Indiana Infantry Regiment

Pages 113-124

Letter from Mrs. S. C. Morrison of Haskell, Indiana to Indiana Governor Morton.

— Pages 117-118

Haskell, LaPorte Co., Ind.,
Aprile 2nd, '63.

Gov. Morton,
Sir:
I wish to ask a few questions. The little girls' Aid Society of Haskell Station procured a flag to present to the Fifteenth Regiment Ind. Vols. As yet they have no inscription on it. I wish to know if after putting 15th Regt. Ind. Vols., if they could have Stone River on it, or if that was a favor conferred only by Gen. Rosecrans on such regiments as he chose to confer particular honor.
A word in regard to the Little Girls' Aid Society. Without any one proposing to them to organize society, they had organized before any one knew it, and ready for work. That was on the 23rd of Feb. They commenced scraping lint and collecting other articles. We observed that the flag of the 15th Regt was badly riddled in the Stone River battle. I proposed to them, (as they applied to me for assistance when they commenced their Society) to get a flag and present to that Regt., as it would not take anything from the sanitary stores as there were many persons that would give to that purpose that would not give for other purposes. It was a success. In three days they raised thirty-four dollars and forty cents. They sent to Chicago and got a very nice bunting Regimental flag. The gentleman that bought it for them said bunting was preferable to silk on account of its durability. They invited Capt. Copof to make a speech, where they with some formality presented the flag; presentation speech by one of the little girls. Tho she was unable to be there, on account of sickness it was read by another person. They have collected a quantity of vegetables and other sanitary articles which will be shipped next week. I believe there is no society of ladies in the county that has done more in the same time. There was no Aid Society nearer than Westville until the 20th of March, the ladies being encouraged by the success of the little girls, have organized. But I am protracting my remarks. You will oblige me if you will answer my question as to the inscription of Stone River on that flag.

Mrs. S. C. Morrison.
N. B. Direct, Mrs. S. C. Morrison,
Haskell, Ind.


A History of the Flags

A speech written by George L. Banks to the attendees of the 50th Anniversary reunion of the 15th Ind Inf Regt, 1911.
— Pages 119-122

A HISTORY OF THE FLAGS.

Comrades of the 15th Indiana:—
In attempting to present a brief, and what I know will be an imperfect history of the flags under which we marched and fought for three years during our Civil War, I well know that no pen or tongue of mine can do justice to the valor or heroism of their defenders.
During over three years of service, the Fifteenth Indiana carried three different flags. The first of these was presented to the regiment at its formation here in Lafayette, fifty years ago. That flag was carried first to West Virginia, and in July, 1861, was at Rich Mountain. It was at Greenbriar October 3, 1861, and at Elkwater when General Lee advanced on General Reynold's forces, which resulted in the death of Colonel John A. Washington, Lee's Chief of Staff, and also in Lee's inglorious retreat.
In November, '61, the regiment was ordered to Kentucky and this flag was carried by it through Kentucky and Tennessee to Shiloh; was under fire there and at Farmington, and was in the front line a good part of the time during the advance on and capture of Corinth, Mississippi. From there it was carried to Huntsville, Alabama, thence to Louisville Kentucky, on Buell's retreat. At that place, on October 3, 1862, it was entrusted to me and placed in my hands as its bearer. It was carried by the regiment in pursuit of Bragg, was at the battle of Perrysville, and from there was carried over the devious route by which the regiment marched to Nashville, Tennessee. On December 26th the regiment broke camp and moved on to Murfreesboro. We rested on Sunday on Stewart's Creek and for six days thereafter, the flag was in the front line of battle.
December 31st was a day of desperate fighting and the flag was carried farther to the front than any other flag in the Union Army. It came out of the fight at the end of that day tattered and torn, pierced with more than two score and ten balls, but with the proud record of having been victorious in three desperate charges, one of which was against General Adams' entire brigade. It never had been forced back an inch, but in one instance it carried its bearer so far to the front that it had to be stopped by main force by Lieutenant Davis. During the battle the flag never was carried back of the position taken in the morning, all of the dead falling in front of the line. The loss of the regiment is given as one hundred and eighty-seven, the third heaviest loss of any regiment engaged in the battle. The flag was badly torn and, if I remember correctly, the staff was shattered, and a short time afterward it was sent back to Indianapolis, leaving the regiment without a flag until the first day of May, '63, when a bunting flag was presented to us by the little girls of Haskell Station, Indiana, through Chaplain Whitehead, who made the presentation address, which was responded to by General Wagner.
About that time the regiment received a silk flag from the State, but it was never carried by the regiment until after the battle of Missionary Ridge, November 25, 1863. The flag presented by the little girls of Haskell Station, May 1, '63, was carried by the regiment in all its subsequent marches, skirmishes, and battles up to and including the storming of the Ridge, in which charge it was shot down six times, each time to be raised again by one of its gallant defenders, and finally to become the first flag of the Second Brigade, of the Second Division of the Fourth Army Corps, to be planted on the enemies' works on the crest of the Ridge. But, my comrades, at what a cost! Sixty per cent of its gallant defenders lay weltering in their blood on that hill side, either dead or wounded. It all occurred in the forty-five minutes it took to convince General Grant, General Bragg and the rest of the world that the Army of the Cumberland was invincible. I cannot refrain from mentioning by name the brave boys who raised the flag when it fell, only to be shot down. The first one to raise it when its bearer was first shot was Buiion Thurber, Company G., shot in the shoulder; then our comrade, Ben Booth, Company D., right arm broken; Corporal Day, Company A., killed; Corporal Cist, Company I., killed. That, comrades, is the roll as I got it after the battle and, though I had a rebel bullet in my own body, I was not disabled, and as soon as I got on my feet I raised the flag again and succeeded in planting it on the rebel works—the first in our brigade, as acknowledged and so stated to me in a personal letter from the Secretary of War several years ago. I was again wounded and knocked off the rebel works, when the flag was seized by Lieutenant Thomas Graham, of Company G., and carried over the works, where he waved the flag, singing, "Rally Round the Flag, Boys," while tears of joy rolled down his cheeks.
In passing, permit me to say that Comrade Graham died about two months ago, at Lawrence, Kansas. His sister, with whom I recently visited, was one who assisted the little girls of Haskell Station in getting up this flag. The flag was so badly torn by the shots of the enemy, (being pierced by twenty-eight balls, according to Comrade Cole's diary) that it was sent back to Indianapolis shortly after the battle and the silk flag was carried until we were mustered out of the service. Comrades, having served with the colors either as color guard or color sergeant, from about April 10, 1862, to January 20, 1864, while I may be wrong in some minor details, I feel sure that the above imperfect history is, in the main, correct, as I kept a diary most of the time during my service, which I have consulted freely in preparing this paper.
Comrades, in closing, I want to say that for all the honors I have received; and for this medal of honor, which I prize so highly, I feel that I am indebted more to my brave comrades of the Fifteenth Indiana for their heroic acts, and support and encouragement, than to any acts of mine. Your conduct in the battle of Stone River in meeting the charge of Adams' rebel brigades of four regiments with a countercharge and, single handed, driving them in confusion from the field, and capturing and turning over to the Provost Marshal nearly two hundred prisoners, was unparalleled in that hard fought battle. General Rosecrans said "it was the most successful countercharge made during the battle, and the charge up Missionary Ridge is without parallel in the annals of war."
Comrades, we will probably never all meet again, but may the memory of our comrades who touched elbows with us in the old Fifteenth in that great struggle for human freedom be cherished by us as the sweetest and most sacred memories of our lives. And now, comrades, may God shower His choicest blessings on you and yours, is the wish of your comrade and friend.

Signed. Geo. L. Banks, Company C.,
Late Color Serg't 15th Ind. Inf.


Medal of Honor to Sergeant George L. Banks

A detailed account by George Banks of the events at the battle of Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga, Tennessee, 25 Nov 1863.
— Pages 122-124

MEDAL OF HONOR TO SERGEANT GEORGE L. BANKS.

A more detailed account of the flags of the Fifteenth Regiment was obtained from Sergeant Banks. Also an account of a medal of honor he received from the Secretary of War by act of Congress.[1]

At Stone River, the Fifteenth did but little fighting until about 10:30 A. M., when it met and repulsed the right wing of Donelson's Brigade, of Cheatham's Division. Later it met and drove back a part of Jackson's Brigade, but the supreme effort was made when Adams' Louisiana Brigade attempted to capture Cox's Tenth Indiana Battery. The flag in this day's fighting was pierced by fifty-two small balls and one cannon ball. The shaft was badly shattered, while I have two ball holes in my hat, four in my blouse, my canteen shot off me and haversack shot through. I escaped without a scratch. I carried the flag through the balance of the battle, but was not under any severe fire. It was sent to Indianapolis shortly after the battle. At Mission Ridge, November 25, 1863, when we first started in the charge, the Twenty-sixth Ohio was in our front, but soon gave way, the Fifteenth taking their place. I was slightly wounded in the left thumb at the bottom of the Ridge. When the regiment reached the road well up the Ridge, it was a perfect hail storm of bullets, and we went down on our faces in the road, and it seemed for a moment as though we would stay there, when in my rear I heard some one say, "Men, for God's sake, forward!" Looking around, I saw Major White standing in that storm of bullets. I immediately got on my feet, raised the flag, and started forward, calling on the boys to follow their flag. All company formation was broken, the boys from every company rallying round the flag. We had gone but a short distance when I was struck by a small ball, about one inch below the heart. It passed through a novel I had been reading, which I thrust inside my blouse when called into line, also two letters, striking the rib but not having force enough to break through. It followed the rib to the right and lodged over the pit of my stomach. I had the ball cut out four days after. I was knocked down and was senseless for a moment. While I was lying on the ground, four comrades raised the flag and were shot down, two killed and two wounded. When I got on my feet I saw the flag fall but a short distance up the hill. I found I was not disabled and reached the flag, raised it again, and the boys rallying around me, we went on. When but a short distance from the works on the crest of the Ridge, we saw the Johnny's guns being lowered over the works at us. We dropped to the ground and the volley passed over our heads without injury, and before they could reload, we were on the works and killed or captured nearly all in our immediate front. I got on the works with our flag when, looking to the right, I saw a rebel flag still on the works and a Johnny leveling his gun at me. I turned my head, intending to jump off, but he was too quick for me. His aim was a little too high, his ball hitting me on the right side, just back of the crown of my head, plowing a furrow in my skull and the holes in my scalp being two or three inches apart. Second Lieutenant Thomas Graham seized my flag as I fell off the works backward, and carried it over the works. As soon as I was able to walk I was ordered to the rear by Major White, commanding the regiment, and I obeyed orders very willingly. The flag was carried through the balance of the fight by Corporal Page, whom you met at Lafayette. I never saw that flag after I was shot the last time until I saw it in your custody at Lafayette. The boys differ so as to the number of times it was hit. Comrade Cole says twenty-nine times. Captain Nicar says it had over one hundred bullet holes in it. Who is nearest right, I do not know. You can probably tell as near as anyone.


LETTER TRANSMITTING MEDAL OF HONOR TO SERGEANT GEORGE L. BANKS.

Subject—Medal of Honor.             (Copy)
                                                   War Department,
                                                   Washington.
File No. R. G. 492390.                  Sept. 21, 1897.
George L. Banks, Esq.,
Independence, Kansas.
Sir:—
You are hereby notified that by direction of the President and under the provision of the act of Congress, approved March 3, 1863, providing for the presentation of Medals of Honor to such officers, non-commissioned officers and privates as have most distinguished themselves in action, a Congessional [sic] Medal of Honor has this day been presented to you for most distinguished gallantry in action, the following being a statement of the particular service, viz:—"At Missionary Ridge, November 25, 1863, this soldier, then a color sergeant, 15th Indiana Volunteers, in the assault led his regiment, calling on his comrades to follow, and when near the summit he was wounded and left behind insensible, but having recovered consciousnes rejoined the advance, again took the flag and carried it forward to the enemy's works, when he was again wounded. In the Brigade of eight regiments, the flag of the Fifteenth Indiana was the first planted on the parapet." The medal will be forwarded to you by registered mail as soon as it shall have been engraved.

Respectfully,
R. A. Alger,
Secretary of War.

McCormick.


Notes

  1. The original text in the book contains no italics or indentation. It's obvious that the first paragraph is an introduction, and that the balance is a recounting of events by George Banks himself.