The Iron 44th at Stones River
Updated: Dec 6, 2022
The 44th Indiana, the Iron 44th, is one of my favorite non-Kentucky regiments to study. In a sense, they have a local connection to my area, as they spent the first winter of the war at Camp Calhoun in McLean County, Kentucky on the Green River. Their stories from that winter are also fascinating, and definitely deserve their own blog post. The 44th, though in General Thomas Crittenden's division in 1861-1862, was detached along with the 31st Indiana, 17th Kentucky, and 25th Kentucky to reinforce Grant's movements against Fort Donelson. There, the brigade under the command of the 31st Indiana's Charles Cruft, found itself on the Federal right flank. portions of the line broke, but the 44th held fast. Less than two months later at Shiloh, the brigade was under the command of General Jacob Lauman in Hurlbut's division. Their first position was along the trail that connects the Peach Orchard to the Hornet's Nest, and there they held their ground until being moved to the the other side of the Hamburg-Savannah Road where they clashed with the Confederate brigades of Jackson and Chalmers. Eventually they fell back to the guns, and on the second day, fought in and near Jones Field.
The 44th was eventually transferred back to the Army of the Ohio, and participated in the campaign for Corinth and the Kentucky Campaign. By the time of the Battle of Stones River, it was one of the few regiments in Rosecrans' army that could boast more than one laurel on their flag. For the Union army at Stones River, they were some of the most experienced veterans on the field.
If you would like to learn more about the 44th Indiana, I have placed several links to some great resources on the regiment at the end of this post.
The following account can be found in The Steuben Republican of Angola, Indiana.
Issue: Saturday Feb. 7, 1863
FROM THE FORTY-FOURTH INDIANA
Near Murfreesboro, Tenn.,
January 9th, 1863.
I am anxious to let your readers know something of the part taken by our regiment in the late battle of Murfreesboro; but I am quite unwell and my letter may be brief and unsatisfactory to those most nearly concerned.
We left our camp near the State Lunatic Asylum, six miles from Nashville on the 26th of December, 1862. McCook's corps upon the Nolensville pike, on our right and Thomas' corps, it was supposed upon the Franklin pike, on our left throwing us, (Crittenden's corps) in the center through we were properly the left wing of the "Grand Army of the Cumberland."
After three days of skirmishing in the advance, we reached on the evening of the 26th, a point near Stones' River and about three miles from Murfreesboro when the enemy gave evidence that they meant to make a decisive stand. Heavy skirmishing was already ranning along our front when we reached our position, about fifteen hundred yards in the rear of our lines (our division being held in reserve and Gen Rosecrans' Headquarters being immediately with us) and McCook on the right was fighting hard and troubled to hold his own. On the next day, the 30th, we were still held in reserve, McCook again fighting hard all day and advancing a little; on the right of our line we had heavy skirmishing and some desperate fighting, resulting in our advancing about a thousand yards. The night was cold and storming, but it gave a respite to the weary---fighting is hard work.
The morning of the 31st broke upon us clear and bright, heavy skirmishing, some hard fighting and cannonading on our front; McCook again fighting, hurriedly desperately and at a disadvantage. We were ordered to load, and each regiment being thrown into close column of divisions, Gen. Rosecrans addressed us in person, kindly but authoritatively, to the old regiments, with eulogistic mention of past services; to the new with hopeful expectations for the future. Soon after this we started to reinforce or relieve some point on the left but before we reached our destination, cannonading was heard in our rear, upon the pike, and to this point we repaired at double quick; the enemy had made one of their audacious cavalry charges upon our train and captured immense amount of supplies, but before they could avail themselves of the capture, the 4th regular cavalry charged them in turn from one of the batteries of our division, completed their dispersion.
In the meantime, Johnson's division of McCooks corps had been surprised early in the morning, through neglect of the most ordinary precautions, it is alleged, and was now driven in disorder with the lost of nearly all of their artillery and baggage, back upon our lines, the other two divisions following with desperate fighting and much loss of men, but in tolerable order. The available part of these forces, and all that could be spared from the support of our lines, were immediately thrown into three lines of battle, forming a new front, nearly parallel to the pike and perpendicular to the right of our old front. Upon the extreme right of the first line, our regiment was placed and we immediately advanced upon the enemy driving in his skirmishers for a distance of twelve hundred yards, and finally engaging his first line in a light open wood, a cleared field of three hundred yards in breadth a little in our rear. Here occurred one of the most unfortunate things of the day; it appears that the enemy's line upon our right, over-lapped us very considerably, and upon our advance, they fell back only upon our immediate front, thus outflanking us with a heavy force to our right and rear. The skirmishers reported the position of this force and it was a fatal mischance that we did not deploy and engage them, for no sooner had the battle fairly commenced with us in front than we received a most hellish rear cross fire of musketry and grape. The error was seen, to remain would be fatal, not only to us but to the whole line and we were ordered to fall back in good order; a stand at the second line was found equally impractable, and both lines fell back to the third; here in crossing the open field, the fire was the most terrific that ever fell on us, and both lines were composed of veteran troops, some confusion occurred, but we rallied well on the third line, and to the credit of the 44th be it said, with more men than any other regiment of the brigade, though we had gone into action with less than any other.
All soldiers, especially of the first line, agree in saying that they would prefer hours of the hardest Shiloh fighting to the fifteen or twenty minutes occupied in falling back across that open field, yet the regiment seemed to be under the kind care of a protecting Providence, for the loss in proportion to the exposure was not large. My own company was particularly fortunate, and perhaps least exposed to the raking fire, being upon the left of the regiment which in the hurry of the formation was thrown rear in front.
Upon the last line we waited a renewal of the attack, but the enemy were cautious and did not advance. Our whole line on the right was immediately reformed and strengthened, and before dark we were removed a little to the left and front in support of a battery, from which, late at night, we were relieved and moved over to the extreme left. Here I lost the regiment; being unwell and without blanket or oil cloth, I obtained permission to go to the rear where I could have the benefit of a fire; this was New Year's Eve, and miserably enough it passed to me, in cold and bodily pain. The next morning, the regiment was gone, no one knew where; I did not learn its position until late that night and rejoined it early next morning, Jan. 2d, 1863. During my absence the regiment had had slight skirmishing all day of the 1st, and in the night, the skirmishers of the enemy, (attracted by the fires that our old soldiers will build in the very face of the foe when it gets too cold,) thought to investigate the matter brought on a sharp little fight with ours, from which they were soon glad to retire.
The morning of the 2d opened as usual, with cannonading and skirmishing along the lines to the right; about 10 o'clock it died away to an ominous lull, broken only by occasional interchanges between adventurous skirmishers, until about 2 p.m., when it became evident that the enemy were massing upon our left directly in our front; our lines were very light, the skirmishers were hard pressed yet we only waited. At 3 p.m., our skirmishers were driven in and te enemy in double column of divisions, fell on our right, the 79th Ind., next on our right, the 34th Ind., next, and the battery it was supporting with their usual impetuosity in the charge. We all fought nobly, desperately, but soon part of the battery was captured, the rest fell back, its support fell back, the 79th fell back, the 86th on our left fell back, part of the second line fell back, and then the 44th, the last right of the first line, to give back, retired diagonally to the right and rear, formed behind a rail fence, perpendicular to our first position and poured in a galling fire upon the enemy's flank, who still pressing steadily forward, soon entirely passed us, and compelled another falling back to the high ground of the hospitals, where with stragglers arrested by our Lieutenant Colonel and other officers we opened a deadly cross fire upon their flank and contributed as much as any other movement at that time to the first check of their extreme right.
The next morning, the 3d, having gathered together as many of the stragglers as possible we were taken a little to the rear and left and again left in reserve, the stream dividing our division, leaving us upon the same side we had fought upon the day before. Not very much was done along the lines this day; about 10 in the morning the 88th Ind, and another regiment had a hard fight of an hour and a half on the right of the center, driving in the enemy and occupying their ground.
This night was passed shoe deep in mud, without blankets or oil cloths, our fires struggling feebly for existence, with the rain that almost froze as it fell. Next morning all was silence except a few challenging shots from our siege pieces, which elicited no answer. About 10 a.m. we were taken across the stream on a temporary bridge of fallen trees, here the rumor began to circulate that the enemy had evacuated, but it was not fully credited; we had heard this prematurely reported on similar occasions, too often. In a few hours, however, doubt became certainty and though we all regretted that the final and desperate struggle had thus been only postponed, yet the happy sense of present security, after long days of danger, doubt and uncertainty, was manifest in every countenance. Two divisions, one of which was Negley's were sent in pursuit and their cannon was heard thundering upon the enemy's rear guard late at night.--They were reported to have met stubborn resistance, but to have taken many prisoners and arms. We laid two nights and part of the second day on the battle field, occupied in burying the dead, picking up stragglers, and broken stores and furniture of war, when we moved through silent and deserted Murfreesboro, to our present position, about three-fourth of a mile from town on the Lebanon Pike.
The casualties of our regiment will appear from the annexed official report of the killed, wounded and missing. Our brave Col. Wm. C. Williams was taken prisoner during our fight on the left, Jan 2d; non of the circumstances attending his capture are known to us here. I am happy to state to the friends of the old 44th, that our brigade and division commanders applauded us, as having behaved most nobly in the trying situations in which we were placed; it is certainly pleasant to us all to know that, with those five days of fatigue, exposure and danger, we had rather add too, than lost, anything of the high estimation in which we have long been held by this corps of the Grand Army. I regret that I am not able to give the part taken in this battle by the other regiments raised at Fort Wayne, the 30th and 88th, but I am told they behaved most nobly.
It must not be understood that I propose to give anything but an outline of this great five days' battle, and generally of only that part necessary to description of our share in it. The greater part of such a battle as this is necessarily shutout from the observation of an actual participant.
The enemy fight well; in their charges especially, when stimulated by their usual whiskey and powder, they are almost irresistible. They are handled on the field with much skill and how a most creditable degree of discipline. They were usually kind to our prisoners, of which they took more than we did, though their killed and wounded certainly exceeded ours. I am of the opinion that there was very little difference in the number of the opposing forces.
Gen. Rosecrans is a youngish appearing man of perhaps forty-five years, fresh and rosy, with a prominent roman nose, and a face generally indicative of bravery, decisions, self-reliance and large intellectual power. The impression he gives you is one of power, strength and adequateness to the purpose. He is, I should think, of rather large stature, though I have not seen him on foot; plain and unassuming in exterior, though every gesture indicates command.
The officers immediately in command of our right, Col. Williams, Lieut. Col. Aldrich and Acting Major Barton, fought most bravely and efficiently and only the more assured us in our former respect and esteem for them. During the fight of Jan. 2d, Lieut. Col. Aldrich was in command of both the 44th Ind. and 13th(?) Ohio, as Col. Williams, though present, was too hoarse to give orders.
The following is a list of the killed, and wounded and missing;
Company A-- Killed: None.
Wounded: Private Fred Swambaugh, side and back, seriously; Corp. Geo. W. Purvis, leg, severely; Joseph Milnes, leg, slightly.
Missing: Sergt. John Ulam.
Company F--Killed: John H. Webster, Jacob Parker.
Wounded: George H Casper, finger, slightly; Bennett S. Robe, arm, slightly; Daniel Greenwalt, leg, seriously; Lewis R. Tiffany, thigh, seriously; Aseph Harwood, arm, seriously; Chester D. Greenamyer, foot, seriously; Jacob Hicks, wrist, slightly; Francis P. Robbins, arm, slightly; Francis A. Johnson, back, slightly.
Missing: Stephen Turner, A.L. Nichols, Serg. Wilson Nichols, Corp. Marshall Hadsell, David G. Robinson, Hugh W. Dirrim, Jacob Sleutz.
Company D--Killed: John D. Haller.
Wounded: Wm. Opie, arm; Wm. Rontson, hand; Amos T. Britton, leg.
Missing: Sanford Worden, Charles H. Higgins, Martin H. Keesler, Henry Keesler, Samuel Shanower, Ezra Worden, Ira Worden.
Company I--Killed: Serg. Frank Baldwin, Giles Drake.
Wounded: James A. Smith, Martin Danner, Fred Stroup, John Robinson, Fred Tavenir, John Lesher, M.G. Hurd.
Missing: Corp. A.S. Daver, Henry Messler, L.A. Mosey, Lorenzo Nolen, G. W. Kelley, Fred Johnson.
Company C--Killed: Jacob Smith.
Wounded: Corp. Samuel Sweet, finger, left hand; Corp. Jackson Hyser, nose, slightly; Serg. Owen Shaw, color bearer, left arm, slightly; Segwick Livingston, left legg, slightly.
Company H--Killed: None.
Wounded: Corp. Peter Alspach, flesh wound, leg; Victor Ketcham, right thigh, seriously; John Crist, ankle, seriously; Van Buren Fisher, left leg, seriously.
Company E--Killed: none.
Wounded:Corporals A.J. Reed, thigh; H.F. Biddle, side; L.A. Grable, shoulder; J.D. Spergin, knee; F. Banta, shoulder and leg, slightly.
Company G--Killed: none.
Wounded: Lucius McGowan.
Missing: Jefferson Shannon and Milton Edsall.
Company K--Killed: Harrison Harwood.
Wounded: Samuel Squier, hand slightly, Franklin Willis, foot, slightly; Orlo A. Whipple, left knee, badly, and taken prisoner.
Missing: James Chilcote.
Company B--Killed: Thomas Helsper.
Wounded: Sergt Albert Ritz and W. Cartwright; Privates Wm. Clark, S.W. Eddy, Jno Coyan, Gabriel M. Scott, Geo W. Scott, Samuel Widner, Edward Lightfood; Serg. Geo Sherburn, John Deardoff, Benj. McIntyre.
Missing:John Griffith and James K. Phillips.
The foregoing list is copied directly from the report of the company officers and is, I suppose correct, though not always very definite.
The whole number killed, wounded and missing is eighty-five. The regiment numbered on going into the first fight 270 all told.
Very Respectfully yours,
Nelson A. Sowers
For some info on the story of the 44th Indiana, check out this article on research Margaret Hobson: CLICK HERE
To learn more about the regiment, and to order Hobson's excellent work, visit her site! CLICK HERE
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