Tuesday, December 29, 2009

His Last Full Measure - Notre Dame Student Frank Baldwin Falls at Stone's River

The University of Notre Dame gave freely of its priests, sisters, and students during the Civil War, and several ended up losing their lives in the cause.

As this week marks the anniversary of the Battle of Stone's River, it's a good time to write about a Notre Dame student who gave his "last full measure" during the war at the battle: Frank Baldwin.

Frank (Francis) Baldwin was a student for just one year at Notre Dame: 1860-61...he left school that spring - at only 16 - to join "Mulligan's Irish Brigade" (23rd Illinois Infantry); other Notre Dame boys had joined the unit as well. He was captured at the Battle of Lexington (Missouri), paroled, and sent back home to Elkhart, Indiana.

In November 1861, back at Elkhart, Frank - with his friends Norman Strong and C. W. Green - left Elkhart by train and boat and joined the 44th Indiana at Paducah, KY. He participated in the battles at Ft. Donelson, Ft. Henry, Shiloh, and Corinth.

On December 31, 1862, at Stone's River, the 44th was advanced too far and was flanked by the Confederates. Hearing the order to fall back, Frank Baldwin (now a 2nd Lt.) and Green, his constant companion, crossed a field where they were exposed to a "galling cross-fire."

As they reached a fence, Green thre his firearm over the obstruction and yelled to Baldwin to do the same. Green pressed on but never saw Frank Baldwin alive again. On the Saturday after the 3-day battle, Green took a detail of six men and found Frank Baldwin's lifeless form at the fence.

Twenty-seven year later, a handsome monument was dedicated to the Elkhart men who volunteered, fought, and died during the war. The monument was erected at the expense of Silas Baldwin, Frank's father, a leading man in Elkhart.
I'll post more information on the monument in the near future.

You can read more about young Frank Baldwin and other brave Notre Dame men at the Battle of Stone's River in my forthcoming book: Notre Dame in the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Perform Bravely the Battle of Life - William T. Sherman and the 1865 Notre Dame Commencement Exercises

President Barack Obama put the University of Notre Dame in the headlines (and vice versa) this past spring when he was invited as the speaker for the 2009 commencement exercices.

The university (such as it was) was much smaller in 1865 but it secured one of the most popular of the country's citizens to speak at its commencement that year: William T. Sherman! The victorious Union general had come to northwestern Indiana to gather up his family (his wife, Ellen, was living in South Bend and his children were attending Notre Dame and St. Mary's as grammar school students).

His remarks were extemporaneous but no less inspiring for the graduates in attendance, including these stirring words:

"So I call upon theyoung men here to be ready at all times to perform bravely the battle of life. We might never have to go to war anymore on this continent but then again we might. War is possible and we must be ready for that contingency. But more than this I want to say that there is a kind of war which is inevitable to all - it is the war of life. A young man should always stand in his armor, with his sword in hand an his buckler on. Life is only another kind of battle and it requires as good as generalship to conduct it to a successful end as it did to conquer a city, or to march through Georgia."

Sherman's speech is the first of many in a wonderful book: Go Forth and Do Good: Memorable Notre Dame Commencement Addresses by Fr. William D. Miscamble (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003). It includes more than two dozen addresses from 1865 through 2001.

Look for Sherman's entire commencement address - and learn more about the Sherman family and Notre dame - in my book Notre Dame in the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory, coming from The History Press in late 2010!