Thursday, December 30, 2010

Notre Dame at the Battle of Stone's River - Part II - "A Martial Fire"

In yesterday's post, I provided an excerpt from my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (The History Press, 2010) describing the valor of Notre Dame's Fr. Peter Cooney at the Battle of Stone's River, Tennessee.

In today's excerpt, you will learn about Notre Dame student-soldier Frank Baldwin, who was killed-in-action in the battle. May he rest in peace.

You can learn more about a monument in Elkhart, IN, dedicated to Baldwin - and all of Elkhart's Civil War soldiers and sailors - in a previous post (here).


His Last Full Measure

While the 35th Indiana and Father Cooney fought on the Union left at Stones River, other Notre Dame student-soldiers were also on the battlefield, including Frank Baldwin, who was engaged nearby with the 44th Indiana Infantry. Baldwin, a native of Elkhart, Indiana, attended Notre Dame from 1860 to 1861. Perhaps inspired by classmate William F. Lynch, the seventeen-year-old Baldwin left home in the summer of 1861 with friend George M. Keeley and traveled to Illinois to join Colonel Mulligan’s 23rd Illinois Infantry. While Lynch missed the early battles of the 23rd in Missouri, Baldwin did not and was taken prisoner when Mulligan surrendered his command at Lexington; Baldwin was paroled soon after.

Baldwin returned home to Elkhart, yet against his parents’ wishes, “the martial fire still burned in him at the exclusion of everything else.” One day in early 1862, Baldwin and his friends Norman H. Strong and Cullen W. Green heard that the 48th Indiana Infantry regiment was leaving nearby Goshen for the front. The boys—all still under eighteen—went to the schoolhouse, bid farewell to their classmates, hid behind an old blacksmith shop and then jumped on the train carrying the regiment.

The train carried the soldiers, Baldwin and his two companion stowaways to Paducah, Kentucky, where the 48th Indiana met a fleet of transports carrying the Union army to Fort Donelson. Baldwin, Strong and Green went down to the river and boarded a boat, where they happily found themselves among Elkhart men of the 44th Indiana Infantry. The boys indicated their desire to enlist but a company commander, Captain Albert Heath, refused them on account of their age. He told the boys that they could see the fight at Donelson, after which he would send them back home. The boys protested and declared that “they had come to fight and were going to fight anyway.” Heath consulted with his commander, Colonel Hugh B. Read, who agreed to let them join. Baldwin was with the 44th Indiana through all its engagements of 1862, including at Shiloh, where he was wounded.

On December 31, 1862, Baldwin—since promoted to third sergeant—and the 44th Indiana were engaged in the first day of the Battle of Stones River. The regiment marched in line of battle through an open field, where it discovered the enemy making a flank movement on its right, in a wood bordering the field. The men made a stand at the edge of the wood in their front but were soon ordered to advance, with the line of the enemy soon coming into sight. They continued their advance, coming within a hundred yards of the enemy’s line. The 44th Indiana opened fire; the Confederate line replied and advanced as well, and its flanking force opened a galling crossfire on the Hoosiers. The 44th Indiana held the position as long as it could and then fell back to its battery and re-formed its lines.

When the order was given to fall back, Baldwin and Green—himself recently promoted to lieutenant—were standing together behind a tree. They fell back into the open space and started with the rest of the regiment across the field, exposed to the crossfire. As they neared a fence, the two friends were running side by side. Green called out, “Throw your gun over the fence,” pitching his own over and following it to the opposite side. Green pressed on but never saw Frank Baldwin alive again.

A few days later, Green asked for permission to take a detail of six men to find his constant companion. Green found Baldwin just on the other side of the fence from where he had cried out to his friend. Baldwin had been struck by a musket ball—perhaps while climbing over the fence—which had entered under his right shoulder blade, passed through his heart and exited out the left side. The detail placed Baldwin’s body in a crude coffin and buried it in the hospital yard. When, two months later, a family friend came to retrieve Baldwin’s remains, Lieutenant Green accompanied him to the cemetery with a detail of soldiers, who exhumed the body and placed it in a metallic coffin. Baldwin was then laid to rest in the family’s mausoleum in Grace Lawn Cemetery in Elkhart.

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