Pvt. Sam Hinkson, Co. B, with regimental flag

From the collection of
Marcus S. McLemore

The Four Flags of the Forty-Eighth Ohio

by Stephen E. Williams

 

 

Our nation's flag is important to us as a symbol today but it is hard for an average American of our time to even begin to conceive of the importance the regimental flag held for the soldiers of the Civil War. This banner was a tactical guide post which the relatively untrained troops in battles like Shiloh could rally to. When the flag retired the regiment was likely to be close behind and when it was carried forward troops followed often into lethal fire from the enemy. It was not uncommon for a commanding officer who's troops were balking to seize the flag and lead them forward. Color sergeants were the bravest men in the regiment. To carry the colors was an honor but it was also a dangerous and important duty. Its importance can be gaged by the award of the Metal of Honor to Corporal Carmin at Vicksberg for saving the regimental colors and the special wraith shown by Lieut. Col. Job Parker toward his color sergeant who abandoned the regimental flag of the 48th at Shiloh. But the flag was far more than a rallying point. Success in battle was often measured in the number of regimental flags captured from the enemy and to lose a regimental flag was a shameful event for a regiment. The honor of the regiment was at stake. May 22, 1863 when the 48th Ohio and the 77th Illinois Planted their regimental flags on the Confederate works at Vicksburg at terrific cost in life an limb, it was an accomplishment proudly announced in the newspapers and preserved in 48th Ohio's regimental history even though the assault failed to capture the stronghold. Men who rallied to the colors in such circumstances developed a very deep emotional feeling for them beyond anything we are likely to feel today.

The 48th Ohio marched behind four regimental flags during its five year history. These flags also each represent a distinctive phase of the history of the regiment so they gain yet another significance.

 


Reconstruction of first battleflag in the Ohio Historical Society collection

 

1. The Flag of the Forty-Eighth Ohio Volunteer Infantry (October 1861 - September 1863.)

Col. Sullivan or Lieut. Col. Parker commanding. Shiloh, Chichasaw Bluffs, Arkansas Post, Port Gibson, Baker's Creek, Black River Bridge, Siege of Vicksburg, Siege of Jackson

This first flag was that abandoned by the color sergeant at Shiloh but carried on by others first in an organized retreat then forward in pursuit of the enemy. It was in the disastrous battle at Chickasaw Bluff and was carried in triumph over the Confederate works and into the fort at Arkansas Post. This banner was marched in mire around Vicksburg and carried in to battle at Port Gibson, Baker's Creek, Black River Bridge, the Siege of Vicksberg and the Siege of Jackson. At Vicksburg the 48th "in conjunction with the left of the 77th Illinois, reached the fort. Leaping into the ditch, and climbing the parapet, the colors of the 48th Ohio and 77th Illinois were planted on the fort. ..... At 4 P. M. the rebels massed their troops on our front, and attacked us with great fury, and re-took the fort, capturing the colors and fifty men of the 77th Ills. Ike Carmin, one of our color guards, with a bayonet-wound in the leg, clung to our flag and saved it from sharing the same fate." Isaac Carmin earned the medal of honor partly for this act. This flag saw as much shot and shell as any in the Union Army. It was described by the regimental history, upon its retirement, as tattered. How could it have been in any other condition?

Of this flag the regimental history states: "Sept. 20th, Capt. Tice having resigned, Capt. Bering resumed command of the Regiment. With Capt. Tice we sent our old, tattered battleflag to Columbus, Ohio, to be placed in the flagroom at the State House. After he arrived in Cincinnati he put it on exhibition in Wiswell's show-window on Fourth street, but it has never been seen or heard of since."

 


Reconstruction of second battleflag in the Ohio Historical Society collection

 

2. The Flag of the Forty-Eighth Ohio Veteran Volunteer Infantry (September 1863 - January 1865).

Lieut. Col. J. W. Lindsey and Major J. A. Bering commanding in battle. Sabine Pass, Camp Ford Prison.

Quoting from the History of the 48th Ohio Vet. Vol. Inf. by Bering & Montgomery:

"As soon as the Regiment had been sworn in as veterans, letters were immediately dispatched home, to prepare for our reception on the promised furlough. But we were badly disappointed. Instead of receiving our furlough, we were ordered to Franklin, where the troops of the Gulf Department were concentrating for an expedition up Red river, at which point we arrived on the 8th.

Here the troops were organized for the campaign. The second brigade was composed of the 19th Ky., 96th, 83d and 48th Ohio, commanded by Col. Vance, of the 196th Ohio. Our Division was composed of two brigades, (1st and 2d) and under command of Col. W. J. Landrum.

March 10th, in accordance with orders issued by Gen. McClernand, the following battles were ordered to be inscribed on the colors of the 48th Ohio Vet. Vol. Inf.: "Battle of Shiloh, Siege of Corinth, Chickasaw Bluffs, Arkansas Post, Port Gibson, Champion Hills, Black River Bridge, Siege of Vicksburg and Jackson."

Letter from Maj. J. A. Bering outlining the
48th OVVI's engagements for the flag

 

The Veteran Volunteers were formed from the members of the 48th Ohio who reenlisted and were entitled to wear a specal veteran volunteer medal. The entire regiment was taken prisoner at the Battle of Sabine Pass resulting in the "The Flag in Prison". The regimental history states: "When we were captured, our color-bearer, Isaac Scott, tore the regimental flag from the staff, and gave it to his mess-mate, to conceal in his haversack. He was left sick on the way to prison, and did not arrive for some time after, but through all his sickness he clung to the flag, and upon arriving at Camp Ford, delivered it to the officers of the Regiment for safe keeping. A hole was dug inside of our shanty, in which we buried the flag. But the rebels found out, through some means, that there was a Union flag in camp. They searched for it on several occasions, but failed to discover it. To keep our large, beautiful silk flag buried, would soon have ruined it, therefore it was sewed up in Capt. Gunsaullus's blouse. He wore it among the rebels, with the flag sewed inside the lining. The flag was shown secretly to a number of prisoners, some of whom had been in captivity for nearly two years, and their eyes glistened at the sight of that 'Emblem of Freedom.'"

The regimental history states: "Company E, which had been the color company during the entire service, delivered the flag of the Regiment to Col. Parker, who brought it home and retained possession of it until his death, which took place December 5, 1865. Mrs. Parker, upon the request of the members of Company A, delivered the flag to E. T. Rayburn, of New Lexington, Highland county, Ohio, where it still remains." This is the flag presented to Col. Parker.

 

3. The Flag of the 83d Ohio Volunteer Infantry (The combined Battalions of the 48th and 83d Ohio Volunteer Infantry) (January, 1865 - July, 1866).

Lieut. Col. Baldwin commanding in battle. Escambia river, Fort Blakely.

The regimental history informs us that the 48th and 83rd Ohio were consolidated into ten companies, and designated as the 83d Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The regimental officers and non-commissioned officers of the 48th Ohio were mustered out as supernumeraries and the field officers of the 83rd were retained. The ten companies of the 48th Ohio were consolidated into four companies, and those of the 83rd Ohio into six. Col. F. W. More became bergade commander which left Lieut. Col. W. H. Baldwin, of the 83rd Ohio in command of the Regiment.

The third regimental flag of the men of the 48th Ohio was thus the flag of the 83rd Ohio.

 

4. The 48th Ohio Volunteer Infantry once more (They may or may not have had a battle flag) (July, 1865 - August, 1866).

Lieut. Col. J. R. Lynch commanding.
No Battles.

Just before muster out the regiment regained its old Identity. "Under Special Orders No. 48, 13th A. C., dated July 19, 1865, the Regiment resumed its old name of 48th Ohio Vet. Vol. Infantry, and was placed under command of Capt. J. R. Lynch, afterward promoted to Lieut.-Col." Whether there was a fourth flag during this brief period is unknown.

 


The Ohio Historical Society
Save the Flags Campaign

A colorful part of Ohio's military history is in danger of crumbling away. The Ohio Historical Society and The Ohio Historical Foundation, in cooporation Ohio Historical Society's Civil War Institute, are working to preserve these beautiful remenants of Ohio's glorious past.

If you would like to make a donation to help with the preservation efforts, visit the Ohio Historical Society's web page:

http://www.ohiohistory.org/about/ohf/stheflag.html

Or contact them at:

The Ohio Historical Foundation
1982 Velma Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43211
(614) 297-2320
(800) 647-6921

 

 

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8/8/2007