The 35th Indiana: Hoosier State's '1st Irish': Part 1 of 2: Be Just and Fear Not

Not all Irish regiments in the Civil War came from the east. From the heartland sprung the hard fighting 35th Indiana. Whether fighting on battlefields from Perryville to Nashville or enduring the horrors of the prison camp in Andersonville, these sons of Erin pressed on to final victory.

(A reproduction of the green regimental flag of the 35th Indiana, handpainted by Amy Henry using details from a newspaper article. Courtesy of 35th Indiana Volunteer Infantry - reenacted)

By Brian D. Henry

From the railroad cities to the canal towns of Indiana, during the first few months of America's Civil War, many Irishmen answered their new-found country's call to take up arms against the rebellion. Today, it's not clear who initiated the idea of an Irish regiment to represent the state of Indiana. On Aug. 14, 1861, a published article citing General Orders #18, dated Aug. 3rd, 1861, relates "there will be organized in the State of Indiana one German, one Irish, and one Railroad regiment." This order was issued by the adjutant general of the state of Indiana, one Lazarus Noble.

An article in the Aug. 9, 1861, Indianapolis Journal stated: "We hope to see the Irish Reg't speedily organized, and believe it will reflect as much credit on Indiana as the gallant 69th New York on the Empire State." Many similar articles were published in Indiana to attract Irishmen, to show them that they would be treated fairly among the rest of Americans in the cause to crush the rebellion at hand. Many Indiana Irishmen answered this call, despite these immigrants' earnest desire start life anew, after suffering through the Great Famine and British oppression of their homeland.

Recruiting efforts were mainly focused in cities such as Lafayette, Indianapolis, Terre Haute and small River communities such as Madison, on the Ohio River. The hard recruiting finally paid off. On Aug. 15th, the Journal stated staff appointments for the 35th Indiana Infantry "1st Irish," will likely be: "Lieutenant Colonel Richard J. Ryan of Indianapolis, Major John Balfe of Lafayette, Surgeon Alexander Mullen of Ripley County and Quartermaster Martin Igoe of Indianapolis. ... The appointment of Colonel has not yet been determined on."

35th Indiana Volunteer Infantry
Two reenactors wearing the green kepi of the 35th Indiana.

In late August, the appointment of John C. Walker as colonel of the 35th was finally announced. The 10 companies of the regiment were commanded by captains from Indianapolis, Terre Haute, LaPorte, Cannelton, Lafayette, Lawrenceburgh, Madison, and Connersville, with Company H raised in Dayton, OH. The 35th Indiana Infantry was finally mustered into Federal Service in Indianapolis on Dec. 11th, 1861. All companies were issued emerald green kepis, chasseur coats and dark trousers to distinguish them from the rest of the Union Army. The following appeared in the Sept. 13th edition of the Indianapolis Journal: "Irish Regiment — regulation caps of green cloth, can be had at Bamberger's Hat Store, No. 16 East Washington Street.

There was also another token of Ireland supplied to the troops before they left Indianapolis. The regiment received its first-issue green regimental flag. The regiment marched to Governors Circle (now known as Monument Circle) to receive this new banner. Along the top was the motto: "Be Just and Fear Not." Amid speechs from Irish ladies and prominent Democrats, the 1st Irish was finally presented the colors and departed for Union Station, with the regiment's band playing "St. Patrick's Day." The 35th Indiana ended their train ride and proceeded to Bardstown, Ky., for a camp of instruction. Here the 1st Irish became a well-trained military unit.

'In camp, the grief stricken men, old and young, wept over the loss of Adjutant Mullen.'

Politics found its way into the 35th Indiana in the middle of 1862. Before departing Indianapolis, a 2nd Irish Regiment (61st Indiana Infantry) was formed, with Colonel Bernard F. Mullen as its commander. The regiment failed to muster enough men, however, and all recruits were placed into the 35th Indiana Infantry to help fill its ranks.

Mullen was an Irish-American born in 1825. His parents were emigrants from Belfast, though his mother was Scottish. Bernard F. Mullen was a Fenian, as were many men of the 2nd Irish regiment. The January 25, 1862, edition of the Indianapolis Daily Sentinel related his recruiting efforts, showed his stance as a Democrat and an Irish nationalist. In part of his speech, according to the Sentinel, he resurrected the memory of early 19th century Irish patriot and martyr Robert Emmet.

Considering his background, it is not surprising that Mullen felt the best way to bring recruits into the ranks of the 61st was to approach the Irish community in Indiana with Irish patriotic themes. The tactic was successful in the Irish enclaves in the great Eastern cities, but had little impact in Indiana because most Irish in the state came from Ireland, and often the Eastern cities, to break with the past. Nevertheless, Mullen continued this appeal to try to fill the ranks of the 35th Indiana, again with little success.

Mullen received the position of lieutenant colonel, but Walker didn't approve. Many dispatchs from Walker and Mullen were sent to Governor Morton, with Walker stating he did not want Mullen. Morton faced a dilemma, with the final decision about the assignment being made by Henry Halleck. Walker was ultimately ordered back to Indianapolis, with earning a reprimand. Mullen was then placed in command of the 35th Indiana, promoted to colonel. The argument didn't end with this, as many supporters of Walker either deserted or resigned. Though the situation was bad for morale, many Irishmen stayed with the 35th. The new assignments included John E. Balfe as lieutenant colonel, John P. Dufficy as major, and Bernard R. Mullen, a nephew of Mullen, as adjutant.

The Battle of Perryville, from a contemporary illustration.

On Oct. 8th, 1862, in Perryville, Ky., the 35th Indiana, now serving in Van Cleve's division of Crittenden's Corps, moved toward the sounds of artillery and musketry fire. A staff officer rode up and informed Colonel Mullen that the "1st Irish" was the last regiment on the brigade's left and ordered him to a piece of high ground. Mullen was then ordered to change front on tenth company, protecting the brigade's left flank. The regiment was then lightly engaged by the Confederates. Late in the day, Colonel Mullen was ordered to put forward two companies of skirmishers. Major Dufficey was ordered forward with Lieutenant O'Brien's Company B and Lieutenant Tassin's Company D. They quickly drove the enemy after meeting feeble resistance.

It's not reported how many were killed or wounded in this battle. After, the 35th took part in many skirmishes and raids.

On Oct. 30th, Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell was replaced by Maj. Gen. William Starke Rosecrans in command of the Army of the Tennessee. The Army was reorganized and the 35th Indiana was placed in Matthews' Brigade (3rd Brigade), 3rd Division, 21st Army Corps. When this brigade set out for Lavergne, it comprised the 35th Indiana, the 51st Ohio, the 8th and 21st Kentucky and a section of Swallow's 7th Indiana Artillery Battery.

At Dobbins Ford, near Lavergne, the 35th Indiana skirmished with the enemy. After Union army pickets were fired upon, the 1st Irish and the 51st Ohio were sent at the double quick to reinforce the pickets at the ford. After a successful bayonet charge ordered by Matthews, the 35th was then placed in column and forded with the rest of the brigade. After some distance, the rear guard was then attacked by a strong Rebel force. The 35th responded to the attack "and with Irish impetuosity, dashed into the fray." The Confederates were finally repulsed, but the 35th suffered casualties.

Jefferson County, A History
Adjutant Bernard R. Mullen, nephew of the colonel, killed at Dobbins Ford.

The Regiment lost its adjutant, Bernard R. Mullen, along with four enlisted men; two officers and 33 enlisted men wounded. The following account was given of Mullen's death: "The enemy made a desperate charge upon the flank of the regiment, and the commanding officer (Lt. Colonel Balfe) fell wounded. Adjutant Mullen at once took command, (ordering) 'Charge bayonets with a cheer.' While the cheers of his gallant comrades were ringing in his ears, he fell, pierced through the brain with a Minnie ball. He died in the moment of triumph with glad shouts filling the air. Like a warrior he fell, amid the roar of battle, and the deadly strife. ... In camp, the grief-stricken men, old and young, wept over the loss of Adjutant Mullen."

On Christmas night 1862, Rosecrans announced to his commanders his plan to move against the enemy at Murfreesboro, Tenn. The regiment received the news later that night, with a holiday celebration underway. After Colonel Mullen announced "We march upon the enemy at daylight," those gathered took a final drink of punch. By nightfall on the 29th, Union and Confederate forces faced each other several miles west of Murfreesboro, on Stones River.



Father Peter Paul Cooney: Faithful Servant

Brian Henry (right) is a military historian from Frankton, Ind., who has been studying the American Civil War since a child. He is currently finishing study for a bachelors degree in history at Indiana Wesleyan University. Brian is the captain and historian of the recreated 35th Indiana Infantry "1st Irish." In 2000, he discovered that his great grandfather George Carroll, from County Wicklow, Ireland, served as a corporal in the 35th Indiana's Company I. Inspired by this discovery, Brian has devoted much of his research to the regiment and its legacy. Anyone interested in learning more about the 35th Indiana can contact Henry via e-mail.


This feature was produced by Joe Gannon and edited by Gerry Regan.


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Tags: 35th Indiana reenactors, 35th indiana, American Civil War, Brian Henry, Diaspora History, Military History, Murfreesboro, Perryville, United States, bernard Mullen


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