32nd Indiana Monument | Baptism of Fire
Indiana's German Sons: Forward
Rowlett's Station 1861
By Michael A Peake
In the winter of 1996 I returned to Cave Hill Cemetery at Louisville, Kentucky for the first time since I was very young. As I roamed the avenues of monuments I recalled vague memories of an age when a young boy would tend to be infatuated by the lake or the multitude of ducks and geese that flocked there. Those thoughts from possibly 40 years or more before surfaced to remind me of a 'falling' into the water at the National Cemetery. Snapping back to the present I realized, walking along looking at the names of Civil War dead, that at that young age I never appreciated or even had the concept of the meaning behind those fields and hills of stone.
Carved in relief, the sculptor placed an eagle with wings spread full, clutching a brace of cannon. Two stacks of cannonballs were paired below the artillery with unfurled American flags flanking each side. An olive sprig and an oak branch bordered the recess at each end.
The stone was mounted on a memorial base with an inscribed commemoration in English that states: "In memory of the First Victims of the 32. Reg. Indiana Vol. Who fell at the Battle of Rowlettd [sic] Station Dec. 17, 1861."
Because of the porosity of the limestone, this icon to a battle fought long beyond recall has suffered considerable damage over the many decades. It stands sentinel there today, facing south; slowly crumbling from the natural elements. So much of our heritage appears at times to be destined to this same sad fate.
This book is my attempt to provide a history of those men long past. A crumbling memorial made by the hands of a devoted comrade inspired me to research an unfamiliar battle. Once that door opened I was compelled to discover the story of Indiana's first ethnic Civil War regiment. The ongoing research project will culminate in a single volume bearing the title Indiana's German Sons: From Rowlett's Station to the Lone Star. As the fragmented information on these men is scattered in hundreds of locations, I decided to publish the chapters that cover each battle or campaign as books while the search unfolds.
Additional publications will include an extensive regimental roster compiled from numerous sources, a biography of August Willich, and a bibliography designed much like the National Union Catalog of Manuscripts Collection. I would welcome the smallest bit of information concerning the 32nd Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry from any reader interested in preserving our past.
During installation of the protective shelter over the monument in September 2001, University of Kentucky conservators discussed the immediate need of applying a paper “facing’ to adhere a palm sized piece of inscription, bearing the name of Lieutenant Max Sachs, from flaking off of the surface. Sachs, a former 1848 revolutionary from Fraustadt, Prussia, was the only officer lost in the action, and is believed to be the first Jewish officer killed in the Civil War. Bloedner’s monument remained at Cave Hill Cemetery until December 17, 2008, the 147th anniversary of the Rowlett’s Station battle. Early on that morning, a work crew removed the weathered memorial to the University of Louisville where it underwent extensive cleaning and conservation. The NCA contracted with Heritage Preservation, Inc. of Washington, D. C., to oversee conservation, memorial replacement design, and selection of a host institution to display the original monument when conservation was complete. Three designs for a replacement monument were produced, and interested parties were contacted for recommendations.
For the replacement designs, Heritage Preservation relied on a May 31, 1871 Täglicher Louisville Anzeiger article describing the monument, and although it was the most accurate period account provided, it was not without error. Thanks to the efforts of Indiana German Heritage Society (IGHS) members Fred Yaniga, Heiko Muehr and Michael Peake, the contractor was provided with the most historically accurate possible, proper German text. However, it may not be possible to replicate the Fraktur script due to the inability of finding stonemasons with the skill and knowledge to create such script. Unlike the original, the replacement will have an English translation of the German text on the reverse, and all of the casualty names will be included. The most critical goals of the preservation effort that began over a decade ago have been met. The NCA and Veterans Administration have moved this very important historical icon inside, treatments for conserving the monument have been accomplished and a replica of the original will be placed at the gravesites.
The Fraizer International Museum in Louisville, KY, will now provide the honored home for our Nation’s oldest Civil War Monument. It is located in the museum lobby and can be accessed by the public, ‘free of charge’, during normal hours of operation. An extensive Civil War exhibit is planned by the museum in the near future to further highlight this important National treasure.