33rd Indiana at Peach Tree Creek
North Liberty, Ind.
Mr. Dunbar Rowland LL D.,
I am in receipt of your letter of the 17th with reference to the battle flag of the 33rd Miss. CSA. I thank you very much for the information it contains.
I am at a loss to know why the 26th Wis claimed the capture of the flag of the 33rd Miss. The 26th Wis belonged to Col Wood's Brigade, 3rd Div 20th Corps and was not near the 33rd Miss. The 33rd Miss was in the front line of battle and in the immediate front of the 33rd Ind. At one time during the battle the guns of the 33rd Miss and the guns of the 33rd Ind almost touched.
It was at this time that the Col. of the 33rd Miss was killed only a few paces in front of Co. K of the 33rd Ind. He was almost in front of his men when killed. I can see him yet as he waved his sword cheering his gallant men on the fighting. At this time it was the most desperate, almost hand to hand fighting. It was only a question of time as to which side would gain the day. At this juncture of the fighting the Color Bearer of the 33rd Miss waved his flag back and forth in front of Co K 33rd Ind. which was a wonderful daring act.
The 33rd Ind. dashed forward as the Confederates were thrown in confusion. I made a dash for the colors of the 33rd Miss and caught the flag just as the brave Color Bearer was killed. I did not kill him for which I am very thankful. From the large numbers of the dead and wounded I believe that every one of the color bearers were killed.
After the Confederates had retreated from the hill and were fighting as they retreated, Capt. Beecher of Gen. Wood's staff rode up to me and said, "Soldier let me take the flag and I will take care of it for you." I gave him the flag which was a foolish thing for me to do. At the time I did not care anything about the flag. Since the World's War I have regretted very much that I allowed this officer to take the flag. I never could learn what he did with it and cannot understand how it came in the possession of the 26th Wis. unless it was that Capt. Beecher was a member of that regiment. If necessary I can make affidavit to this statement. There are none of my company living who witnessed the capture of the flag by me. Only four of us living who were mustered in Sept. 12, 1861 and I am one of the four and the youngest, of the four, 84 years old.
The next day after the battle we buried the Confederate dead. We dug a circular grave and laid 45 of Col Drake's men side by side with their feet towards the center and buried Col Drake in the center. We placed a marker with the following inscription, "Colonel Drake and 45 of his men."
Comrade Hall of my company cut the inscription out of a board. These brave men were bured the same as our own men in the best possible manner under the circumstances. I will also state that when the Confederates advanced to the attack, the 3rd Div of the 20th Corps had just crossed Peach Tree Creek and had stacked their guns and were engaged in making our coffee.
Col Harrison, (afterwards President) was in command of the First Brigade 3rd Div 20th Corps. Col Coburn was in command of the 2nd Brigade and Col Wood of the 3rd Brigade. Col Coburn was first to discover the advance of the Confederates and requested Harrison to advance their lines to a ridge in our front along with his advance. Col Harrison did so but Col Wood refused to do so claiming that his orders from Gen Ward was to remain where he was.
Finally during the heaviest of the fighting Col Coburn of the 2nd Brigade requested Col Winkler to the 26th Wis to advance his regiment as the Confederates were flanking the 33rd Ind. Col Winkler did so. My regiment the 33rd Ind. went into the fight with 382 men. The regiment lost 117 killed and wounded, other regiments of the division about the same number.
For some time after the fighting was over I carried water to the wounded Confederate soldiers. The loss on both sides was very great. I was in many fights but never saw more dead and wounded than I saw at Peach Tree Creek.
Featherstone's Brigade were wonderful fighters. I do not think there is a man living who took part in the battle of Peach Tree Creek who has a better recollection of that battle than I have and I feel that it was a great Honor to be the captor of the flag of the gallant 33rd Miss and I claim that honor in spite of any claim that the 26th Wis can make.
If the men of my company were living they would co-oberate me in my statement or claim. If any of Gen. Featherstone's men are living I would be pleased to hear from them especially the 33rd Miss. I will be glad and well pleased if this statement is satisfactory to you and would be pleased to hear from you.
Sincerely and cordially,
W. H. Conner
Dr. Sid Bondurant found this treasure at the Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History.