Solemn Sacrifice

Civil War officer Alois Bachman
remembered as Antietam battle hero

Madison, Ind., native's heroics cost him his life

(November 2021) – Veterans Day is celebrated annually by millions of Americans to honor and show appreciation of all servicemen and women who have served the United States in all wars. While we remember those who continue to serve, those who died while in service to our country, such as Civil War veteran and Union Army officer Lt. Col. Alois O. Bachman should not be forgotten.
Bachman was born on May 17, 1839, in Madison, Ind., the sixth of seven children. His six sisters were Emily, Narcissa, Louisa, Julia, Frances and Helen. Bachman was the only son of Alois and Emily Bachman. Both parents were born in Switzerland and were early immigrants to southern Indiana.
As a young man, Bachman attended Hanover College between 1856 and 1858. Very adept at speaking and debating, his intent was to study law. After graduating from Hanover, Bachman enrolled at the Kentucky Military Institute near Frankfort, Ky., for 21/2 years. When he came home in 1861, he organized and drilled the Madison City Greys, a militia unit.
The unit reorganized into Company K of the 6th Indiana Volunteer Regiment in September 1861, with Bachman as its captain. It was the first Indiana regiment organized for the Civil War, which formally began on April 12, 1861, when southern forces fired upon Fort Sumter, S.C.

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November 2021 Cover

The regiment was originally mustered-in for a three-month period of service between April and August 1861. On May 30, 1861, the regiment left Indianapolis for Grafton, Va., (now West Virginia). They were sent to the town of Webster, arriving on June 2. They marched 14 miles that same night to Philippi to participate on the morning of June 3 in the Battle of Philippi, one of the first land battles of the Civil War. They later participated in the Rich Mountain Campaign before mustering out at Indianapolis on Aug. 2, 1861.
After this initial term of service expired, the regiment was reformed on Sept. 20, 1861, for an additional three-year period before being mustered out on Sept. 22, 1864. During those three years, the 6th Indiana fought at Shiloh, Stones River, Chickamauga and Resaca.
In late July 1861, Bachman was promoted by Indiana Gov. Oliver P. Morton, a staunch ally of President Abraham Lincoln, to the rank of major in the newly organized 19th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment Indiana. He was promoted again to the rank of Lt. Col. the following February.
The 19th Indiana had been organized under the command of Col. Solomon Meredith and Lt. Col. Robert A. Cameron. The regiment brigaded with the 2nd and 6th Wisconsin, then was joined by the 7th Wisconsin, becoming the famous “Iron Brigade” of the Army of the Potomac.

Alois Bachman grave1

Photo by Don Ward

Alois O. Bachman's gravestone stands high above many others in Springdale Cemetery in Madison, Ind. He died in battle at age 23.

The 19th Indiana saw its first major conflict at the Battle of Brawner’s Farm on Aug. 28, 1862. Due to injuries suffered at the Brawner’s Farm and the physical and emotional toll of the campaign, Meredith was unable to take the field. This placed the 23-year-old Bachman as commander of the regiment.
On Sept. 16-17, the 19th Indiana advanced with the other “black-hatted” regiments. They earned this nickname while under command of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon. He wanted his men to look like soldiers. Because volunteer uniforms varied widely among the four regiments and even among men in the same regiment, Gibbon ordered the quartermaster to issue the brigade regular army uniforms. Due to this new look, the men were quickly recognized and became known as the “black hat brigade” or the “big hat brigade.”
Gibbon led them through Farmer Miller’s soon-to-be infamous 24-acre cornfield, which both sides struggled to take control of during the first three hours of the battle. Gibbon attempted to stop the harassing fire of confederate troops on the right of the brigade by ordering the 19th, along with the 7th Wisconsin, to cross the Hagerstown Pike. Moving rapidly the two black-hatted regiments crossed the pike and quickly cleared the rebel skirmishers out of the area, finding that the sloping ground provided excellent cover for them.

A;ois Bachman Historic Marker

Photo by Don Ward

This historic marker along Hwy. 7 in downtown Madison tells the story of Alois Bachman. It stands near Springdale Cemetery, where the Civil War officer is buried.

Knowing they had to strike quickly, Bachman held his hat in one hand and his sword in the other and shouted, “Boys, the command is no longer forward, but now it is follow me!” Bachman led his “Swamp Hogs” up over the protective cover of a rock ledge and charged east across the Hagerstown Pike, pitching into the unsuspecting troops of Hampton’s Legion.
The fierce attack of the 19th Indiana spoiled the rebel attempt to capture Battery B. But the sheer momentum of their advance placed the regiment in a very exposed position. It was at this point in the Battle of Antietam (also referred to as the Battle of Sharpsburg) that Bachman received his fatal wound.
The battle has been recorded as the bloodiest day in American history, with a combined tally of 22,717 dead, wounded or missing. This Union victory at Antietam provided President Lincoln the opportunity he had wanted to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, making the Battle of Antietam one of the key turning points of the American Civil War.
After Bachman fell, the 19th Indiana was immediately taken command of by 19-year-old Capt. William Dudley. Under severe fire from the enemy, Dudley was able to safely extradite them from their position on the hill. The regiment fell back west over the Hagerstown Pike and then north out of the fight, but they had lost Bachman.

Alois Bachman grave

Photo by Don Ward

One side of Alois Bachman's gravestone is pictured above.

Dudley had to record an official report of the battle on Sept. 21, 1862. The following is an excerpt from the report:
“We now moved to the edge of a cornfield near a stone house, which was immediately used as a hospital. Here we lay down, while our skirmishers were scouring the cornfield in front. We were soon ordered to the right, to a piece of woods which skirted the battlefield on the right. Here we deployed column and formed our line of battle on the right of the Seventh Wisconsin Volunteers, and Lieutenant-Colonel Bachman ordered Company B, then my command, to deploy forward as skirmishers. This being done, the regiment moved slowly forward till the right was through the wood, when we halted.
“It was at this time that the attempt was made to take Battery B, Fourth Artillery, which was stationed at the straw stacks near the stone house hospital. Upon seeing the advance of the enemy, Lieutenant-Colonel Bachman at once called in the skirmishers, and changed front forward on the tenth company, so as to front the left flank of the enemy.
“As soon as it was practicable we opened fire on them, and we have every reason to believe that our fire was very effective in repulsing their attack on the battery.
“Soon we saw the enemy falling back in great disorder, and it was at this juncture that the gallant Lieutenant-Colonel Bachman, yielding to the urgent appeals of the men, gave the order to charge, and, hat in hand and sword drawn, he gave the order “double-quick”, and bravely led on, the men following, cheering as they advanced.
“We charged across the pike and followed the retreating rebels to the brow of the hill, over which they had a strong reserve of infantry and three pieces of artillery, which pieces seemed to have been abandoned by horses and men. It was at this point that brave Lieutenant-Colonel Bachman fell, mortally wounded, and I took command immediately……
“Our loss was, killed, Lieutenant Colonel A. O. Bachman and 7 men; wounded, Lieutenant William Orr, Company K, and 70 men; missing, 26 men.”
After the battle, Bachman’s remains were returned home to Madison for burial in Springdale Cemetery. As reported in the Sept. 27 edition of the Madison Courier, his funeral procession was, to that date, the largest ever held in the town.
Madison Courier, Sept. 27, 1862: The funeral of the late Lieut. Col. A.O. Bachman yesterday afternoon was more largely attended than anyone ever before held in this city. The cortege was almost entirely of a military character. Six companies of the guard force of this city, the 93rd Infantry, and two companies of the 4th Cavalry were in the procession, commanded respectively by Col. Saring of the Legion, and Col. Grey, of the 4th Cavalry. The music was furnished by the Madison Brass Band. The procession was of course very extended, and some difficulty was experienced in drawing the column up before the grave.
The salutes fired by three companies of the 100th regiment. A large crowd had assembled in the Cemetery to witness the ceremonies, and when the body was lowered into the grave, and the solemn music of the band was wailing over the dead, a scene of solemnity was presented that is seldom witnessed, and over the grave of one whose gallantry, merit, early death, and bright hopes for the future have never been excelled.

Alois Bachman bridge

Photo by Don Ward

A road side sign reminds motorists of the sacrifice made by Lt. Col. Alois Bachman during the Civil War. This Hwy. 7 bridge next to Springdale Cemetery was named in honor of him.

The 19th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment lost five officers and 194 enlisted men (killed or mortally wounded), and one officer and 116 enlisted men to disease during the Civil War. The regiment is honored by a monument at Antietam, where Bachman died, and a monument at Gettysburg.
During the Battle of Gettysburg, the 19th Indiana was commanded by Col. Samuel J. Williams. He was a farmer from Selma, Ind., and killed at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864.
Kathy Ayers, president of the Jefferson County Civil War Roundtable, said that “Bachman has a significant importance to local and Civil War History, hence naming the bridge at the foot of Hanging Rock Hill for him.” She added that Jim Courter is “the quintessential expert on Bachman” and responsible for getting the bridge named for Bachman.
Courter said that one day he was at the Springdale Cemetery and looking up and seeing the bridge, he thought it would be fitting for it to be named the Alois O. Bachman Bridge. Bachman’s “body was brought back within 10 days for burial,” he said.
Since Bachman’s organization of the Madison City Greys, it was evident that “early on he had a military head on him,” Courter said. “Madison played a very historic role in the Civil War.” All regiments were Union sympathizers.
According to the National Park Service, the Civil War was greatly felt in southern Indiana. Following President Lincoln’s 1861 call for troops, about 4, 5000 Madison men volunteered for service. Madison’s population at the time was 12,500. The city also housed a 37-acre Union military hospital, which served more than 8,000 wounded soldiers between 1863-1865.
Courter said there were five field officers killed in major battles of the war. “There is a Civil War Memorial at the Lanier-Madison Visitor’s Center to honor them. They were killed during incredibly important battles.
In addition to Bachman, those killed were: Lt. Colonel John Gerber of the 24th Indiana at Shiloh; Lt. Col. Jacob Glass of the all-German 32nd Indiana at Missionary Ridge; Lt. Col. John A. Hendricks of the 22nd Indiana at Pea Ridge; and Col. Philemon P. Baldwin was killed leading his brigade at Chickamauga. Bachman, Gerber and Glass were laid to rest in Springdale Cemetery.
The marker for these men is located on East Main St. west of Walnut Street. It reads: “They Led and Followed, Erected to The Everlasting Memory of the Soldiers of Jefferson County in the Civil War, 1861-1865, By their Comrade George Middleton, Private, Co. E-Third Regiment, Indiana Cavalry.”
Middleton was a native of Madison and a private in the 34th Indiana Volunteer Cavalry, as reported in his obituary on Feb. 16, 1926, in the Indianapolis Star. At the time he lived in Pasadena, Calif., a “retired millionaire, Chicago theater owner.” After the war, Middleton amassed a fortune in the theater business. The memorial was his donation to his hometown in tribute to the memory of his comrades of the Civil War.
Courter became interested in Civil War history when his brother and nephews moved to Missionary Ridge in southern Georgia. On Nov. 25, 1863, more than 50,000 Union soldiers stormed the Confederate defenses along Missionary Ridge east of Chattanooga. By the end of the day, Georgia and Chattanooga were firmly in Union hands. A Confederate officer later described it as “The death knell of the Confederacy.”

Jim Courter


This sparked Courter’s interest, which led to “further exploration, and I joined the Jefferson County Civil War Roundtable in the late ’80s,” he said, of which he is a former president. Courter has been to almost all of the major Civil War battlefield sites.
Locally, Courter was also involved in placing the historical marker in memory of Bachman in Madison. Casey Elizabeth Pfeiffer, Historical Marker Program Director for the Indiana Historical Bureau Division of the Indiana State Library, said that the bureau “received an application for the Bachman marker in 1998 from James Courter and the Jefferson County Civil War Roundtable.
It was reviewed in that year’s pool of marker applications and was approved in 1999.”
The marker was dedicated on Sept. 17, 1999, at Springdale Cemetery with comments from Courter, as president of the Jefferson County Civil War Round Table, a cannon introduction, singing of the National Anthem, comments from then Mayor Al Huntington and from Gordon Whitney, then vice president of the Jefferson County Civil War Roundtable and from Ayers. The program concluded with trumpeters from the Madison Consolidated High School Marching Cubs playing “Taps.”
The marker was more than likely approved due to Bachman’s military contributions during the Civil War, said Pfeiffer. “His career and service was representative of so many other young men who took up arms to support and defend the Union cause. The marker program is a collaborative program in which applicants and IHB staff work together on marker text.”
According to Courter, Bachman is “someone to be remembered. He gave his life for his country.”

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