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.
Rounding a curb in the road I was immediately drawn to a memorial that appeared to lead the orderly formations of Union headstones, maintaining perfect alignment along the land's contours, appearing as regiments of frozen skirmishers advancing uphill. Carved from a block of porous outcrop limestone the obviously German epitaph had nearly flaked completely away from the face of the weathered tablet. The elements had not yet erased the beautiful workmanship of the relief cut into the stone. It remained to impress.
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.
Michael A. Peake
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