February 14, 1865 (Tuesday)
On this date, the Fifteenth Corps, now marching with Sherman’s army, received their corps badges. Odd as it might seem, previous to this, they had worn no badges at all. In November of 1863, around the time of the Chattanooga Campaign, some of the Army of the Potomac troops were sent to the West. The Army of the Potomac, of course, had some very fine corps badges, but when they saw the Fifteenth Corps marching, they chided their westerly comrades on their lack.
As General Sherman told the story:
“As the men were trudging along the deeply-cut, muddy road, of a cold, drizzly day, one of our Western Soldiers left his ranks and joined a party of the Twelfth Corps at their camp-fire. They got into a conversation, the Twelfth Corps men asking what troops we were, etc., etc. In turn, our fellow (who had never seen a corps-badge, and noticed that every thing was marked with a star) asked if they were all brigadier-generals. Of course they were not, but the star was their corps badge, and every wagon, tent, hat, etc., had its star. Then the Twelfth Corps men inquired what corps he belonged to, and he answered, ‘The Fifteenth Corps.’ ‘What is your badge?’ ‘Why,’ said he (and he was an Irishman), suiting the action to the word, ‘forty rounds in the cartridge box and twenty in the pocket!’”
Somehow or another, this story (or a version thereof – there are many) found its way up the chain of command to General Frank P. Blair, then the corps commander. Over the next year or so, and after John Logan had taken the helm, the story finally found its legs, and on this date, he issued the following order:
The following is announced as the badge of this corps: A miniature cartridge-box, black, one-eighth of an inch thick, fifteen-sixteenths of an inch wide, and thirteen-sixteenths of an inch deep, set transversely on a field of cloth or metal one and five-eighths of an inch square; above the cartridge-box plate will be stamped or marked in a curve the motto, “Forty Rounds.”
It is expected that this badge will be worn constantly by every officer and soldier in the corps. If any corps in the army has a right to take pride in its badge, surely that has which looks back through the long and glorious hue of Wilson’s Creek, Henry, Donelson, Shiloh, Russell House, Corinth, Iuka, Town Creek, Chickasaw Bayou, Arkansas Post, Champion’s Hill, Big Black, Snyder’s Bluff, Vicksburg, Jackson, Cherokee Station, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Ringgold, Knoxville, Resaca, Kingston, Dallas, New Hope Church, Big Shanty, Kenesaw Mountain, Nickajack, Decatur, the 27th and 28th of July before Atlanta, Jonesborough, Lovejoy’s, Allatoona Pass, Grahamville, Fort McAllister, and scores of minor struggles; the corps which had its birth under Grant and Sherman in the darker days of our struggle; the corps which will keep on striking until the death of the rebellion.
Until more permanent badges could be procured from the North, “good temporary badges can be made easily by any soldier in the corps.” And when they were finally available from Washington, officers could “procure very handsome ones for their men at a nominal cost.”1
- Sources: Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 47, Part 2, p419; Memoirs by William Tecumseh Sherman. [↩]