Lincoln Presents Captured Confederate Flag to Indiana Governor Morton
From the Book:
Indiana’s Role in Civil War
Greetings, in this episode you will hear about President Abraham Lincoln’s awarding a Confederate battle flag to Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton.
Union troops, including the 140th Indiana Regiment, captured Fort Anderson in North Carolina on February 19, 1865. Advancing Union troops compelled the Confederates to abandon their posts quickly. As the Confederates retreated, they dropped their battle flag. A soldier of the 140th Indiana Regiment picked up the flag and gave it to his commanding officer, Colonel Thomas Brady. Brady expressed a desire to present the flag to the Governor of Indiana, Oliver P. Morton.
In the confusion surrounding the capture of the fort, United States Navy ships positioned off the shore of Fort Anderson thought that the Union troops that were advancing into the fort were Confederates and opened fire. Union troops, thinking fast, began waving white sheets to signal surrender, marking the only time the United States Army has surrendered to the United States Navy.
Oliver P. Morton (August 4, 1823 – November 1, 1877)
The son of James Throck and Sarah Miller Morton, Oliver is a native of Salisbury, Indinana. His mother died when he was three year old, so he went to Ohio to live with his aunts. He returned to Indiana and attended school for about a year. He took a job as an apothecary’s clerk, but quit and apprenticed himself to a hatmaker. Dissatisfatised with that, he returned to Ohio to attend Miami University in Oxford. After two years of college, he entered Cincinnati College to study law. In 1845 he returned to Centerville, Indiana and opened a law practice. In that same year he married Lucinda Burbank, with whom he had five children. Only two survived to adulthood.
Morton’s first elected office was as a circuit court judge in 1852. He resigned after a year to return to his preferred law career. Morton, an anti-slavery Democrat, joined with several other anti-slavery political factions to form the People’s Party. This party later renamed itself the Republican Party. He served as a delegate to 1856 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. The Republican Party nominated him as a candidate for governer in 1856. Democratic Senator Ashbel P. Willard defeated him by 6,000 votes. He ran again as lieutenant governor in 1860 with Henry S. Lane as governor. The The ticket won. The Republican Party had agreed that if the ticket won, the Legislature would appoint Lane as Senator and Morton would take over as governor. The party reasoned that the more anti-slavery Morton could not carry the pro-south southern portion of the state. The strategy worked, as the Republicans took over the Assembly and promptly nominated Lane as Senator. Morton became the Governor of Indiana.
Morton’s tenure as governor during the Civil War proved tumultous. A strong supporter of Abraham Lincoln, he raised twice as many men as Lincoln requested. A strong advocate of volunteerism, he raised over 150,000 men. He resisted implementing the draft, an effort made easier by his strong recruitment drive. Many of his measures exceeded his Constitutional authority, especially after he lost his Republican majority in 1863. To prevent legislative action against his usurpations, he urged the Republican legislators not to attend the legislative sessions. With no quorum, the Legislature could not act against him. The Dempcrats attepted to cut off his funds, but again he exceeded his powers to keep the state running by unauthorized private loans. In 1864 the voters returned the Republicans to power and Morton suffered no political repercussions for his unlawful actions. The Democrats attemtpted to keep him from running for reelection. Under the Indiana Constitution, they charged he could not serve more than four years in an eight year period. he countered, saying he had been elected Lieutenant Governory and thus was eligible for reeliction. He won that fight and was reelected in 1864. A year after his reelection he suffered a stroke. Lieutenant Governor Conrad Baker served as acting govenor for most of his second term.
Despite the paralysis caused by his stroke, Republican legislators elected him to the United States Senate in 1867. He resigned the govenorship and went to the Senate where he quickly rose to a leadership position. He served two terms in the Senate, becoming one of President Ulysses S. Grant’s most effective leaders. The Republicans considered him for a Presidential run in 1876, but his failing health caused them to drop his name from consideration. Morton suffered another stroke in 1877 while in Oregon leading a panel investigating bribery charges against another Senator. He returned home to recover, but died on November 1, 1877. Dignitaries from across the United States attended his wake at the Indiana State House and funeral. His remains are interred at Crown Hill Cemetary in Indianapolis.
The 140th Indiana regiment went to Washington, D. C. for the scheduled flag presentation that was scheduled for March 17, 1865 at the National Hotel. The flag presentation created a decision for President Abraham Lincoln. He was supposed to attend a play during the time of the presentation . Because he and Governor Morton were friends and political allies, Lincoln decided to forgo the play and attend the flag presentation. This decision angered a certain actor named John Wilkes Booth, who had planned to kidnap Lincoln during the play. Lincoln, of course, did not materialize at the theatre so Booth returned to his hotel room in the National Hotel. As he returned to his room, he caught a glimpse of Lincoln on the balcony, standing over the flag.
During the ceremony, Lincoln delivered one of his more famous speeches. He began:
“Fellow-citizens: It will be but a very few words that I shall undertake to say. I was born in Kentucky, raised in Indiana, and lived in Illinois; and now I am here, where it is my business to care equally for the good people of all the States. I am glad to see an Indiana regiment on this day able to present the captured flag to the Governor of Indiana. I am not disposed, in saying this, to make a distinction between the States, for all have done equally well.”
The speech went on to speak about a bill under consideration by the Confederacy that would allow slaves to fight in the Confederate Army. His felt that if the Confederacy was ready to take this desperate step, the end of the war must be near.
Lincoln’s prophecy rang correct. The bill to draft slaves passed. Less than a month later Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginian surrendered. And of course, John Wilkes Booth did not kidnap President Lincoln. Instead, he shattered the nation by assassinating him on April 14, 1865.
This story is part of my new book release, Indiana’s Role in the Civil War, which is available on my web site http://www.mossyfeetbooks.com in both softbound and eBook copies. The web page has links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other book retailers. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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