Margaret Hobson has no illusions about her new book, “Indiana's Iron 44th, Part 1: Biographies and Regimental Statistics.”
For most people, it will be more of a resource book than a read-for-pleasure book, said Hobson, who lives in Spencerville. But that's OK.
“It's been a labor of love,” she said. “I want families to know they had a soldier in the Civil War, and, because of what they did, we still are the United States.”
Hobson is taking orders now for the 400-page, hardback book, which contains a short biography of each of the 2,012 men who served in the 44th Indiana regiment and about 20 pages of color charts and graphs about the unit. She is ordering only about 200 copies printed. Cost is $30 each. The book won't be available online or at a bookstore.
Hobson, a retired math teacher, became interested in the 44th while doing genealogy research on her mother's side of the family. A distant relative, Lewis W. Griffith, served with the regiment after enlisting in August 1861. He survived the war, and had risen to the rank of captain by the time of his discharge in September 1865.
She found his story so fascinating, she started researching all of the men in the unit, nearly all of whom came from northeast Indiana.
Interesting things she learned about the men and unit include:
•The 44th marched about 850 miles in a 10-month period during the war; part of that time the soldiers were barefoot and without tents.
•Among the eight northeast Indiana counties sending men to the regiment, Allen County had the highest percentage who were foreign-born. Allen County also sent only about half as many men as the other counties, and a greater number of Allen County men deserted the unit than residents of other counties.
Hobson believes Allen County residents didn't support the war as strongly as people in other counties. It also appears more men from other counties enlisted as family groups rather than as individuals, the latter of which was more common in Allen County.
•She discovered 80 boys younger than age 18 — the minimum age for Civil War enlistment — served with the 44th. The youngest likely was 13-year-old drummer William Mendham from Noble County, who joined in April 1864 and served through the end of the war.
•Of the 951 soldiers in the unit at the start of the war, only 216 remained at the end of the war. Hobson learned 103 soldiers mustered out after serving their initial duty tour of three years; 227 died; 337 were discharged for disability, disease or wounds; 58 deserted; and 10 received a dishonorable discharge.
•The last member of the regiment died in 1943.
Hobson said she has so much information, she has two or three more books planned on the 44th.
The next book will focus on the organization of the regiment and how men were recruited. She hopes to include photos of men in the unit. Anyone with a photo to share can contact her at CW44thIndiana@aol.com, or call 238-4645.
The third book will recount the “trials and tribulations” the 44th faced during the war. A fourth book could look at men's courts martials and the regimental reunions held after the war.
She also hopes to continue updating her just-published book, which lacks burial information for more than 100 of the men. She invites people who have information about those men to contact her.
“It will never be finished,” she said of the book. “It's a living document is the way I look at it.”